Take the 2-minute tour ×
Parenting Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for parents, grandparents, nannies and others with a parenting role. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Are modern cloth diapers such as gDiapers or bumGenius really cost efficient compared to disposible diapers? It seems the diapers themselves are quite expensive and then you have to include the cost of cleaning them, and have enough on hand that you don't run out.

Do they really work out cheaper in the long run?

share|improve this question
    
gDiapers are not cloth diapers. They have a reusable shell but a disposable (compostable or reportedly 'flushable') insert that is rather expensive. –  David Apr 11 '11 at 17:54
    
@David we use gCloth or pre-folds as the liner. –  C. Ross Apr 11 '11 at 18:36
1  
Not an answer because I have no personal experience, but Trent writes: "Cloth Diapering: Does It Save Enough Money To Be Worth The Extra Effort?" and "Cloth Diapering: A Real-World Analysis". Hint: he says it saves $100/year. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun May 24 '11 at 6:55
1  
The one issue with gDiapers is that you still have to buy different sizes as the baby grows. So if you are not planning on having another kid, you won't be able to reuse. We are using prefolds with diaper covers and we love them. We also have a few FuzziBunz hand-me-downs and they are great too. They have snaps that adjust as the baby grows. The new ones have adjustable elastic tension around the legs and the upper back. You can also use prefolds with the FuzziBunz as the cover. –  milesmeow Mar 9 '12 at 7:45
    
@milesmeow Good point! –  C. Ross Mar 9 '12 at 13:28
add comment

13 Answers 13

Cloth diapering can be much more cost efficient than using disposables - including the cost of washing.

There are many types of modern cloth diapers, and the cost of diapering largely depends on the type of diaper chosen, as well as the brand of that diaper. Most types are sold with an organic option, which will also raise the price of the diaper.

All-in-ones (AIO)

There are more expensive versions of BumGenius that are AIO and are made of organic cotton, these are called BumGenius Elemental.

Fitted

Fitted diapers are likely the most expensive option, as they are sold for specific weight ranges and will not fit a baby from birth to potty-training as many of the others have One-size options. Many fitteds do not have a waterproof outer shell, and also require the use of a cover.

All-in-2 or Pocket diapers (AI2)

The classic BumGenius diapers are a pocket diaper, and there are many cheaper options for pocket diapers, including but not limited to AlvaBaby, Sunbaby, and KaWaii.

Hybrids

gDiapers are an example of a hybrid, and are the most expensive of the hybrid diapers available. A cheaper hybrid option is the Flip System (offered by the Cotton Babies brand who also make BumGenius diapers).

Modern Covers

Modern covers, such as the Thirsties Duo Wrap, allow for parents to use flats, prefolds, or fitteds very practically and for very little cost.

The most cost effective way to cloth diaper is to use flats, but those are certainly not a modern option. Prefolds are also an older diapering technology, but the new version of covers developed help to avoid the "plastic pants" that were so terrible 25-30 years ago. (Also, the Snappi helps avoid sticking the parents and baby with pins, making prefolds and flats a truly modern option.)


Other Cost Factors

We have a toploading HE machine that allows me to turn off the HE option. I wash our diapers in a conventional amount of water (they are harder to get clean with less water), and our water bill has only gone up about $4 per month. Our electric bill hasn't noticeably changed.

The biggest cost advantage for cloth diapering is seen when the diapers are used for a second or any concurrent children. For the second babies and beyond, you do not even see the upfront cost of purchasing the diapers. This allows a family to diaper a child for about $5-$10 a month which is significantly less than purchasing disposables.

share|improve this answer
4  
+1 for mentioning the second child. Reusing or selling used diapers makes the cost equation a no-brainer. Earlier potty training on average for cloth-diapered kids is another factor. –  Nathan Apr 21 '11 at 4:32
    
Another answer suggested that cloth diapers last about 2 years. Has that matched your experience, or did they last longer for you? It seems like they would need to last at least 4 years in order to be useful for multiple children, if you assume potty training as early as 2 (I can't find any evidence that the diaper service's claims linked in Nathan's comments regarding earlier potty training have any scientific basis). –  Beofett Jun 22 '12 at 19:13
add comment

We washed our own cloth diapers with our first child, and only used disposable on trips. With our second, we did mostly cloth for the first year of her life, then mostly disposable for the second. We actually bought a front-loading washer, and it paid for itself in water and electricity bills within a few years.

In my experience, cloth diapers are quite a bit cheaper: the only big cost is the upfront one. If you have an energy-efficient, front-loading washer, you'll barely notice the cost of washing them. Again, there's an upfront cost there too, but you get the benefits long after the washer has paid for itself. Also, we just liked the cloth diapers better. They feel a lot nicer than disposables.

Why did we switch to disposables? Well, the velcro on the diapers we were using (bumGenius) started to wear out. Also, they didn't absorb enough, even with multiple liners, when our daughter wore them over night.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Depends.

We used cloth diapers because the alternative (unscented, non-chlorinated, not full-of-crap disposables) are quite expensive compared to the Huggies/Pampers alternative. We also feel that she is less likely to get rashes from cloth diapers and we aren't lazy when changing her diapers (you go through more cloth diapers than you would through disposables).

Our initial costs were ~$400 (ordered online) for a total of 48 cloth diapers (24 of one size, 24 of another) and 12 diaper covers. However, we used Wool Covers by Aristocrats which are about $35 a piece - $35*6 = $210. (We didn't like the velcro on the bummi covers, the wool covers are much more snuggly...and you never have leaks...) So around $600 of initial costs. The diapers are in good condition so we plan to use it with the second baby as well.

In the beginning, we did a full load everyday. After about 6 months, it was a load every 1.5-2 days. At 8 months it was around 2.5 days. We use disposables when we're out with her. We are also trying EC with her, so she uses less diapers and usually wakes up with a dry diaper. We don't use any liners.

I'd say that if you're planning to have multiple children, cloth diapers make sense - you can reuse them for quite some time (and even buy them reused). If you're planning to send your child to daycare after a few months, cloth might not make sense since you won't get to use them for too long...

share|improve this answer
1  
You seem to have mixed up disposables/cloth... I can't really follow what is being said. –  chills42 Apr 18 '11 at 11:43
    
wow, thanks. must've been brain dead when i wrote it :) –  Swati Apr 19 '11 at 17:25
    
+1 for the lol-factor. "Depends." no . . . we're talking babies. –  monsto Mar 12 '12 at 4:28
    
Some daycares are willing to use cloth diapers if you ask, though they may have certain requirements. We use the GroVia AI2 diapers and have them set up like the disposables, so the daycare workers don't have to do anything with the inserts. We also provide individual wet bags for the used diapers, and a larger wet bag to put them in. –  Shauna Jul 31 '12 at 13:00
add comment

From the research I'd done, if you clean the cloth diapers yourself, it will wind up being cheaper than disposables. How much cheaper depends on things such as how you clean them (by hand, or in an electric washing machine, plus the number of diapers cleaned in each load), how much you are paying for water, soap etc..

However, if you are using a diaper service to clean them for you, it will be significantly more expensive than it would be to purchase disposables (we had started with a diaper service, and then switched to disposables after about 2 months).

It is interesting to note that, at least in the United States, diaper services wash the cloth diapers repeatedly (I've read that 7 washes is about standard) before sending them back out to customers. When you factor in the energy used to wash them, the environmental cost winds up being roughly the same as with disposables.

share|improve this answer
    
Slightly cheaper seems like an understatement. Based on other users, it seems that there is a significant cost difference. –  David Manheim Jun 22 '12 at 18:37
1  
As I said, how much cheaper depends on how you clean them, utility costs, etc.. Most of the other answers don't factor those into their numbers, and the ones that do account for washing all involve modern, high efficiency washers. One answer shows $1900 savings over 2 years, but that is based off of a figure that is literally 5x what we pay a year for diapers. Two other answers estimated about $200 a year, which I wouldn't consider a major difference. –  Beofett Jun 22 '12 at 19:07
1  
Your use of the term "environmental cost" is ambiguous. Electricity is a renewable resource (or can be) but landfill space full of plastic diapers is non-renewable. –  Crake Dec 13 '12 at 22:08
    
You mentioned in another comment that your disposable cost is $584 a year, so $200 per year in savings is a 34% cost savings. Perhaps the straight number of $200 is not significant to you, but in my mind saving 34% justifies the term 'major', regardless of the actual straight number. My answer is based on a 25 year old washer and a 35 year electric old dryer held together with duct tape (pretty much worst case scenario for efficiency). –  Crake Dec 13 '12 at 22:12
1  
Not to say it isn't a valid point that people should consider whether $200 per year really is worth the additional effort of washing diapers at home (I think this is an under represented point of view in this discussion actually), just clarifying –  Crake Dec 13 '12 at 22:23
show 2 more comments

We cloth diaper almost solely for the cost benefits. We calculated that given our needs, we would break even in about 3 months.

We do not however use bumGenius or gdiapers. There are many other options that are as easy to use and far less expensive. Kawaii diapers are one example of a modern low cost diaper.

share|improve this answer
    
How do those go for washing? We find that prefolds were much better and easier to wash. We had a set of 6 "modern" cloth diapers (a gift), and found that after about 2 months of use the stains wouldn't come off as easily, they started smelling, etc. etc –  Swati Apr 19 '11 at 17:26
    
The washing cycles are a little different with pure cotton vs synthetic/fleece. The prefolds are definately the easiest to clean, but with extra rinsing the modern dippers wash great. –  chills42 Apr 19 '11 at 21:14
add comment

I really don't think that cloth save that much more than disposable when you factor in other things. For example, the only day care around that allowed me to do cloth charged $40 more a week to take my kid. It also wasn't a state registered day care. Your milage may vary there.

Then, looking at it from the viewpoint of a working mom- every night doing laundry? Why? Isn't my time worth more than that?

Third, as I taught myself to look for bargains, I did find considerable cost savings by couponing, by shopping online and shopping in bulk. I only plan on one kid- so I can't plan on recouping the savings with the next kid.

Using figures from Baby Bargains, my cost difference is going to be around 600 over three years. Enough that I just don't see the point.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Yes they are much cheaper, my total investment to date is $315, and my son is 14 months old. Prefolds are $1 per diaper in bulk, and I have around 60 of them, and then I bought Thirsties Duo covers at $10 per cover, which I have 10 of. You only change the cover if it gets soiled by a BM, or after a full day of use. I also use Kawaii diapers for day care, they are the 'modern' style, where it is just like a disposable in terms of how you change it.

I can go a full week between washing, but in practice I do the diapers twice a week. My electric bill has gone up around $8 per month due to the electric dryer.

As far as time investment goes - I want to spend time with my son, not run out to the store to buy diapers. I have never once had to run to the store to get diapers - that would be a deal breaker for me. The cheapest disposable diapers I see on amazon are 19 cents per diaper, for the non-premium brand.

Given the 19 cent figure, my investment would buy 1657 disposable diapers, and if you assume 8 changes per day, that would be 207 days of diapering - less than 7 months. Each month the savings in electricity would buy an additional 5 days worth as well.

Total costs to date for disposables would be $638. Total cost to date for cloth = $427. Cost savings = $211 and counting by $38 every month.

Note: wipes are not included in cost calculations, but I do use cloth wipes so the savings is bigger if you use them as well (although probably not gigantic).

share|improve this answer
add comment

My wife and I have been evaluating this recently, as well. Our initial cost for cloth diapers (if she doesn't make them) will be about $600. They'll last for an expected two+ years.

Disposables over the same time period we estimate will cost us about $2500. For us, as long as we spend less than $1900 in additional laundry costs, we're ahead.

share|improve this answer
1  
+1 for doing the math and planning ahead. Spreadsheets are great for more than just quarterly projections and TPS Reports. –  monsto Mar 12 '12 at 4:28
1  
$2500 on disposables over 2 years seems way high. We're averaging about $0.20 a diaper for disposables. If we assume an average of about 8 diapers a day, that's $584 a year. Your estimates seem 5x as high as they should be. –  Beofett Jun 22 '12 at 19:05
    
@Beofett - we were looking at the higher-end disposables, but even if we are off by a factor of ~4, We merely need to spend less than ~$600 a year in additional laundry costs –  warren Jun 22 '12 at 19:45
    
$600 for the initial purchase of the cloth diapers = 1 year's worth of disposables. You'd actually need to spend less than ~$300 a year on additional laundry costs, if you assume a 2 year lifespan (you can spend more on laundry if you reuse the diapers for more than 2 years, of course). Still likely to be a savings, just not anywhere near what your answer says. –  Beofett Jun 22 '12 at 19:50
    
@Beofett - you're right, I meant $600 in total laundry costs :) –  warren Jun 22 '12 at 20:09
add comment

It depends on how much you use them! If you use them at all times - certainly. But if you're like us, it's quite likely you won't.

We originally got MamaBless cloth diapers with bambino mio diaper covers and flushable liners. We like them a lot - mostly because they're just nicer than the plastic kind. We also hope that they will help speed up toilet training when the time comes, as the wetness is immediately unpleasant and easier to associate to peeing. But there are times when we don't or didn't use them:

  • When our son was less than three months old. They're supposedly 'one size fits all', but were far to big for him.
  • When we travel. They're a very heavy burden to just take along! (But we don't have a car, and we travel a lot to distant countries where our scattered families live.)
  • When we go on longer outings. We really don't like carrying a heavy, wet, soiled piece of cloth in our backpacks. (Again, maybe this is easier if you can just stash it in your car.)
  • At night. We would need to get up in the middle of the night, every night, to change him. This is no fun, as we both work and need to be up bright and early.

That being said, we still think they're great. For poop especially, there are never spill accidents with them, and they happen every so often with pampers. We also like the flushable liners so much that we now use them in pampers as well - so much more convenient to just pick up all the poop in the piece of cloth and flush it away.

In sum, I would still recommend them, but I'm not sure they really save us any cash.

share|improve this answer
    
We've been using them pretty regularly (pretty much except for when we leave little girl with other people, or get behind in the wash) but I know what you mean. I think in our case (using them 95% of the time) it's saved us some money so far. –  C. Ross Mar 8 '12 at 13:30
add comment

I actually used cloth diapers for my son because I find it cheaper compared with using diapers. Even if you have to wash the cloth diapers and spend for water, detergent and so on, you can still use cloth diapers in a longer run which will make it cheaper, compared with diapers.

Newborn babies also tend to pee a lot, so a diaper can only lasts for four hours. So in a day you can use 5 diapers or more. If you calculate it in a month, it will be costly compared with using cloth diapers.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Yes. We use fuzziBunz. We started using them at 3 months and are planning to use the dozen we have for about 18 months. We wash them every other day. We still have a few disposables around for when we are out of the house so we're not totally dedicated/dogmatic, but basically she wears the cloth diapers.
After wear and tear on the washing machine, water, detergent, and power, my estimate is that the diapers will save about $750 in cash over their lifetime, and a whole hell of a lot of plastic from the landfills. Its not particularly hard to do, we just keep a wet pail next to the washing machine. I say dive in. People lived without disposable plastic diapers for an awfully long time and, frankly, its economical and not all that difficult. Good luck.

share|improve this answer
add comment

We use bum genius 4.0 (we got a great deal on a package) and plan to use the same ones for all our kids. Our son is five months old and we've already broke even if we had used disposables and that's including diapers, detergent, and wet bags. I don't know what brand of really cheap disposables people are using to justify that they are the same cost. With our efficient washer and high quality diapers we can use for multiple kids we are saving a lot of $$.

share|improve this answer
add comment

I also think it depends on your living situation. For our family, our unit doesn't have laundry so at $2 a load to wash and then $2 to try it is not even close. I even used a cloth vs disposable diaper calculator to test out my theory and I am correct http://www.groceryalerts.ca/cloth-vs-disposable-diaper-calculator/.

Assuming cost of 20 cents per disposable diaper (can be cheaper with coupons), and $2 for laundry and $2 for a dryer,

Total Cost for Cloth Diapers: $2287.43 Total Cost for Disposable Diapers: $1280.79

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.