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First things first, this is not a post on how to cloth diaper, what the different types of cloth diapers are, or any of the other million details that could be written about cloth diapering. There are enough sites devoted to that already (try here and here), so this is a post about my experience and our financial savings.
Before we even had Nolan I decided we would use cloth diapers. I could not stand the thought of so many diapers just going into the landfills, and what’s more, I couldn’t stand the thought of buying something that’s sole purpose was to hold poop just so I could throw it away….that’s worse than watching your money burn!
Jake was quickly on board (after a little explanation of what to do with the poop (no, I won’t go into that here, check out those other links if you just have to know)), and I started to do some research. I wanted the easiest, cheapest, cloth diaper solution. I chose to go with pocket diapers and through a suggestion of a friend who does her research, I picked Sunbaby diapers. The very popular (and very similar) brand, BumGenius, runs about $18/diaper plus tax. The Sunbaby’s are about $5 per diaper with no tax (they come from China, don’t worry, not a sweat shop!) They had good enough reviews, and for that much savings, it was a no-brainer! (Plus, they come in super cute patterns!) Now that I’m 9 months in, I think I’ll start to buy BumGenius because the quality is better and I think they will last longer. But we’ll just put that on the registry for the next kid ;D
Here’s our assumptions:
If you do disposable diapers – lets say you buy the store brand which equals .15c/diaper and own a Diaper Genie. We would need to also buy the Diaper Genie inserts and up the size of our garbage can which would increase our monthly payment by $7 per month.
If you do cloth diapers – lets assume you’re somewhat of a minimalist (some of these cloth diapers are VERY cute and I’ve known people to become addicted! ;D). You do need a diaper pail, wet-bags, diaper sprayer and some extra inserts (boy can those babies pee!)
You need about 24 diapers in your stash for 1 kid, I wash on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and it’s just enough to get me through the weekend.
So here’s the break-down:
Let’s assume we average 7 diaper changes per day over 2 years, about the age of potty training (side note: another benefit of cloth diapering is that children in cloth diapers generally potty train sooner! It may not even take the full 2 years).
People….this is a savings (for us) of $840 over 2 years! Now, if we potty train Nolan before our next child is born (no, I’m not pregnant), we will save even more!
Check this out:
Do you see what I see?! A savings of 90%!!! HELLLLLOOOOO!!! How is that not worth a few extra loads of laundry?! What else could you do with that $1,080?!?! I think I might go on a vacation? (On second thought, maybe just use it to pay the bills).
It’s worth mentioning that your diapers may wear out by the end of kid numero dos….but even with that in mind, you’ve got over a grand to spend on new diapers (so you’re still out FAR ahead!) On the other hand…I know people who have used the same diapers through 3 kiddos, so that means you just got $3000 richer! (or something like that….)
Another thing worth mentioning is that with disposable diapers you will be using disposable wipes, another monthly cost. Cloth wipes are super easy to use with cloth diapers and are a small up-front cost (around $20 unless you make your own.) You can also use disposable wipes with cloth diapers so I chose not to include it in the cost comparison. Just know that the cloth wipes will pay for themselves after just a couple of months and creates even more savings!
The numbers speak for themselves but there is obviously a life-style factor when choosing cloth diapers vs. disposable. People can get really judgy about this but as a mama you just gotta do what you gotta do! Educate yourself and then choose what is right for your family. 🙂
Comments: Are you a cloth diapering mama? Are you considering it? What’s stopping you? Don’t you wish you had racecars on your butt?
Disclaimer: There are affiliate links to products on Amazon that we personally use in this post. If you decide to purchase through those links, we receive a small commission, however, it does not affect your purchase price at all. We hope you enjoy the savings of cloth diapering as much as we do 🙂
97 thoughts on “Cloth Diapers vs. Disposables: Cost Comparison”
I do like the patterns. Although, I do not have children, I didn’t realize how much thought can go into cloth diapers. 🙂 it should be a nice savings to allocate toward educational planning.
Right! It would be super awesome to put that savings into an account for education…I wonder what the total could be after 18 years!?
My daughter had her first child 15 months ago, and it was definitely a financial decision to go with cloth disappearing. She went with Bum Genius, and my granddaughter has the cutest bum in town!
We are using regular diapers. We decided we didn’t want to deal with cloth. Mostly it is a time thing, more than a money thing. We are just using a regular closing trash can for the dirty ones (though friends gave us their old diaper genie when they switched to cloth).
I’m not judging, but are you a stay at home mom? It seems to be more popular with stay at home mom’s to do cloth diapers since you have more “time” (I know you don’t really have that much more, since taking care of a kid takes a lot of effort and time). The only friends we have that do cloth are stay at home parents. I’m just curious what the usage breakdown would be between stay at home parents and non-stay at homes.
I find that it doesn’t take any more time to change a cloth diaper than it does to change a disposable (we always have some on hand, just in case, or for when we do weekend trips somewhere). So the only additional time would be any time that it takes to rinse a diaper (30 seconds to a minute) and then the time it takes to throw them in the laundry and take them out….so maybe an extra 5 minutes if I’m going really slow. So If I wash 3 times a week and he poops once a day, that is about 20 minutes per week I spend “extra” on cloth. If I had all disposables I figure I’d spend at least a total of 5 minutes per week taking the trash out.
Two of my good friends work part-time and not-quite-full-time out of the home. Their babies stay with grandparents during those times and they both cloth diaper. I don’t know anyone who puts their kid in daycare that does cloth, as I’ve never heard of a daycare that will take a baby in cloth. So I imagine it is mostly SAHMs doing cloth, but with a willing grandparent or nanny a working mom could do cloth also.
Super late to the party, but I just wanted to mention that I’m a full-time work out of the home mom (and so is Dad), and Daughter Person is in a daycare center in cloth. It took us a while to get everything worked out so that we could use cloth at daycare, but we’ve been doing it for 2.5 years now. We did have to buy a diaper genie and refills to store the “dirty” cloth diapers at daycare, but we just take home the dirties every night, and bring in the same number of new ones in the morning.
oh that’s great 🙂 glad you found something that worked!
Full time working mom checking in to say, YES full time working moms cloth diaper! I know many. And I am one of them. Cloth diapering is NOT just for the SAHM set.
that’s good to hear, as I don’t know any who do 🙂 love it.
We use regular diapers. I just don’t have the time to do the cloth thing. It would be impossible!
Holly, you’d be surprised at how easy/not-time-consuming it is. Read the above response, it really is SO easy! (Even ask Mr. iHB!)
I am so glad kids are not in the near future for me. I will worry about this in 4 or more years from now 🙂
4 years from now will be the best time in your life 🙂
Agreed:) BTW – You’re a rock star Michelle! We thought long and hard about using cloth diapers and decided it wasn’t for us. Good for you guys!
Cloth diapering is a great way to save some money and is something I’ve recommended to a few of my coaching clients in the past. We don’t have kids and I’m not sure which route we’ll take. If we have the available funds, I’d imagine we’ll go with the disposable diapers though. 🙂 It just grosses me out. haha.
I totally get the gross-out factor! (But trust me, once you’re a parent you’ll get over it ;D) But there are some combo solutions you could check out if you like the idea. G diapers are a great way to get the best of both worlds 🙂
I know a couple of people who use do cloth diapers and prefer it way over disposables.
so do we! plus they just look comfier! 🙂
I’m normally not squeamish, but when my wife suggested cloth diapers and told me how they worked, I almost had to pull over and redistribute my lunch. The cost savings might just change my mind though.
I really don’t understand why people would be judgmental about how you manage your kid’s poop, I guess you could always offer to let them come over and change the diapers whenever they wanted 🙂
David, I think you could change your mind 🙂 Jake is super squeamish about that stuff too and he’s all gung-ho cloth now!
I wish moms didn’t get judgey over this sort of thing, but they do, especially over the environmental impact….damn hippies 😉
I can honestly say that, due to the cost savings, this post will probably be a key factor in my being OK with cloth diapers when that day comes (although I still firmly believe my children will not poop, cry at night, or talk back).
I drive a truck, so I’m used to being criticized about how I’m destroying the environment. I usually just have a comment ready, something to the effect of pointing out that eating meat once a week just about negates the environmental benefits of a prius vs my truck. That usually stops people in their tracks.
Where did you get that 1 meal figure? The paper I read (back in 2007) reported that the emissions savings from switching from an average car to a hybrid is the same as going from an omnivorous lifestyle to a vegetarian lifestyle (soo 100% of the time, not 1 meal).
I read it in Super Freakonomics, although I’ve seen similar numbers elsewhere. The authors were discussing the idea that eating local food reduces your CO2 output and pointed out that the primary CO2 cost of food was the production, not transporting it to the end user. The idea being raising cattle produces so much methane (which is a far more potent greenhouse gas than CO2) that the primary contribution to greenhouse gases is actually the cow itself, not shipping, so eating local beef vs generic feed lot beef has little effect on the environmental impact. My point was more about the environmental impact than the actual costs involved, and was admittedly a knee-jerk response.
so awesome! And I’m sure your kids won’t do any of those things either! ;D
We use disposable diapers. I know the cost savings is significant, but we just have too many other things going on to deal with the additional things that can come with cloth diapers. I think that we’d get into using cloth diapers, but time would get away from us and then we’d just give up and be out all that upfront money.
John, see my above response to Brian, it really truly doesn’t take any more time than disposables. If you really wanted to try it out to see if it could work for your family, check out this. It’s a 30 day trial – no strings attached.http://www.kellyscloset.com/45-day-money-back-guarantee_ep_42-1.html
That is a pretty significant savings, but the extra time required would make me think twice. The thought of rinsing them in the sink after use is rather unappealing too. So for me I think it might just be worth spending the extra on disposable diapers. Then again, that would be a whole lot of diapers in the landfill.
lol, rinsing them in the sink would totally gross me out as well!! You actually attach a sprayer (looks like a sink sprayer) to your toilet and spray them off in there (sometimes you don’t even need to spray, it just plops right out….even better….just a pee diaper, no poo!).
Like I said in a previous comment, it doesn’t add more than maybe 15 minutes per WEEK….there really isn’t an “extra time factor.” 🙂
We don’t have any kids yet so this was a great read. I don’t know what we would do as we can get pretty good deals on Diapers here in Canada with coupons and Shoppers Drug Mart Optimum points etc. So potentially we could go head to head. Washing clothes now costs alot more money unless you do it on off-peak time and using the dryer is even worse. Although you could hang your diapers to dry in the summer outdoors. Lots to think about here… thanks for sharing! Mr.CBB
Glad it got you thinking! 🙂 Definitely worth doing some calculations considering the Canadian differences! Other things to consider are the environmental impact and all the chemicals in disposables that are going all over baby’s bum…that’s a big one for me as well.
We thought about doing cloth diapers, but honestly it’s going to be all about time for us. We don;t have time to be doing laundry that much if she ends up having a blowout day.
We have some friends who just use a regular closed lid trashcan for their used diapers and add baking soda. They take it out once a day and I never really smell anything. I think we are going to do this instead of the diaper genie. I might add a renuzit adjustable to the bottom.
Sean, you’re not the only one concerned about time, but honestly, it takes the same amount of time. I figured it took me maybe 15 minutes total extra per week…not even per day. And blow-outs are blow outs no matter what’s trying to contain them 😉 I actually find we have less blow-outs in our cloth! yippee!
Cloth diapering has many components to it and the cost is difficult to calculate but I created a cloth vs disposable diaper calculator on our blog ) and the calculator looks closely at the cleaning costs, electricity, and hydro and looks at diaper use estimates from several sources (13).
Cloth is cheaper, however, if you have 2 children and do not have access to laundry and pay $2 each load, the cost is close to the same.
Steve, you’re right, there are TONS of CD options (so many it can be overwhelming!) which is why I only compared what we have to what it would cost us to do disposables. I wouldn’t dream of doing cloth if we had to pay per load for laundry. But you could also buy a name brand diaper and spend even more than I estimated on disposables too. We’ve found (from looking at our actual bills) that our utilities have only gone up $5/month with the added washes 🙂 SCORE!
We did the disposable diapers because I had to go back to work when our daughter was 6 weeks old. My husband was home for the summer because he is a teacher and there is no way he’s rinsing out a diaper, and when we had to use a sitter, same thing. If I had been home more, I would have considered it. Huge savings!
Kim, it’s definitely harder when you have to go back to work! The nice thing about tiny babies is that if they are exclusively breast fed there is no rinsing involved! Their poo just comes out nice in the wash 🙂 (if you had to go to formula, then you still have to rinse even for a tiny baby.)
I wanted to try cloth but hubby was dead set against it, in hindsight it doesn’t matter what he says b/c I change 99% of the diapers lol. In the end we would need disposable anyway b/c daycare’s, around here anyway, rarely deal w/ cloth diapers, sad 🙁 I agree 100% though, cloth is the way to go. We did have a diaper party though where we received enough diapers for almost her whole first year.
I think I’m going to start a daycare that will do cloth diapers! (joking!!) But seriously, it’s hard for parents who have to work but would like to save the environment, money, and their precious baby’s delicate skin by using cloth. Diaper party is so the way to go, a friend of mine is preggy with her 3rd and if it’s a girl (like her first two) I’m going to throw her a diaper party, because really, it’s all you need at that point!
Too cute! Just curious – what do you think the electric & water costs of the cloth diapers are?
our utilities were only $5 a month higher than they were before the extra 3 loads a week! woohoo!!
Boy so much has changed. It used to be so hard to do cloth diapers, With pins worrying about sticking your child and dunking the diapers! Way to go Michelle!
it’s true! it’s so easy now! 🙂
It really is a quick and easy process you have set up Michelle. Ryan and I have defiantly been convinced to use cloth when we have kids after you walked us through the whole process… We didn’t realize how simple it was compared to what we were making it out to be. Thank you!
yay! I am sure excited to see your little babies with fluffy bums!! 🙂
I know a couple people who use cloth (or used) but it was mostly due to the baby having a reaction to the disposable diapers. I know my mom used a mixture on the three of us when we are younger but I actually haven’t given it too much thought. When I do have a baby, I’ll be coming back to this post again 🙂
Oh, you’ll love it once you have babies! It’s so much better for their skin, SO CUTE and sooo easy! 🙂
I really don’t like the idea of using disposable diapers because of the environmental impact. I don’t know yet whether I’ll work after we have a kid though so I’m not sure if cloth will be possible for us, given what was said above about daycares. :/
Emily, the environmental impact of disposables makes me sick as well. It would be my encouragement to do what you can to be able to stay home with your sweet baby, it’s the most worth-while job in the entire world, regardless of diaper type 🙂
finding a daycare that does cloth is not impossible! i know a few moms who have children in daycare and they do cloth. just do your research, chances are you will only have to buy an extra diaper pail or something for at daycare.
I’m also a cloth-diapering mama! I’m not what I call hardcore. When we go on trips, it’s a sposie! I know I know…I’m almost as awesome as you are–almost! We don’t own a diaper genie OR a diaper sprayer. We do everything the old-fashioned (read: cheap!) way. I don’t know why parents think they need all these gadgets that our parents never had. When I mentioned needing a sprayer to my mom, she said “what do you think we used to do?” *smile* And they survived…somehow, right?
Lol! Don’t go tooting my horn so quickly! We definitely use disposables on trips! (No way I’m lugging around loads of poopy diapers just to wash when we get home!) I did get a diaper sprayer (though it was 1/2 the price of the name brand ones on Ebay) because I was having trouble doing the dunk and swish 😉 Let me tell you, that was a good investment! But I’m with you that we have WAY too much “stuff” thrown at us as a “necessity” when our parents and their parents would have never dreamed of having. Just the fact that my diapers have snaps blows both Nolan’s grandmas’ minds! lol!
I can’t argue with the savings or the environment argument, but I’m sticking with the disposables. There is nothing that you can do to convince me 🙂
Plus, I get diapers for free from my Dad who works for the manufacture…
I work full time with noe job and part time with another and I decided in this day and age, cloth diapering is the only thing that makes sense. You should have mentioned in your article that disposables take hundreds of years to biodegrade–if ever! It is sickening. Not to mention all the chemicals in disposables. We are going to use 100% all cotton prefolds and covers. Thanks for posting the cost difference. There really IS a difference–regardless of how people rationalize. Most are simply scared to try something new.
Valerie, I think I’ll have to update the post to mention how long they take to decompose, not sure why it didn’t make it into the original because, I know, it’s DISGUSTING! I bet you are saving even more by doing pre-folds and covers, that truly is the cheapest way to go! I was just scared of folding ;D lol!
LOVED the Fuzzybunz action with my kids. Saved lots of money and lots of sore skin. But to be fair, it can be 3 years to potty train, especially for boys! Chanced upon cloth, washable bags for the DiaperGenie, which made washing easier and reduced waste and cost, too.
Our son didn’t fit very well in the Fuzzy’s, ended up selling them. We’ve brought in a few more BumGenius, as they seem to hold leaks over the long stretches (aka: overnight) better, but still use Sunbabies during the day. 15 months in, still lovin’ ’em 🙂
Thanks for this article. My hubby is already sold on the idea of cloth, but this would certainly help if he wasn’t. We don’t have any kids yet, but I have definitely been keeping an eye on the cloth diaper market to see what is likely to be available when we do have kids.
I have a friend who works full time and cloth diapers her son part time. Baby is staying with grandma during the day but grandma was not amenable to cloth, so baby gets sposies during the day and cloth in the evenings and on weekends.
Thanks for this article. My hubby is already sold on the idea of cloth, but this would certainly help if he wasn’t. We don’t have any kids yet, but I have definitely been keeping an eye on the cloth diaper market to see what is likely to be available when we do have kids.
I have a friend who works full time and cloth diapers her son part time. Baby is staying with grandma during the day, but she was not amenable to cloth diapering, so baby gets sposies during the day and cloth in the evenings and on weekends.
Whoops, sorry about the double post.
so nice to have a hubby on board! As I’m not pregnant with our second, we used sposies for a couple months while I couldn’t handle the smell of rinsing diapers. I could barely handle rolling up and tossing a disposable. But you do what you can do and in the end if you use one less disposable it helps the environment 🙂
I have been researching cloth diapers vs. disposable diapers for several months now to see if its the route I want to take when my little one arrives in January. your website was so helpful and encouraging. 🙂 I do have a question though. You have the cutest colors and patterns. I didn’t see those on the bumgenius website. Where did you get those cute covers from??
Most of what is pictured here are the Sunbaby brand. We slowly switched over to BumGenius over the past 18 months (because they’re pricier), and they don’t have the cool patterns like Sunbaby. But they contain everything much better, and don’t wear out. Hoping to make them last through 2 or 3 kids!
And thanks for stopping by, glad to have you here 🙂
Autumn, Alva diapers (http://www.alvababy.com/) is another great low-cost diaper with super cute patterns. There are MANY more options than with Sunbaby or BumGenius so it overwhelms me a little bit, but a friend uses them and loves them. They are also only $5ish a piece. Good luck!!
Hey! Just curious — have you guys ever tried any style other than pockets/AIOs? I’ve heard some things about microfiber retaining smells after a while and pockets not getting as clean as, say, prefolds or fitteds with a cover. I’m leaning toward natural fibers as long as our baby isn’t super sensitive to not having a stay-dry fabric. BumGenius has the cotton elemental but they’re pricey!!
Brynna, honestly, pre-folds and covers are the cheapest way to go, but initially I thought I would be touching way too much pee and poo (turns out it’s about the same) and it overwhelmed me so I just went with a pocket. You can get natural fiber inserts, and you are correct, they don’t hold smell as much as microfiber. The microfiber/microsuede (that’s what’s in BGs) in the actual pocket diaper don’t hold the smell (at least for me) it’s the inserts that do. If you think about it, they’re the ones being soaked in it :/
Does that at all answer your question?
What do you do when you’re away? You can throw disposables away, but let’s say you’re on a 10-hour roadtrip with a baby, it’s not really… agreable 😉
But I’m really into cloth diapers, not having kids yet, but when I’ll have I think I’ll choose for cloth diapers. They are SOOO cute and economically and for the planet it’s the best! 🙂
Hi guys! My husband and I are planning to start trying for a third baby and I am convinced we should do cloth this time around. I happened to find your cost comparison and fell more in love with the idea. I love the eco friendly factor and the cost savings is phenomenal. I had to show my husband who I think was sure I was crazy at first but when he saw your numbers he was in awe. I love the way you broke it down. I have been set on ordering Sunbaby because of the huge savings compared to other brands and I have several friends that use and love them. The patterns are too cute!! I saw in the comparison that you ordered the microfiber inserts. They now offer bamboo and combo inserts. I have heard of some people having issues with the microfiber inserts getting stinky. I’m a stay at home mom and I happen to love doing laundry so I’m not anticipating them sitting too long in a pail. Who knows how that theory will go with three kids though! lol Anyway, I wanted to see what your opinion was. Have you tried other inserts you prefer more or are you totally happy with the microfiber? Did you find that you could use the cloth diapers right from the beginning. I had a couple people suggest using disposables at first just because the cloth diapers aren’t always small enough for a newborn. Keep up the awesome job! Love this site!!!
Funny how everything seems to go in cycles. Disposables have been popular since the mid 70’s, and now many families are trying to save money, and go back to the ‘old way’ of doing things.
When I was growing up in the 60’s & 70’s, having our mothers work, was very uncommon.People grew gardens, sewed, knitted, and used cloth diapers.
I used cloth, flat, unfolded, flannellette diapers on our babies. I also provided childcare for neighbours. They like that I offered to supply the diapers while I babysat. I always sent them home in a disposable.
I had about 4 dozen flats, and did laundry everyday. In the winter they were hung in the basement (it was heated) and in the summer outside. They were still in good shape when they were retired, and turned into cleaning rags.
As with anything, diapers can be as cheap or as expensive, as you choose.
I know you were just doing a cost comparison in this post, but I noticed in your responses to comments you didn’t ever mention the HEALTH benefits of cloth. Disposable diapers are plastics, synthetics and who-knows-what-all, and babies tend to get a lot of diaper rash.
Most cloth diaper moms will tell you their kids rarely get diaper rash if the diapers are cared for properly. This is a huge factor in my decision to cloth diaper.
I am just starting this grand adventure and am not much of a financially minded person, so I like it when someone else breaks it down for me… For me the big question is cost (not eco-friendliness, or even chemicals in diapers) since we have no money we can’t afford to worry about that first. However, we also live in an apartment and I hear that cloth diapers require two pre-soak cycles etc. which our laundry facility doesn’t offer so I would have to pre-wash them all by hand. I will be a stay at home mom, but I also work from home, so I won’t really have time for hand-washing. My question is, isn’t there a third option? The cloth covers with disposable inserts? I am thinking that this would be at least somewhat more cost effective than buying whole diapers. Does anyone do this?
Very helpful article. We went with disposable diapers with both of our kids, mainly due to time saving (not having to wash). We also used the Diaper Genie and I agree the cost adds up but in the end it was more a matter of convenience.