There has been a recent spike in the use of cloth diapers. With new brands coming out and fancy snaps and velcro replacing the old safety pin, using cloth diapers are much more convenient. Environmentally conscious mom’s swear by them. But are cloth diapers really saving you money?
Did you know disposable diapers have really only been around for about 40 years? In the 70’s disposable diapers were a convenience item only used by the wealthier parents. They were considered a luxury item well into the 80’s until disposable diapers started to take over as younger generations started making purchases. With the 90’s came a transition where disposables were mainstream and only the really poor families (or money conscientious parents) still used cloth diapers. Now in the 21st century, cloth diapers have again reappeared, newly remodeled with cute covers and easy velcro and snap closures to entice parents to use. Ironically, cloth diapers are now viewed as the luxury and are seen as expensive and difficult to manage.
As a mother of 3, I have used disposables and cloth diapers and will compare the differences from my experience. My first two children were completely disposable diaper babies. My oldest daughter had no issues with any brand, and wore them for 3 ½ years. My second child had severely sensitive skin and struggled constantly with diaper rashes, allergic reactions, and skin issues for all his diaper years. With the birth of my third child, she also immediately had reactions to disposable diapers. This time I decided to venture into the cloth world and see if this would keep the rashes down. For us, it worked! My baby girl is now 10 months and a full time cloth diaper baby. It saves me money and the worry and stress of dealing with painful rashes.
Aside from the obvious environmental impact and long term “costs” associated with them in our landfills, the big question is, Are cloth diapers really saving you money? And is that money saved really worth the hassle of extra work? Let’s break it down so you can decide for yourself!
Cost– Are cloth diapers really cheaper? Let’s look at the math first.
Disposable diapers cost around 36 cents each. One child will average around 8 diapers a day (more as a newborn and less as a toddler)
.36 x 8 = 2.88 a day
2.88 x 30 days = 86.40 month
86.40 x 12 months = 1036.80 per year
1036.80 x 2.5 years = $2592 total
According to my calculations disposable diapers can cost a total of $2592 per child. Adding a second or third child will double or triple this cost. Phew!
Cloth Diapers cost $7 per diaper (insert included). I own 20 diapers and 15 extra inserts (the padding inside the diaper).
$7 x 20 diapers = $140
15 inserts x $3 per insert = $45
$140 + $45 = $185 total purchase cost
12 cans of Nellies Laundry Detergent x $15 = $180 (I have used 4 in 10 months)
Water Usage Cost = Variable**
**I have well water and do not have to include the cost of water. I do 2-3 loads of diapers a week and run the washer twice for each load. Those who pay for water would have to allow for an extra 4-6 loads of laundry a week. Even with this extra cost, it could not come close to the several thousand dollar difference.
According to my calculations, cloth diapers cost my family a total of $365. The only reoccurring cost would be laundry detergent and water usage. The bonus is each child can reuse the same cloth diapers! There is no extra cost for each addition to the family. The downside is most is an upfront cost.
Dryness and Rash
Many wonder about the sanitary issues that are rumored with cloth diapers. Did you know that there is no real link between rashes and cloth or disposable diapers? The only real factor I have noticed is rashes were practically unheard of until the last 30 years. Ironically, the U.S. started using disposable diapers around the same time. Diapers, of any kind, should be changed on a regular basis to reduce moisture against the baby’s skin and fight rashes from developing. Cloth diapers, when clean properly are just as sanitary and clean as the clothes you wear, towels you use, etc.
Convenience vs. Hassle
It is true, cloth diapers take more work. The diapers need to be washed twice in the washer and then hung to dry. This takes planning. I usually run my first load at some point during the day and restart the washer after dinner. Then hang the diapers to dry before I go to bed (or maybe drag myself out of bed after I get all cozy). Pulling the diapers apart, washing, hanging to dry and putting them back together again takes about 8 hours total. The hands on time, however, is only about 20 minutes.
The ick factor
The stink, the hands on process, contaminating the washer… are all worries that go into the disdain of cloth diapers. Disposable diapers are so nice because each one can be wrapped up in a little ball and thrown away, never having to worry about the mess inside. Cloth diapers, need to be prepped before washing. I have found a few simple steps help to remove a lot of the ‘ick’ out of dealing with dirty cloth diapers. First, I purchased a small, cheap trashcan with a lid in which to store my diapers. I find this helps reduce 90% of the smell. I also never let them sit for more than 3 days. Secondly, the poo needs to go somewhere. I have sacrificed one of my spatulas to become a permanent poo scraper for the tough jobs and store it in my trashcan. Conveniently, I have found that most messes just fall right of the special cloth fabric and I don’t even use spatula often. Lastly, you would be amazed how well the washer does at cleaning! As long as the solid waste is removed, my washer does an amazing job with my diapers (which come out white every time).
Cloth diapers are definitely cheaper, but is it worth it? This is where the real decision has to be made. Most parents are short on time. Life is stressful and adding one more thing might just make life too hard. So you have to decide if saving $1000 a year is really worth the 8 hour cycle twice a week.
I, personally, use cloth diapers daily, but still use disposable diapers overnight and when dropping her off at the sitters. The choice is up to you.
Also, if you want to Quadruple your savings, Make Your Own Super Laundry Sauce Detergent! You can wash 128 Loads of laundry for less than $2.00