Dispelling the Myths: Why Cloth Diapering is Truly Easier Than it Seems

I’ve been cloth diapering for over 6 years, but I still sometimes find myself surprised by the strange looks and the mistaken opinions that most people have when the topic arises.

I want to dispel some myths in what will be a short but hopefully clarifying series on cloth diapering.

In my experience I have found that using cloth dipes is simply not:

  • More expensive
  • More disgusting
  • More time consuming
  • More inconvenient
  • For hippies only :)

Today I will begin by addressing two of the most common myths that I hear, next week I’ll continue on with the following 3 myths, and then I will open it up for you to ask me all of your more specific questions that I will do my very best to answer.

Cloth diapering isn’t more expensive

It baffles me to no end that people wonder this, although I suppose it might be because they gasp at the idea of the initial cost outset. Yes, cloth diapers do cost more upfront. No, they are not even a fraction of the cost long term.

Let’s crunch some numbers.

The average baby goes through about 6 diapers per day. Many newborns go through twice that many, averaging 8-10 per day at least, while an older baby may get down to as little as 4 diapers per day, so we’ll use 6 as the overall average.

6 diapers x 30 days= 180 diapers monthly

Case of Size 4 Pampers diapers at Amazon (with 192 diapers) = $33.14 (that’s a very cheap price, actually- now you know where to buy disposables if my posts don’t convince you to try cloth!)

Disposable wipes= About 200 monthly (this is very conservative- it’s probably much higher)

Wipes cost (bought in bulk)= About $0.02 to $0.04 each.

Averaging that at $0.03 per wipe at 200 per month, that’s another $6 monthly.

Total disposable diapering monthly cost: $39.14 approximately (higher for a baby under 3-4 months old)

(Not to mention the use of other products like a Diaper Genie and it’s refills, etc.)

Image by trenttsd

Now let’s crunch the numbers for cloth.

15 FuzziBunz One Size Diapers= $284.20 USD (includes shipping- this is from Nicki’s Diapers)

Add $21.95 for a hanging, washable dirty-diaper bag, and another $25 for 24 unbleached cotton washable wipes.

A set of diapers like this will carry you from the time baby is about 8-10 lbs all the way through potty training. I use and adore these diapers myself, and they still fit my 4 year old who needs a diaper at night. 15 diapers will allow you to go 2-3 days between washes, depending how many diapers baby goes through. Note that there are much cheaper options (like cotton prefolds and fitted covers, but I’ll stick with the pocket diaper example because of their popularity and ease of use).

Assuming baby fully potty-trains by 24 months old (idealistic, but not really likely):

Monthly cloth diapering cost= $13.80 per month

A few more things to note:

  • If baby takes longer than 2 years to potty train (which many do), your monthly cost only goes down.
  • You will also likely get to use each set of diapers and wipes for 2 children, not just 1, if you take good care of them (I will definitely get two kids out of my current pocket diaper stash). If so, you just cut your cost almost in half.

Now what about hot water costs and laundry detergent?

Yes, there is a slight cost increase, but it’s very low. I wash 2-3 loads per week, and I do use hot water (keeping my water levels low). But, I air-dry my diapers, saving on electricity and preserving the life of the diapers, as many moms do. I would guess that the additional utilities costs are maximum $5-10 per month.

I buy my detergent in large boxes to keep the cost down. I use less detergent in my diaper washes than in my regular wash, to prevent build-up. I probably use the detergent equivalent of about 5-6 extra laundry loads, which doesn’t cost more than $1 monthly (even with the use of a high-quality, natural detergent).

Even supposing we bump our $13.80 up to $22  to account for extra costs associated with washing, we are still at just over half the cost of disposables.

Final monthly cost comparison

Cloth diapering= $22

Disposable diapering = $39.14 (minimum)

Image by futurestreet

Cloth diapering isn’t more disgusting

I know, I know. You don’t believe me.

Let me ask you this… by using disposables, do you avoid having to wipe really dirty bums and avoid smelling nasty diapers? Do you avoid messy diaper blowouts on occasion? I didn’t think so.

Additionally, did you know that even with the use of disposables, you are supposed to be dumping all solid waste into the toilet, rather than simply rolling the full diaper up and tossing it in the garbage can? (I know, hardly anyone does that, but it’s true!)

When I take off a wet diaper, I get nothing more on my hands than I would with a disposable diaper, and I simply toss it in my diaper pail and close the lid. When I clean up a dirty diaper, I get no more on my hands than one might while cleaning up a disposable diaper with a disposable wipe (and then I go wash my hands, same as everyone else).

Dirty diapers go in a dry pail, so there is no dirty water sloshing around. Toss them in, close the lid, walk away. Spray air freshener if you like. When it’s time to wash, open the washer, dump the entire contents of the pail in, turn it on and close the lid. I spray and rinse out my pail, dump the dirty water and only once in a while give it a true scrub when it needs it. And if you want to avoid needing to scrub out a pail, use a washable wet bag to store your diapers instead, which gets tossed straight into the washer with your diapers, and comes out smelling fresh.

The only time that cloth diapering is potentially less pleasant is when I need to rinse out a dirty diaper in the toilet before putting it in the pail. I grab the four clean ends of the diaper to hold, swirl it around a bit, flush the toilet, and toss the diaper in the pail. Short and simple, hold your breath if you like and I won’t tell a soul.

Image by burstyriffic

What about dirty diapers in my purse or diaper bag while we’re out?

Easy. Get a small, washable wet bag that fits your diaper bag (mine can even go in my regular purse). It keeps any wetness and stink inside, until I can get home to dump the contents and wash the wet bag so that it’s fresh to take out with me once more.

Two cloth diapering myths dealt with, three to go next week, and then I’ll open it up for any and every question you can throw my way… Until then, look forward to a cloth diapering store giveaway coming up this Thursday!

What do you think about the issues of cost for disposables vs. cloth? And be honest, fellow cloth diapering mamas, is it disgusting or not?

Top image by simplyla

About Stephanie Langford

Stephanie Langford has a passion for sharing ideas and information for homemakers who want to make healthy changes in their homes, and carefully steward all that they've been given. She has written three books geared to helping families live more naturally and eat real, whole foods, without being overwhelmed, without going broke and with simple meal planning. She is the creator of Keeper of the Home.

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  1. Has it not occured to anyone that when you are accustomed to using a certain diaper you are FAR less likely to have leaks than when you use a different diaper? The dreaded “blowouts” that we’ve had would’ve crawled out of ANY diaper, I promise. I’m pretty sure they were still crawling when I was cleaning them up! The only problems with leaks I’ve had in disposables were due to babies growing OR using a diaper I wasn’t used to. I personally don’t care what kind of diapers people use. And with a 1 & 2 year old, one of whom has extra needs; being an “older” mom *who was a cloth diapered baby* with less energy; and already doing at least 2 loads of laundry per day I’m okay with disposables. My house does NOT smell like dirty diapers, we don’t use ANY air fresheners or “scents” in our house due to a family member with asthma. My diaper pail doesn’t have a “gross out” factor as it is emptied about as often as I read cloth users wash their diapers. A mom should never be criticized or shamed for her choice of diapers.

    • You’re right, no one should be shamed for making any choice, and that’s certainly not the goal of this post. It was simply for those who were unsure of using cloth, to realize that if it’s something that they’re potentially interested in, they might find it easier and more manageable than they thought it was. For those who are content using disposables, there is no intention to criticize at all. I’m sorry if it came across in that manner. Have a good day! :)

  2. I really appreciate this post. I used disposables with my son, but would be willing to try cloth if I ever had another baby. I don’t know whether or not I would stick with it; I honestly couldn’t answer that till I tried it firsthand. But what I love about your post is that it is not judgmental or condascending toward people who use disposables, and it is honest. Some of the cost comparisons I have seen have been ridiculous (totally inflating the cost of using disposables). I appreciate that yours was an accurate portrayal.

  3. Stephanie, thanks for all your writing on cloth diapering. Your blog is very motivating to me!

    I find that having a garbage can (even with lid) full of dirty disposable diapers is much stinkier than a diaper pail full of dirty cloth diapers, because I always swish the poop in the toilet first. When you use fleece liners, it almost all comes off so easily. I have no problem putting it all through the washer and then washing clothes the next batch. I do a cold rinse first, like Stephanie does, and never notice any thing stinky or gross about my washer or clothes. That’s what soap is for.

  4. Hmmm.
    So does that mean you throw the dirty diaper into the washer machine with some poop attached to the cloth? I mean not all of it is going to come off and go into the toilet. I can’t imagine washing my clothes knowing I threw poop in the washer the load before.. O.o
    I just can’t get over that. It’s a little gross, okay I lied, very very gross. lol

    • @Janice, Well, hardly any. There are little bits left, but the great majority ends up in the toilet, not the washer. And it doesn’t phase me because I rinse the diapers first, then give them a full hot wash. There’s nothing left in the washer after. I know. I’ve looked and smelled. :)

    • If the diapers are clean when the wash is done, so is the washer!


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