Cloth Diapers Cost: Can You Really Save 50% or more versus using disposable diapers?
When I had my first child about six years ago, I had no idea what I needed to purchase for my newborn. Some things were obvious, such as a crib, bottles, and of course – diapers.
Being the frugal savvy woman I am, I had no idea there was an alternative to the disposable diapers we find in every store and see on television commercials.
I was first introduced to cloth diapers by my neighbor. She’s a huge eco-friendly person and was like me – she wanted to save money. Being naive, I thought cloth diapers would be a pain in the butt, a huge mess and just as costly as the disposable diapers.
Boy! Was I wrong about this!
If you’re thinking about using them or want to be more informed, here’s what I have learned along the way.
Yes! It Does Save You Money
According to some experts, you will need about 8,000 diapers to fully potty train your child. If each diaper, on average, costs about $0.17 each, that’s going to be more than $1,300 to get your child to the potty training stage. That’s a lot of money!
Now, with cloth diapers, there will be a large upfront investment when compared to purchasing a simple box of disposable diapers for $20. Don’t let this scare you, though!
So, how much do cloth diapers cost?
If you search Amazon.com or any other retailers, you will find that you can get a highly-rated pack of six for about $40. If you really want to spend money on a higher quality pack, you can easily spend $15 per piece.
But to play it safe, let’s say we’re going to spend $40 per six, which is more than fair. What I had found is that I changed my child’s diaper about seven to 10 times per day, but of course, there were days I changed the diaper for what seemed like 15 times per day. So, let’s be fair and say we need 42 diapers to have in our inventory. I would feel this is enough to last me about three days before I have to run a washing load.
If we take the 42, we will need about seven packs of six diapers, retailing for $40 each as mentioned above. The seven packs multiplied by $40 will give us a grand total of $280 for the diapers we need. Granted, you may need to buy more in the future because some can get ruined fairly quick.
And you don’t have to buy new cloth diapers either! You can find great deals on used cloth diapers from local consignment shops, Facebook groups, Craigslist, and Swap.com. And there are always deals on cloth diapers too on places like Zulily.
The other cloth diapers costs involved
On top of purchasing the cloth diapers, you’re going to need inserts as well, though some packs come with some already. These inserts will be placed inside the cloth diapers so your child doesn’t urinate all over the place. Like a disposable diaper, these inserts will absorb the urine. Depending on the brand you purchase, you can get six inserts for $20. To play it safe, I would get as many inserts as you have cloth diapers, or 42 if you have 42 diapers.
Sadly, cloth diapers won’t clean themselves. While you can hire a service to clean these diapers for you, this option will be a lot costlier than doing it on your own.
So let’s say we’re going to clean the diapers on our own to maximize our savings. Experts note it will cost about $1 per washing load to fully clean a cloth diaper; these costs will be due to the electricity and water usage. Seeing we have to clean the diapers and inserts a few times a week to keep your rotation clean, we will need to budget of about $4 per week for about 4 loads. One washing cycle will be more than enough to clean your cloth diapers properly.
This cost will of course vary by location, utility fees, and if you dry your diapers outside in the sun rather than in the dryer. $1 a wash is on the high end and factoring costs like recommended cloth diaper laundry detergents.
There is going to be a time where you’re busy and don’t have any cloth diapers available. What do you do when this happens? I would highly recommend you always have at least 200 disposable diapers on hand. That way, if you were to run into this situation, you would be fully covered. Taking our numbers above, 200 diapers will cost about $30 for 200 diapers.
Let’s compare the numbers now
- 42 cloth diapers x $40 per six pack = $280
- 42 inserts x $20 per six pack = $140
- 200 pack of disposable diapers = $30
- 4 loads per week x 2 years = $416
- Total = $866 if you never replace the cloth diapers.
Keep in mind that this doesn’t include cloth diapering accessories like cloth diapering wet bags (about $20 for each one), or the cloth diaper toilet sprayer (about $40) which parents prefer using once their child starts eating solids.
Now, let’s compare that cloth diaper cost to disposable diapers…
- 8000 diapers needed x about $0.17 = $1,360
This isn’t even factoring in gas or shipping fees or extra laundry to remove all the leaky diaper stains more common with using disposable diapers, so keep in mind your total could be higher. This is on the lower end.
Also, keep in mind that if you have more than one child the savings begin to greatly multiply as you don’t need to start over from scratch on diapers for child 2, 3, 4, or more (unless a few need to be replaced). If you only have one child, you can sell your reusable diapers and inserts to someone else as well, recouping some of your expense.
As you can see, you could save about 40% if you were to use cloth diapers. If you were to have three kids, the savings could add up pretty quick!
Also, aside from helping your budget, cloth diapers will also help:
- The environment as you keep diapers out of landfills
- The smells since you no longer have to let diapers rot in a trash can
- Less diaper rashes since there are no chemicals in cloth diapers
- No more “explosions” if you catch my drift
Check out this link for cost comparisons of cloth diapers and disposables from another mom and compare our estimates!
About the Author: Stephanie Lynch resides in Gilbert, Arizona. She is the co-founder of Howmuchisit.org, a database that helps consumers find out what things cost in life.
With couponing it cost me a little over $200 to use disposables through to potty training. If someone really wants to save money on diapering they should join a couponing group on Facebook. I was thinking about switching once my stockpile runs out for my youngest but seeing the cost has changed my mind.
Abigail Moore says
These are very high estimates. If you do covers and inserts (not pockets), and not buy 42 (that seems excessive) you could easily do this for $100 plus laundry. I just helped my friend by basically everything she needs for about $100, birth to potty training minus replacements. She has currently has about 20 inserts and 13 covers (that can be used for more than 1 change before washing).
When I diapered, I spent about $500 on my whole stash only because I had no one to explain to me what I really did or did not need. I know I could have done it all less than $200.
Maureen Armendariz says
Your cloth estimates are really high! I bought 48 prefolds in 2 sizes for $48 by shopping “seconds” sales. Prefolds are super easy to wash and very absorbent. You can double them when needed, eliminating the need for “doublers” or inserts. Then I made wool covers and bought some PUL covers on sale. All this cost a little over $100. You can buy extras, but you don’t NEED them. Wet bags? Try a plastic grocery bag or another plastic bag already destined for the landfill. Wipes can be made for free from old t-shirts. Cloth diaper safe detergents are sort of a myth. You can use Tide or the off-brand at Walmart. Check out Fluff Love University for tips on laundering. My personal estimates for how I use disposables and cloth make for about $1800 per child for disposables, including wipes, or under $200 per child for cloth. My husband has tracked it, and our utility and water bills do not go up during months when we use cloth. It is only 1 extra load of laundry every 3 days for us.