Cloth vs. Disposable Diapers: What’s Better for Your Wallet?
One young mother takes detailed stock of what best fits the budget to keep the baby clean. Is the high up-front cost of cloth diapers worth it?
As a new parent, I’m doing all I can to keep spending low. Having kids is costly, and knowing that, I was determined to use cloth diapers because of the potential savings. I was grateful to friends and family who bought some adorable cloth diapers for us, along with the friends who supplied us with premie disposable diapers when the baby arrived and we realized that cloth wasn’t going to work for a bit.
The Cost of Disposable Diapers
As she grew and we didn’t have dependable laundry, we continued to buy and use disposable diapers. But once our laundry situation became more reliable, we started thinking about how much disposables were costing us.
At about 10 diapers a day, we'd use about 3,650 disposable diapers in our daughter’s first year alone.Click To Tweet
At both Walmart and Target, the cost of disposable diapers comes out to 23 cents per diaper. That means that we would spend $839.50 on diapers for just one year. We’d also need wipes. We purchased a pack of 500 for $21 online, and we’ll also buy another two packs by the end of the year. That brings our total to $902.50 for the first year.
Disposable diapers are easy. You can simply take them off and trash them. They wick moisture away fairly well, too. But any parent will tell you that blowouts are incredibly common with disposables. We probably deal with that at least once every other week, though it has definitely happened twice in one day before. Blowouts mean more laundry and the need to deal with a mess immediately. This once happened to us at Krog Street Market, an indoor market in Atlanta. It is not fun having to wipe down your nearly naked baby in public.
The Cost of Cloth Diapers
On the other hand, there are many types of cloth diapers, each at a different price. We have a mix of cheaper Gerber Prefold diapers and pricier pocket diapers. The pockets are more like disposables. Insert a liner in the pocket, put it on the baby, and when it’s time to change the diaper, put on an entirely new one, and throw the old one in the wash. With prefolds and covers, you fasten a prefold diaper to the baby with a snap and then button a cover over it. When you change the diaper, you fasten a new prefold and reuse the cover as long as it isn’t soiled.
The up-front cost of cloth diapers tends to be fairly high. Here’s the breakdown of the cost for our stash:
- $29.95 for a pack of six cloth diapers
- $39.98 for two BumGenius 5.0 diapers
- $14.29 for a one-size cover from Rumparooz
- $20 for a one-size cover from Flip
- $12.83 for a cover for up to 18 pounds from Thirsties
- $23.98 for two packs of 10 Gerber prefolds
- $14 for five Snappies
Total Cost: $155.03
We have a total of 28 diapers, which is enough for a two-day supply; so we’ll need to do laundry every other day. According to one online calculator, my laundry costs will be about $194 a year if we do laundry five times a week. With the same price for wipes ($63), the total cost of cloth diapers for one year comes out to $349.03. That’s a significant difference in price. And because these are reusable, my costs in the second year will be even lower.
We've had a few problems with cloth, though. Cloth diapers are more labor-intensive, for one.Click To Tweet
You need to prepare them before you use them the first time and stuff the pockets for certain types of diapers before each change. I also spend more time doing laundry and sizing up my baby’s clothes to fit over cloth diapers than I would if I used disposables. We’ve also had issues with rashes and leaking, but once we got the hang of it, those problems largely disappeared. On the whole, I’ve been very happy with cloth, especially knowing how much I’m saving.
Cloth vs. Disposable Diapers: The Winner Is…
In my opinion, if you have the time for the extra work, cloth diapers are a much better use of your money than disposables. And if you plan to have more than one kid, you can reuse them, too, which will lower the amount you’ll spend on diapers in the future.