OK! If your wash is $1 each and you do two cycles to get your diapers clean, and you wash them twice per week, that’s $4/week to wash diapers. Two years in diapers (I’m being generous — it might be longer than that) — is $208/year or $416 for two years of machine washing alone. You could hang dry all diapers on racks to save money. If that’s not feasible, then hang-dry the covers and machine-dry the diapers.
Two loads through the dryer per week at $1/load is$104 in annually.
I use Country Save laundry detergent because it’s supposed to be safe for cloth diapers. Oh, and there’s free shipping! On a 40-lb. package! This detergent comes as four $15.54/boxes. The box says you should get 80 loads for a regular machine ($0.19/load) or 160 for a high-efficiency front-loader (like mine) so about $0.10/load.
HOWEVER. I have found that I can use half the recommended soap and still get clothes that are just as clean. If I use the full recommended amount, the soap doesn’t fully rinse out by the end of the cycle. So I’m looking at oh, a nickel per load.
Say you buy the Flip diaper system and use it from birth to potty-training. Let’s pretend you buy four of their “2 covers, 6 organic inserts” packages, for a total of $240. You also buy four dozen Indian prefolds of various sizes (let’s call that $100 even though it’ll probably be closer to $75 or less).
- $208/year of coin-washes
- I’ll be generous and say your detergent costs $0.19/load. That’s $21.28/year in detergent costs. Remember, the second cycle would be to rinse only, so you wouldn’t add more soap.
- $104/year for the dryer
- $340 for diaper covers, prefolds, and organic cotton inserts
- $40 for diaper sprayer
- $8 for a roll of flushable diaper liners
- $20 for an over-the-doorknob diaper pail (or any type of pail, that’s just the kind I have)
- $10 for some flannel wipes (you could create your own from old fabric you already have)
- $15 for a wetbag for your diaper bag
- $15 for 4 oz. tea tree oil
Total first year costs: $781.28
Add on an additional $208 for a second year of washes plus $21.28 more in soap and $104 in the dryer, and your two-year total comes to $1,114.56. That breaks down to $46.44 per month.
Now, let’s look at the cost of disposables.
- $20 for a diaper pail (or trash can, or whatever)
- $15 for a wetbag — even if you’re not carting home dirty diapers, you still might cart home a blown-out onesie so I’m including it on this list
- Wipes $96/year
- Premium Diapers $728.82/year
First year total: $859.82
For 24-months of diapering: $1,684.64 or an average of $70.19 per month.
A big box of size 1 Swaddlers on Diapers.com is selling for $40.49 for a box of 216. That’s enough for 7.2 diapers per day if you wanted to stretch the whole box for a month. Good luck with that, at this age! I think this is more like a three-week supply of diapers.
This price is $0.187 per diaper. As your baby goes up in size, they’ll hopefully require fewer diapers per day. The cost per pack is the same though, no matter the size — they just include fewer diapers.
So for the sake of just keeping things simple, let’s say you go through an “extra large case” of diapers every three weeks. That’s a little more than 17 cases per year (let’s go with 18 cases) so $728.82 per year for disposable diapers. Maybe.
Of course, you could also work the drugstore deals like mad and get a big stash of diapers for much cheaper than that. I paid about $100 for about five months of diapers (well, from about age 1.5 months – 6.5 months). My son was in size NB for the first 6 weeks or so (I didn’t expect such a tiny baby!) and so bleary-eyed me went out and paid close to full-price on those sizes. I think we spent around $75 for six weeks worth of diapers, but I could be wrong about that figure.
It takes work to get a deal, and you have to determine that the cost savings is worth your time. You could also go with generics. We’ve had some ok experiences with a few generic brands, depending on the stage my son was in.
Disposable wipes shouldn’t cost more than $0.02 — even for the good quality ones. Let’s say you use 20 wipes per day in the early months. That’s $0.40/day in wipes, or $12 for the first month. And let’s say your baby requires that many wipes per day for the first four months — so $48 total. After that, let’s bump it down to 10 wipes a day on average. That’s $6/month and then $48 to finish the year.
By my rough cost estimates, it looks like cloth wins by about $24/month or $576 for the course of two years. Keep in mind, these are just my best estimates — you may find a ton of cheap diapers at the drugstores, find that generics work perfectly fine for your child, and that your baby needs fewer changes per day. Or it could be the opposite, and your baby requires Pampers and lots of ’em!
Further, you have to look at that rough $24/month and determine if the savings is worth your time dealing with extra laundry. If you’re running up and down the stairs with a load of laundry in your arms and a baby strapped to your back, it might be more of a workout than you’d prefer.
However — cloth wins big time if you have a second child and are able to use most of your supplies a second time. Your diaper sprayer, wet bag, wipes, and diaper pail still ought to be fine. You might have a few diapers and covers that are too worn to make it another 24 months with another child, but many of them will probably survive. The quality prefolds really seem to last forever, and once they lose their usefulness as a diaper, you can use them in other ways.
Cloth also wins by even more if your baby needs more frequent changes, or if he needs diapers beyond 24 months.
Finally, you can resell your cloth diapering supplies. Can you resell a used disposable diaper?
Ways to save
You wouldn’t have to buy the entire Flip system complete with organic inserts. You could just buy the covers a la carte ($13.95 each, or $111.60 for eight) and a big stack of prefolds. And don’t forget about that diapers.com deal I mentioned earlier.
You could go with another, even cheaper diaper system called Econobum. I haven’t tried this one. Hard saying if this cover would last for all of your baby’s diapering days. It hasn’t been around long enough for anyone to say with certainty. (Same goes for the Flip, since it has only been around for a few months.)
Ask for diapers and diapering accessories as baby shower gifts. If you’re going the disposable route, ask for dipes and ask that they include a receipt so you can easily swap out sizes as you need. Cloth diapers make nice shower gifts, but be sure you get the exact kind the mama wants.
Laura, you’ll have to plug in your actual estimated costs. How much does each wash and each dry cost? How much do you want to spend on diapers? Which is more important to you — saving money or doing less laundry? Also, you probably could squeak by with doing diaper laundry a little less frequently if you use prefolds and handwash covers.
I think it’s an individual choice. But, I do think that cloth diapers can be cheaper than disposables, depending on the types of diapers you select.
Readers — are my cost estimates off? Help me out!