This is a post for Childcare Centres who are considering providing cloth nappies (either exclusively or as well as disposable nappies) for children while in their care as part of the service they offer. How the laundering of the reusable nappies will be handled by the Centre is a key part of making this decision. Adelle from Botanic Baby, a nappy service located in Melbourne, has put together the major aspects to consider.

Often navigating the childcare regulations on hygiene, health and safety can be difficult enough, without adding cloth nappies to the mix. It might seem daunting, but it is not as complicated as it seems, with many of the existing procedures for disposable nappies translating directly across.

Policy Considerations

The key policy resources for considering laundering nappies in Childcare Centres are the Australian Laundry Standards and the Childcare Toileting Policy which, in summary, says the following:

1. Nappies require both washing and sanitation – meaning you need to thermally or chemically sanitise the nappies.
2. Nappies are sealed in transit – meaning that you have dedicated bins lined with an appropriate liner (that can be closed when removed from the bin) and a secure lid.
3. Hand sanitation guidelines are met and the sanitation of the bins and entry lips of machines are also cleaned after filling the machine before emptying the machine.
4. Bacteria and PH tests regularly

Your Business – capacity and capability

As a Childcare Centre you will need to find the best cloth nappy option for you, your staff and the growth rate of your enrolled children. Washing for 10 in full time reusable nappies is very different to washing for 150.

If you will be purchasing and providing your own cloth nappies, you need to think about the lifespan of the nappy and if it can easily be repaired, the sizing and fit for the children growth stages for the ages enrolled.

Hygiene and Maintenance

For cloth nappies to meet the necessary bacteria and ph tests to meet hygiene standards, they need to be thermally or chemically sanitised. You need to think about the cost of storage, chemicals and operating run costs. Where possible, thermal sterilisation reduces cost of chemicals and the ability to recycle the water or not. If you have solar, this can greatly reduce the energy costs. Depending on the nappy type, customers can use cream they prefer without absorption issues or you may require liners or barrier cream that is water soluble at low temperatures. This also needs to be considered in the cost.

Time, Energy and Space

A key thing to note: medical grade washing is completed through a multi stage wash cycle – this takes time. If your existing machine is small and you use it already, you will need to think about how many children’s nappies you can realistically handle and if you have room for an extra washing machine and dryer and the size – if you decide to invest.

A typical wash/dry cycle will take 2 1/2 hours including sorting and quality checks. Depending on the nappy fabric this can take longer eg bamboo takes longer to dry. In warmer climates this won’t be such an issue but in cooler climates this can mean a larger investment in the number of reusable nappies due to longer time to dry (you may need to purchase an extra days worth of nappies) or higher energy costs.

Supply – What do you need? Where can you get it?

Don’t worry you don’t have to go this alone, check if there’s a local nappy wash company if you want to outsource the supply and/or washing of cloth nappies, and if not, check with local hospitals and other healthcare operations, as some get supplied baby linen and cloth nappies, with the washing all done to the Laundry Standards. You may be able to use the same service or look for a specialist nappy wash operator – there is a list located on the Australian Nappy Association website.

You are not short of suppliers or options if you want to keep it in-house either. Your local cloth nappy supplier will be able to take you through the different options available Рfrom modern cloth nappies to  prefold or terry flats and covers. Contact a local nappy supplier or your local rent and wash company for starter options.

Costs

The cost per nappy can range from $0.38 – $0.78 depending on whether you buy the nappy and wash yourself – or get a service to do it for you.

When you get the quote from a wash service, bear in mind you are paying for rental, pick up – drop off, wash (14 cycle) dry, sort, pack, liners for the bins, some supply bins. You are contributing to your childcare green rating and as you don’t have to purchase the asset it’s a complete expense off your operating cost.

There will be a clear winner for your business; either the capex (buy the asset and depreciate) or opex for your business and every business is different.

What ever you decide – there is one thing that having cloth in childcare does reduce the cost of, and that is the cost to the environment.

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