I remember when my son was a baby, it seemed that quite a large amount of our budget was dedicated to diapers. My husband I hated that we paid for something that was going to end up in the trash. Worst of all, we also knew it was going to end up in a landfill.
Shortly before our daughter was born in the fall of 2008, I started researching cloth diapers. Trust me, I did a LOT of reading. Even more importantly than the research was the cost analysis. I was curious if this initial cost (which was a lot of money for us), we really save money.
Turns out – it did! Crazy idea – huh? Sure, we had to pay money up front, but in the end, we came out much further ahead. For us, it ended up being a no-brainer.
We determined that we were spending around $18 – $20 for a box of diapers for each child, as we had 2 in diapers. Between 2 kids, we were running through anywhere from 5 – 7 diapers a day for each of them. That meant a box would last up to 14 days (at the most). We would go through a total of around 3 – 4 boxes a month. That ran us as much as $80 per month on diapers.
Next, we sat down and looked at the cost of the cloth diapers. At that time, they ran around $12 – $14 per diaper (prices have since increased). We did the math and determined that if we purchased 15 diapers for each of our kids, we’d pay $420 out of our pocket. We’d spend more than that in 5 months for disposables.
We also had to look at the additional time, water, electricity and detergent to launder them. We asked friends who were using them and they said that the cost was probably no more than $10 – $15 per month (on the high side).
That sealed the deal for us. We did the math and by the middle of our 5th month, the diapers would pay for themselves — and we’d then spend less per month in laundry costs than one single box of diapers would cost us (as an ongoing expense).
Before you jump in and decide to make this transition, there are very important questions you need to ask yourself.
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF
How much longer will our child be in diapers? If you are getting ready to begin potty training, switching to cloth may not be cost effective for you. However, if you purchase gender neutral diapers (or a color based upon your children’s genders), and have a younger child, you could easily recoup your investment.
You will want your child to be in the diapers for a period longer than it would take to make your money back. For us, we knew it would be at least 6 months – therefore, it was a savings for us.
What kind of diapers do I need to get? Cloth diapers of today are so easy to use and come in so many colors and styles.You will want to do some reading on the style and will probably want to try a couple. I am by NO MEANS an expert at all, but I am happy to answer questions!
We use pockets. These are a diaper with – well – a pocket where you can slide in liners. Liners are what actually will absorb the wetness. You can stuff them with single or double liners – depending on the amount of absorbency you may need. I prefer these as I can do just that – control how absorbent I need them to be.
For example, I used an extra liner for each of my kids during the night. However, during the day, we used a single one and changed them around every 3 – 4 hours (or, as needed, of course).
These diapers also close like regular diapers with hook and loop closures (a/k/a Velcro) or snaps. So, that means NO PINS.
The only down side I have discovered with this type of diaper is that I have to pull the liners out to wash them and then restuff them once they are dry. This is not hard to do, just takes me a little extra time to get it done.
Another style we have tried that I also personally like is called the All In One. This is just as the name suggests — a diaper with the liners already in the center. There is not any stuffing. The only downside to these is that they CAN take a little longer to dry – but if you set your dryer before you go to bed at night for a tad longer than usual, they’ll be ready for you in the morning.
How will I handle waste and launder them? Some parents have a sprayer that is attached to the tub so they can spray them down after they dispose of the waste in the toilet. I actually used the old school “dump and swish” method. I figured that if I could handle cleaning up messes my kids make, this wouldn’t be too bad. And honestly, it wasn’t.
Once you do that, you can place them into a wet bag to contain odors. I never did this myself. I’d put them into the laundry room and washed them each evening. However, if they were really bad, I would place them in the washer and do a quick rinse to help get them cleaned up.
There are special washing steps to follow — but they are not hard. Each manufacturer will advise you as to how to wash them, but basically, you have to wash them on their own (not with any other items), use a dye free, perfume free, chemical free detergent (i.e. Seventh Generation or something like that) and do an extra rinse to get the residual detergent out.
You many need to occasionally “strip” them to get out extra soap, smells, stains, etc. This is done with vinegar in a rinse cycle. Your manufacturer will provide you with the laundering instructions when you make your purchase. (I personally never had to do this with any of mine, so again, you need to check to see if you ever need to do this).
I will admit that it took some getting use to cleaning them – but now it routine. I don’t even have to really think about how to launder them — it just is part of laundry day.
How many diapers do I really need? This will depend on how many your child goes during the day. We opted for 10 – 14 diapers per child – just to make sure that we had enough for both kids. I did laundry every other day and never ran out.
Where do I find them? Most of the time, you will not find them in any stores. There are some sites you can go to for research and to make your purchase. The sites I have used include:
You can even visit online sites where parents sell their diapers – at huge discounts! Yes, they are used, but you just wash them and you’re on your way! One site you can look into is DiaperSwappers.com. Make sure you check out the lottos section on their site – you might even score FREE DIAPERS!
If you are considering cloth, I recommend that you do your research. Ask questions. Find other moms who cloth to find out what works for them. You also may want to purchase a sampler pack, which can include different styles as what works for one person may not work for another.
Now, the most incredible thing of all is that when your child is potty trained, or outgrows the diapers, you can turn around and re-sell them. Try doing THAT with your previously used Pampers or Huggies!!!