China Cheapies: Your Grandmother would be disappointed

(Updated January 2018 by The Cloth Nappy Doctor)

Oh…the dreaded China Cheapies question.

  • Have you been contemplating buying one of the $10 china cheapies off Ebay with free postage?
  • What are they really like?
  • My friends use them, but there are mixed reviews. Are they worth it?
  • I love the patterns, but…?
  • I bought one and it was shite, or it was great until…?
My goal with this post is to give you information to make an informed decision. Personally, I think the patterns on the china cheapies can be really gorgeous. However I do know their quality is haphazard and I believe it is better to buy another cheaper style of cloth nappy (like Imagine or Simply Cloth) or add to a china cheapie with a quality booster (like Baby Beehinds ). But let me explain further…

The positives of china cheapies, THEY’RE TEN BUCKS!!!!! Okay, so they are wonderfully cheap. They provide a fantastic opportunity for you to determine if using cloth nappies are for you and your baby. You can obtain some gorgeous patterns at really cheap prices. They are usually one size fits most, which is even more economical. They come with an insert. Free postage too, from China. And you can usually buy a full time pack (24) between $200 to $400.  Yeah, why wouldn’t you buy them?

When I was setting up shop and deciding which cloth nappies to include, with all honesty I seriously considered including. I bought quite a number of them to evaluate and add to my range. But I decided to not include them for a variety of reasons: foremost being that I could not reconcile the cost and quality of the product I was going to purchase wholesale with both the price many others were retailing them for, and the other vastly superior cloth nappies available for prices similar to the massively marked-up china cheapies. (I wanted value for money for future customers, and they did not fit the bill.)

  1.  They are wonderfully cheap, but I am concerned that there are labour practices in China which I don’t agree with to produce such a garment for such a low price. If their markup is at least 100%, then they are making them for at most $3. Let us say it takes 20 mins to make a china cheapie (just a guess), thats $3 an hour. What are the employees being paid to produce a china cheapie at wholesale price of $3ea?
  2.  Even though many of the Australian, US or UK brands are made in China, the owners of these companies ensure the labour conditions are acceptable by their own standards. These brands believe in their product and want a quality product made to quality standards in quality conditions.
  3. Another reason is that you cannot be sure of the materials and chemicals which have been used. Many users of china cheapies have identified that their china cheapie smelt ‘weird’ and had some sort of residue on it, that had to be washed several times to remove. I ask you to consider the quality and make-up of the material used. Parents have reported laminating, broken elastics and faded patterns on materials after washing.
  4. Lets now talk about the inserts. The microfibre insert included in majority of china cheapies is extremely thin. It generally starts pilling after about 3 washes, ruining other clothes. It alone will not hold the output of a baby at any age. Other brands, like Rumparooz, use microfibre, but is a thicker and highly dense material. These brands ensure that the inserts can take the output of your baby and are of high quality. It’s like the difference between a $3 cotton shirt and a $20 cotton shirt, but this china cheapie is holding poo and wee against your baby’s skin.
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With only one microfibre insert, you will need to boost. Boosters start from $8 each. So your $10 china cheapie, has now become an $18 china cheapie for use during the day. What about night time use of a china cheapie? You will need another booster, so thats another $8. So for a full time pack you will be looking at 24 china cheapies, 24 boosters and 4 nighttime boosters, totaling $474.

There are many more reports on blogs, forums and discussions about the quality of these china cheapies. Majority of users report one of the following issues:

  1. The pattern washed off in the first wash.
  2. The elastics only lasted 2 months.
  3. Average life of about 6 months per china cheapie.
  4. They smell.
  5. My baby got a rash.
  6. They leak.
  7. I used a china cheapie, and now I hate cloth nappies.
  8. The snaps broke.
  9. I had no issues and I used mine for about 8 months per baby. I had to buy more.
  10. The postage took forever!
  11. My order was wrong, even though I specified colours/patterns.
      So I have already addressed the smell and leaking issues. What about the quality issue? As there is no warranty provided with the china cheapies and you do not know where or how they are made, it is not unreasonable to expect the elastics, snaps and material to disintegrate/break within a relatively short time frame. And you cannot get them replaced. Is it worth spending your money on this item, only to then replace them a short time later?
       So back to the cost. Your original purchase of 24 china cheapie nappies could require replacement every 6 months for 2 years. So now you have thrown $750 more at your cloth adventure (the quality boosters you bought are still going strong!). $1224 on nappies! And that just sees out one kid. Want to do it all again for numbers 2, 3 or more?
       Our most expensive OSFM cloth nappy is Bummis All in One. If you bought two 12 packs, it would cost $754. Included in this price is a warranty, a product you know where it comes from, quality material and design, adequate boosting for day time and quality elastic and snaps. You would save at least $486 over the time your child is in cloth nappies, compared to buying china cheapies. And they should last more than one child with even the most basic care. The uncertainty about the product is taken away and you are left spending time with your child.
       Also consider the lack of control you have over colour choice and shipping time. Some china cheapies take at least 4 weeks to reach our shores. Even if you specify a colour or pattern, there is no guarantee it will arrive.
      I also just want to point out, that the china cheapies dont generally provide a great fit around the thighs. A pocket cloth nappy (the basic china cheapie design) may not be the best option for you and your baby or lifestyle. Talking to someone who sells cloth nappies can assist you in making the right choice. Find someone you trust and you dont feel pressured by to make a purchase. The majority of cloth nappy retailers are only trying to spread the benefits of using cloth nappies and want you to love them the way they do.
      So what place do the china cheapies have in any cloth nappy stash? I think the china cheapies provide two really good options: a) a great way to practice cloth nappies without the upfront costs; and b) keeping a few in your stash as emergencies. But remember if you are a newbie to cloth nappies, don’t base your experience on the china cheapies. 
      I’d also like to comment on one more issue – perhaps a bit contentious. China cheapies have flooded the Australian cloth nappy market. And really it is not surprising. I am both a consumer and provider of cloth nappies, so my opinions here come from both sides of the cloth nappy debate. When I first started researching which brands to sell, I was absolutely astounded at the number of people selling the china cheapies at exorbitant prices. I have seen $3 china cheapies going for $6, $15 and even $25. You are being ripped off if you spend more than $10 on a china cheapie with one microfibre flimsy insert. Don’t be misguided by sales of unknown cloth nappies brands that were $30 and reduced to $10.
      (Now I will probably upset some people with that last comment, but I think you as a consumer should be aware where your money is going and the quality of the product being sold. Since the inception of Apikali, I have wanted to arm consumers to get the best cloth nappy for them. If china cheapies work best for you I am not challenging your decision at all.)
      So where to from here? Now that you are aware of the china cheapie world, you can make an informed decision. If you are going to spend at least $15 per china cheapie, consider looking around for another brand which is OSFM. At Apikali we have found economical cloth nappies for this reason. The Imagine AI2 are about $24 each. These brands all have warranties, quality materials and gorgeous colours.  But if you buy them in a package of 12, they become about $20 each. Five dollars more than the china cheapie. And even cheaper during sales!
      So I will finish with the following, china cheapies can have a place in your cloth nappy stash. But be aware of what you are buying and where your money is going. 
      Now for the disclaimer: These are my opinions and individual research results. Please consider your own circumstances before taking my advice.
 But……If you didn’t know, I am by trade an economist, so I am always looking for the biggest bang for a buck!
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10 thoughts on “China Cheapies: Your Grandmother would be disappointed

  1. I have used cc’s from an australian based retailer. I never had problems with pattern coming off,elastics,snaps,smells, postage time or absorbancy (i did use 2 cc bamboo inserts or one peapod insert per nappy). With the 2 inserts it was more than 10 per nappy but far less than the equivalent of 8 per insert. Perhaps I just got lucky. It was what I could afford at the time (was unaware of nappy laybys) & I now use branded ethically made nappies. My cc’s have been donated to charity. But my experience wasn’t a bad one. That being said I absolutely loooooove totsbots!

  2. I have a handful of CC that I use in my rotation. I do use much better quality inserts as the ones supplied are terrible (as you mentioned). I have them mainly for the holiday prints and a bit of fun and they work well enough but I would not have them as my entire stash.

  3. Hi Tennille
    I bought a 20pk of China cheapies nappies from an Australian reseller for $160 ($8ea). They were marketed as organic bamboo. They comprise the majority of my stash, and I’ve been using them for 5 months. I really like the fit and the boosters they came with, which are described as 4 layer bamboo, and which are much thicker than other microfibre inserts I’ve seen. I was disappointed in the 6 layer charcoal boosters for nights that I bought, though. They are less absorbent than the day boosters. All up, I actually prefer their fit and washability to name brand Aussie and European nappies I’ve used on previous bub. This retailer only sells single colour nappies, no patterns, so I’m contemplating getting some direct from a Chinese factory, because pretty is fun. You’ve got me worried about longevity now, though. I’m not sure what I’ll decide.

    • Hey Miranda,
      This blog post is not designed to worry you, but to provide information for your consideration to make an informed decision. Where cheaper cloth nappies save money is in the absorbency and materials used, as you noted in the charcoal boosters. This blog is to advise parents that there is a general trend that you will need to buy more absorbency for cheaper brands, when compared to the Aussie brands. If you like the fit and feel of the covers, keep going, but I would suggest upgrading the quality of your inserts over time. The quality of an insert is not just an advertisement of how many layers, but also the weight of the material, how is the material constructed and how well is it sewn.
      I hope that helps

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