3 compelling reasons to try cloth diapers

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About Tsh

Tsh is the founder of this blog and lives in Bend, Oregon with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

I‘m a self-confessed newbie at cloth diapering. I was interested in it from day one of my oldest daughter’s life, but I didn’t know anyone else who did it, and I wasn’t sure where to even begin.

About a year later, a friend of mine told me that she was going to cloth diaper her second, and my now waned interest was rekindled. She told me about a few sites and the myriad of options, but it seemed so overwhelming. All I knew of CDs were that our grandmothers had to use them, many of our mothers had no other option, and when disposables were invented, they breathed a huge sigh of relief.

So I moved on, and finished up my daughter in disposables. With my son, however, I switched to cloth earlier this year. And I now have no idea why I waited so long.

Here are three reasons that compelled me to make the switch.

1. Cost.

This was my main reason. Disposable diapers are expensive. If a child is potty trained at 3, he will wear an estimated 8,000 disposable diapers — and buying Luvs, Pampers, or Huggies in their economy-sized packs at stores like Target, Babies R Us, Amazon.com, or Costco works out to an average of $.19 per diaper. That’s an estimated $1,520 per child, assuming I buy the diapers at this economic price every time. If I buy the diapers in a regular-sized pack at a grocery store, the average price is $.24 — that’s a whopping $1,920 per child.

The price range varies for cloth diapers, depending on what kind you choose. But to make things fair — even if you picked the most expensive kind, the all-in-ones, the average price for those are around $18 per diaper. Or if you buy the 12-pack one-size all-in-ones from BumGenius, you’ll pay $203.40 with free shipping. If you also bought a 12-pack of their flannel wipes at $12, and bought Imse Vimse disposable liners five times a year at $13, that totals a little more than $400. You can use these diapers and wipes for every child, too, so you’re looking at barely more than $400 for all your diapering years. If you had three kids in disposables, that’s $4,500.

Sure, you’ve got slightly more water usage (though not as much as you think), and the use of chemical-free laundry soap, but that’s still a small price to pay, especially considering that you can do cloth diapering for much cheaper than listed above. Go with prefolds and wraps, buy them used off Diaperswappers or Craigslist, or even make your own diapers and wipes, and you’re saving money left and right.

I consider one of my main jobs as a home manager to be a good steward of our family’s finances. So for me, going with cloth was a no-brainer.

2. Good Environmental Stewardship.

diapers in landfills
Photo from Sattler Clothing

I have no idea why, but it never crossed my mind until recently that when I used disposable diapers, I was throwing human feces into the garbage. Officially, the disposable diaper companies say you’re supposed to shake the poop off into the toilet. But how many of us ever do that? In some cities, it’s illegal to dispose of human waste in to our garbage systems.  And the World Health Organization says it’s against their guidelines to put it into landfills.

In the U.S. alone, 18 billion disposable diapers are thrown in landfills each year, taking around 500 years to decompose. Disposable diapers make up the third largest item in landfills, after newspapers and food and beverage containers–a big deal, since they are a single product, used by a limited portion of the population. Once I started thinking about that, it just didn’t sit well with me. I want to steward well the earth God has given us. And while we still use disposables for long trips, switching to cloth primarily has significantly cut down our contribution to the landfills.

But what about water use? Isn’t it good eco-practice to cut down our household water consumption? Sure thing. But washing cloth diapers at home uses 50 to 70 gallons of water every three days–about the same as a toilet-trained child or adult flushing the toilet five to six times a day. They’ll start doing that once they’re potty trained anyway. If you use a diaper service (a great option for those of you who say you don’t have laundry capabilities in your own home), they’ll use even less water per diaper.

Life is about give and take, and the environmental question with diapering is no exception. For me, though, I’d rather use slightly more water than empty human waste into the garbage.

3. Possible earlier potty training.


Photo from Working Mommy

Back when disposable diapers didn’t exist, the average child was potty trained by 18 months. Now, it’s not uncommon for children to be potty trained at 40 months (3 years, 4 months). Every child is different, of course, and you can train your child earlier in disposables. But because disposable diapers have absorption chemicals that keep a baby from feeling wet, she has less incentive to get out of diapers. A baby still feels wet in a cloth diaper, and she gets uncomfortable faster.

Who wouldn’t want to try out something that might make the potty training process go quicker? I’m curious to see if this will help my son when he’s ready.

There are other great reasons to cloth diaper–less toxic chemicals on your baby’s bum, the amount of petroleum used to simply make a disposable diaper, and less diaper rash are some other common reasons. But these first three were enough to give cloth diapering a go — and I’m so glad I did.  Katie has shared her reasons for cloth diapering on her blog, This Natural Life.

Later today, I’ll post two short videos demonstrating the how behind my cloth diapering system — how to put on various kinds of diapers, and how to properly store dirty diapers and then clean them.

What are your main reasons for going with cloth diapers? If you’re still unsure, what are your hesitations? Or if you feel like disposable is the best option for your family, share the reasons why. There will be no guilt-inducing conversations, however, so any comments that hint at a motive of judgment will be deleted.

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Comments

  1. I went with disposables mainly because it was the most common choice amongst people I knew, I just didn’t know anybody who was using cloth diapers and could share their experience. Sure I considered the financial side of it but the calculations were not so easy to make, because there are were kinds of disposable diapers and I didn’t know what brand I will be using and there were many kinds of cloth diapers and the costs of water and electricity were hard to predict. Another reason was that cloth looked more labor intensive and I had no one who could tell me otherwise.

    Having the information you provide here I probably would have chosen cloth diapers.

    Emma @ Baby-log.com´s last blog post…What is your child eating?

  2. cost was certainly the motivation for me. and a few weeks of watching my husband haul our trash out, full of disposables. it’s great to get that stinky, heavy stuff out of our yard…but to whose yard were we sending it?

    great points, tsh!

    Nicole´s last blog post…Happily Ever After

  3. We used cloth for over a year, but switched to disposables when I had two babies and a new house with three floors (washing machine in the basement). I could never get into a good flow with the cloth, not to mention being slightly overwhelmed with two babies in a new home.

    If we ever had another single child, I’d definitely try to go back to cloth.

    Jamie

    steadymom´s last blog post…Children and TV – Use the Screen Successfully

  4. I used cloth for financial and environmental reasons. I used disposables on trips. I noticed that my babies had way less diaper rash with cloth than with disposables. Also, all of my children stopped wetting themselves during the night at a very young age. These were some pretty nice side benefits!

  5. I didn’t have any experience with anything other than disposables when my kids were in diapers. By the time I knew anyone using cloth, my daughter was in pull-ups. If we do have any more children, I’ll definitely be willing to give cloth diapering a shot. I’m sure I’ll be paving my own way – and having to explain cloth diapering about as many times as I change one – but it’s worth it to me for the financial and environmental reasons alone. And who can say no to earlier potty training?

    RLR´s last blog post…Kids in the Kitchen

  6. I wrote a blog post on this subject before I had my first baby (she’s 5.5 weeks old now). I’m always amazed at how fast humans can learn a skill and get into a groove. It already feels like I’ve been cloth diapering forever.

    My reasons are similar to yours — cost, environmental concerns, and the fact that they’ve just got to be more comfortable! I switched to cloth pads for myself about a year before I got pregnant, and I can’t imagine going back. I want my children’s comfort to be at least as important as my own.

    Jessie´s last blog post…Look What I Made!

  7. Hi everyone,

    Well my reason for cloth diaper is very similar to your, financial and environmental.
    I use cloth when we are at home, but when we are out for more than 2 hours we use disposable.
    My husband was supported in all this, but I think he is getting tire of putting the cloth away.
    I’m using mother-ease, I like them but now that I see so many option, I really don’t know.
    Question:
    How many diapers do I really need?

    Thanks Ths!

  8. Tsh and other writers this week – I have loved this series so much! So comprehensive and so helpful!

    My initial reason for switching to cloth was cost. We had so very little money and it pained me to see that much of our monthly budget going in the trash every month. We started with prefolds and covers and slowly built up a collection of pockets from buy/sell/trade boards like Diaperswappers.

    I also wanted to do a little bit if I could to cut down on landfill waste.

    I’ve relied much more heavily on disposables with our second once she hit toddlerhood, but I’m using cloth again more these days. Having cloth diapered so long, I’m one of the rare weirdos who actually does dump poop into the toilet out of disposables. It just against everything within me to thrown poop out in the trash now! I’m strange, I know.

    My husband’s grandmother (93) and I had an interesting conversation when about diapers and potty learning when AJ was a baby. She was telling me how she obviously only had flat diapers to use and she knitted wool diaper covers for her children. She had eight children, so you can imagine the diaper laundry she did in her life! She had to wash all those flat diapers by hand and hang them on the line – come rain or shine! She told me that’s why so many mothers in her generation trained their children to use the potty so early – cloth diapering was a LOT of work in those days! I thought that was such an interesting insight from her.

    Again, thank you so much for such a great and informative series.

    Megan@SortaCrunchy´s last blog post…What I Learned This Week

    • Megan you’re not weird I too dumped poo from sposies into the trash. My mom did it with us and it really helped to cut down on the smell.

  9. My main reasons for cloth diapering were:
    1. Cost (I plan to have more children so the savings will be even greater with them)
    2. Environmental stewardship
    3. They’re cuter than disposables :) – I might add that they are also more comfortable against baby’s skin & momma’s skin (when you are holding baby)
    4. My best friend has a CD/natural parenting store so choosing cloth meant I was supporting her instead of Pampers/Huggies/etc.

  10. We use a diaper service (tidy diapers, in the CT NY area) and have loved it. Seriously, look into a diaper service–it is no more expensive than disposables with a lot of benefits!!

  11. I am curious about the statement “Technically, it’s illegal to dispose of human waste in to our garbage systems.” I have heard this claimed elsewhere as well, but the only reference I’ve found is to the WHO guidelines, without specifics.
    http://verybaby.com/health

    Magda´s last blog post…Living

    • Thanks, Magda. I did some research after your comment, and the legality of dumping human waste into the garbage depends on your local government. So sometimes it’s illegal, sometimes it’s not.

      But you’re right, the World Health Organization says that dumping human waste into landfills violates their guidelines, and that doing so could create a potential biohazard. Fortunately, landfills in North America and Europe are fairly well-constructed, so risk of a leakage is minimal.

      So yes, no one’s going to come knocking on your door if you throw away a sposie with poop (I need to be arrested, if that’s the case!). But to me, it’s good stewardship to put the poop into the septic system instead of landfills, as I’m able.

      I’ll edit the sentence to be more accurate. Thanks again, Magda.

  12. I agree with your reasons for using cloth…they are my reasons as well. Interestingly enough, it seems that more and more people are starting to use cloth for these reasons. I blogged about this a while back if anyone’s interested…

    http://whatworksformama.blogspot.com/2009/05/why-i-love-cloth-diapering.html

    Thanks, Tsh, for running such a great series on cloth diapering. I will refer my friends to your blog when they ask me about CDing :)

  13. avatar
    Cassidy says:

    I am loving this series, I want to make the switch badly. Trying to convince the husband. My second daughter has diaper rash often and many brands of diapers break her out. I think I need to go cloth for that reason.

  14. I’ve been reading a lot about cloth diapering lately and keep running into the argument that cloth diapering is no better for the environment than disposables due to the extra water and soap consumed in washing them.
    I am completely flummoxed by this argument and I’m curious if anyone here has any research to back up what I’m about to suggest.
    It seems to me that any time something plastic is manufactured, it takes a lot of water in the production process. So, I can see that folks who live in areas with water restrictions would consider the “extra” water use as an added expense to them, but if we look at the diaper in a “cradle to cradle” manner (meaning from production to disposal), I hazard to guess that it would use a whole lot more resources (water included) and toxic materials to make and dispose of the thousands of disposable diapers a kiddo would use over the 50 or so cloth diapers (considering all sizes needed) one kiddo would use. Just because a disposable diaper user doesn’t pay the direct costs for the water used to create those diapers doesn’t mean those resources aren’t being used somewhere along the production path. Any thoughts out there on this idea?
    My own experience with cloth diapering was wonderful and I did it on the cheap. Pre-folds with basic covers, and those little flush-able rice paper liners to get the poop out easily. Then straight into the front loader washing machine. We used disposables when we traveled, and when my husband became very ill, we used them more.
    I think picking the right thing for your family is so personal. . cloth diapers or otherwise, but I love that this discussion is making it possible for folks to make a fully informed decision. Thank you so much Tsh, for taking on a topic that can be a bit controversial in such an open and welcoming manner.

    Carrie at Rhubarb Sky´s last blog post…Here it comes again. . .

    • Am I hearing you say that if you use the paper liners, you don’t need to rinse the diapers after the runny stage? This is something I’m not sure about. What are the liners for? Or do they just take out most of it and you rinse the rest?

      • Yes, you heard right! I never routinely rinsed diapers (there were a few that truly defied gravity and any sort of physics that required rinsing, but it was not the usual deal). . . dry bucket method all the way. Even with the breast milk poops, I was able to peel most of it away with the liners and flush with very little fuss. This makes using cloth diapers tons easier when you’re out and about too.

        Carrie at Rhubarb Sky´s last blog post…Here it comes again. . .

  15. WOW! I really love the part about the water consumption being the same as if they were using the potty!! That is SO interesting!

    I have a 10mo old baby girl and while I was prego, I was adamant about using CD’s. However, we live in an upstairs apt and we do NOT have a washer/dryer. :( So, (unfortunatly) I decided against it. In the next few weeks we’ll be buying a home and so we WILL have a washer/dryer! And I will most definitely be saving for CDs!! I’m so excited!

    I really appreciate all of these posts! They are just confirming to me that CDing really is the best option for our family. Esp since we’re planning on having more children. :) Thanks again and keep the articles comin!! :)

  16. I used a diaper service which makes the cost come out closer to disposables, but I would do it again in a heartbeat. I really like that with cloth diapers the poo gets treated appropriately in the sewage system. I did tend to use disposables occasionally when out during the explosively runny poo stage, just so I didn’t have to carry poopy diapers back home with me.

    Gabriel´s last blog post…Dresses

  17. Oh this is just a hoot. I had 3 children, all in cloth diapers. My boys were 16 months apart, I had 2 in cloth diapers at the same time. Are you ready for this???

    I had the “diaper pail” by the toilet (1 small bathroom for 5 people, can you imagine?). Poo got washed up and down in the toilet (by hand mind you, no gloves either) until it fell off. Then it got wrung out (OMG) and put into the diaper pail which was 1/2 full of a mixture of Dreft and water. When it was full, it got drained. I then put the sodden lump of diapers into the WRINGER WASHER!!!! and washed and washed and washed, and rinsed and rinsed and rinsed. And hung them out on the line to dry. In Minnesota. After kid 2, I finally got a cheap washer and dryer as a gift from someone.

    By the way – I NEVER heard of 18 months being the average for training, in the ’70s-80′s it was 2 years. 3 was unheard of! That meant something was way wrong with your kid, they were slow or something. I mean, they had to be trained before you could put them in daycare! Isn’t that something??? But my kids “were ready” at that age – they wanted to do what we did. My how times have changed. Nowadays you hear how people figure they have to push a baby to listen to classical music, do flash cards, have baby Einstien level stimulas so they have an edge or are prepared – but they can’t train until 3? Hmmmm.

    Anyhow, all I know is if folks had to do what we had to do – well, that’s another story!

    Great “How long can I keep it” (for common foods) informational post at MaidenShade.wordpress.com today.

    xJ

  18. I’m loving this series on cloth diapering. My 4th is due in November and I am seriously considreing making the switch to CD. Thanks for spelling the whole thing out for me.

    Mom’s Marbles´s last blog post…Bloggiversary Day 4: We just keep Going and Going and Going!

  19. I just switched to cloth with my son, 15 months, for the same reasons that you listed. I bought the “one-size” styles with the expectation that he could finish out with the cloth and I could get some practice with the system before #2 comes around. But the first day of using them he developed the worst diaper rash he’s ever had. Any ideas about why this might be? I LOVE my cloth diapers, but fear that they my not work for his little bum. Any thoughts would be great!

    Emily´s last blog post…Birthday Weekend

    • My guess is maybe he had it on too long. I noticed the same thing with my son at first, mostly because I was used to not changing him as often — you can do that longer in disposables because they don’t “feel” wet.

      With cloth, you should change every 2-3 hours. Once I started doing that, we had no rash problem.

    • My guess is that when you prepped the diapers that you didn’t get them rinsed enough or that maybe you used the wrong detergent. Using the wrong detergent will react with the pee and burn their skin. And if they aren’t rinsed well enough then there can also be a chemical reaction that can burn, which is why some people talk about “stripping” their diapers. Those are my thoughts!

      • I’m not sure which one size diapers you are using, but if they are made out of suede cloth (ie-bumgenius dipes) some kids are just allergic to them. BG’s just came out with a fleece inners which people would help, or there are obviously other kinds of dipes with fleece insides. The other possibility would be your detergent. My son would get a minor rash after using cloth for a day or so (even with changing him frequently). I tried many things, but finally realized that even though I was using a recommended cloth diaper detergent, it wasn’t quite enough… there were “enzymes” in my detergent and that ended up being the key. As soon as I changed to a detergent that was free of EVERYTHING-brighteners, enzymes, etc… no more diaper rash problem. HTH Don’t give up yet-you might just have to try a few things!!!

  20. Excellent article… Specially the Money comparison part. When my son was doing potty training it was VERY frustrating when he pooped his underwear.. and I CONFESS I even threw some in the trash can! Just because I didn’t want to deal with it! Then my mother in law reminded me that I was raised on cloth diapers and it was not as bad as it seemed! SHAME ON ME! lol Then I got used to clean it after accidents!
    It gets my curiosity the cloth diapering thing… but I am still not sure. I think I will consult that with my DH when we have another baby.

    lvlc @ FromMomToMom´s last blog post…Kids Bio-Accidents: you know what I mean

  21. I use cloth for pretty much the same reasons you listed, and there so darn cute. My sister ans sister in-law make and sell covers, so I’ve got it made. I think the argument that cloth is not more earth friendly because of water and soap is ridiculous. My water bill or electric bill has really not increased, but I have a front loading washer. Making disposables I’m sure takes much more energy and materials.

  22. LOVE my cloth!! i started my daughter in cloth after all the meconium tar poop passed and we ran out of the sposies we got from the hospital – since then, it’s been all cloth all the time – even when we travel!

    i decided to go with cloth for the same reasons you did – mostly because of the cost and the environmental impact – i love to remind my husband of how much money i’ve saved us with cloth, especially when i spend a little too much money on something!

    the thing that was most surprising to me is how easy cloth is – anyone who knows me knows that i tend to be on the high maintenance side and i’m not doing anything that is “gross” or will create more chaos in my life! i do laundry 2-3 times a week and until then, i just throw everything in a trash can next to the changing table – every once in a while i have to scrape some poo with toilet paper, but to me that’s a way better option than cleaning up explosive poo diapers – my daughter is 16 months old and we’ve never had a blowout!

    dianthe´s last blog post…i think i gave birth to Jaws

  23. My initial reason for switching was “green guilt”. I was pregnant with our second, and couldn’t fathom sending another baby’s worth of disposables to the landfill. I had no idea about the cost savings until I started my research – VERY pleasant surprise! It’s huge! Not wrapping my babies in chemicals became another important factor for me.

    This series has been great – one stop shopping for CD research! It’s inspiring me to take on a challenge – putting my almost-3-year-old in cloth more regularly. Changing his diaper has been challenging (at best) since he was 1. Since cloth needs to be changed more frequently (to avoid flash floods!), I often put him in disposables just to avoid more frequent battles. If anyone has tips for turning our battles into something more positive, I’m all ears! I’d love to use fewer disposables on him!

  24. I am curious about th 50-70 gallons of water every 3 days for diapers – that seems really high to me. My front loader would definitely use less but I am not sure how much, I will have to research. But I am sure we use less.

    And our toilet uses about 2 gallons a flush, if it was used 5 times a day that is about 70 gallons a week – that is a good argument and comparison! Thank you , love this topic!!!

  25. COST!!! It was absolutely the #1 reason that I chose cloth. I went with prefolds and covers and was able to get everything I need, including a year’s worth of natural detergent for around $200. We potty learn at 9 months and are usually done at 15 months so this works out great for us. I love it.

  26. 4) Cloth butts are just so CUTE!!!! I had my two in cloth for about 6 months, then they started getting rashes that I couldn’t get rid. I tried for another 3-4 months, using different diapers, wash methods, even changing their diets, but nothing help. It was a sad, sad day when I sold my cloth diapers.

  27. We switched to cloth when my daughter was having non-stop diaper rashes at about 8 months. I’ve never looked back. She hasn’t had a rash since and if I have another child it will be cloth diapered. My goal is to convert 3 people to make up for the disposables that I used with my 3 boys.

  28. Maybe someone else commented on this, but the claim that it’s cheaper assumes you have your own washing machine. Sadly, many of us apartment dwellers don’t have that luxury. I originally planned to do cloth diapering, but then when we moved and figured out the cost of $2.50 per load, plus if you wash it twice that would be $5.00 a load, at the least every other day, so a minimum of $80 per month just for the laundry… well I couldn’t convince my husband of its benefits (he’s home a lot taking care of the baby, so he changes lots of diapers) …not to mention putting poop into a shared washer….eek! Any one have thoughts or suggestions or experience cloth diapering without your own washing machine?

    Crystal´s last blog post…Evolution

    • Hey Crystal! Yep, lots of people have been bringing this up throughout the series in the comments sections, so I wonder if I should turn this very topic into a separate post.

      Overall, the consensus has been to look into a diapering service, where they do the washing for you, and deliver clean diapers to your door. Supposedly it’s still cheaper than disposables.

      Let me know if you find something in your area!

      • avatar
        Melissa L. says:

        I am cloth diapering, in an apartment, with my second (we used a service with my first, because the laundry facilities were not practical with a baby (outside & down a cellar) but cannot afford it with 2 & me a SAHM now.) I am NOT saving money, and I am just using flats and prefolds. I was washing twice per load at $2/load but discovered that once is sufficient, and I hang dry the diapers INSIDE our apartment. I have to wash every other day due to space limitations. I am so envious of people with washing machines and clotheslines OUTSIDE! I can afford a machine but it’s forbidden in our lease, and that is the case with many apartments in our area, though wherever we are next MUST allow us to have our own machine, but sadly, I’ll probably be done with diapers by then. I like using cloth and I think that it is better for the babes, though my son is approaching 3 and is not giving up the diapers easily ( I guess he likes them, too.) And sometimes we use disposables, and I FLUSH the poop! By the way, newborn breastfed poop can go right in the washer and everything rinses away; I didn’t believe it, but it does. I don’t know if it is the same for formula. My husband is fine with the cloth diapers, even tried pinning flats! The thing is, it’s the poop that’s unpleasant, and you have to deal with that no matter what diaper you use – the disposables don’t change themselves (not yet!) Most men have never changed a diaper so if you start them on cloth from the beginning, they’re fine.
        Definitely do the math if you’re looking to cloth diaper in order to save money, because it may not be cheaper right now, but will be cheaper over time if you can use them for 2 or more kids).

  29. avatar
    Lachelle says:

    I have to admit that even reading this whole series, I’m still very much on the fence over cloth diapering. I have a strong gag reflux so I worry about the mess and smell of cloth diapering. I worry since I didn’t do it with my daughter, that I’m going to get easily frustrated with trying it out with my second due in October. I worry that my husband won’t be on board at all and that I will do all the diaper changing duties. I worry that my child will be a late crawler and walker due to the extra bulk! Basically I have a lot of worries!

    • Well I didn’t start using them until my third, and I wished I had used them for all. My daughter is 16 months now and has no problems with bulk. She crawled at 6 months, and walked at 9.5. Just like my first two. My diapers are not very bulky though. My husband doesn’t really change cloth, but it doesn’t bother me.

    • I totally can understand your hesitation due to the ick factor. I personally know that when I change disposable diapers, I still am smelling poo and it occasionally does leak out of the diaper. Getting the poo off the cloth diapers and into the toilet is usually no messier than that in my experience. Just my thoughts on your gag reflex :) In the end you have to do what works for you, and if that’s going with disposables, that’s fine too!

  30. avatar
    Twin Mom says:

    I tried cloth and found I had to change diapers at least twice as often as I do with Pampers. Because I live in the rainy Northwest, I can’t hang diapers to dry. I have to use a dryer. (Diapers have sat wet here for days after coming from the dryer damp.) I’m an engineer so I calculated the detergent, water and electricity for a large load in my washer/dryer to be $1.60/load. Assuming I wash 20 diapers in a load, I need 40 diapers for my twins which would cost $600 at $15 apiece.

    Using Pampers, I use 4-5 diapers/day at 20-24 cents/diaper for a daily cost of about $1/twin.

    Using cloth, I use 8 diapers/day at 8 cents/diaper for a daily washing cost of $0.64/twin. At $0.72/day (my savings from cloth), it will take me 28 months to break even on my initial diaper cost, which is the age my toddler is potty training at.

    For me, it’s break-even. This puts zero value on my time to wash and fold a load of diapers every day AND my toddler switched from cloth to Pampers due to recurrent yeast rashes with cloth.

    However, I had to invest $600 to buy the diapers.

    • Well my diapers were very cheap. My sister made cotton/pul covers for me with snaps. I put chineese prefolds inside that cost me 1 dollar for some and .50 cents for the rest. Also I have never changed my dd 8 times a day. Right now it is 3 and she is on her second cover and third prefold. Also I make my own laundry soap which is really cheap, and I have a front load washer, so it doesn’t use much water. Anyways I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you, but just wanted to say there are much cheaper options than what you described.

    • avatar
      Blue Skies says:

      Good analysis. However, some points:

      1. $1.60 per wash load seems high. I’ve calculated it to around $1 per load for detergent, wash and dry. (It’s 40c cheaper to hang dry). So that is 5c per diaper per wash, instead of 8c. Which is $0.40 per day.

      2. 4-5 diaper changes per day seems low. 20c/diaper also seems low. With my daughter it’s 6-7 disposables per day. So that is a daily cost of $1.44.

      3. You can sell your used diapers on diaperswappers.com for half price and recoup about $300.

      So the cloth are $1.04 cheaper per day per twin. So it will only take 4.5 months to break even.

      • avatar
        Twin Mom says:

        What are your washer/dryer depreciation cost assumptions? Maybe because of our high humidity, my dryer has to run for 2 hours to dry diapers. (and my washer’s bad spin cycle) But replacing my appliances is even more expensive.

        • avatar
          Twin Mom says:

          Regarding diaper cost, I bought Pampers Swaddlers this week at Target for $19/box with a $5 gift card when I buy two boxes. I had a coupon for $2 from P&G, which meant I paid $31 for 168 Swaddlers diapers for a cost of $0.185/diaper. Since I shop at Target regularly, a gift card is like cash, and I had several coupons from P&G and from the $1.50 coupons on small Cheerios boxes lately. The size 4 box is regularly $19 for 82 diapers of Pampers Baby Dry. Maybe my local Target has good prices (and my state has no sales tax)

  31. We chose cloth diapers for the cost and environmental issues. My husband was skeptical at first and wanted to get a service, but in my mind that negated the cost saving part–especially since this is our first child and we plan on having more. I would say the diaper sprayer we got definitely helped my husband be more okay with it. He is the primary care giver for our daughter 2 days a week and does great with the diaper changing! We do not have a front loading washer but still have not noticed a significant difference in our water or energy costs. We LOVE our cloth diapers! :)

    Stacie@HobbitDoor´s last blog post…I Can Do It, Mom!

  32. Our washing machine is tiny and they don’t have a diapering service near us. Also, we’ll be staying with friends and family for four months in the very near future. But when we get back to our own home, I think I might try cloth. But I’d like to try it first. We’ll see.

  33. I’ve never thought about the fact that I’m throwing poop into the trash. To me, it’s not any weirder/different than throwing poop into the water, which we eventually drink. I feel like I’m really ignorant about this (maybe there are bacteria that eat the poop that makes its way to water treatment facilities, and so that’s better for the environment?). I’d appreciate any help here – you may have just won yourself a cloth diaper convert!!

    Thanks!!

  34. My daughter will be 2 next month and is in early potty training stages. She is, and will be, my only child. Although I wanted to cloth diaper before she was born, I was far to overwhelmed to make it work early on due to multiple complications I suffered after her birth. I sold my cloth diapers when she was three months old (it was impulsive–I didn’t know that things would get easier and having them around made me feel bad).

    I’ve used Seventh Generation disposables for most of her life. And though they definitely take up landfill space, they are (according to the company’s literature) less toxic than the major brands. I like them because they are character free and don’t smell like motor oil made love to baby powder. We get these delivered to us through the Amazon.com subscribe and Save program. Our per diaper cost is about $.21 versus $.19 for Huggies or Pampers.

    Until a month ago, we were using gDiapers primarily during the day and Seventh Generation only at night. But, since I dump poop into the toilet even in disposables, I felt the gDiapers were more time consuming and expensive than was worth it for a child who was beginning to sit on the potty.

    Although we live in a high drought area (Southern California) and are currently undergoing water use restrictions, I never felt using gDiapers used too much water as the liners are flushed, composted, or simply thrown away (they break down in 50 days) and the covers were simply washed along with her other clothing as they *rarely* came into contact with any pee or poop.

    Yolanda´s last blog post…Den Mate

  35. The primary reason for me was cost. We ended up buying a lot of our diapers second-hand, so that has kept the cost down, even though we only use pockets & all-in-ones. By my calculations, we’re breaking even right about now (8 months).

    The secondary reason was the environment. I’m all for making the effort to be green, as long as it doesn’t cost more than the “traditional” ways to do things.

  36. This is such a great article and series that your posting. It has make me re-think the whole thing for the second child. I will be definitely be trying out and deciding about cloth diapers!!

    Dariela´s last blog post…El Español -Parte 2-

  37. avatar
    Twin Mom says:

    With my cost of $1.60/load, I’m including washer/dryer depreciation. What are other people’s assumptions for depreciation/faster wearout of your appliances?

  38. The best way to clean cloth diapers is to pre-rinse them off in the toilet using a Hand Bathroom Bidet Sprayer. So convenient and if you are trying to help the environment (and your pocket book) you can give it a double whammy by virtually eliminating toilet paper use at the same time as you benefit from using it on the diapers, by using it on yourself. I think Dr. Oz on Oprah said it best: “if you had pee or poop on your hand, you wouldn’t wipe it off with paper, would you? You’d wash it off” Available at http://www.bathroomsprayers.com they come in an inexpensive kit and can be installed without a plumber. And after using one of these you won’t know how you lasted all those years with wadded up handfuls of toilet paper. Now we’re talking green and helping the environment without any pain. One review: http://jonathanandandrea.blogspot.com/2009/04/spray-it-or-scrub-it.html

  39. I always wanted to use cloth diapers, but my husband wouldn’t hear of it, as that was so uncivilized. Then when we had two in diapers and I was spending $120 a month on disposables, I showed him how much we could save and he agreed. I invested about $450 in 5 dozen premium diapers, a hand full of covers, 2 pails, cloth wipes, nylon bags for travel and a hose that attaches to the toilet to spray the “solid” waste off (as moms of nurslings know, it’s not always so solid, and sometimes works right into the fibers). So for less than 4 months diaper budget, I diapered both girls till they were potty trained, loaned some to a neighbor to aid in potty training her daughter; loaned the whole batch to a friend, who used them on her next 3 boys; then 6 years later got them back for my son (by this time I had to buy more covers); and have now given them to my niece to use for her son. That’s 10 years and 6+ kids from 5 dozen diapers.
    Not too bad of an investment. :)
    By the way, the hose is THE most wonderful tool to make the “messy” part of cloth diapering a lot easier. I think the brand that I got was called The Little Squirt, it was from Australia and the only one that I saw like it 10 years ago, but I saw other brands when I was buying the covers for my youngest 3 years ago. (And, even though I haven’t had to do any diapering for a couple of years, I still have it attached to the toilet. It has come in handy when the kids vomit on clothes and bedding and is even useful for cleaning under the rim of the toilet- though I would only advise using it for that if you have a strong stomach, you may not want to see what is hiding up there.)

  40. First of all I love your site! I recently posted on my blog about making your own breastfeeding and baby items. I really like this post of yours about cloth diapering and I added a link on my post to you for those still questioning whether cloth diapers are right for them. Here’s a link http://natural-beginnings.blogspot.com/2012/01/thrifty-diy-projects.html#.TyAMo6Wm_LU

    I just started using cloth with my fourth little one and I wish I would have started with my first! Like someone else commented, it wasn’t common in my area, and I really didn’t think of it as an option. So I’m trying to spread the word of the benefits and ease of going cloth.

    Thanks for all the great information!

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