Recently, my blogging buddy (her term… I am working on a combo of Blogger/Colleague but can’t decide if “Blogleague” will catch on or not) Suzi at Cloth Diaper Addicts posted about why she doesn’t recommend so-called “China Cheapies” to cloth diaper newbies.
Suzi has a gift for getting readers’ cloth diapers in a twist, yet her post is really just based on her own experience and a bit of research. She never says “Don’t buy China Cheapies,” nor “You’re the worst Mom ever for choosing China Cheapies,” but some definitely seemed to read it that way.
Her post got me to thinking. I share a lot of the same opinions as Suzi on China Cheapies: they have adorable prints but the quality is inconsistent, for example. I’ve also posted in the past about my beef with copyright-infringement and China Cheapies. I would add to the reason I don’t recommend China Cheapies the fact that some retailers have very sketchy business practices and because I’m skeptical of working conditions in some overseas factories.
I suppose my opinion on “China Cheapies” and Cloth Diaper Newbies is more like this:
Recommending China Cheapies from Co-Ops, Aliexpress, EBay, ShopDiaper.com or AlvaBaby.com Makes me Cringe.
Now, let’s make a few things clear: the vast majority of us own many, many cheaply-made products imported from China, myself included. Many “big-name” brands have manufacturing facilities in China: Funky Fluff, GroVia, gDiapers and Fuzzibunz, to name a few. These brands, however, base their business model on ethical and sustainable manufacturing practices and are very transparent about their overseas suppliers.
So, like Suzi, I know there are plenty of very satisfied Alva users out there (I’ve heard the worst comments from users of Coola Baby, if you’re curious!) and I also know plenty of parents who started the “cheapie” route, fell in love with cloth, and de-stashed their cheapies to buy other brands.
So, why do I still side with Suzi on calling out cheaply made cloth diapers? Because you’re not going to stop wearing shirts just because your $5 top from Target came apart at the seams. Because you’re not going to start bashing shoes because your flip flops from Walmart ripped. Because you’re not going to boycott toys because your son’s Dollarama action figure is out of commission.
What I want most of all in my fluffy little heart is for parents to be successful in their desire to cloth diaper. Someone who is already a bit skeptical and who immediately encounters issues is more likely to give up.
Are all China Cheapies destined to fail?
Not at all! In fact, the only diaper I’ve had to return for a manufacturing defect was an AppleCheeks. Bad batches of PUL fabric happen to all manufacturers, as do all sorts of other imperfections that might escape inspection on their way out to retailers.
The difference is that when an issue occurs with a brand like GroVia, AMP, AppleCheeks, Funky Fluff, Bummis, BumGenius or other “big name” brands, you have easy access to their customer service and to their warranties. Most have 1-800 numbers you can call for immediate support, and many have official Facebook groups where you have direct access to the company owners!
If you buy Alvas or other cheap brands from Shopdiaper, Ebay or Aliexpress and they delaminate (again, not unique to China Cheapies) or you are having issues with your wash routine or getting the right fit, you’ve got a language barrier to contend with and a longer wait in the event that they agree to send you replacements. If you buy from a co-op and have issues, I’m not sure that you would have access to any product support or warranties.
According to Alva’s warranty policy (and I give them credit, it’s a very generous one!), you must return the diaper at your expense. This is not unusual, (AppleCheeks, however, refunds customers for the cheapest shipping amount) except that I am afraid to ask how much it would cost to mail a diaper to China. Note that there are some Canadian and US approved distributors of Alva diapers, and in my opinion, this is your best bet. You will be able to deal with the retailer from whom you purchased the diaper, and probably have better luck!
Are there any “Cheaper” brands I would recommend?
Actually, yes! Kawaii Diapers are made in China and distributed out of Richmond, BC. Their website lists all of their safety-testing certifications, but I admit that their care instructions FAQ could definitely use a bit of work. They also have one diaper package that I want you to avoid. Kawaiis were my first pocket diapers, and I was happy with the quality for the price.
They were a bit of a “gateway drug” towards other pocket brands, and I eventually sold my Kawaiis and bought BumGenius. That being said, I think they are on the higher end of the “cheapie” spectrum, and the fact that they are based in Canada means easier access to customer support and no risk of paying duty. I will be frank, however: if you hold a Kawaii in one hand and a BumGenius in the other, there will be no doubt as to which is a higher quality brand. This doesn’t mean Kawaiis won’t work for you, in fact, I bet they will!
Another brand I am comfortable recommending is Hip Huggers. Angela is a WAHM and her diapers are made in China. I’m a fan of the Hip Huggers Supreme model and have a review of it here. Her “Basic” model is very similar to an Alva. She offers very affordable starter stashes! What’s the difference, then, for a newbie buying from her rather than Ebay, ShopDiaper or AliExpress? The customer support and the guarantee! (In my opinion, well worth spending the extra couple dollars… plus those dollars go into the Canadian economy and to a WAHM.)
I have also heard good things about Sunbaby, endorsed by a Mama I trust, Regan at The Anti June Cleaver.
Cheapies I would steer clear of:
- “Shopdiaper” brand
- Coola Baby (all I hear about are leaks, leaks and more leaks)
- Re-branded, triple-the-price China Cheapies (notice that Alva describes exactly how to order your custom-labelled Alvas… though they don’t say much about inflating the price)
- Cheapies Parading as Handmade on Etsy
- Alvas…. this is my personal opinion, I just really don’t like them (and I’m working on a post about “big name” brands that I really don’t like, by the way)
Considerations if you want to try out cloth on a budget:
- I have a post with 10 ways to Save on Brand Name Diapers;
- Many retailers offer trial packages that you use and return for a small fee so you can see if you like it. (For example, Câlins et Popotin in Québec)
- Brand name diapers can be resold for close to what you paid (especially TotsBots, AppleCheeks and BumGenius) if you really don’t end up loving cloth diapers. You’ll get the most money for them on Facebook B/S/T groups or Cloth Diaper Trader.
- Prefolds or flats and covers are effective and oh-so-inexpensive!
- The Real Cloth Diaper Association shows you how to transition to cloth from disposables on a budget
- Celeste at Thinking About Cloth Diapers has some awesome ideas for cloth diapering under $100 (and she does reluctantly recommend Alvas, a bit like me!) [At the bottom of her post are a ton of other awesome links for cloth on a budget.
I’m a bit afraid to ask… but… what are your thoughts on China Cheapies and cloth diapering on a budget? Do you know anyone who was totally turned off cloth due to a bad experience? (With ANY brand!)