Jun 16 2008

Should I attempt to use cloth diapers?


An update to this post (Feb 2010) is available here.

I’m considering using cloth diapers for our baby. I’m concerned about the expense of disposable diapers, chemicals in disposable diapers and wipes, the possibility of more diaper rash/infections with disposable, and of course, adding tons of waste to landfills.


I’m well aware the cloth diapers simply don’t work for everyone. Some babies have crazy blowouts that simply can’t be contained by cloth, no matter whatcha do. I’d hate to invest all that money in cloth diapers, to only have them not work for us.

The other thing that makes me hesitate? We don’t have a washing machine or dryer in our apartment.

Is cloth diapering too insane for me to even think about? I might be getting in a bit over my head, so I need you moms out there to tell me if I’m nuts.

Most cloth diapering sites have suggested running diapers through at least two washes. I don’t have the option of doing an extra rinse, so it’s an additional load or nothing.

I don’t have access to an outdoor clothes line, and most sites that I’ve read encourage line drying in the sun or drying the diapers in the hot dryer to further kill bacteria.

Cost break-down of exclusive cloth diaper use in the first two years

There is a W/D unit in our building’s basement. It costs $1.25 per wash and $1.25 per dry.

So assuming the prices don’t go up, it will cost $3.75 per load (two washes and a dry).

Is it a fair assessment to say one load can fit about two dozen diapers? Would that include cloth wipes tossed in as well? If that’s the case, then in the early stages, I could be washing diapers every two days or so, depending on how many I have.

That’s about 3.5 loads of diapers per week. $3.75/load X 3.5 loads = $13.13 ish per week to use the machines.

Say I keep up with that wash pace for six months or 26 weeks. That’s $341, or about $56 per month in washing, and that’s not including detergent costs.

The next six to 12 months of Baby’s life, let’s say I can get away with washing twice per week. That’s $7.50 per week, and for 26 weeks that’s $195.

Tallying up the first year’s totals of estimated washing costs, and that’s $536 in washer and dryer use. Only uh, 2,144 quarters for the machines! Heh.

For Baby’s second year, I’d expect we’d have fewer diaper changes, so that would give me even more time between washings. But, let’s say I wash a load of diapers twice per week anyway. For 52 weeks, that’s $390. Not bad.

If we tried cloth and decided it works well for us, I’d probably want three dozen diapers on hand at least. A quick look at Diapers.com shows that Fuzzi Bunz cost $20 each, and bumGenius cost $18 each. These are the all-in-one style diapers, so no rubber pants covers are needed. Ok. An average of that cost would be $19 each X 36 diapers, so $684 in diaper costs.

Grand total for two years of cloth diapering one baby? $1,610. If you look at it per year, it averages out to $805 annually.

We hopefully will have more than one child, and if we make the initial investment on those cloth diapers, they should last for several more children. So after that first baby, we’ll just have washing costs to consider. Assuming we’re still paying per wash (I hope not!), two years of washes and drys would cost $926, or an average of $463 per year. Definitely cheaper than disposables.

If we do decide to go the cloth diaper route, we probably won’t use cloth exclusively. We’d use disposables in the first few weeks of Baby’s life, when we’re traveling or out all day, and possibly at night. So, we would need a few packs here and there of disposables. I’m just guessing a number, but I’d doubt it would be more than $100 per year.

If we exclusively used disposable diapers, my best guess (from sites I’ve been able to find) is we would be spending at least $1,500 per year, if not more.

The bottom line (lol):

If y’all don’t convince me that I’m nuts for considering trying cloth without my own washer/dryer, than I think I’ll pick up a few (say, six?) different types of cloth diapers to give it a trial run. If it goes well, then I’ll buy more of the kinds we like. If it doesn’t, well whatever. We wouldn’t be out a ton of money, and could hang on to those diapers and try them on baby #2.

After looking at my cost estimates (I realize these numbers could be way off. Feel free to help me out), it looks like cloth will still be a lot cheaper for us.

But, I know that I’m going to be exhausted. I can only imagine the kind of attention and energy I’ll need to expend trying to figure out how to raise a baby. Instead of trudging up and down two flights of stairs with diapers every few days, maybe my time would be better spent doing other things. I’m not completely sure.

So, let’s hear it! What have been your experiences with cloth diapers? What advice do you have for me?

Posted under Uncategorized | 59 Comments »

59 Responses to “Should I attempt to use cloth diapers?”

  1. Hi Kacie,

    Well I think you know how I feel about cloth diapering, because you already read my post. :) I LOVE cloth diapering, and I would never, ever go back. In fact, yesterday, for the first time in over a year, I ran out of cloth diapers (didn’t get them in the wash soon enough). So I still had a couple of old disposables around so I put one on him. Well, I HATED it. I hated putting that paper and plastic on my baby. And when he peed, the diaper sagged almost to his knees, and was squishy and gross. It was a lovely reminder of how great cloth is. :) I know I sure wouldn’t want to wear paper underwear!

    Anyway, I know you’re facing a bit of a challenge with the whole washer/dryer dilemma. I think that if your instincts are telling you to do cloth, then you’ll find a way to do it. You can put the baby in a sling, or wash diapers when your hubby is home to stay with the baby (you might enjoy the escape! lol). I let people talk me out of cloth when I had my first baby, and I so regret it now. I knew it was the right thing to do, but everyone thought I was nuts, so I gave up. When I did make the change, with my 2nd baby, I realized it was exactly what I had wanted to do all along.

    You can definitely buy cloth second-hand. Technically, eBay forbids the sale of used cloth diapers, so you may not be able to find them there, but there are plenty of sites where you can get them. There are also lots of WAHMs out there who make cloth diapers, and you could buy them cheaper, while supporting a WAHM. You might even consider buying 1 or 2 diapers a month now, before the baby comes, so that by the time the baby arrives you’ll have what you need. I haven’t used prefolds myself, but I know that lots of people use them with success, and they’re relatively inexpensive. And if you’re worried about the first couple of weeks, you could always get some disposable Seventh Generation diapers while you’re recovering from childbirth. They still end up in a landfill, but they are chemical-free, so at least they won’t cause any harm to your baby.

    Anyway, you seem very intelligent, and I’m sure you will make the decision that’s right for you and your family. :)

    I look forward to coming back to visit.


    Alissa’s last blog post..Attachment Parenting

  2. Oooooh… I just had another thought!

    If you haven’t heard of it, it may sound bizarre… but have you heard of Elimination Communication? (Also known as Infant Potty Training). I honestly don’t know much about it, but I’m intrigued by it, and would probably look into it more if we were going to have another baby. I know it’s common in Attachment Parenting (which I’m just now learning more about). It’s basically what it sounds like – coming up with a communication system with your infant so you know when they have to pee or poop, and then you take them to the toilet! From what I’ve read, people who do this use cloth diapers as back-up, but rarely have to wash them because the baby doesn’t soil them. I thought it was ridiculous when I first heard about it, but now I think it’s neat. Apparently in many other cultures it’s widely practiced. Anyway, I really know nothing about it, but might be worth looking into.


    Alissa’s last blog post..Attachment Parenting

  3. Regarding a sprayer, I don’t have one yet because they are about $40.00. But, a person that I bought some cloth diapers off of said they got a shower sprayer from Lowe’s for under $10.00 and hooked it up in their shower and used it in the toilet to spray off poopie diapers. It was very cheap, but your toilet has to be close to your shower and I am unsure if you could install that in an apartment. But it is worth asking about!

  4. Your diapers shouldn’t actually have much poop on them or any because you would either use a disposable liner or spray them off above the toilet before you washed them. They may have some stuff on the sides, but I just wipe that off with a disposable wipe and throw it away and then I spray my diaper with OxyClean Stain remover and there you go.

    It is easier to do cloth as the baby gets older because you have much less poopie diapers to deal with but it really is not that bad. If people tried it, they would see how truly easy it can be!

  5. I skimmed some of the comments and wanted to add: I live in a small city in PA and I have a diaper service. They still exist and I LOVE IT. It’s about $25/week and last time I did the math, it’s about the same price as disposables. But it’s SO CONVENIENT and so much better for the environment.
    I also made my own cloth wipes – bought a knit sheet at Goodwill and cut it into squares. I soak them with water and a little babywash and baby oil, stored in a closed container. Then when I have enough, I wash a little load in hot water and Oxyclean. Pretty easy too. I have a toddler and an infant, so I always have plenty to do and plenty of laundry, but I highly recommend a diaper service if you’re considering cloth. If you have more questions, feel free to email me!

  6. Cloth diapers are wonderful and so, so easy. Go for it!

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Hey! I'm Kacie, wife and mother of 3. I write about my family's finance: how we save money, improve our spending, and plan for the future.

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