Cloth Diaper Costs: Understanding the Financial Benefits of Cloth Diapering




If you’re a new parent, you might be wondering whether cloth diapers or disposable diapers are a better choice for your baby. While cloth diapers are often touted as the more cost-effective option, the truth is that the answer isn’t as straightforward as you might think. There are many factors that can impact the cost of diapering your baby, including the type of diapers you use, how many children you have, and even the efficiency of your washing machine.

In this article, we’ll break down the cost of cloth diapers vs disposable diapers, including a comparison of budget store-brand options and higher-end name-brand options. We’ll also discuss the pros and cons of each type of diaper and provide tips on how to save money on diapers, such as buying cloth diapers secondhand. By the end of this article, you’ll have a better understanding of whether cloth diapers are the cost-effective choice for your family.

Key Takeaways

  • The cost of diapering your baby will depend on many factors, including the type of diapers you use, how many children you have, and the efficiency of your washing machine.
  • Cloth diapers and disposable diapers both have their pros and cons, and the choice between the two will depend on your individual needs and preferences.
  • To save money on diapers, consider buying cloth diapers secondhand and comparing the cost of budget store-brand options to higher-end name-brand options.

Types of Cloth Diapers

When it comes to cloth diapering, there are several types of systems to consider. Here are three popular options, each with its own unique features and benefits:

  • Diaper Covers with Flats or Prefolds: This is the most cost-effective option. It involves using squares of absorbent fabric (flats or prefolds) secured around the baby and covered with a waterproof outer diaper shell. While it may be less convenient due to the two-piece system, it is an economical choice that many parents prefer.

  • Pocket Diapers: These diapers feature a waterproof outer shell with a fleece liner that touches the baby’s skin. They are designed with a pocket where absorbent inserts can be placed. This mid-range option offers the convenience of going on in one piece, similar to disposable diapers.

  • All-in-One (AIO) Diapers: AIO diapers are the most convenient option, as they come with all the absorbent material and covers sewn together. This system closely resembles the convenience of disposable diapers and is considered an upgrade pick for cloth diapering.

When deciding on the type of cloth diaper to use, it’s essential to consider factors such as cost, convenience, and the specific needs of your baby. Each system offers its own advantages, and the choice ultimately depends on your preferences and lifestyle.

How Much Do Cloth Diapers Cost?

If you’re interested in cloth diapering, one of the first things you’ll want to know is how much it will cost. The cost of cloth diapers can vary depending on the type of diaper you choose, as well as any accessories you may need. In this section, we’ll break down the costs of cloth diapers by type, as well as the costs of newborn cloth diapers, cloth diaper accessories, and cloth diaper laundry.

Costs of Cloth Diapers by Type

The cost of cloth diapers can vary depending on the type of diaper you choose. The table below provides a breakdown of cloth diaper costs by diaper type. We’ll assume that you’ll need 24 diapers to cloth diaper full-time and do laundry every 2-3 days.

Diaper Type Economical Estimated Costs Higher-End Estimated Costs
Flats/Prefolds (24) & Covers (6) $77 (Flats + Economy Covers) $157 (Prefolds + Brand Covers)
Pockets (24) & Extra Inserts (6) $146 (Economy Pockets + Flats) $551 (Brand Pockets + Hemp Inserts)
All-In-Ones $179 (Economy All-In-Ones) $647 (Brand All-In-Ones)

It’s important to note that these total cost estimates do not take into account trial and error. Many people find that they try out a combination of different diapering systems and brands over the course of cloth diapering. Babies are different, and a cloth diaper that works great for one baby may not work for another. With that in mind, many people recommend getting a variety of diapers instead of a big lot of the exact same kind when starting out.

Newborn Cloth Diaper Costs

If you want to cloth diaper from birth, you’ll likely need to buy a set of smaller, newborn-sized cloth diapers. Regular one-size cloth diapers usually don’t begin fitting until a baby is about 10 lbs or so. Newborn-sized cloth diapers fit most babies from birth until about 15 lbs.

We’ll estimate the cost off of 24 cloth diapers to allow for a day between washes. Since these are used for a short period, we estimated costs based on the cheapest options.

Newborn Diaper Type Estimated Costs
Prefolds (24) & Covers (6) $96
Pockets (24) & Extra Inserts (6) $136
All-In-Ones $180

Many people elect to skip newborn cloth diapers and instead use disposables until their baby fits in regular cloth diapers. This is because you can’t predict how big a baby will be and how fast they’ll grow. Some babies outgrow newborn-sized diapers very quickly. The expense of an extra set of cloth diapers that are used for a short time doesn’t recoup the cost compared to disposables. Additionally, extra laundry can be daunting when you’re tired at the beginning.

Cloth Diaper Accessories Costs

Most people who cloth diaper end up buying at least some accessories to make the process easier. These may include cloth wipes, a diaper pail or hamper, diaper pail liners, cloth diaper fasteners (i.e. Snappis), a toilet sprayer, and wet bags.

Cloth Diaper Accessories Estimated Cost (May 2022)
Cloth Wipes $10
Diaper Pail or Hamper $7 (Hamper)
Diaper Pail Liner (2) $20
Cloth Diaper Fasteners (i.e. Snappis) $10
Toilet Sprayer $27
Wet Bags (2) $10
Total $84

Cloth Diaper Laundry Costs

Cloth diapering will increase your laundry expenses. Most people wash their cloth diapers in a separate load of laundry, so you’ll be using more detergent, water, and electricity. It is recommended that cloth diapers be washed every two to three days.

If you wash and hang dry your cloth diapers every other day, you’ll spend about $99 more in a year (180 loads @ $0.55/load). Drying each load will increase your total cloth diaper laundry cost to ~$189 per year ($1.05/load).

Cloth diaper laundry costs will vary based on your machine’s efficiency and local utility costs. You can use a laundry cost per cycle calculator to run your own numbers.

Total Cost Of Cloth Diapers

So, how much do cloth diapers cost per year? Let’s total it all up to get the estimated costs of cloth diapering for a year:

| | Economical Estimates | Higher-End Estimates |
| —

How Much Do Disposable Diapers Cost?

When it comes to disposable diapers, prices vary significantly between diaper brands. Many articles claiming the savings potential of cloth diapers base their analysis on the cost of name brand diapers, inflating the possible savings. Store brands are less than 50% of the cost of name brands like Pampers or Huggies. Below is a breakdown of how much you can expect to spend on disposable diapers in the first and second year of your baby’s life.

Disposable Diaper Costs Per Year

Year 1

Diaper Size Changes Per Day Total Diapers Store Brand Estimated Costs (May 2022) Name Brand Estimated Costs (May 2022)
Newborn (1 month) 10 300 $30 $72
Size 1 (2 months) 8 488 $44 $93
Size 2 (2 months) 8 488 $49 $98
Size 3 (7 months) 6 1278 $141 $294
Wipes (1 per change) $26 $102
Total 2554 $290 $685

Year 2

Diaper Size Changes Per Day Total Diapers Store Brand Estimated Costs (May 2022) Name Brand Estimated Costs (May 2022)
Size 3 (4 months) 5 610 $67 $140
Size 4 (8 months) 5 1215 $158 $316
Wipes (1 per change) $18 $73
Total 1825 $243 $529

If you use generic diapers and wipes, you can expect to pay an estimated $533 over two years of diapering. In comparison, using name brand diapers and wipes would cost about ~$1214.

Cost of Cloth Diapers vs. Disposable

When it comes to diapering your baby, one of the biggest decisions you’ll make is whether to use cloth or disposable diapers. While there are many factors to consider, one of the most significant is cost. In this section, we’ll compare the cost of cloth diapers vs. disposable diapers over the first two years of your baby’s life.

Year 1: Cloth vs. Disposable Diapers Cost

In the first year, disposables can come out ahead of cloth diapers in terms of total costs once you take into account cloth diaper laundering and accessories. If you opt for the more economical store brand disposables, you’ll spend about $135 less than you would on cloth diapering. If you plan to use brand-name or eco-friendly disposables, you’ll come out ahead by about $260 by cloth diapering instead.

According to a cost comparison by Mint, disposables came in at $800 for the year, while reusables cost $584 – a savings of 27 percent. That savings climbs drastically – to 60 percent – when you look at the second year of your child’s life. Cloth diapers require scant extra investment, while disposables keep hacking at your wallet.

Economical Estimates Higher End Estimates
Cloth Diapers $425 $914
Disposables $290 $685
WINNER Disposables ($135 savings) Disposables ($229 savings)

Year 2: Cloth Diaper vs. Disposable Costs

In the second year of use, cloth diapers come out ahead of disposables. You are essentially only paying for washing costs in the second year of cloth diapering. Compared to store brand diapers, you’ll save about $144 using cloth diapers instead.

Economical Estimates Higher End Estimates
Cloth Diapers $99 $99
Disposables $243 $529
WINNER Cloth ($144 savings) Cloth ($430 savings)

Total: Cloth Diapers vs Disposable Cost

Let’s put it all together and look at the overall cost of disposable diapers vs cloth. Here are the total estimated costs of cloth diapers vs disposables over the first two years of a baby’s life:

Economical Estimates Higher End Estimates
Cloth Diapers $524 $1013
Disposables $533 $1214
WINNER Draw ($9 difference) Cloth ($201 savings)

Comparing the economical options, the cost of cloth diapers and disposables is essentially the same over two years of use. If you opt for premium diapers, you’ll save a couple hundred dollars with cloth diapers.

Do Cloth Diapers Save Money with a Second Child?

If you use your same set of cloth diapers for additional children, the savings over disposable diapers is much greater. Laundry expenses are the biggest expense to cloth diapering a second child. Cloth diapers will save you about $335 compared to generic disposables and $1016 compared to premium disposables over two years.

Economical Estimates Higher End Estimates
Cloth Diapers $198 $198
Disposables $533 $1214
WINNER Cloth ($335 difference) Cloth ($1016 savings)

Overall, cloth diapers can save you money in the long run, especially if you plan to have multiple children. While the initial investment may be higher, the savings over time can be significant. However, it’s important to note that each family’s situation is unique, and what works for one may not work for another.

Save Money: Buy Cloth Diapers Secondhand

If you’re looking to save even more money on cloth diapers, consider buying them secondhand. Used cloth diapers can be a great way to save money, as they should not cost more than around 50% of the retail price. This means that you could potentially save hundreds of dollars by purchasing used cloth diapers instead of new ones.

Saving Money Reselling Cloth Diapers

Additionally, you may be able to recoup some of your costs by reselling your used cloth diapers once your child is potty trained. If your diapers are in good condition, you could get up to 50% of the retail cost back by reselling them. This could mean additional savings of hundreds of dollars compared to using disposable diapers.

When buying secondhand cloth diapers, always make sure to verify that the elastics and waterproof cover are in good condition. It’s also important to be aware that some people may sell used cloth diapers for more than the retail cost, so be sure to shop around for the best deals.

If you’re looking to sell your used cloth diapers, Facebook Marketplace can be a great place to start. Make sure to take clear pictures and provide detailed information about the condition of the diapers in your listing. You can also try selling them at a consignment sale or through a cloth diaper service.

Buying and selling used cloth diapers does require some extra effort, but the potential savings make it well worth it. Plus, by choosing cloth diapers over disposables, you’re not only saving money, but you’re also making a more environmentally friendly choice.

Overall, buying and reselling used cloth diapers can be a great way to save money on diapering costs. Just be sure to do your research and verify the condition of any used diapers before making a purchase.

Conclusion: Are Cloth Diapers Cheaper?

After analyzing the costs of cloth diapers versus disposable diapers, it is clear that the answer to the question, “Are cloth diapers cheaper?” is not a straightforward one. In the first year of a baby’s life, using store brand disposable diapers may actually be cheaper than cloth diapers. However, after two years, the costs of cloth diapers and generic disposables are essentially the same.

It is important to note that cloth diapers can offer greater savings in certain situations. For example, if you plan to use the same cloth diapers for multiple children, the cost savings can add up significantly. Additionally, if you would otherwise buy premium disposable diapers, cloth diapers can offer a cost-effective alternative.

Buying cloth diapers secondhand is also a great way to increase your savings. Not only can you find high-quality cloth diapers at a fraction of the cost of new ones, but you can also resell your cloth diaper stash once you potty train your child.

Another advantage of cloth diapers is their positive impact on the environment. By using cloth diapers, you can significantly reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills. In fact, according to the Real Diaper Association, disposable diapers make up about 2% of all waste in landfills.

In conclusion, while cloth diapers may not always be cheaper than disposable diapers, they can offer significant cost savings in certain situations. Additionally, cloth diapers have a positive impact on the environment, making them a great choice for eco-conscious parents.

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