Vicki and Vashti from the Australian Nappy Association discuss a contentious topic, China Cheapies. They discuss the importance of knowing where and how your cloth nappies are made in order to make an informed decision.
Show notes: To check out the Elly tea towels mentioned in the podcast click here.
Cloth Nappy Transcript.
Andrew: Welcome to Nappy Leaks with Vicki Simpson and Vashti Wadwell.
How are you today, Vashti?
Vashti: I’m good, thanks, Andrew. How are you?
Andrew: Excellent. How are you, Vicki?
Vicki: I’m good, but I want to know why Vashti always goes first.
Andrew: No, I think as a host sometimes I futz around.
Vashti: He has occasionally put you first.
Vicki: Has he?
Andrew: You never listen to the podcast. [00:00:30] She’s also the guest of the house, so.
Vicki: No, no. We have a professional recording studio. And we don’t have dogs barking and cars running around or children in the kitchen when they’re supposed to be downstairs keeping quiet.
Andrew: So, excuse the noise that you’re going to hear in the background. It’s really hard to get some time with these girls, and right now [00:01:00] they’re actually making up packs for the next expo and this is the only time I could get them together. So we’ve just got to put up with it, I’m afraid.
Vicki: And kids, it’s school holidays and we have three wonderful children home today. Hopefully the television is entertaining them like it should.
Andrew: Well it’s a very expensive television, so it should be.
Vashti: Well thankfully my children are at home with their father, so.
Andrew: You know what they say. Don’t skimp on the device that’s going to bring your children home.
Vashti: Very true, [00:01:30] very true.
Andrew: Thanks, [Homer 00:01:32]. Wise words.
So now I wanted to bring up the subject of “China cheapies.” I’ve done some research and come up with some things that people are saying online that I’m going to throw at you guys, and you can tell me if you think that is true or not. The first thing is, first of all, are China cheapies damaging the market?
Vicki: Oh, yes and no. I think they have their place in the market. If you’ve listened [00:02:00] to a few podcasts, you’ll understand that we’re very much about educating people so you can make an educated choice. Not everybody can afford a $30, $35 nappy. And China cheapies tend to … you’ve probably done more research on the price of China cheapies than I have, but they’re probably-
Vicki: Okay, so we’re looking at a nappy that’s $10 or under. That’s all some people can afford, and that’s perfectly fine. I’d rather see somebody using [00:02:30] a China cheapie, personally, than a disposable. But having said that, sometimes it’s a false economy, which I’m sure you’ve probably got questions about that.
Andrew: Some other things I came across too is the accepted standard is $10 a nappy. But I also uncovered retails who are actually bringing in China cheapies and selling them as a more expensive nappy.
Vashti: So that’s a re-branded China cheapie.
Vicki: That’s actually different too. In my opinion, that’s [00:03:00] completely different to a China cheapie because essentially the customer is not knowing what they’re getting.
Vashti: Yeah, I’m not a big fan on people who will sit there and say, “Oh this is a fantastic nappy, it’s great, it’s awesome. It’s $20, $25 so it’s cheaper than an ethically produced quality nappy.” When essentially it is a $10 nappy.
Vicki: And that’s really what … A China cheapie is worth $10. So for someone to then go out and be spending $ [00:03:30] 25 on a nappy, that’s where the issue is. And I think you’ll find in the greater cloth community, that’s what you’ll find, is it’s not so much that people have issues with the China cheapie. They have issues with re-branded China cheapies that are pretending to be a quality nappy.
Vashti: Something they’re not.
Vicki: Yeah, and they’re simply not.
Andrew: Let’s first of all cover some things that we need to look for to determine, because you can’t base a China cheapie just on price.
Vashti: Definitely [00:04:00] not. No. It’s really hard, especially when the majority of our market is online. It is really difficult to determine the difference between a quality nappy and a China cheapie because you can’t tell from a picture. The easiest way to tell a China cheapie is just with a feel. Also, what inserts they use. You’ll generally find that China cheapie nappies are microfiber or bamboo charcoal, which they market as an amazing [00:04:30] resource when really it is just microfiber.
Vicki: It’s a synthetic. We’ve been through this before. It’s a synthetic fibre that is not what … Look, essentially there’s no bamboo in it. It’s literally the charcoal of bamboo impregnated into a polyester fabric.
Andrew: Well that makes me just see that they’re taking whatever bamboo they’ve got left and they try to re-use it.
Vicki: Oh, yeah.
Vashti: They’re using waste. They’re getting rid of the waste products because that is exactly what they do. They get all their leftovers, all [00:05:00] their scrap material, and they just burn it down to a charcoal.
Andrew: But that’s not … it should be just put back into the ground instead of being burnt, though.
Vicki: Well, let’s not get into landfill and things not breaking down. But the problem comes in that somebody sees the word “bamboo” and they think, okay, bamboo is … that’s right, the girls were talking about that. It’s an absorbent fabric. It’s an expensive fabric. All of those good things about bamboo don’t appear in a bamboo charcoal booster. Bamboo charcoal is [00:05:30] the same as a microfiber booster, so that means it’s cheap and it’s also like a sponge, so it quickly absorbs but it also is prone to compression leaks, which is like we’re squeezing a sponge. Whereas bamboo is the opposite. It’s not fast absorbing, but it retains a lot.
Vashti: Yeah, it holds.
Vicki: It holds the fluid.
Vashti: It really does.
Vicki: Oh, high five for finishing.
Vashti: Yeah, no, bamboo really does … it [00:06:00] holds onto it and it doesn’t let it go.
Vicki: Until it reaches capacity, of course.
Vashti: Whereas your synthetic fibres, they’re like your microfiber cleaning cloths. I think we’ve discussed this before. As soon as you put any pressure, it just ends up leeching out. So it’ll grab it quickly, but it just won’t hold onto it. And so then coming off that, somebody goes and spends $25 on a nappy. It has crappy inserts and then the nappy leaks. Oh, oh my god, we should start a podcast [00:06:30] called that. The nappy leaks. And then the person goes, oh, well I just spent $25 on a nappy that is crap. All cloth nappies are crap. So then we lose that person from the cloth nappy world. And worse, then the next pregnant friend that comes along, they say, “Oh I want to use cloth nappies.” And that friend who had the bad experience is going to say, “Don’t bother. I used them. They leak. They’re crap.” So we’ve actually lost multiple people.
Andrew: So she’s [00:07:00] literally going to poo poo on your.
Vicki: She is.
Vashti: Well, yes.
Andrew: And just in case you guys were wondering, yes, they really did high five in the studio.
Vashti: What else have I got to put labels on?
Andrew: Chemicals. A lot of people are saying that they smell funny and I’m wondering, is that because of the chemicals that we use to make them?
Vashti: I don’t think … No.
Vicki: I think it’s probably more a wash routine. Or microfiber.
Vashti: Well, yes and no. But it’s also that whole … [00:07:30] there is a smell when you open an China cheapie. I’ve opened one before we got one in. And it comes encased in a plastic bag, single package and everything like that, which that in itself is another issue because of the amount of waste for each individual nappy being packaged. But you open the bag and there is a real chemical smell to them. And that is because of the lower grade quality, the lower quality materials that they use.
Vicki: Or the inks in the fabrics and stuff like that.
Vashti: The inks. They’re just a [00:08:00] lower grade quality. They’re not ethically produced, and so therefore you just can’t be sure what chemicals have been used in the production process. Most of the time, that comes out in the first couple of washes. So if you do a good soak, which you probably don’t need to do a soak, but if you do a couple of washes beforehand, that washes all of that out, so it shouldn’t be an issue.
Saying that though, if you are having smells in your nappies after [00:08:30] you’ve used them, it is likely to be a wash issue. Microfiber or synthetic fibres can retain smells a lot worse than your natural fibres. I’ve always found that a synthetic fibre will hold a smell over a natural.
Andrew: And that’s not a good thing because of the smell that it contains.
Vashti: Yeah, well nobody wants to be out at the shop saying their baby does a wee in the nappy and there’s a stench wafting. You don’t want that.
Vicki: Unless they’ve been using disposables.
Vashti: Yeah, [00:09:00] well there’s that too. You get used to that.
Vicki: I just remember how stinky. I must admit, I don’t really have a lot of experience with single use nappies myself because pretty much Abby used the odd one for a couple of weeks, and Gabriel had a period where he had a staph infection and we had to pop him in disposables just to clear that infection and treat the nappies and everything, and that was only about a week. But I just remember it stank.
Vashti: Well I haven’t used a disposable [00:09:30] nappy since Mikaela was six weeks old, and she’s 11 in a couple months.
Vicki: Having said that though, I can understand the convenience of disposables.
Vashti: Oh, definitely.
Vicki: After a week, I get it. I completely understand exactly where the convenience comes in. You cannot disregard that.
Andrew: I found using cloth nappies, it was just the norm to just wash it.
Vicki: Well yeah, it becomes your habit, doesn’t it.
Andrew: Yeah, it just becomes habit. They just go and wash. [00:10:00] So some of the things that people are saying online about them is elastic doesn’t last very long.
Vicki: That comes down to your quality again. And it could also be your wash. I do know some people who have great success with China cheapies lasting for them. But other find that they do break down quite quickly or that the materials deteriorate a lot quicker than a quality nappy would.
Andrew: Some people have actually been saying online that they only got six months out of them before they fell apart.
Vicki: Yeah, so [00:10:30] that is quite feasible. It comes back to that false economy. It’s like when you go and buy a $2 shirt from Kmart. You don’t expect it to last that long. You expect it to be play shirt for your kids. You expect it to be for daycare and stuff like that.
Vashti: It’s almost like the fast fashion of the cloth nappy world. But having said that … and see, if we go back to the re-branded China cheapies, this is where the issue is. When you go to Kmart and you buy a $2 shirt, you’re [00:11:00] not expecting that to be the same as … oh god, think of a brand of shirt. Pumpkin Patch. You’re not expecting the same sort of quality that you would from Pumpkin Patch. You’d expect that to last all of your children. Whereas when you’re buying a re-branded China cheapie, you don’t know what you’re getting. So you have this expectation that your nappy’s going to last a couple of kids, and then all of a sudden it’s lasting 6 to 12 months, and then you’re stuck.
Vicki: And that’s the biggest issue, is that you [00:11:30] expect it to last.
Vashti: And it doesn’t.
Vicki: Yeah. And that’s the whole false economy.
Vashti: You want to know what you buy.
Vicki: Yeah. If you’re spending money on something, you expect it to last for its purpose.
Vashti: If you’re spending $2 on a shirt, you expect it to last as a daycare shirt. If you’re spending $20 on a nappy, you expect it to last for two years while your child’s in nappies.
Vashti: But yeah, I think that is probably my biggest issue.
Vicki: It’s like the whole Ford and Ferrari thing, you know? You’ve got [00:12:00] a Ferrari with a Ford motor in it. It’s like, oh hang on a minute, but I paid the Ferrari price. Or actually, no, I got my Ferrari a little bit cheaper. But I know nothing about cars.
Vashti: Yeah. It’s marketed as a Ferrari, but it’s only got a Ford engine.
Vicki: Is that good or bad? I don’t know nothing about cars.
Andrew: Ford and Ferrari?
Vicki: I don’t know.
Andrew: So, the next thing I want to move on to is they don’t seem to contain leaks very well.
Vicki: That comes down to the type of inserts. The [00:12:30] microfiber.
Vashti: And also the quality of the PUL in the shell. A lot of China cheapies are made with what’s known as a one mil PUL, whereas more of your ethical quality nappies are made of a two or higher, two mil PUL. So it’s a lot thicker, which means that it contains it a lot better whereas the one mil PUL is very, very thin and it’s easy to push through. Because PUL … this is the biggest misconception.
Vicki: It’s not waterproof.
Vashti: It’s not waterproof. [00:13:00] And anyone who tells you that PUL is waterproof is flat out lying to you. PUL is a breathable fibre. It has millions of minuscule holes on it that are too small for the water molecules to push through. When it happens that they do leak, it’s because the capacity is completely full in the absorbency, and so it actually reduces the size of the water molecules to push through those holes. But that’s how you get breathability around your baby’s bum, is by having those holes in that PUL. [00:13:30] So it’s a water resistant fibre.
Andrew: That’s a very important thing, having breathability, right?
Vashti: Very much so because it lowers the chance of nappy rash because there’s so much breathability around there. It’s allowing air flow. It actually reduces the temperature in the groyne as well. Disposables, being made of a plastic polymer basically, actually raise the temperature in the groyne. So we want as much breathability in there as possible to reduce that chance, that will reduce the temperature.
Andrew: It’s funny, I read [00:14:00] that they say it’s not as good at containing leaks. How would they know if they’ve not used a better one?
Vicki: Well, you don’t know what you don’t know. And that’s the assumption when you’re … As I said, most of the issue is re-branded China cheapies and having this perception of, okay, well I bought middle of the range kind of quality nappy and I’ve ended up … it’s leaky and all of this sort of stuff. Whereas if you bought a cheap nappy and it leaked, you go, oh okay well now I [00:14:30] understand the difference between a cheap nappy and a more expensive nappy.
Vashti: And I think it’s also not everybody has … a lot of people who use cloth nappies have a vast array of different brands in their stash, so there are lots of people out there who have quality, expensive nappies and also China cheapies. So when somebody says that they leak more than a quality brand, it’s because most of the time they have actually used both [00:15:00] sorts, so they know the difference.
Andrew: Snaps break. But I’ve seen snaps break on good nappies too.
Vashti: Yeah, well they’re plastic resin. It happens occasionally if they get caught in a washing machine door, they get stood on. It just sometimes they’ve been exposed to sun for too much and so it weakens the material. It’s the same as any plastic product.
Andrew: So that’s where a good warranty would come in.
Vashti: Oh, most definitely.
Vicki: And also buying in Australia too, remembering that regardless [00:15:30] of what the manufacturer’s warranty is, we’re covered by Australian consumer law, which is a big consideration. If you’re buying directly from China, there’s nothing.
Vashti: Well you’ve got no leg to stand on. If something goes wrong with the nappy, if a snap falls off and your child chokes on it, you’ve got no one to go back to. Whereas I would … hand touch wood snaps don’t fall off [00:16:00] and your child doesn’t choke on them … but it is something to think about. If that does happen, here in Australia if you buy from an Australian business, you have that ability to go back to the business.
Vicki: Having said that though, you’ve got to make sure … well, and how do you make sure that a business is insured? I certainly have insurance for my business.
Vashti: So do I.
Vicki: I’m not losing my house over, as you say, a child’s-
Vashti: A child’s life.
Andrew: An accident you couldn’t control.
Vicki: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely. [00:16:30] And this is a problem with re-branded China cheapies. I don’t necessarily think that a mom that starts this sort of business is … I think they’re just naïve, you know? They think, okay, I can get this nappy I’ve been offered to have my own logo put on it. All of this sort of stuff. And I bring it into Australia and I’m going to make a little bit of money and I’m going to put some food on the table while I’m home with my kids.
Vashti: Which is fantastic, don’t get us wrong. That is awesome [00:17:00] that a mom on maternity leave who wants to help supplement the family income can do that.
Vicki: There’s so much more to running a business than that, though. There’s the insurance and there’s making sure that you’re protected and warranties and stuff like that. And I think, as I said, it’s just naivete that comes into it. Then intention, the love of cloth, and all of that sort of stuff, that’s all great. But then they start a business and things start to kind of go pear shaped.
Andrew: [00:17:30] Just had an excellent idea for another podcast.
Vicki: Oh did you?
Andrew: We’ll do a podcast on how to run our own business.
Vashti: Awesome. Do you know actually the ANA has information on that. There’s been a couple of amazing blog posts written on the ANA website in regards to starting up your own cloth nappy business.
Andrew: What’s the website?
Andrew: Or gettingintocloth?
Vashti: Yeah, gettingintocloth.com.
Vicki: That’ll re-direct.
Andrew: With regards to clips falling [00:18:00] off a nappy, I find kids are more likely to choke on hair clips.
Vashti: Well, yeah.
Vicki: True. True.
Andrew: Because I’ve seen it happen.
Vicki: Oh, oh god, yeah.
Andrew: Have you forgot that story?
Vicki: In the middle the highway. Oh my word. Oh, that was one of those little butterfly clips I had in Abby’s hair. She was really young. She was forward-facing though.
Andrew: She was very anxious.
Vicki: Yeah, she was quite young and I was on the phone to Andrew at the time and I was on the Centenary freeway, and I just looked in the rear view mirror and she was choking and I just [00:18:30] pulled over. And poor Andrew. He’s like, “What’s going on? What’s going on?” And I pulled over and tipping my kid upside down and … Oh, it was frightening.
Andrew: Fortunately there was an ambulance at the next exit, so you just went to the ambulance and the doctor.
Vicki: It was scary hopping back on that highway. You ever stopped on there and peak out of traffic?
Vashti: Yes, horrid. But the other thing with snaps breaking, if a snap breaks on an ethically produced Australian nappy, you can send it back to the manufacturer or the retailer that you [00:19:00] got it from, and they can repair it for you if it’s under warranty. If it’s not under warranty, you contact them and most of the time they’ll still repair it for you. That’s what we do. We’re pretty good and we understand that occasionally these things happen.
If you buy a nappy from China and the snap breaks, it’s not feasible to send it back there, and China’s not going to repair it for you. So you’re going to need to find someone here in Australia who will repair it for you, and then it’s going to cost you, unless you’ve got your own snap press at home, which most families don’t have.
Andrew: Because they’re [00:19:30] huge.
Vashti: Or you can get little handheld pliers.
Vicki: They don’t all have to be huge like mine.
Andrew: Why does yours take up so much space then?
Vashti: Because it’s a professional one.
Vicki: That was when I used to make … Yeah.
Vashti: It’s a professional one.
Andrew: That’s right, yeah, when you used to make them at home.
Vashti: We do snap repairs at Nest Nappies too.
Andrew: Is that where all the snap press is?
Vashti: You guys have got it at the moment.
Vicki: Keeps going backwards and forwards, and backwards and forwards.
Vashti: It’s okay. I’m actually buying another one, a little hand plier one [00:20:00] just to keep at the shop, so we can do on the spot repairs.
Andrew: Fix them on the spot, yeah. That’s great. That’s good. Because the one that we’ve got wouldn’t sit in your shelf.
Vashti: The foot press one, no. The hand press one that you’ve got, it has sat in the shop before and I have done on the spot repairs when it’s been there. But because it’s backwards and forwards between us so much lately, I’ve just decided, you know what, I’m going to by a little hand plier that can sit under the plier and do it straightaway.
Andrew: So back to how to pick the [00:20:30] difference, because as we said before, there’s the $10 ones and there’s people out there selling them for $25. What are you looking for? First of all, the booster. I’ve noticed that the China cheapies just seem to come with one thin booster.
Vashti: Generally. It’s just a microfiber booster or a charcoal bamboo booster.
Vicki: I think it’s the look, isn’t there?
Vashti: There is a look about them as well. There’s two main styles. One’s a round tab and one’s a square tab.
Vicki: Isn’t it pretty much the Alva style, the Happy Flute style, and the Baby Lane style?
Vashti: [00:21:00] Yeah, pretty much.
Vicki: They’ve all got the … I call it snap vomit on the front of the nappy with row snaps, you know? Because of course I make nappies without those snaps. But yeah, they’ll always have the three rows of snaps. They’ll generally be similar prints. You’ll see the same prints coming up over and over.
Vashti: You’ll also see all of your licenced prints on China cheapies because-
Vicki: Well they’re not licenced, are they?
Vashti: Well they’re not, no, so they don’t have to pay licencing fees.
Andrew: That’s [00:21:30] because there are no copyright laws in China.
Vashti: Exactly. So any of your ethically produced nappies, you will never find any of your Disney or …
Vicki: Because they don’t reply to emails. I wanted to do … I contacted the BBC because I wanted to do a Doctor Who star nappy and they never replied. I’ve contacted [Tikidu 00:21:52], however you pronounce it.
Vashti: [Tockati 00:21:56]?
Vicki: Yeah, whatever it is.
Vashti: Rubberoos have got that.
Andrew: I [00:22:00] think with big companies like BBC, when you inquire, you’ve got to include a check with the inquiry.
Vicki: Yeah, potentially. Or we could just do, I suppose, an abstract version or something like that. But I like to do things the right way. I pay all my designers their licence fees. It’s how people … they’re putting food on their own table, so ripping off an artist I think is …
Vashti: It’s below the belt.
Vicki: It really is.
Andrew: While we’re talking about colours [00:22:30] and stuff like that, some of the China cheapies, the colours actually just wash off.
Vicki: Again, it comes down to just the quality of the pigments that they’re using in the prints. So, likely fading and stuff like that.
Vashti: Yeah. I have heard a lot of them fade really, really quickly. They just look washed out. And that’s just due to the dyes that they use because they are a-
Vicki: They’re cutting corners. To produce a cheaper nappy … Because when I go to create a new nappy, I look at my all-in-one [00:23:00] newborn nappy. When I went to do that, there were some things that I could’ve cut corners on, like taking a layer of bamboo out of the shell. It would’ve saved a couple of bucks per nappy, retail, but the reason I left it in there is if the newborn poo happened to miss the booster that’s inside the nappy and touch the shell. Because as we said early, PUL isn’t actually waterproof. The chances of that newborn poo seeping out and getting onto clothes and stuff like that, it causes [00:23:30] unhappy customers. But that layer of bamboo in the shell helps just with containment and stuff like that. So when you’re talking about a China cheapie and the manufacturing process, every time they can save a couple of cents here, 20 cents there, a dollar here, they will do that. And that comes down to using one mil PUL instead of two mil, using cheaper dyes instead of plant-based dyes, and stuff like that.
Vashti: Using microfiber instead of bamboo.
Vicki: [00:24:00] Yeah, exactly.
Vashti: Using two layers of absorbency instead of three layers.
Vicki: Yeah. And look, at the end of the day, when that all comes into play, you’ve then got, of course, your worker wages. And you know, whilst it’s hearsay because I have never physically been inside a factory in southern China, I know from my own contact within China that [00:24:30] in southern China, it is still rampant within the whole fashion industry of underpaid workers and children working in factories.
Andrew: But you’ve been inside your own factories?
Vashti: Oh, yeah.
Vicki: Yeah, but they’re all in northern China. So there seems to be a very distinct difference between northern China and southern China, and in particular, Guangzhou, which is down near Hong Kong. That’s where kind of the fashion hub is. [00:25:00] Whereas our factories are kind of … and all those sorts of places. They pay better.
Vashti: It’s a much higher level of wage and it’s also a better working environment. While we can’t say what the working environments are in the China cheapie factories-
Vicki: I can tell you what they are in mine.
Vashti: Yeah, that’s exactly right. There is huge [00:25:30] open space. The workers aren’t cramped in. They’re not working extended hours. They’re working reasonable hours. They’re working split shifts as families. And so you know, when we went to China last year, we saw mom and dad working side by side. One of the parents would start early in the morning and then finish at a reasonable time to pick up the kids from school, and the other parent would start late so that they could drop the kids off at drop and work by afterschool pickups. They’re still getting their full wages, but they’re rostering [00:26:00] their shifts around the family environment, so that way it gives them a better quality of life.
Andrew: I’ve met people in Australia who do that.
Vicki: That’s exactly it.
Vashti: The other thing that we saw in China was one of your factories, the owner had bought the building next door to the factory. And his out-of-town employees and seamstresses were able to live there rent free. Yes, they had to pay the utilities and their food and [00:26:30] everything else, like you would normally in an apartment, but they didn’t have to pay rent because they were already paying for their house back in the country. They couldn’t afford too much rent.
Vicki: And they wanted the quality workers. They’re skilled workers.
Andrew: They didn’t want a worker who travelled two hours every day, and then two hours home every day.
Vicki: It’s actually really common in China to actually go to a hub. The factory that Vashti is referring to [00:27:00] is actually in quite a regional place. Except for our factory in … most of our other two factories are actually in really quite regional places.
Vashti: They consider country towns with populations bigger than Brisbane.
Vicki: … bigger than Sydney. Oh, this is just a small town. In … because they manufacture the fabrics as well as sewing, and so we spent the whole day-
Vashti: We spent the entire day driving from one factory to the [00:27:30] other, and it was all … there were little factories all part of a bigger factory. They were all components of this one business.
Andrew: Is that because there wasn’t a building big enough to-
Vashti: No, it’s because they developed different products, different materials.
Vicki: They went to the workers. Let’s say Brisbane, okay? So they’d have a place up at North Lakes because that’s where they had the really good seamstresses. And then they’d have a place down at Logan that [00:28:00] was actually making the fabric. And all of the people, because it’s regional, a lot of people had family farms. So the family would be working the farm, and then whoever went off to get a job. But it’s because they’re after those skilled workers. In the factory that Vashti was talking about where we bought the building next door, it’s because there’s no …
Vashti: There’s no accommodation.
Vicki: There’s no accommodation, and they still want-
Vashti: Or if there is, it’s really expensive.
Vicki: Yeah, and they just want [00:28:30] those skilled workers. And he actually … pretty much they can come and go as they please.
Vashti: So for family celebrations and stuff, they just home back to the country for a couple of days. And because that particular factory pays them a fair wage, gives them the extra bonuses, and the free accommodation … And that free accommodation did not reduce their wage either.
Vicki: No, no.
Vashti: They were paid the same wage as [00:29:00] those that were living locally.
Andrew: So it sounds like he’s basically competing against other factories to get better workers.
Vashti: Exactly. And that was the benefit. And that’s what you pay for in a quality nappy, is knowing that the person who produces your nappy … because these nappies are all produced by hand. They’re not produced by machine. But when you pay for a quality nappy, you’re paying for that. You’re paying for the person who produces it to put food on their family’s table and to provide a roof [00:29:30] over their family’s head, and stuff like that. So it’s not about lining someone’s pocket with extra money. It is actually making sure that everyone gets a fair slice of the pie.
Vicki: Yeah. And when I was talking about the cutting corners, that’s certainly one of the corners that I would never, never cut personally. But that’s the difference.
Vashti: Well you’ve actually turned around and said … When we had an issue with one of the products, [00:30:00] was it bambams?
Vicki: [Bamgite 00:30:01].
Vashti: Bamgite. You actually turned around to your factory and said, tell them to slow down. I’ll pay them extra per piece if they slow down and get it right. And that’s what it’s about. It’s about making sure that it’s a big pay per piece that they’re not rushing through it to try and get it down quickly so that they can make more money. It’s about having it done properly and making sure that they are doing it properly. If they’re being paid an hourly wage, [00:30:30] then they’re being paid an hourly wage and it doesn’t matter how many they produce in that hour. They’re just being paid a set wage, and that’s good.
That was the other funny thing. You’ve always commented on this. The factory that paid per piece was actually the one we thought had the best environment for their workers. There was the best morale in that factory. Whereas the other ones where they were being paid hourly wages, we were sort of like, hmm, don’t know about this one, you know? It’s a bit funny.
Vicki: [00:31:00] And it’s funny because I’ve actually pulled some of my products out of those factories because I liked the … and funnily enough, it’s the same factory that he bought the building next door and all of that sort of stuff. And you know what? To be honest, it was actually cheaper to use one of the other factories. But I just really, really …
Vashti: It’s the feeling.
Vicki: Yeah, it was. It was a great feeling, wasn’t it.
Vashti: That day in that factory [00:31:30] was just amazing.
Vicki: It was fun. And you could tell that the workers enjoyed working there.
Andrew: Without blowing the whistle too much, do you have a good relationship with your factory owners?
Andrew: Especially when you accidentally paid one of the factories that no longer makes your nappies, when you accidentally paid for an entire shipment that was actually made by another factory.
Vicki: We’re not talking small amounts here. Actually we’re talking $45,000. And I can tell you that caused one hell of [00:32:00] a migraine that night. But I was able to get in contact with this guy and he’s like, “Oh it’s not my money, I’m not going to keep it.” I put a lot of effort personally into building relationships, not just having people make your stuff. And you know, the karma bus came back, thank god. I don’t know what I would have done had he said too bad, so sad.
Andrew: That would’ve been worse than the bamgite.
Vicki: It would’ve been worse than the bamgite.
Andrew: [00:32:30] I want to change the subject because we’re going on a little bit too long about China cheapies. I’m sure there’s people listening to the podcast who’ve got China cheapies. And we’re not trying to say that you’ve made the wrong decision or anything like that.
Vashti: Oh god, no. No.
Vicki: No, it’s not about that.
Andrew: The podcast is always about helping you. So, if you bought China cheapies and you’re having troubles, how are you girls going to help them fix it?
Vicki: Doubling up inserts, to start with. Give it a go.
Vashti: Add two inserts instead of the one. If you’ve bought more than one nappy, grab the insert out of another one and throw it in. [00:33:00] Elly tea towels from Ikea make amazing boosters, and they’re quite trim and absorbent. And they’re pure cotton and you can just fold them up and shove them in the pocket.
Andrew: Are they a good tea towel?
Vashti: Oh, they’re not a bad tea towel.
Andrew: But they’re a good nappy insert.
Vashti: They’re a great nappy insert.
Andrew: So it’s not just marketing.
Vashti: Ikea doesn’t market it that way.
Vicki: Any natural fibre with a microfiber insert is going to be beneficial because the natural fibre is not going to [00:33:30] let go of the liquid like the microfiber does.
Andrew: So basically you’re saying, don’t throw them out.
Vicki: No, no, no. Gosh, no.
Andrew: You can solve the problem.
Vashti: Yeah, definitely.
Andrew: So people who have China cheapies and they’re having problems with leaking. What would be the things they should look at to fix the leak?
Vicki: The fit.
Vashti: Definitely the fit.
Vicki: You sell multiple brands, so you’re probably better with the fingers up-
Andrew: You should have finished that thought. [00:34:00] Finish that thought. Fingers up?
Vicki: Fingers up to push the …
Vashti: So with a row snap nappy, it’s not a matter of adjusting the row of snaps and then pulling the top of the nappy up. You actually have to pull the top of the elastic up and get your fingers under the fold.
Andrew: Actually I’ll stop you right there. Out of all the China cheapies that I saw, never once did I see any with row snaps on them.
Vicki: They all have row snaps.
Vashti: All the China cheapies have row snaps.
Andrew: All the China cheapies have row snaps?
Andrew: The pictures that [00:34:30] I saw didn’t have any row snaps. For the people at home, row snaps are the row of snaps at the front of the nappy that you use to adjust the size of the nappy.
Vashti: So how far up it sits on their waist.
Andrew: So they’ve all got those, then?
Vashti: And also when you adjust the row snaps down, it will also close up the leg holes to make a snugger fit around the legs.
Vicki: Maybe you saw all of the nappies that were in the lowest row snap position, the newborn position.
Vashti: But yeah, because what you’ll do is you’ll [00:35:00] sort of play with it and work out which row snap you need for your child, depending on how old they are. So for newborns, you snap it all the way down. And for toddlers, have it all the way unsnapped. But if you’ve got it snapped down, you really need to pull the bottom of the nappy up as high as possible and get that fold up, and then bring the top of the nappy over that. Flick your picture, Andrew.
Vicki: We always say this. Oh yeah, we’ll add this to the podcast.
Andrew: I’m just shaking my head going, yeah, no you won’t.
Vashti: I have [00:35:30] flicked you other things in the past. I flicked you the link to the blog about the costings and stuff like that.
Andrew: You did. Actually that was a good link. Yeah, that’s a good link.
Vashti: But I will flick you a photo that just shows … because you need to have that fold uppermost to get a really good trim fit. Because if you don’t, the row snaps will bunch around the front and you’ll end up with the inner of the nappy actually exposed, which can cause what’s known as [00:36:00] wicking. I think we’ve discussed wicking before. It’s basically where the inner of the material is damp and it touches the dry material, so it pulls the moisture out of the nappy.
Andrew: Yeah, it’s like that if you accidentally tuck the t-shirt in.
Andrew: It just wicks up the shirt, and then the shirt’s all wet.
Vashti: And onesies. Onesies when they’re snapped up, if they go up into the leg groyne, they can actually pull in around the elastic of the nappy and draw the moisture out as well.
Andrew: Unless you deliberately do have to see when the nappy’s wet. [00:36:30] Oh, it’s down to his knees. Time to change.
Vicki: That’s disposables. Just because they can hold a whole day’s worth of wee doesn’t mean they should.
Vashti: Yeah. Fit is a big thing with leaking. If you’ve got a good fit, even on a poor quality nappy, you shouldn’t have leaks. But absorbance is probably the biggest, is if you can get the right absorbency. And you can use anything that you’ve got at home. We’ve discussed different methods of absorbency of nappies in the past, and you can use anything you’ve got to [inaudible 00:37:00] a nappy.
Andrew: [00:37:00] But you can’t actually just by boosters, can you?
Vashti: Oh definitely. If you want to upgrade the boosters for your nappies, there’s plenty of quality boosters available on the market.
Andrew: So if you’ve got 20 nappies and you double up the boosters on 10 of them, you can just buy, say, 10 more boosters and you’re pretty much still in business.
Andrew: What would you say to somebody who’s tried these China cheapies and basically filed and has sworn off [00:37:30] disposable nappies?
Vashti: Sworn off disposables or sworn off cloth nappies?
Andrew: I’ll fix that in the edit. Sworn off cloth and gone back to disposables.
Vashti: Look, each to their own. If you have really had a bad experience on a cloth nappy and you are not interested in trying again, then nothing that we say is going to turn you around. But if you would still like to give it a try, try one quality nappy. Just one. Borrow it off a friend. Check out a cloth nappy library. [00:38:00] But just give one nappy a try and see what you think of it. And if you’re having issues, then get in contact with us. Pop a note, pop a comment on the podcast or send us an email.
Andrew: Send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vicki: Does that exist?
Andrew: It does.
Andrew: By the time this goes to air. Actually no, it’s in the end credits. But if you guys don’t listen to the podcast, you’ve never heard the end credits.
Vashti: Oh I always turn it off by the … Once we get to the end, that’s it.
Andrew: Yeah. I say all these wild things at the end. [00:38:30] Crazy.
Vashti: Or you know, contact Vicki or myself direct, either through our businesses or through the Australian Nappy Association. Jump on the Friends of the ANA Facebook page. Ask some questions. There is a plethora of information out there, and there are a multitude of highly knowledgeable moms and dads who love sharing their cloth nappy knowledge and would love to help you try again.
Andrew: Any final comments?
Vashti: It’s [00:39:00] not an all or nothing thing. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. And if you are having a bad time, reach out.
Vicki: Yeah, yeah. Don’t give up. Don’t give up. Especially when you’ve invested. Let’s say you bought $30-odd-
Andrew: $210 worth of nappies. Yeah.
Vicki: Yeah, exactly, on eBay. Let’s get that working for you, you know? There are multiple ways that we can do it. Definitely reach out. Don’t give up. Don’t think, oh I’ve just wasted my money. You can certainly fix any problems.
Andrew: Since [00:39:30] I see that you’ve finished packing those packages that you’ve …
Vicki: Oh that was ages ago.
Andrew: I guess we’re out of time. Thank you, Vicki.
Vicki: Thanks, Andrew.
Andrew: Thank you, Vashti.
Vashti: Thanks, Andrew.
Andrew: Cue the wild credits.
Vicki Simpson is the current president of the Australian Nappy Association and has been making and selling cloth nappies for 13 years. You can contact Vicki through her website, bubblebubs.com.au or call 1300-792-232.
Vashti Wadwell is the member secretary of [00:40:00] the Australian Nappy Association and is the owner of Australia’s first bricks and mortar nappy store, Nest Nappies in Brisbane, Australia. She has been using cloth nappies for 12 years and currently has one child still in nappies. You can contact Vashti through her website nestnappies.com.au or phone 07-3217-5200.
If you have any comments about the podcast, you can email us at email@example.com. If you found this podcast helpful, then the way to thank us is to leave feedback in the iTunes [00:40:30] store. I am your host, Andrew Simpson.