Spot the difference – how a branded nappy differs from a china cheapie

China Cheapies – What are they?

A China Cheapie (CC) is a cloth nappy manufactured in China and sold on the market for vastly less than branded nappies. They are usually made in the pocket style – although you can buy All in One, All in Two and fitteds but the pocket is the one you will find the most.

CCs usually cost between $6-$8 for the shell, I know crazy right! And then they will either come with one insert or you buy your insert separately. So for around $10 you can get a shell and then buy an extra insert and you have a complete nappy. Believe me I totally understand WHY you would want to do this. When you look at it on face value you have $35 for a branded or WAHM nappy OR $10 for a nappy sent from China. That’s a huge difference, plus they have a large range of colours and prints what’s not to like right?

How are they different?

Ok so I am a big believer in the saying ‘you get what you pay for’ and in my experience this rings true for nappies. CCs are made in Southern China usually Guangzhou provence which is made up of predominantely sweat shop factories. Workers making these nappies are paid on a per piece basis not an hourly rate so their entire pay packet depends on how many nappies they can sew over the course of their shift. Because of this there can be discrepancies in the make-up of the nappy, length, width, snap placement etc. so you could buy one CC which fits perfectly but the next one may not, even though it’s the same brand of nappy made in the same factory and purchased in the same transaction. Due to the sheer volume of nappies these factories are producing the quality control measures aren’t as stringent as the factories where branded nappies are made or when a nappy is handmade by a WAHM. So these differentials which would see any branded nappy go in the seconds pile will be sold as a finished product.

The other main difference between CCs and branded nappies is the quality of the materials used.

A CC nappy will usually come with a single microfiber insert. That’s it, just the one and nothing else. You may have the option of upgrading your insert but even then it’s a low quality bamboo or some thicker microfiber. A branded nappy or WAHM made nappy should come with everything you need to use the nappy for 2-3 hours. There would not be many parents who are able to use a CC nappy with the insert it comes with for this amount of time.

As a comparison – the microfiber insert that is standard with an Alva nappy is a 3 layer insert. The microfiber inserts that come with a Rumparooz nappy are a 3 layer newborn insert and a 4 layer One Size Insert. Used together this gives you 7 layers or more depending how the inserts are folded.

The Bamboo composition of the 3 layer Bamboo Insert in a CC is 330gms to compare the Bubblebubs Candie inserts are 450gsm. I couldn’t find any information on the bamboo to cotton breakdown on the Alva Baby Website it is known however that some cheaper brands use polyester instead of cotton to blend with their bamboo. This reduces both the price and the performance. Most reputable branded nappies have a breakdown of 70/30 or 80/20 Bamboo to Cotton.

A quick word on ‘charcoal ‘bamboo’ here, this is an insert that is basically a 3 or 5 layer microfiber insert surrounded by fleece with burnt bamboo (the charcoal) nanoparticles placed in, so what you really have is a microfiber insert with a staydry layer on top.

Inside a Happy Flute All in One

Inside a Baby Beehinds All in One

How do I know if the nappy I’m buying is really just a China Cheapie in disguise?

That’s a really good question, you see it’s somewhat common for people to set up businesses that import cheap nappies directly from the supplier and on sell them from Australia with their own label sewn on. These nappies are usually also sold at inflated prices. It’s not unheard of for a rebranded Alva Baby nappy to be sold under someone else’s label for upwards of $20.

So what do you look for? Well price is probably the main indicator, the majority of branded nappies sell for upward of $30 so if you are buying a nappy that is priced at the $20 mark of less, especially if it is not on special then that would be a red flag for me. Another thing to watch out for is the type of inserts the nappy is sold with. A nappy that comes with a single insert of 3-4 layer microfiber or 3 layer bamboo should make you suspicious. Charcoal bamboo is another red flag for me as well, although there are some branded nappies that use charcoal bamboo the majority don’t.

It can be really hard trying to navigate this as some CCs in disguise are easy to spot some others aren’t. There are nappies manufactured to order for businesses that want to offer a custom built nappy at an economical price. Some have prints the business owner has sourced along with specifications on the nappy design that make them different from a standard CC. Many of these will have been chosen directly out of a catalogue and features added or taken away. Some will be made in sweat shop factories and some in smaller family run enterprises. Because of the ability to custom build a design around the basic CC shell some business owners claim they have designed their nappy in Australia but outsourced the manufacturing straight to China. This is a grey area when it comes to this topic, as it really depends what your definition of design is. For me a design is an original piece of work.

Aren’t all nappies made in China ‘China Cheapies’

The short answer is no not necessarily. Brands like Baby Beehinds and Bubblebubs (and lots more) manufacture their nappies in small family run factories that pay a living wage and offer employee’s rest breaks, health and safety standards etc. The owners of these nappy brands also visit the factories the nappies are made in periodically. The nappies made in these factories are held to a high standard of quality control and the materials used are far superior, particularly for the inserts. Many branded nappies have their inserts custom milled to their specifications.

Other things that differentiate on the price between branded nappies and CCs are that an Australian Business is not only paying for the manufacturing, the materials but also the freight and insurance costs. A nappy bought in Australia is covered under ACCC standards, so if you have a quality issue you are covered under Australian consumer law. You do not have the same protection if you are buying a nappy directly out of china.

Why the price difference?

Well as I’ve mentioned above first and foremost you are paying for a better quality nappy. But there are some other aspects that make up the cost of a branded nappy. I spoke with Vicki from Bubblebubs who said that the price of a Bubblebubs nappy comes down mainly to fair pay and good quality fabrics but also paying for license fees on designs (think Disney etc they’re all ripped off) costs a fortune in artwork costs. Not cutting corners on the little things, like making boosters 1-2cm shorter. The seamstresses in the factories where Bubblebubs are made take their time when sewing as they’re being paid a fair wage they don’t have to rush to get a heap done.

Once you know what you are looking for spotting a CC becomes easier. It’s important for consumers to have some awareness that the product they are purchasing may not perform the same way you would expect a branded nappy to. Some people have no problems using a cheap nappy imported from China but for others they just don’t well. I like to think of it like shopping at K-Mart and shopping at David Jones. I can buy a product from K-Mart but my expectations on quality and durability are low. If it breaks or doesn’t work well I think to myself ‘well what would you expect’ however when I buy something from David Jones I’m fairly certain what I am buying is a quality product that should perform well and go the distance. For me quality comes out tops every single time.