Cloth Diapers vs Disposable Diapers Cost

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My Actual Costs In the First Two Years

by: Mrs. Cash Lab
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With cloth diapers making a comeback in recent years, many new parents are wondering about the costs of cloth diapers vs disposable diapers.  There are hundreds of articles about the pros and cons of cloth diapers.  Sure it may be more work, but if that translates to money saved then it could be worth it.  But just how much money would you save by using cloth diapers vs disposable diapers?

My husband and I found ourselves asking the same questions.  I read many blogs on the subject of cloth diapers.  We got the general sense that cloth diapers are cheaper vs disposable diapers.

Now that we have two years of experience under our belt of using cloth diapers and tracking the cost of washing cloth diapers, I was able to tally up the results.

I was a bit surprised in the outcome when I compared the costs of cloth diapers vs disposable diapers.  All together we purchased 36 cloth diapers, however once our baby reached 6 months old, then we were down to 23 cloth diapers that fit.

Since this is a personal financial blog, I’m going to get right down to the numbers based on our actual purchases.  I’ll show you exactly which cloth diapers we bought and how much we spent.  The final results may surprise you!

 

Cloth Diapers

Let’s start with the cloth diapers themselves.  There are two different sizes of cloth diapers.    Size 1 is for newborns and Size 2 we started using around 6 months in conjunction with the Size 1 cloth diapers.

It may not seem cost effective to use cloth diapers for newborns as they quickly grow out of them.  However, there is one brand we purchased out of three different brands we tried, which we still used all the way up to 18 months.  Granted we were using only one snap on both sides, but it worked!

Below are the cloth diapers we purchased in Size 1 and Size 2.

 

Size 1 – Newborn Cloth Diapers



Size 2 – Cloth Diapers


Cloth Diaper Covers

You have to have a cloth diaper cover!  Otherwise there is nothing protecting the clothes your baby is wearing from becoming damp and sometimes soiled.

Since there are two sizes of cloth diapers, there are also two sizes of cloth diaper covers.  Unfortunately the size 1 diaper covers are really only good for about 6 months.  They are just too small to use after the 6 month mark.  There are some one size fits all diaper covers, but when we tried them on our newborn they were too bulky on her tiny body.  So I would recommend having two Size 1 cloth diaper covers.

 

Size 1 – Newborn Cloth Diaper Covers

Sweet Pea Newborn Cloth Diaper Cover
Sweet Pea Newborn Cloth Diaper Cover
Total Upfront Cost for Size 1 Newborn Diaper Covers
$11.95
$11.95
$23.90




Size 2 – Cloth Diaper Covers


All In One Diapers

We did buy some all in one diapers to try them out.  The ones we bought weren’t specifically for newborns and we really didn’t use any all in one diapers until our daughter was about 15 lbs.  All in one diapers are also less bulky which I would think is easier for a baby to maneuver in.  We bought a total of 4 all in one diapers but we could probably get away with only having 2.

In our experience, we typically use the all in one diapers if we are going to be away from home.  If there is a chance we could be changing a diaper in the middle of a parking lot, we use an all in one.  The reason being is it’s just one less step since it is a cloth diaper and cover.  These are always the last diapers we use before doing laundry as we save them just in case we go anywhere.

 



 

Wet Bags

When you have a dirty cloth diaper you need a place to put it.  I recommend having 2 wet bags.  When you fill up one wet bag then you need another one ready to use when the first one is being washed with the dirty diapers.  Here’s what we bought:

 

$18.95
$18.95

$37.90

 


Diaper Liners

Diaper liners are very important as they protect your diaper investment!  You need to use a liner for every diaper change to protect your cloth diaper from a poo.

We bought cloth reusable liners as well as disposables diaper liners.  The disposable diaper liners really are the way to go.  They are super thin and they don’t cost too much.  The reusable diaper liners are thick and bulky and we don’t really use them.

I went back and looked at how many diaper liners we used in a years time.  Here is what we tried out:

 

 

 

Laundry Soap

We’ve only ever used one type of laundry soap for washing cloth diapers.  It works great and all our diapers come out fresh smelling with no stains.   I will say we have been consistently buying a new container of soap every 3 months.  So four containers of soap has lasted us a full year.

 


 

Other Diaper Accessories Needed

There is only one other diaper accessory we purchased.  Since we were using pre-fold cloth diapers, then we needed cloth diaper fasteners.

We used the fasteners all the way up to 12 months.  The fasteners got us through our Size 1 and Size 2 pre-folds.  Once our baby was around 12 months old, the Size 2 pre-folds did not fit as well.

At this point we found that 2 of our diaper covers had a nice flap inside them where you can lay the pre-fold cloth diaper in.  So now instead of folding the diaper around our baby, the pre-fold diaper is folded in a rectangle and lays inside the diaper cover.

Our newborn diaper covers did not have this flap technology.  If they did then we could have avoided using the fasteners all together!

 

 


I have no idea why these cloth diaper fasteners are so expensive!  They probably cost $0.05 to make.  We bought a 5 pack and lost 2 of them somewhere along the way.  A 3 pack is a few dollars cheaper but if you happen to lose as many as we did, then it may be a safer bet to buy a 5 pack.

 

Cost of Washing Cloth Diapers

Since you have to  wash cloth diapers, then your water and electric bills will increase.  Our washer and dryer are electric, not gas.  If you have a gas dryer then you’ll have to factor that in as well.

We have 23 cloth diapers which are on rotation (6 pre-folds and 17 regular).  Since some of the newborn diapers don’t fit, the 23 cloth diapers represent what we can use between age 6 months to 24 months.  When we do diaper laundry we are typically washing 20 diapers.  Diaper laundry is done about 2.5 times a week for a total of 10 loads a month.  Each load of diaper laundry we do is set to a small load.  We do a pre-rinse cycle, a wash cycle, and two rinse cycles for each load.

Our water bill is paid quarterly and our electric bill is paid monthly.  This represents the annual increased costs we experienced with one child.  There is also extra laundry from washing a babies clothes separately so that has affected the increase shown below.

 

Water bill ($8/month increase)
Electric bill ($6/month increase)

Total Utility Costs in One Year

$96.00
$72.00

$168.00

 


These figures will vary based on where you live.  Our quarterly water bill averages $86 and our monthly electric bill averages $90 per month.  If your monthly bills represent something close to mine, then it should give you a pretty good idea of your increased costs.

 

Disposable Diapers

What we found is cloth diapers are great for daily use.  However, you can’t beat a disposable diaper for night time.  We also like having disposable diapers in our diaper bag when we are away from home.

If you plan on using daycare, some daycares will only use disposable diapers so keep that in mind.  This is what we purchased and used in an entire year for disposable diapers, keeping in mind we did not use daycare:

 

 


We did use more disposable diapers when our daughter was a newborn.  Caring for a baby was all new to us and sometimes the easiest thing to do was use a disposable diaper.

 

Total Costs in Year 1

Size 1 Cloth Diapers
Size 2 Cloth Diapers
Size 1 Cloth Diaper Covers
Size 2 Cloth Diaper Covers
All In One Diapers
Wet Bags
Diaper Liners
Laundry Soap
Other Diapers Accessories
Utility Costs

Total Cost of Cloth Diapers

Total cost of Disposable Diapers

Final Cost of All Diapers in Year 1

$107.71
$186.82
$23.90
$49.76
$82.64
$37.90
$66.33
$62.96
$14.99
$168.00

$801.01

$111.96

$912.97

 

When I saw the final number of how much we spent on diapers for one child in total during the first year, I was a bit surprised.  We read all the blogs and went to a diaper class.  Our research was helpful, however it still came down to trial and error and finding out what we liked.

There are definitely things we would not have purchased now that we have gone through with cloth diapers.  I know cloth diapering can be cheaper than disposable diapers.  So based on my experience, I’ve come up with the cheapest way to do cloth diapers.

I did an analysis on the cost of using disposable diapers exclusively in the first year and determined this amount to be: $529.62.  This sure blows away the cost we incurred of using a hybrid method of cloth diapers and disposable diapers.  In fact, we would have saved $383.35 if we just used disposable diapers.

But that is based on us doing trial and error which is probably what a majority of people will do if experimenting with cloth diapers.  If you follow my cheapest way to do cloth diapers guide, then you will be further ahead than we were.

 

Total Costs In Year 2

Fortunately, cloth diapers have much lower costs in the second year.  The diapers have already been purchased, now we just have to upkeep them.  Let’s take a look at how much we spent on cloth diapers and disposable diapers in year 2.

Cloth Diaper Costs

Diaper Liners
Laundry Soap
Utility Costs

Total Cloth Diaper Costs Year 2

 

$63.92
$63.96
$168.00

$295.88



Disposable Diapers Cost

Pampers Swaddlers Sensitive Diapers – Size 3 – 128c
Pampers Swaddlers Sensitive Diapers – Size 3 – 128c
Pampers Cruisers Diapers – Size 3 – 174c

Total Disposable Diaper Costs Year 2

 

Final Cost of All Diapers in Year 2

 

$38.90
$38.90
$39.09

$116.89

 

$412.77

 


So how do our year 2 costs of cloth diapers vs disposable compare?  Based on my analysis, using disposable diapers exclusively would cost: $539.18.  Woohoo!  We finally made out and saved $126.41.  We’re still in the hole by $256.94 from last year however.

 

Conclusion: Cloth Diapers vs Disposable

To conclude, I think many parents to be who want to use cloth diapers vs disposable diapers will do the same thing we did.  Pretty much every blog and diaper class tells you to try out a few different styles of cloth diapers to see what you like.

However, by going the trial and error route, we did not save any money by using cloth diapers vs disposable.

That’s why I urge you to read my cheapest way to do cloth diapers guide (even for dads).  This guide will tell you what you need to ensure your cost of cloth diapers vs disposable diapers remains low.

Although we ended up paying more for using cloth diapers vs disposable, we are still glad we did it.  Here is a list of things we like about cloth diapers vs disposable diapers:

 

Advantages of Using Cloth Diapers vs Disposable

 

  • I don’t have to change the whole diaper if there is a poo…sometimes.  If the cloth diaper is barely wet or was just changed not too long ago, all you have to do is pull out the liner, wipe the bum and strap it all back together.  With disposable diapers, you have to use a fresh diaper with every poo.
  • Disposable diapers have a nice smell when new, but I can’t help to think of all the chemicals the diapers contain.  Do I really want my child to be exposed to the chemicals?  When you buy a new cloth diaper you are supposed to strip it by washing it 2-3 times before use.
  • It does make me feel less wasteful to not throw out 5 to 8 diapers every day.
  • They provide more padding if they fall on their bums.
  • If I run out of diapers I can just wash the ones I have. No trips to the store or waiting on them to be delivered to my door.
  • Do people really throw poos in the toilet when they use disposable diapers? Or do they wrap it all up and throw it in the trash?  It’s easier to throw a poo in the toilet when you have a liner in your cloth diaper which catches it.  You definitely don’t want the poo in your laundry bag.
  • Doing the laundry really isn’t that bad.
  • Your baby can make a real fashion statement with his or her diaper cover.

 

Disadvantages of Cloth Diapers vs Disposable

 

  • They are bulky.  We often wondered if our daughter’s diaper got in the way of her trying to crawl or roll over.
  • They don’t wick away moisture as nicely.  A disposable diaper seems to keep moisture away better than a cloth diaper.
  • Your wet bag can start to stink up the place.  I would imagine the same could be said for a disposable diaper trash can.
  • You don’t want to get any creams or Vaseline on your cloth diaper.  Another reason why the liner is important.
  • There is a 3 step process: cloth diaper, diaper cover and diaper liner.
  • It is more laundry to do.  But it’s really not that difficult.
  • If there is a blow out, you have to rinse and soak the cloth diaper.  Not fun!
  • Some daycares typically won’t use your cloth diapers.

 

When we are finally done with diapers in our house, I have no doubt we will be able to sell our cloth diapers.  The Charlie’s Soap really does clean them up nicely.  When that time comes you can expect another blog post.  Make sure to subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss it!

 

Hi readers! Do you use cloth diapers or disposables?  What have your experiences been with either?  

Want to get the latest posts from Mad Cash Lab? Make sure to subscribe on Facebook, Twitter, or by email or RSS reader (in the column to the right).

 

 

 

         

Cash Lab
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Cash Lab

Welcome to all aspiring early retirees! My wife and I still work however we have each been able to cut our hours worked from 40 each week to 24.

We have had no change in lifestyle as a result (except more time with family) and are building wealth every month.

I hope to share some of our ongoing story with you and be an inspiration to you on your path to financial freedom!
Cash Lab
Follow Me

Cash Lab

Welcome to all aspiring early retirees! My wife and I still work however we have each been able to cut our hours worked from 40 each week to 24. We have had no change in lifestyle as a result (except more time with family) and are building wealth every month. I hope to share some of our ongoing story with you and be an inspiration to you on your path to financial freedom!

11 thoughts on “Cloth Diapers vs Disposable Diapers Cost

  • August 22, 2016 at 7:17 am
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    What an awesome and detailed cost analysis of cloth vs. disposable. When our baby was born 17 months ago we didn’t even bother having this discussion. We went disposable (Pampers) from day one and never looked back. We have tried the Target brand once and Kirkland but stuck with Pampers 99.99% of time. I think a lot of new parents spend a lot of mental energy deciding on the pros and cons but there are so many other important decisions that need to be made instead. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  • August 22, 2016 at 11:22 am
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    I think we were intrigued with the idea of using cloth diapers because both of our parents used cloth diapers on us. I even remember my mom washing cloth diapers when my brother was a baby. So it was definitely something we were interested in learning about. It’s true there is so much to learn when you are a new parent, and we spent a lot of extra time going to diaper classes and reading up on the subject. Disposables are an easy option!

    Reply
  • August 31, 2016 at 12:36 am
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    Thanks for pointing out exactly what cloth diapers you bought. We’ve been researching them extensively. It would be nice to actually see them in person before purchasing. It looks like you tried a few different ones. Which cloth diaper is your favorite?

    Reply
    • August 31, 2016 at 11:04 am
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      I personally like the Thirsties Duo Fab Fitted Cloth Diapers the best! We have both snaps and Velcro. I like the snaps better. With the Velcro if you don’t overlap it well enough, then it can sometimes scratch the babies leg. Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  • September 20, 2016 at 9:47 am
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    My wife and I had no clue what we were doing on the first go around and simply got whatever disposable diapers we could find! On the next child we have been really considering cloth diapers, but I’m surprised by the cost differences that you found. We just assumed it HAD to be cheaper going cloth. Thanks for your individual brand suggestions and all the tips. We’ll be doing some more of our own research before making the final decision. I don’t know if cloth will be worth the hassle!

    Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    • September 20, 2016 at 10:24 am
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      Hi Josh, cloth diapers can definitely be cheaper! But it ended up not being the case for us because of all the different types of diapers we tried. We are still in the process of finalizing our post on The Cheapest Way to do Cloth Diapers. But I would recommend buying OsoCozy Prefolds for Newborns and OsoCozy Prefolds Size 2. If you use prefolds, you will save a ton of money. You get 6 diapers for the same price as any other cloth diaper. Don’t forget the diaper covers as well!

      If you have a little flexibility in your budget, we really like the Thirsties Duo Wraps the best. Thanks for stopping by and best of luck on your decision!

      Reply
  • September 30, 2016 at 7:16 pm
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    I’m definitely going to stick with disposable diapers. If one factors in the extra time it takes to use cloth diapers disposable Are a win win all around.

    Reply
  • January 28, 2017 at 8:31 am
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    We used cloth on both kids through about 18 months to 2 years. After that it was becoming an issue with blow outs. We did it appears find better deals on diapers. We use one size fits all at about 5 dollars a diaper including inserts. It was a Chinese knockoff of a popular brand. We had large babies so they started in one size around 3 weeks. I also live on a well so water only costs electricity. We broke even when I looked post mortem. FYI our chain daycare did allow cloth diapers so long as we provided a wetbag.

    Reply
    • February 22, 2017 at 4:52 am
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      We are finding the same thing as our kids get closer to 2. Mainly, the cloth diapers can’t contain the wetness and it ends up going through the cover to their clothes. So that means it’s potty training time!

      Reply
  • January 31, 2017 at 12:28 pm
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    Hey madcashlab,
    We just bought some cloth diapers after a year of disposable diaper. Our calculation show that we will save money. In night we were using 3 diapers a night and with cloth we are using one and the kid never wake up. At least, if our calculation is wrong, the price sleeping all night is so high :).

    Also, we don’t pay for water usage in our province.

    Reply
    • February 22, 2017 at 4:47 am
      Permalink

      Yeah cloth can definitely be cheaper if you use pre-folds! What we found was trial and error of trying many different cloth diapers really didn’t net us a savings in the first year.

      That’s funny you use cloth at night and disposables during the day. We do the opposite as the cloth was not cutting it at night! We use a night time disposable that is made for 12 hours and they work great.

      Reply

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