In Life, Minimalism, Money

A Modern Cloth Diapers versus Disposable Diapers Analysis – Which one comes out on top?

This has probably been done to death but I haven’t found anything that really laid it out practically and simply to understand, so I am doing a post (mostly for me).

ASSUMPTIONS:

  • 8 Diapers used per day on average, therefore 2920 diaper changes per year on average (newborns use more then it tapers off)
  • Using the same quality of cloth diapers versus disposables (e.g. biodegradable & unbleached disposables versus organic cotton)
  • Taking into account diapering accessories required like soap, electricity, detergent etc

stock-medical-baby-newborn-child-doctor-ob

They’re cute but they sure do make a lot of waste.

2920 DIAPER CHANGES IN A YEAR

I should mention that wearing cloth diapers apparently makes children want to potty-train sooner. If that does not convince you to try cloth diapering over disposables, I do not know what will.

The grandchildren currently in my family wore diapers up until 3 years old…. so if you can imagine having to deal with THAT for 3 years, good luck.

(That fact alone was enough to convince me to use cloth diapers, never mind hippie environmental impact stuff or the savings!)

CLOTH DIAPERS (THE INITIAL YEAR)

CLOTH DIAPERS (FIRST YEAR) Per Item Total Cost ON taxes (13%) NOTES
Biodegradable Liners (1)  $4.99  $149.70  $169.16 100% Biodegradable — You put these liners inside the diapers and only flush them if they’re soiled
Prefold Inserts (2)  $27.49  $164.94  $186.38 100% Organic Cotton Padding — Kind of like padding for a diaper
Diapers Covers (3)  $16.95  $84.75  $95.77 100% Organic Cotton Cover for the diaper
Diaper Wash Board  $25.00  $25.00  $28.25 We had to buy a wash board to pre-wash the diapers before putting them in the laundry
Diaper Pail  $10.00  $10.00  $11.30 Need to put dirty diapers somewhere!!
Diaper Carrying Bag  $40.00  $40.00  $45.20 Aquapac Scuba Diving Bag (to carry the soiled diapers when we are out)
Laundry Costs (4)  $3.00  $366.00  $366.00 $3 for a wash and a dry
Baking Soda
 $1.00  $24.00  $24.00 Assuming 2 boxes of baking soda used a month to deodorize stinky diapers
Savon de Marseilles Soap  $4.99  $59.88  $67.66 Assuming 1 Savon de Marseilles (soap) bar a month (we will be pre-cleaning before throwing it in the wash)
Soap Nuts (Detergent)  $25.99  $25.99  $29.37 1 bag of these soap nuts will last about 200 washes a year so I’m overestimating just in case
 TOTAL  $1,023.09  FIRST YEAR / INITIAL COST

(1) to (4) CALCULATIONS / NOTES:

  1. 100 in each pack assuming 8 changes a day x 365 days = 30 packs needed
  2. 6 prefolds in each pack, assuming we need 36 (3 days worth) = 6 packs needed
  3. 1 diaper cover costs $16.95, we bought 5 because we’re changing the prefolds more than the cover = 5 needed
  4. We’re in an apartment where it costs $3 for a wash and dry, wash every 3 days or 122 times a year

CLOTH DIAPERS (THE SUBSEQUENT YEARS)

 

RECURRING YEARLY COSTS
Biodegradable Liners  $169.16
Laundry Costs  $366.00
Baking Soda  $24.00
Soap (Pre-Cleaning)  $67.66
Soap Nuts (Detergent)  $29.37
TOTAL  $656.19

This isn’t so bad after the initial cost of buying the cloth diapers and so on.

 

DISPOSABLE DIAPERS (COST PER YEAR)

DISPOSABLE DIAPERS Per Item Total Cost ON taxes (13%)  NOTES
7th Generation Diapers(40 come in a pack)  $19.99  $1,459.27  $1,648.98 These are unbleached, biodegradable and the top of the top when it comes to buying hippie diapers
TOTAL  $1,648.98  

stock-baby-photo-child

Poo machine

DISPOSABLES VERSUS CLOTH DIAPERS

Now for the good stuff!

I optimistically want at least 3 children.

PER CHILD  DISPOSABLE  CLOTH DIFFERENCE
Child One (Year 1)  $1,648.98  $1,023.09  $(625.88)
Child One (Year 2)  $1,648.98  $656.19  $(992.78)
SUBTOTAL  $3,297.95  $1,679.29  $(1,618.66)
Child Two (Year 1)  $1,648.98  $656.19  $(992.78)
Child Two (Year 2)  $1,648.98  $656.19  $(992.78)
SUBTOTAL  $3,297.95  $1,312.39  $(1,985.56)
Child Three (Year 1)  $1,648.98  $656.19  $(992.78)
Child Three (Year 2)  $1,648.98  $656.19  $(992.78)
SUBTOTAL  $3,297.95  $1,312.39  $(1,985.56)
TOTAL  $9,893.85  $4,304.06  $(5,589.79)

Basically what this is telling me is that if I have 3 children I can save about $5600 over the next 6 years of diapering if I just use cloth diapers.

If you can’t find a use for $5600, I sure can.

AM I MISSING SOMETHING IN THE CALCULATIONS, SEASONED PARENTS? PLEASE TELL ME!

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Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

Am my own Sugar Daddy. Am a millionaire at 36 after getting out of $60K of student debt in 18 months, a little over a decade earlier, using TheBudgetingTool.com. I have worked 50% of my career (taking 1-2 year breaks), and quadrupled my income within 2 years of graduating, going from $65K to $260K with an average lifetime savings rate of 50%. I have 11 side incomes that are on track in 2020 to make me $50K - $75K. I could retire today if I wanted, but love my work-life balance as a freelancing consultant in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). I am all about balance - between time and money, and also enjoying my money. I also post daily on Instagram @saverspender.

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30 Comments

  1. LAL

    Yep it’s not cheaper when you have to go through five brands to find one that fits. Lucky if you get one that does and doesn’t leak. They went through g diapers, bummis, and few more and ended up using green Mountain. Said it turned out to not be worth it as their kid was potty trained like my girl at age 2 and needed night time pull-ups. So length in diapers make a difference.

    My other green neighbors found the same thing and are using disposables now. Lol. They went through three sets that didn’t fit and gave up.

    I know two friends who successfully used their clothes diapers on their first but by their second they switched because it was too much work

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      Bummis ended up being awesome for us. It didn’t fit his leg holes at first (he was too skinny) but as he got fatter it really made a difference.

      Reply
  2. Lisa

    I am nowhere near having a baby, but when/if I do, I would give cloth diapers a chance. Sure, it takes a little more work, but I don’t mind it considering I’ll be saving a ton of change! Great comparison post!

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      If you have more than one kid, it is worth it. Otherwise, perhaps not unless you want to do it for other reasons.

      That said, my province of Quebec actually gives a rebate or money back if you cloth diaper….!!

      Reply
  3. dojo

    I want and have one kid only. Even if they were 10, I’d still go with disposables. In this case I’m willing to pay for the convenience. I do run the washing machine every 2-3 days with her and our clothes and it’s the only such job I want to be doing, since it’s already taking quite some time (especially here tiny clothes – and I’m not ironing).

    My day is spent with the baby, most of it. If she’s sleeping, I prepare her food or work for my clients. I’d not sacrifice a moment just to handle the diapers which in this case take 2 seconds to remove and throw away 😀

    In my country our monthly Pampers ‘stack’ costs about 50-70 bucks. We’re willing to sacrifice this money for the convenience of it. Sure, if there was any diaper genie who’d come to do the work for me, I’d use the cloth diapers starting from yesterday

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      I find that disposables are the same work as cloth. I just have to run the laundry more but I do that anyway (every 2 days, those days). Cloth is better in that diaper rash has been minimized now.

      Reply
      1. dojo

        @save. spend. splurge.: Nadia had absolutely NO diaper rashes, even with Pampers, which are indeed ‘perfumed’ and all the jazz. We use a good ointment and I always wash her at each diaper change. We purchased a lot of wipes, but I use them only when we’re not at home and I don’t have access to a sink. I just hold her in my left arm and use the right to clean the ‘cheeks’. Warm water and her regular shower gel seem to work great. Anyway .. at the end of the day each is free to use any option that works better. I am happy we actually have where to choose from. In my case the disposables are OK, in your case cloth diapers keep you all happy 🙂

        Reply
        1. save. spend. splurge.

          Yes I agree 🙂 Have you had any blowouts of poo and so on? Maybe my son is more heavy in that department because it seems as though disposables can’t contain his pooing (flimsy).. Whereas cloth does because the diaper cover is really strong and waterproof.

          Reply
          1. dojo

            @save. spend. splurge.: She had one time when it didn’t get contained properly (she also peed heavily). Otherwise I had absolutely NO problems with our diapers. They’re very comfy for her, it takes me 2 seconds to put them on and absolutely no rash or anything close to this. Since in my case disposables provided such a great experience for both of us, it explains why I’d be apprehensive to try anything else. There are other brands here (cheaper than Pampers), but we chose what we consider the best. It’s indeed an ‘investment’, but at the moment it’s not straining us financially. Sure, if we’d try to aggressively save, you can guess I’d take price into account, but so far the expense is not such a huge deal.

          2. save. spend. splurge.

            The expense only makes sense if you want more kids and can reuse the items. Otherwise it is just the same to use disposables (Earth considerations taken out) as it is to cloth diaper.

  4. Victoria @thefrugaltrial

    I’m not pregnant but when thinking about kids I have assumed I will use cloth diapers (or nappies as we say in the UK). One question, do you need a specific diaper pail? Couldn’t you just use any old bucket and lid?

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      I used a garbage pail I bought for $10. I line it in a light plastic bag (which I throw away if it gets disgusting) and I throw all the items into the wash every 2 days (now that he is on bigger cloth diapers and his bum is bigger, I am changing him every hour and a half to 2 hours), 36 is more than enough.

      When he was a newborn, it was really tough doing it because I changed him very 4-6 times an hour. Now it is easier.

      Reply
  5. Lila

    You’re such a hipster 😉 – my mom used cloth diapers on me. I turned out fine. ^_^

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      We use cloth mostly for environment, that we read they toilet train sooner than disposable, and I find we don’t get poo blowouts at ALL. With disposables I got it once in a while.

      Reply
      1. Lila

        @save. spend. splurge.: I think that its a good thing you care about the environment since not everyone does and try to live by your values. That’s very admirable.

        btw, what’s a poo blowout?

        Reply
        1. save. spend. splurge.

          LOL!! A poo blowout is when the diaper fails to contain the poo shooting out of the Baby Bun bum. Basically it goes all the way up their back, out the leg holes and soaks their entire outfit…. Sometimes even the entire bedding, and if you don’t catch them in time, they can even smear it all over their face and hair unknowingly (true story).

          Reply
          1. Lila

            @save. spend. splurge.: LOL well I’m glad I went to your site to check your answer after eating dinner. 😉

            Poo blowouts sound like one of the worst things in the world for babies. Poor kids. That alone would make me use cloth diapers if I ever have kids.

          2. save. spend. splurge.

            The cloth diapers work really well because the cover contains everything. It’s elastic, stretchy and thick.

            Also, baby poo no longer grosses me out.. it’s just normal now. I don’t even let it deter my appetite.

  6. MelD

    So. I never used cloth – which was a lot simpler way back than the fancypants kind you get now. Interestingly, though British/American’s used terrycloth nappies/diapers and pins, that was never done here in central Europe. Here it was a muslin folded and laid on a flannel nappy/diaper that was folded and tucked, with knitted woollen pants (soakers in English, I believe) over the top (they showed me this in the hospital, where I grabbed the first disposable I could get my hands on!). I think that worked pretty well in the days when moms started potty training at 6 mths (like the commenter who said she was pooping in the pot at 10 mths) and knew their kids’ rhythm…
    Nowadays, kids are often left to potty train when they want or “feel ready”, and my experience was two girls who trained (daytimes) at 2 1/4-2 1/2 and one who was 3 1/4 before she would go (but was then dry day and night). My grandson is 6 and still has the occasional accident, he was hard to train at 4. His sister took all her clothes off on her mom’s 30th birthday, a sunny day in March, aged 2 1/2 and never put the nappy/diaper back on again – she is fully reliable at not quite 3.
    Also, none of these kids ever used 8 or more nappies/diapers per day, more like 5, just for calculations’ sake ;o!!
    Re. disposables – I first used the most famous brand name but was soon recommended to use a store’s own brand, which were not only way cheaper but had far fewer chemicals and perfume, which is still the case today in our country. But everyone needs to find their own “fit” so personally, I find the discussion pretty futile! As you show, there are many things to factor in, whether it’s cost or ethics.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      I find the Delora diapers are best for Baby Bun in disposables but I much prefer cloth because everything gets contained with the diaper cover. If I had to use the old style cloth diapers I would have gone disposable too. Muslin is not that absorbent for a lot of liquid!!! 🙂

      Reply
  7. Janette

    Am I missing the cost of purchasing the cloth diapers? I see liners, inserts and covers but not the diapers themselves.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      Sorry Janette! I had to look back at what I wrote. The “Prefold Inserts” are the cloth part of the cloth diaper. You have two types: the all-in-one diaper which is like a disposable in the sense where the snaps are on the cloth part and you just put a plastic cover over it to contain the mess.. Or the Prefold diapers (which I love and use) which have pieces of cloth that you insert into the plastic cover which has snaps on it. I prefer this option of Prefolds because you can reuse the diaper cover, it takes up less space and less laundry space. I bought the all-in-ones and they use a lot of space and are more expensive at $18/per diaper and you need the extra plastic covers to boot; but they are easier to use (remove and toss the whole thing into the wash, instead of having to pick out the cloth insert from the cover each time). If you can imagine needing 36 of them it gets pricey. In comparison the Prefolds are $7 for 6 cloth fold inserts and $7×6 is much cheaper.

      Reply
      1. Janette

        @save. spend. splurge.: Hmm that makes more sense; I wish I had read this sooner! We’ve got twins on the way and I’ve been trying to figure out cloth diapers. Sadly I had no idea there were 2 different kinds! I just bought a lot of 36 all-in-ones from ebay that are basically new (the seller gave up on cloth very early- said 3 have been used once). I paid $200 for all of them though so I *think* I got a decent deal? I’m not sure that 36 will be enough… especially for 2, so I’ll keep the prefolds in mind if we want to supplement.

        Reply
        1. save. spend. splurge.

          36 is enough I think if you plan on laundry every day. I didn’t want to do laundry daily but I am doing it at least once every other day it seems… Our washing machine is too small to wait for 3 days of diapers but it is easier with Prefolds instead of All-in-Ones.

          If it helps, you did get a good deal because it would have been $600 for the all in ones…

          Reply
  8. Michelle

    That’s a lot of poop. I am also a cloth diaper supporter! And, my mom used cloth diapers on me and I learned to do my business on the pottie by about 10 months (I walked early). Yes, I type this with a serious look on my face. I am all about saving money and getting the shorties self-managed as quickly as possible.

    Reply
  9. Michelle

    That’s a lot of poop. I am also a cloth diaper supporter! And, my mom used cloth diapers on me and I learned to my business on the pottie by about 10 months (I walked early). Yes, I type this with a serious look on my face. I am all about saving money and getting the shorties self-managed as quickly as possible.

    Reply
  10. Emily @ Simple Cheap Mom

    We did cloth for the first year. We switched to disposables when we were showing our house for sale, then found out our new dryer sucked, and then we decided to only have one kid. We were at the stage where we needed to buy the next size up and only planning on having the one kid really took away the savings.

    We used a dry pail method for our diapers. An old garbage can with lid and a wet bag to line it. No prewashing or soaking. We used Nelly’s detergent and nothing else in the wash. We never really used our liners because they moved around so didn’t usually catch what we’d want them to…. It seems like you’re using a wet pail method for your calculations, so numbers will be higher/lower in some spots.

    My only other suggestion would be that there are lots of ways to get cloth diapers for much less than retail. I got my prefolds, non organic, as seconds off eBay from a Canadian business. They were amazing and for the first year’s worth cost only $30 total. Also, I got covers that supported a Chinese Orphanage for $5 a piece (assunta store). I did have a problem with the covers when Little Miss was getting to an awkward size and the customer service from them was amazing.

    Reply
  11. Morgaine

    How did you guys prewash these before the laundry? Living in an apartment, did you put them in the sink first? I’m definitely thinking about using cloth diapers, its the cleaning part that I’m still thinking about, logistically. We have a laundry tub in our laundry room, that’s probably where I could soak and prewash the diapers. More things to think about 🙂

    Nevermind, I just looked up the washing board, it goes in the toilet. Hmm, that makes a lot of sense 🙂

    Reply
  12. Chiara

    I’m not a mom (yet), but I’m expecting and have done a lot of research on cloth diapering. The only things I think you’re missing are (a) the wear on the diapers, you might have to buy new cloth diapers with subsequent children depending on what shape they’re in; (b) wipes (?) does that factor into the equation?

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      The wear on the cloth diapers is negligible, the ones I got are a thick cotton from Bummis and they’re amazing. I bought the newborn prefolds and they’re still in good shape. Now he is on the larger ones and they’re going strong. I also bought the fancy $18/per diaper all-in-ones and never used them because they weren’t as good as the Prefolds. I regret spending that money.

      I also bought reusable wipes so that doesn’t factor in for me. I wash them all at once in super hot water with soap nuts and everything comes out super clean.

      Any more questions give me a holler 🙂

      Reply

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