Cloth Diapers

May 3, 2012 by

Cloth Diapers

In a Moneyville article about cloth diapers, a writer lays out the math on why she thinks cloth diapers are more expensive than disposable. While cloth diapers are certainly not right for every family, they make the most financial sense if you launder them yourself. Her math is totally wrong, and here’s my breakdown of her argument.

Our son is almost four months, and we figure we’ve gone through 1,440 diapers – around 12 each day. Costing 15 cents a diaper, this has already been a $216 investment.

By year’s end, using disposable diapers will cost us over $648. To curtail this cost, we’ve been looking into cloth diaper options, and have learned that there are many out there, at various price points.

Are you potty training at age 1? Likely not. Even if you manage to potty train a boy by age 2 and a half, you get a medal, and your disposable cost rises to a whopping $1,620.

If we bought cloth diapers, we would purchase a minimum of 24 to give us a grace period between washings. Using a cost of $10 per diaper – a reasonable price for mid to high-end, quality cloth diapers – that would cost $240. Although you can get one-size fits all, it is recommended to get them in sizes so they fit your baby properly and comfortably.  So, we’d likely end up buying new diapers at least twice a year, which would cost us a minimum of $480.

It’s clear this writer hasn’t done much research on cloth diapers. The best cloth diapers are one-size all-in-ones. They work awesome for every baby but the tiniest – by four months they’d certainly fit her son wonderfully. They run around $22 each in Canada. 24 is a good amount to have on hand. That’s a lifetime cost of $528.

The estimated cost of one load of laundry is 44 to  78 cents depending on how efficient your washer and dryer are. If we wash our cloth diapers once per day, at low peak usage, this would cost us $160 a year.

You can also choose to use biodegradable liners to avoid pre-laundry rinsing. These liners take care of the ‘dirty’ work of cloth diapers, but are also costly. For 100 flushable liners, you pay $5.95. If you’re like me   you’ll go through a package of liners in eight days.

These means you could spend up to $271 a year on disposable liners. To cut this cost significantly, you can buy reusable liners anywhere from $10 to $25 for a set of three, or simply make your own.

I’ll give her the laundering costs. Though as your baby ages, you change diapers less frequently, saving laundering costs. However, you would change disposables less frequently too, and this difference is likely similar to the savings she’d get from using fewer disposables which she didn’t account for. So it comes out about even. But liners? Only newbies use liners. There is absolutely no need for them! They are wasteful, pure and simple. The most disgusting poopy diaper you can imagine can be wiped off in seconds with a bit of toilet paper, and thrown in the wet bag. Once washed, that formerly foul diaper will be pristine and snowy white again. Many babies hate liners as they stay wet and don’t properly wick wetness away from the baby’s bum like the diaper itself is designed to do. Every brand I’ve ever seen is much rougher against the skin than a naked diaper.

If you buy one-size fits all diapers, and opt to get 12 instead of 24, cloth diapers would definitely be a cheaper option than disposable. However, you would be doing laundry more often and also may have some issues with the size of the diaper and comfort level for your baby.

So, so wrong. Buy good diapers and your baby will be perfectly comfortable and you’ll have no problems with size.

As you can tell, there is no right answer when it comes to the price of disposable vs. cloth diapers. It can be argued that cloth diapers can be cheaper, but this isn’t always the case depending on the products you buy.

Wrong! By her misguided calculations, she would spend $648 in one year on disposables. By her numbers, she thinks cloth will cost her $961. But as ANY experienced cloth diaper mama will tell her, and based on my calculations above, cloth should cost no more than $740 in the first year (for top of the line diapers, laundering at home, diaper pail & wet bag). And the second year? Laundering costs only. Third year? Laundering costs only!

If she plans on having second or third kids, she may decide to up her stash by a few diapers – let’s say $100 worth. Then again, her costs are laundering costs only.

Finally, even after 7 years and three children’s worth of use, the majority of my one-size all-in-ones were in fantastic condition. I sold 24 of them online for $120, recouping a little of my cost.

Assuming she has two kids in diapers for five years total, she’ll spend $$3,240 on disposable diapers. Cloth? That would ring in, including laundering, at $1,480.

Environmental issues and single use only lifestyle discussions aside, it’s a financial no-brainer.

UPDATE: I took a few minutes to break out the costs being more realistic about diaper use per day, and laundering costs and frequency. Here’s what I came up with. Again, keep in mind that you can buy some brands of cloth diapers for under $100 for 24, but in this assumption, I’m using the cost of my personal favourite cloth diapering brand.

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