3 Great Reasons to Choose Cloth Diapers

Cloth diapers are experiencing a sort of renaissance these days. While disposable users still outnumber cloth users by far, the cloth diaper industry grew by 58% in 2008 alone! That’s a huge number. So what is attracting all these parents to cloth diapers? Why use cloth?

I have found three great reasons to choose cloth diapers.

  1. They’re better for my budget.
  2. They’re better for my baby.
  3. They’re better for the environment.

Better for my budget:

We’re on a very tight budget, and who isn’t these days? Frugality is becoming more and more important to everyone. Cloth diapers are a great frugal choice when it comes to diapering. Just check out these facts:

The average baby will use about $1800-$2000 worth of disposable diapers before they’re potty-trained. And that’s just the average – you’ll spend more if you use expensive disposables, or if your child stays in diapers longer than average. That doesn’t include the cost of wipes, either. And these costs are per baby, so if you have more than one child, you’ll shell out that money each time.

A basic cloth diaper system will cost you anywhere from $150 to $800, depending on what you choose and how much you buy. You might experience some sticker shock when you’re looking at up-front costs, but in the long run look how much you’re saving. In addition, you can re-use the diapers on your next baby! Your savings just doubled.

• If you’re interested in trying cloth but not sure you want to make the commitment, you can easily purchase a small amount of start-up diapers for the cost of one month’s worth of disposables.

Better for my baby:

Disposable diapers contain dioxin, which is a by-product of the bleaching process that the paper diaper goes through. Dioxin is toxic, and exposure has been linked to cancer, birth defects, skin diseases, and other illnesses.

In addition, the super-absorbent quality of disposables is created through the use of a polymer gel that used to be used in tampons, too, until it was discovered to be associated with toxic shock syndrome. However, it’s still being used in disposable diapers. Many parents find an increase in diaper rash with disposables that disappears or significantly lessens when they switch to cloth.

Our daughter, age four months, sporting her cloth diaper and cover.

Better for the environment:

Here are just a few facts about the environmental impact of disposable diapers:

• The third most common product in landfills is disposable diapers.
• It will take between 300-500 years for a disposable diaper to decompose.
• One ton of waste is created by one baby in disposables by the time they are potty-trained!

Some people would question whether cloth diapers are better for the environment because of the water required to wash them. However, washing cloth diapers at home uses about the same amount of water in one week as a toilet being flushed 5-6 times a day. A diaper service washing their diapers in bulk will use even less water.

You can also repurpose your cloth diapers once your babies are potty-trained. I grew up dusting the furniture with my old diapers that my mom used on me when I was a baby. Old diapers also make great batting for hand-made blankets and quilts, and I’m sure some of you creative moms out there have thought of many more uses for old diapers. Repurposing is great for the environment and your budget, too.

If you’re interested in learning more about the benefits of using cloth diapers, here are some resources for you to explore:

• Real Diaper Association: Diaper Facts
• Cotton Babies: Cloth Diaper Basics
• Real Diaper Association: Why We Choose Cloth

Do you use cloth diapers, or have you ever considered it? What are your reasons for using or not using cloth?

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Katie is a writer, a teacher, a mezzo-soprano, and a mama. She and her husband Shaun are passionate about mentoring and equipping artists of all kinds. Find her online at katiefox.net.

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  1. Katie, this is a great post. Very encouraging and inspiring. I am a few days away from having baby #2 and I have been struggling with this decision for a long time. Honestly, I want to cloth diaper for all the wonderful reasons you have listed above, I am just a little intimidated by the whole thing for some reason. (Of all the household chores, I usually fall behind the most on laundry – not acceptable when there are cloth diapers involved!)

    We did receive a “diaper shower” which was a wonderful blessing, so I will use those disposables up before considering the switch to cloth. But thoughtfully consider it, I will, and I really appreciate your encouraging words on this subject!

    Take care,

    Christen’s last post: Cooking with Kids: Irish Flag Stew & Whole Wheat Soda Bread

    • what worked for us was a gradual switch … we used disposables for nights and travel at first and cloth during the days at home. It helped to not feel like it had to be an all at once change.

      I figure w/ a new baby we were doing laundry all the time anyway, so a little more didn’t matter too much 🙂
      .-= Kara’s last blog: Book Review: Love Your Heart by Tim McGraw and Tom Douglas =-.

      • Good point about the laundry! 🙂 I just bit the bullet and bought some cloth diapers! I did the math and even if we decided to do a combination of the two (as you suggested), we will save lots of money. I’m actually excited about it and who thought anyone could be excited about diapers! 🙂

        • We’re expecting #1 in a couple weeks and I’d really like to try cloth diapering. While I am a little hesitant to go 100% right off the bat. That was kind of the plan I’d come up with…doing cloth while at home and during the day and disposables when out or traveling. Glad to hear that it can work!! I think I will do disposable at least for the first few weeks until I get acclamated to all the changes that come with having a newborn, but as soon as we get somewhat adusted, I am looking forward to giving the cloth a try.
          .-= Sue’s last blog: There’s a Baby Moving In! =-.

        • Christen, so glad you decided to go for it! I think it would be hard to cloth diaper if you didn’t have anyone else around you who was doing it, too – I was lucky to have friends who helped me and showed me the things they did. If you know anyone else using them, lean on them for advice and help! If not, well, you can become the expert for your other friends. 🙂

  2. We love our cloth! We just use prefolds and wool soakers. I actually wrote a blog post about cloth diapers before my daughter was born: http://samann1121.blogspot.com/2009/04/mmmm.html I should probably write an update!
    .-= Jessie’s last blog: Brown Rice =-.

  3. I don’t have any kids yet (just married about 8 months ago), but thanks to looking around on this and other SM sites, I’ve really become interested in it. At the very least I’m sure we’ll give it a try. I always worry about appearing like a snobby mom…with all my concerns about chemicals, etc….I sometimes feel like others will think I think I’m better than them. Which is just fear, nothing really, but how do you cloth-diapering (and generally all-natural) moms handle that side of things?
    .-= Nikki Moore’s last blog: chemicals on your skin=chemicals in your body. =-.

    • I think you’ll be surprised how little you care about others’ opinions when the issue is doing what’s best for your child. If someone thinks you’re a snob just because you cloth-diaper (or whatever), that’s their problem, not yours. That being said, you can probably reduce the likelihood of being considered a snob if you just let your actions speak for themselves and answer any comments/questions with kindness and simplicity.

    • Nikki, I am always fearful about that, too, I admit – but in my case it’s probably my problem more than anything else; I tend to have strong opinions, and so I decided not to really talk about these kinds of things with people unless they ask first. I AM blessed to have a pretty crunchy community so nobody thinks I’m TOO weird. 🙂

  4. Anne Marie says:

    I love this post. We literally made the choice to switch last weekend. We got our diapers this week and this post couldn’t have been more timely to get us excited and motivated! Thanks for the timely article.

  5. I really want to do cloth but we have such old washer and dryers that I wonder if it’ll cost us more in energy costs- granted I would hang dry anytime the sun is shining but I live in the NW which isn’t everyday even in the summertime. Any suggestions for those of us without energy saving laundry appliances?

    • Christine says:

      I cloth diaper and I live in the northwest. In my old apartment there were newer, but not high efficiency machines. In my new apartment their are HE fancy machines. I haven’t noticed a big cost difference, but the newer machines are a total pain when it comes to cloth diapers. Ok, the washer is a total pain – front loading, difficult to soak diapers, etc.

      As far as drying goes, I hang my diapers outside a lot. Sometimes I just dry a few in the dryer to get my through while the others dry outside (it helps with eliminating smells and stains- how easy!). The covers dry really fast (we use bumgenius) regardless of the weather. The liners – sometimes I dry them in the dryer. Often I hang them. Even a couple of hours of warmish, intermittent sunlight helps. If it starts to rain, i just drag the drying rack off our deck and leave them drying inside the house. They’re usually dry by morning!

      • I’m a Pacific NW Mom who has two girls, 8 and 10, who both used cloth diapers. Don’t let our climate scare you away; I lived through it and so can you! (As an aside, my neighbor doesn’t own a dryer at all, just a washer).

        Invest in a drying rack (mine are from Target and Ikea) and hang up a line in the few months it doesn’t rain. 🙂

        Also, Reason #4 to choose cloth: my daughters were potty trained well before their peers. With a cloth diaper, your baby will feel wet, and recognize the cause and effect. With a disposable, the gel soaks everything up, and there is no wet sensation. My eldest trained herself the month before she turned two (I was horrified, but that’s a different story), and my youngest the month she turned two.

        Think of all the hassle and money you’ll save! (Admittedly, I have girls, and they are easier to train than boys, or so I’ve heard.)

        Good luck!!!

    • I don’t have HE appliances – we rent and though the machines are not really old, they’re a little bit older. Honestly, our bills hardly went up at all – it was barely noticeable. You can always line dry indoors on a portable rack.

      • I can hardly believe that the bill hardly went up. My dryer cannot dry a load of clothes the first cycle through- I always have to add some extra minutes.
        I didn’t think of using a portable rack indoors- I’ll have to check into that.

        The other thing is that I wash everything cold- can I do that with cloth diapers?

        • If your dryer can’t dry a load of clothes after one cycle, you might want to look around on craigslist or at a used appliance store to see if you can find something a little newer! It would probably save you lots of money in the long run.

          You need to do at least one cycle on hot with cloth diapers, I would think. That’s the conventional wisdom about it and I think it would be important for sanitizing purposes.

  6. I just got pregnant and we’re gonna go cloth this time. Another good one I read somewhere was “I’d rather do laundry than empty the diaper genie” and OH MAN. I just had a flashback of that smell from DD’s diaper genie, hubby and I would fight over who had to do it and then we’d do it together to be fair and faster. GROSS. fermented pee.
    .-= lorchick’s last blog: Kitchen Progressional =-.

  7. Stephanie P says:

    While I don’t have any babies just yet, the DH and I have already decided to do cloth when the time comes. All the chemicals in diapers, as well as in menstrual pads and such, just weirds me out. Since I make my own laundry detergent I don’t think the cost will completely astronomical. I’m actually really excited!!

    Any cloth diaper users out there: have you ever used BacOut and if so, have you liked the results?

    I’m also about to go to cloth “toilet paper” for myself for #1 in addition to cloth menstrual pads. Cloth for #2 just seems a bit gross to me at this point and the DH definitely refused that one. For now we use recycled paper TP. We’ll see how it goes.

    • We were introduced to BacOut when we bought our first set of prefolds. 18 months later, I still keep the stuff on hand! Personally I love it – I spray soiled diapers/trainers as soon as I can and let it get to work before they ever hit the laundry.

      It’s also amazing for carpet stains, etc – we have a dog who was still having accidents at the time we moved in our house. When she went on our new carpet here we thought, great, here it goes again! But after immediately cleaning it with BacOut, she could never even sniff out the spot again! Now that we’ve been toilet training, we occasionally have the same type of mess from our daughter and it works wonders. It also works as says for the odors – lightly spray and let air dry. We’ve never had any discoloration issues on our carpet or rugs.

      Anyway, BacOut is a staple cleaner in our house now. And for as long as we keep pets, we’ll keep it around!

      BTW, I definately commend your decision to go cloth for yourself as well! (My husband would definately agree with yours on the tp too!)

    • Stephanie, I am in LUV with Bac-Out. We used it on not only diapers but all sorts of stains and it’s wonderful. When your babe starts on solids, you will need to start rinsing off the poop before washing the diaper. After rinsing, spray with Bac-Out and throw into the diaper pail until wash day. The enzymes will start the cleaning process for you.

  8. I am winding up my diapering era (my son is learning to use the toilet) which means I will have cloth-diapered for about 8 years almost non-stop. Soon after I committed to it just before my now-nearly-9-year-old’s 1st birthday, I hated the smell of disposables (which we still used while traveling) and I found cloth diapers as easy as paper diapers and laundering clothes. I imagined it must be so much more comfortable for my children to sit in cloth than in paper too. I used prefolds and ProWrap velcro plu covers for my first child mostly, but soon added Fuzzi Bunz, which I used almost exclusively by the time my son outgrew the adorable fitted diapers we also had.

    Someone asked about dealing with people who might think you’re snobbish. If you’re acting or speaking that way, then you might want to change that. But if you’re just dressing your child in cloth diapers and going about your business politely and matter of factly, then if someone thinks you’re a snob, that’s their problem. People shouldn’t take it personally just because of how someone else looks. I never noticed anybody looking askance at my children’s big cloth diapered bottoms. 🙂
    .-= Michele’s last blog: former teachers turning to homeschooling =-.

  9. we never did try cloth…mainly because we don’t have any local friends who’ve tried it on which to lean & draw encouragement from

  10. I do love learning more about it, though…thanks!
    .-= jodi @ back40life’s last blog: Impromptu Friday GIVEAWAY! =-.

  11. Yes i use them and we are 8 weeks away from cloth diapering baby #3. I started using cloth with #1 at 8 months and used Fuzzi Bunz pockets. #2 I started at birth and I made my own and used prefolds. #3 again I am making my own and she will be in cloth again form birth. #1 is not toilet trained yet at 4 so I will have 3 in cloth. Imagine the cost of disposables if I had to use them on all three. We wash every third day and I have a stash of about 50.
    .-= Helen’s last blog: Launch of Simple Living Media =-.

  12. One tip: if you have a cloth-diapering friend, consider sharing diapers and supplies. A lot of online sellers, especially, charge less if you “buy in bulk.” And if your children are in different sizes, you can share one stash and halve your costs. I’ve done this with a good friend, and it’s worked beautifully for us!
    Also, leftover diaper doublers work great for potty-training accidents, especially if you use the run-around-naked training method.

  13. We have always used a combination of fake and real diapers; disposable or cloth… Some months I don’t even open the disposable pack we just don’t get round to them… for all the reasons you say but actually my main reason is because a little cloth covered “but” is so cute and cuddly!!!

  14. We do both–cloth during the day and disposables at night. I use prefolds and covers. I used to have a diaper service, but they went out of business suddenly. At least I got to keep my last load of diapers as compensation! I do miss them though! Right now my favorite covers are Bummi’s Super Whisper Wraps. They just fit my baby well. That is one issue–fit! Sometimes you wind up buying new diapers or covers because your next kid is shaped differently.
    .-= nopinkhere’s last blog: Mini Yarn Lover =-.

  15. I love my cloth diapers! They work so much better than disposable- besides being great for all the reasons you mentioned.

    Just a side note- there are some new fantastic diapers out there- I have hemp and cotton. I absolutely love the hemp. They are softer, and more than twice as absorbent as cotton- which means less diapers needed, and less changes per day- and not as many leaks overnight. You can check them out here: http://www.californiababestuff.com/catalog/index.php/cPath/23_36

  16. With my first-born we used cloth for all of about 2 minutes before I got intimidated and gave up 😉 w/ my second, encouraged by my sister and some friends w/ babies the same age, we started cloth about age 6 months and haven’t looked back. For about 18 months after our third child was born I had two in cloth at once – and can’t imagine the hit on our wallet two in diapers at the same take would have taken if we were buying disposables! And, I don’t miss the hassle of running out of diapers in the middle of the night and having to make a mad dash to the store at all. 🙂

    I knit, so I make my kids wool soakers and we use prefolds w/ a snappi and sometimes diaper covers, too (the prefolds can be folded differently for different sized kiddos so we used them w/ our newborn and our toddler) so that saved us money as well. I struggled w/ laundry for a little while until I added to my stash of prefolds and didn’t have to wash every day. That helped. Plus, I give myself permission to use disposable sometimes, too. I’d say we’re about 90% cloth, 10% disposable.

    Great topic! I never thought I’d be a cloth diaper, especially after “failing” the first time, but I’m so glad that I tried again – almost 4 years of cloth diapers in this house now.
    .-= Kara’s last blog: Book Review: Love Your Heart by Tim McGraw and Tom Douglas =-.

  17. Great and timely for me. We mostly use cloth but when life feels crazy I use unbleached disposables. I also love Bac Out. I just wanted to mention cloth diaper services for people that want to try out cloth diapering or for when life gets hectic for an extended time.

    • I forgot to mention the Bummi’s liners. I use these so that I can easily flush poo. These have made cloth diapering a toddler on the go a lot easier.

  18. great reasons, Katie. I’m with you on all 3! we did part-time cloth-diapering with our first and when we adopt our new baby, I’m going to go for it more full-time.
    I grew up dusting with old diapers, too. 🙂

  19. Great post, thank you! I just discovered this site last week and this was perfect timing as we are expecting our first in just 2 weeks and I have been having the mental debate of disposable vs. cloth. As you suggested, I’ve been leaning towards trying out the cloth using a starter kit or something similar to see how I like it. Thanks for posting the extra resources…going to check them out now!

  20. Rochelle says:

    I cloth diapered my eldest son from birth until he was 18 months. We had just had our second child and we were moving across country. We accidentally threw out ALL those cloth diapers. It still makes me sick to think about it. I have tried several times to get back on the bandwagon. People thought I was insane for cloth diapering and now here I am a few years later and they think I’m insane because I don’t! The only thing I ever had trouble with was diaper rashes. I cleaned, striped, and sun-bleached those puppies every.single.time. I washed them and they still has residue, they still were horribly stiff, and smelled, and gave my child diaper rash! I used special cleaners, etc etc. It just didn’t work. The newest batch I tried for my 3rd child just never held an ounce of pee. So discouraging. I’d still love to cloth diaper again – hello thousands of dollars saved – but I can’t bring myself to spend the same amount of money again all at once. Plus, with 5 people in the house, with a daughter that goes through 3 outfits a day, I don’t know if I could keep up with the laundry. Especially if I have to strip the diapers every time. If you have a good, cheap, and affordable solution I could try, I am in! Did I mention, cheap – up front cost? I am mega cheap. When you’ve got NO money, and I mean no money what can you do? Be cheap.

    • Rochelle, what a bummer about throwing out those diapers! I’d be crying big ol’ tears about that. 🙂 If you were having a problem with rash, it could be a number of things: 1)not using a clean-rinsing detergent 2)too much wetness against the skin caused by all-natural fibers, or conversely 3)reaction to synthetic fabrics, when natural fibers were needed. If you try again, make sure you use something like Laundry Tree Soap Nuts or Charlie’s Soap for washing – ALL your laundry, not just the diapers (otherwise residue will be in the machine). Make sure it’s rinsed well – an extra warm or hot rinse at the end. Then try switching between natural fibers and a synthetic against the skin that has some wicking abilties, like microfleece.

  21. This is so timely. I just started my 18 mo. old in cloth 2 weeks ago! I tried cloth about 10 years ago with my 2nd child and I am amazed at how far they’ve come in that time! Not even looking to do cloth again, I stumbled upon GDiapers and knew I had to try them. I am using their cloth inserts, but they also have flushable disposable inserts that are a great way to try a more earth-friendly option even if you’re not sure yet about cloth. So far I am thrilled and feel so much better about not sending more diapers to the landfill. This is a win-win-win solution that I’m so glad I found.

  22. We’re primarily using cloth diapers for my son – mostly prefolds and covers and a few pockets – and they’re working great for us. We’ve saved loads of money by using cloth, and the washing process is not nearly as arduous as I feared it might be.
    .-= Abby @ New Urban Habitat’s last blog: Hopeful Weekend Links =-.

  23. We use cloth (we call them nappies) on our son and have done since he was born. I was like a few of you, it seemed like a crazy big shift, I mean, EVERYONE uses disposables and the thought of cloth seemed so hard. I underestimated how much a baby could poop(!) and we never quite had enough to see us through. I remember crying to my mum one day about how much money we’d spent and how I couldn’t see it ever working. And then one day, it just clicked. It just became easy. We don’t use disposables at all now and haven’t since our son was about 4 months old. People often comment on how wonderful it is that we use cloth (usually older generations who didn’t have the option of disposables) but I just see it as what we do.

    Anyway, I just wanted to give those of you who were undecided, hope. It realy is possible, I promise. We have no family or support around us (great friends but they are busy with their own lives) and we only know 1 other family who use cloth and we met them after we’d started our cloth journey. There is heaps of info out there online and it’s a great place to start.

    Have a great day!
    .-= K’s last blog: That’s what it’s all about part 2 =-.

  24. Hi there!! I’m expecting #3 and really would like to make the switch to cloth. #2 is still in diapers and I’m disgusted by the cost as well as the environmental factors of disposables. I wanted to do cloth with both my kids, but I didn’t know anyone who used cloth and was nervous to buy them and not like them. Just in reading the comments, I feel like there are so many options and start up things needed. HELP! Is there a one stop source to get me started??? or favorites?? I really want to finally go through with it!!
    .-= Nicole’s last blog: 21 Weeks =-.

  25. We used cloth for my little one. It can be addictive! There are so many options. We started with the cheapest option (basic flats and covers) and then bought one or two at a time of some of the fancier (easier) ones. This way I got to try out different brands and see what I liked. I must say the flats were the easiest for my infant and we NEVER had a leak! By the time she was potty trained I had a nice stash of my favorite diapers. Another great thing about cloth is you can sell them if you don’t plan on having any other kids, and basic flat diapers are AWESOME for toddler and preschooler spills. 🙂
    .-= Jackie Lee’s last blog: Garden Planning Preschool Style [Project] =-.

  26. We use cloth diapers. Our initial reasoning was to save money knowing we plan to have several children and because we’ve heard that children tend to potty train quicker with cloth, but now as I learn more and more about the impact that using cloth can make on our environment I am thankful for yet another reason to be using cloth diapers and another simple way I can make a difference in the world.

  27. Wow! Great summary on why cloth is the best! These are my top three reasons, too, and we’ve never looked back. I think many, many more moms would be using cloth diapers if they only knew how simple it is, how much they can save, and how much healthier it is for their babies.
    Thanks for the great article!

  28. Great Summary.

    I switched my daughter mostly because of rashes. I second that it can be addicted when they are so many cute options out there. I started with fitteds but found that with my wiggly daughter pockets were the easiest and fastest to dry.

    I find the diapers made close to home to be of better quality too!
    .-= Steph’s last blog: AMP Cloth Diapers and Accessories are our Newest Editions to Abby Sprouts =-.

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