Friday, December 13, 2013

Cost of Cloth Diapering vs Disposables

            Hey cloth diapering or cloth curious parents! I'm sure you've probably seen one of  of these cost comparisons at least once in your cloth diaper research, but I still felt the need to share one of my own. Why? Well, while the ones I have seen elsewhere on the web definitely help give you a good idea of how much cloth diapering can cost if you decide to go with pocket diapers or All-in-Ones (AiOs), those numbers are quite a big inflation over the cost of going with covers, pre-folds, and flat-fold diapers, which is what we use. Most sites I have seen suggest the cost for starting out cloth diapering to be around $300. I don't know about you, but that's a little daunting still, even considering how much money you're still going to save by not buying disposables over time. That, my friends, is why I have gone to the trouble of figuring OUR expenses to share with you the cost of using cloth diapers vs. disposables from a more frugal stand point. I hope you find this helpful and be sure to share it with any of your friends who may be considering making the switch to cloth!
NOTE: The figures below for the cloth diapering section are what we have found to work best at the bare minimum, in our opinion, not necessarily what we started out with originally. To be completely open and honest, we started out with only 6 shells and used the actual Best Bottom inserts (since they are technically Ai2 diapers) at first. We bought 2 more covers when Myka was 2 months old and started the pre-fold/flat-fold business about the time she was 3 or 4 months old.

If you're wondering why I have both pre-fold and flat-fold diapers listed, check out the post HERE. (Link to post about using prefolds and flats together.)
For this scenario, we are going to assume you are changing your baby 7 times/day. (Yes, I realize most babies need changed more than that, especially if you have a newborn or young infant. I chose this number to show you at the very LEAST how much money you will be saving by using cloth diapers.)

-7 diaper changes/day=
-49 changes/week=
-196 changes/month

-8 Best Bottom shells/covers=$135.60 @ $16.95/each  (Again, prices of covers will vary from brand to brand. Some are cheaper, some are pricier.)
-2 Gerber 10 pack Pre-fold Birdseye 3-Ply Cloth Diapers=$28.64 @ $14.32/each
-2 Gerber 10 pack Flat-fold Birdseye Cloth Diapers=$24.68 @ $12.34/each
-Total Cost of Cloth Diapers=$188.92
-Extra cost of electric & water/month=$20x12 months=$240/year
-Total Cost of Cloth Diapering=$428.92

Note: Keep in mind that most people don't figure in the cost of electric & water. That's why yes, my total cost is more than the $300 like I mentioned at the beginning. That $300 is just for the cost of buying diapers.
For the disposable diaper segment, I decided to compare what seems to be the 2 most popular brands.

-Huggies Snug & Dry-Size 1-276 count-$45.00 @
-Pampers Swaddlers-Size 1-216 count-$45.97 @

Taking into account you would have to buy one package of these each month:

Cost for 1 year:
-$540 for Huggies
-$551.64 for Pampers

Cost for 2 years:
-$1,080 for Huggies
-$1,103.28 for Pampers

Cost for 3 years:
-$1,620 for Huggies
-$1,654.92 for Pampers
            So, there you have it. Definitely food for thought, huh? I'm not going to lie: Even a $188 upfront cost can be scary to a lot of us, myself included. Think about it this way: After about 4 months, you have already paid your cloth diapers off compared to disposables. Seriously. Just 4 months. Pretty amazing considering your baby will still need diapers for another 2 years on average!
            If you're worried about the extra cost of water and electricity, there are always ways to save there too if you are really frugal. Consider getting a grey water system hooked up so that you can reuse some of that water. Make your own laundry detergent instead of buying it. (It is SO cheap to make and makes SO much MORE!) I guess that doesn't actually have anything to do with your utility bill, but thought I would throw that in there while we're talking about doing laundry. Also consider air drying your diaper laundry (which is actually better for it as it helps it to last longer. That dryer is tough on your diapers, trust me!).
            There are other great reasons for cloth diapering as well, which I'm sure you are probably already aware of. The main thing for me, though, is I'd much rather buy other items my child needs or wants, like clothes, food, toys, etc. than literally throwing over $500 away each year. Whatever reason(s) you may be looking into cloth diapering, I wish you the best of luck on your journey!


  1. I also Love the Best Bottoms shells! I think they are by far the best optiopn for a newborn and the most versital

    1. Me too! I love, love, love one-size diapers because who wants to spend extra money on different sizes as they get older? Not me!

  2. Just out of curiosity -- do people resell their cloth diaper shells? Or how does that work? That would also add to the equation, since the resale factor would add to the savings. I was a disposable diaper mama but if I had known more about it I would have been easily convinced to cloth diaper.

    1. If they are in decent shape yes, some people do. There are swap shop type groups (the actual name is eluding me right now) like on Facebook and probably babycenter as well where people sell them for a few dollars off the original price depending on their condition. Cloth diapers don't really depreciate in value as it is right now. :)

  3. I love pockets. And nearly all my diapers are second-hand or China cheapies. I love LOVE cloth diapering though. I don't have time to go to the store and waste money on products that will sit in land fills forever. No way!

  4. I used to use, sew and sell my own brand of WAHM cloth diapers several years ago and agree wholeheartedly. Yes, we resold everything that was in great condition.