Why Use Cloth Diapers?


Why Use Cloth Diapers?

Diaper duty © by mhofstrand

Before lil’ SPF arrived I started researching diapers. I knew that I wanted us to use cloth diapers but had no idea what kind to buy. It turns out that there are many, many different kinds of cloth diapers to choose from. We have now been using cloth diapers for  over 3 months and so far we are really happy about using them. What follows are my thoughts on why cloth is more sustainable, not only for the planet but also for your pocketbook – the reasons why we use cloth diapers.

Why use Cloth Diapers vs. Disposable Diapers

 The first choice to be made when it comes to diapers is whether or not to go cloth or disposable. I really wanted to go cloth mostly because of how much waste disposable diapers produce (we used disposables at my in-laws at Christmas and filled a grocery bag in two days with soiled diapers!). According to wired.com “Diapers made up 3.4 million tons of waste, or 2.1 percent of U.S. garbage, in landfills in 1998 — the last year this information was collected, according to the Environmental Protection Agency”. A LOT of waste.

Disposable Diaper Information

In addition to all the waste that disposable diapers produce, most big brand disposable diapers have a lot of stuff added to them which I am not particularly fond of nor do I want touching lil SPF’s bum. Most of the top brands of disposable diapers are made with chlorine, latex,  fragrance and petroleum based lotions as well as a gel that has been linked to skin irritations and respiratory problems.

Diapers are made with all these additives so they that they are super absorbent and keep baby dry for 12 hours! In reality, baby is not dry but rather the additives in the diapers pull the moisture away from the skin but the diaper is still soiled.

Cloth diapers do not absorb similarly which means more frequent changes but baby is then always in a clean, fresh, dry diaper. For those of you who have used cloth diapers on your children, you know this also means fewer diaper rashes. The diapers that we are using are 100% cotton which from what I read are better for boys than disposables diapers which are less “breathable” and cause an increase in scrotal skin temperature which later could be linked to lower sperm count.

SPF and I cannot say that we will never use disposables as noted earlier. Chances are that for visiting friends and family we will use disposables because we really do not want to have to tote the soiled diapers around with us for the duration of our visit or ask family and friends to put poopy diapers in their washing machine. However we plan on using the “greenest” disposables we can find (which is a yet to be written article itself). I do know that from my preliminary research on disposable diapers that there are many false “green” claims.

For example many people get the compostable diapers but you need a heavy duty, industrial composter to break these down, just like you do for the compostable containers that many take-out places are using. Great idea but does not make sense for places with simple backyard composters making premium soil for free.

Cloth Diaper Information

Before becoming a parent myself, the last time that I came in contact with a cloth diaper was over a decade ago when babysitting. I was hoping there had been some advances in cloth diapers since then, to make them, well, a little less messy.  During my pregnancy I started to research cloth diapers and I was pleasantly surprised to find that yes many advances had been made. But where to start?

It seemed that there were endless types of cloth diapers available. I was overwhelmed! Fortunately a good friend of ours offered to send me the research that she did in preparation for the arrival of her daughter last winter. Her work gave me a really good starting point on the main brands but also on the different kinds of cloth diapers that exist today. Thank you Steph!

Types of Cloth Diapers

There are all in one diapers which are essentially very similar to disposables in the sense that they have the cover and inside absorbent material all attached. When one gets dirty, you simply put the whole thing in the wash.  Some brands are Bum Genius and GroViva and these cost about $20 CDN each.

All in two diapers are made up of a cover (or wrap as some companies refer to them) which can either be placed over a fitted diaper or over a pre-fold cloth insert. What is really nice about these is that you can use the cover multiple times before it has to be washed. Some brands are Bummis, AMP and Best Bottoms and they cost anywhere from $10 to $20 for the covers and $3-$5 for the pre-folds.

There are also pocket diapers. These are similar to the all in ones except that you stuff them with an insert (microfiber, cotton or hemp). These diapers have a stay dry top layer which can be helpful in combating diaper rash. Some brands are Bum Genius, Fuzzibunz and Kawaii. These cost about $20-25 each.

So how did we make our decision? Well I thought that spending $20 on a diaper was a lot so all but the two in ones were out. You have to consider that you only need 4 wraps at $15-20 each, not 25 diapers or so at $20 each. So two in ones are less expensive but also more environmentally friendly since you use less material to diaper your baby. ***

Further research into the pocket diapers like Fuzzibunz solidified our decision, I was a little disturbed to find this on their website in the FAQ’s section:

Q. The inside of my diaper is sticky, how do I fix this?

A. This is perfectly normal, it is laminated with a polyurethane lining to prevent leaks. Some people see this as being “sticky.”

Now why would someone go and ruin a perfectly good diaper with a plastic coating?

The final factor that made us choose Bummis was when my mum told me that the baby shower gift she wanted to give us was to pay for several weeks of diaper service for us, if they had such a service in our city. I looked into it and sure enough there was a local business offering the service! My mum had this service gifted to her with her kids and she said it really was a huge help because it gives you time as parents to figure everything else out without having to worry about poopy diapers!

As it turns out the diaper service company available to us uses Bummis. You buy the wraps and they provide the pre-folds for the time you get the service. 70 pre-folds a week. When I looked into Bummis more, I discovered that they are designed and made in my home town of Montreal, Quebec, Canada under fair labour conditions. I liked the idea of supporting a Canadian company and knowing that small children overseas were not making the wraps for our baby!

Cost for All in Two Cloth Diapers

The Bummis wraps themselves are $10 which is the lowest of any wrap price I have seen. We bought 4 small wraps. After our diaper delivery service ended we started washing the prefolds ourselves. We were lucky to find used prefolds at a consignment store here in town. So we got 24 small prefolds for $56. We also bought 4 medium wraps @ $5 a piece for $20 total.

SPF then found a seller on Kijji (kind of like Craig’s list) who was selling a diaper bucket container 4 medium covers, biodegradable liners (which we have not used yet but may when he gets to solid foods) 30 medium prefolds, 3 Bum Genius diapers and some cloth wipes. All for $50. We bought it!

So then for 2 years of diapering at least, we will pay …

  • small Bummis wraps: $40
  • 24 small prefolds: $56
  • 4 medium wraps: $20
  • kick butt bucket deal for year two: $50
TOTAL: $166

Now lets look at the cost of disposable diapers. If we bought disposable diapers and figuring that you will use about 70 diapers a week for infants and 50 a week for toddlers, over two years, that would be about 6240 diapers, at an average cost of $0.25 each (cost of Pampers) would cost $1560.

By using cloth diapers, not new, we save almost $1400 in the first 2 years being parents.  Nothing to sneeze at.

Starting to understand the logic behind why use cloth diapers?

Now of course there is also the cost of cleaning cloth diapers which one must account for. The city recently came by and installed a water meter at our house so soon enough we will really be paying for what we use which isn’t a bad thing, from an environmental point of view. It is hard to say now what that cost will be exactly but what I do like is the fact that we will be accountable for that cost, whereas if you put out the dirty diapers you don’te directly pay for that landfill site or walk by it everyday, etc.  There is also increased costs in detergent and fabric softener but there is no way we put much of a dent in the $1400 savings we will see.

Accessories

One must not forget the accessories that go with diapering a baby: a diaper pail, wipes and bum balm (for rashes). We had read that diaper pails (such as the diaper genie) were quite the waste of money and that you can simply get a normal garbage can. So we went looking. We almost purchased one when SPF pointed out that it would cost us the same as the diaper pail that the diaper service was selling for $30. However the diaper pail came with a carbon filter, solid metal close latches and scented disk to keep the poopy diaper smell away. So we bought it. Again, felt good to support a local business.

As for wipes we are going with the disposables. However I have chosen a middle of the road green product alcohol free – fragrance free – paraben free. Made with organic cotton and other naturally derived fibres at a reasonable cost of $15 for 360. We may end of using cloth wipes but for now have chosen this product. The way I see it, it is no different than us bigger people using toilet paper (preferably an environmentally friendly brand).

So total cost of diapering with cloth over 2 years will be $166 plus $270 on wipes (we estimated 9 packs in a year) and $30 for the pail for a total of $466.

If you bought disposables at $1535 and $194.40 on wipes (at $0.03 each for Pampers brand and we estimated needing 6480 wipes over 2 years). Total $1729.40

Based on these numbers using disposable diapers will cost you nearly four times as much as using cloth!!! Now we got a lot of our stuff used so I calculated that if we got all the same stuff new ($120 on covers, $270 on prefolds, $60 for Bum Genius and $15 on liners) in addition to the pail and wipes it would cost $765. Still disposable diapers would cost just over twice as much as cloth. Also keep in mind that this is for one child. Using cloth you can reuse it all with the second, third, etc child.

And for anyone who is grossed out by the idea of washing poopy diapers in your washing machine, take it from someone who felt the same way a few months ago, it really isn’t a big deal. Get some rubber gloves, some tongs to get the diapers from the pail to the washer and by the time you get them out of the dryer they are good as new.

Do you use cloth diapers on your kids?  Or would you consider using cloth diapers?

 

100 comments to Why Use Cloth Diapers?

  • Cloth diapers make some of the best dust rags or cleaning rags ever. A great second use once the kids are done with em.

  • I used cloth diapers on my first born with no problems. You get used to taking care of them, no big deal. I confess that when my second child was born and the first was still in diapers I switched to paper diapers.

  • I noticed that you don’t factor in the extra water used in either your determination of which type of diaper is more sustainable or in your cost estimate. I think it’s worth pointing out that while cloth diapers are a greener option for most people, those in areas where there isn’t an over abundance of clean water may actually find that disposables make more sense.

    • Mrs. SPF DOES mention it – stating she does not take it into account, and, that it certainly wouldn’t make up the cost of disposables.
      By adding to landfills you are further diluting the clean water sources available. So those areas where there is little clean water will end up with even less either way. So the choice becomes: dilute your available clean water via garbage dumps filled with diapers, and fill the garbage dump – or, use water to clean diapers. We prefer to just clean them. I’ll let Mrs. SPF answer more on this as she knows much more about Eco stuff than I do.

      • Somehow I missed that paragraph, but even so I think it should be included if you’re doing a side by side comparison the way you are. Many people use special detergent for diapers and baby clothes that don’t have as many chemicals to irritate babies’ skin. That’s more expensive than regular detergent and while it may not “put a dent in the $1400 savings”, if you spent an extra $20 a year on detergent that would be about a 25% increase in your diaper cost, or an almost 10% increase in your total diapering cost (diapers plus wipes). Once you add in the cost of the water and electricity for the washing machine, you really would have a significant difference in the amount you pay, even if it isn’t a lot compared to the cost of disposables.

        As for the environmental impact, I’m not saying it’s necessarily an issue where you are, but there are areas even in the U.S. and Canada that have water issues. This normally becomes more clear in the summer when people are watering their lawns and gardens and filling their swimming pools and the city imposes water restrictions, but many states are finding the water levels in their lakes and reservoirs lower than expected year round. I’m not saying it’s the be all and end all of the environmental impact, just that I might make a different choice if I were in a state with a known water shortage or that had to pipe in it’s water from several hundred miles away (which LA does) than I would if I were living in a state that had a really good supply of clean water and sufficient rainfall to maintain it.

        In all honesty, I would love to go with cloth diapers when I have kids in a couple of years. I just know that when I make my final decision I will be looking at more than just the purchase price of the diapers themselves.

        • Again, Mrs. SPF will get to this but I want to add, that if you want to look @ water / electric then you also have to attempt to figure out the cost of fuel to go buy diapers, the cost of garbage bags to dispose of them. Then if you want to get really extreme, what is it worth to you to have a howling kid in the car when you make those extra trips to get more diapers, or worse yet, hire someone to watch the child? Our washing machine is front load (less water) and uses the cold cycle 90% of the time (less electric to heat water).
          Re: environment – either way, your losing usable water – either through seepage of increased waste, or, via your washing machine. Add to this additional taxes (money) for increased need for waste disposal, waste pick up and processing.

          Putting a precise dollar value on all of these things is extremely hard to do. In the end I simply do not see a small increase of personal water/power use being anywhere close to equitable to the damage done by the mass production (and waste from production), mass transportation systems (burning more fossil fuels), disposition (the whole waste management system), and damage (no one can claim more landfills are a good thing, can they?) done by disposable diapers. Remember, consumer goods mean a whole lot more waste / environmental damage than simply having a pile @ the dump – these items are not reusable and will continuously put large strains on our eco system. I just can’t see how the small increase in home water/power use can compare to the massive industries required to produce a throwaway item.

        • http://www.diaperpin.com/clothdiapers/article_diaperdrama4.asp

          According to the CDC (Cotton Diaper Coalition), it takes massive amounts of water ” . . . to process wood pulp into paper for throwaways. Little recycled paper is used in the production of most throwaways. The production of a disposable diaper comes at a high environmental price both in water and energy (11).” The Landbank Consultancy, commissioned by the Women’s Environmental Network in London, reprocessed Procter & Gamble’s 1991 studies that falsely claimed the environmental impact of disposables was not materially worse than cloth diaper usage. The Landbank Consultancy used Procter & Gamble’s own findings in their two studies and other information researched on the impacts of processing both disposable and cloth diapers. They concluded that disposable diapers create 2.3 times as much water waste, use 3.5 times as much energy, use 8.3 times the non-regenerable raw materials, use 90 times the renewable raw materials and 4 to 30 times as much land for growing raw materials. The Landbank Consultancy even took into consideration that when wearing cloth diapers, there are more frequent changes – they assigned a 1/1.72 ratio to offset the difference. Procter and Gamble did not submit a legal challenge to this report (7).

          • I still disagree that the factors are as cut and dried as you’re making them when you look at both local and global environments, and I still insist that you need to consider your local situation, but I really don’t have the time right now for an argument that clearly isn’t going to go anywhere. (I say that because I don’t really think we’re having the same discussion. I think there are more points to consider when making this decision and you’ve either decided those factors are small enough as to be irrelevant — as in the cost of the water and power for the washing machine — or you see them as clearly settled — as in the case of which wastes more water.)

          • And if you feel that washing machine use in homes has anywhere near the impact of pulp and paper processing, manufacturing – not even accounting for other environmental detriments in products, transportation and disposition you should read up on the topic of consumer goods and the effects throw-away-anything has on the environment. Mass production will almost always use far more energy than will personal use, even en masse.

          • Irregardless, I highly doubt water and hydro bills, for personal use, go up more than $100 per month washing diapers every 2.5 days – about $100 per year using a front load washer ($175 for top load). http://michaelbluejay.com/electricity/laundry.html

          • I never said that washing machines have the same (or greater) impact as the manufacturing process on a global scale. I do think, though, that sometimes there are regional environmental issues that are more important than the global impact. You clearly disagree.

            I also want to make it clear, if I haven’t already, that I’m not trying to criticize your personal decision to use cloth diapers. I think they’re awesome and I’ll likely try to talk my fiance into them when we have kids some day. I was throwing in my two cents because I assumed that you were (at least partially) targeting readers who didn’t know much about cloth diapers and I was suggesting some additional factors to consider.

            This really is my last reply here before I unsubscribe from the comments, though, because I feel like you’re reading things into what I’m saying that aren’t there and I don’t think I can respond civilly any more.

        • Hi Penny, first thank you for commenting on this topic, there are arguments for both sides for sure. As SPF has already pointed out, it is difficult for us to know the exact cost of the water usage…however we did buy quite a number of prefolds so we can go about 3 days before washing them. We use the most efficient washer we can and when we get a clothesline up this spring we will dry them outside which will reduce the cost of cloth diapering significantly as I have heard that the biggest cost is in drying them. Also you mentioned detergent, which is a good point. There are only certain kinds of detergents you can use on cloth diapers so that they retain their shape and form. And yes these detergents are more expensive…unless you make them yourself. This is not something we do but if we did again our costs would go down significantly. On the water usage, for places with little water, they could use collected rainwater (grey water) for washing. I know that some places in the world are set up to use greywater for laundry and toilets.

          • Grey water is a good option for those that can. Some of the states with the worst water shortages have actually made it illegal to capture rain water. Some of those laws have been repealed in the past couple of years as studies have shown (unsurprisingly) that overall water consumption goes down when you allow individuals to collect rain water on a small scale, but I’m not sure that all of them have yet.

        • Super Frugalette

          I started using Charlie’s Soap when I cloth diapered my kids. I bought it in a large 5 gallon container and I found it was very inexpensive and I liked the results. I still use Charlies Soap today.

    • Just to throw another wrinkle in the calculations (and slightly to the side of the discussion that considers local factors) there are some landfills where the byproduct methane gas is used for power generation, either directly or as feedstock for hydrogen fuel cells.

  • We went for the disposables with baby no. 1, but are looking to do cloth nappies (the new generation version) for baby no. 2. I’m still a little put off by the idea of washing poopy nappies in the machine, then adding my own clothes in the next wash… perhaps I’m over thinking it, but are there any sanitary concerns?

    • Not that I know of Shaun, otherwise cloth diapers would have been phased out, right?

      Think of it this way. You have a fine Mexican meal which results in an unfortunate wet fart. You need to wash the underwear, right?

    • I just posted a full review on my current cloth diapering system that I love (!!) here:
      http://www.preservingpennies.blogspot.com/2012/01/baby-on-budget-cloth-diapering-101.html
      I find a lot of people are put off by the ‘poop’ factor but I haven’t found any problems yet. I use hot water to wash my diapers as opposed to warm or cold for the rest of our laundry. I read somewhere about people finding all sorts of bacteria in a washing machine that was used for cloth diapers but then there was immediately a rebuttal about how there was just as much bacteria in a washing machine used only for regular clothing and household laundry. If there is extra bacteria, we’ve yet to be affected by it. We’ve also been enjoying 8 months of no diaper rash- which may or may not be attributed to the cloth diapers. Further- now that we have graduated to solid poops I just dump the poop in the toilet and there’s barely even a stain left on the diaper resulting in very little poop actually going into the washing machine. :) I never thought I’d be so happy to talk about poop…

  • Awesome article – it’s funny because one brother of mine uses cloth diapers with his children and other doesn’t. Guess who is getting this post in an email… :)I think i mentioned this earlier, but i also don’t like the idea of putting something on that can lead to cancer.

  • Wow, cloth diaper choices have come a long way. I don’t have kids but when I babysat many, many years ago the cloth diaper thing was always so messy. The cost of cloth diapers is so affordable and you can’t beat the eco-friendly effects of them either. Why don’t most people go with cloth diapers?

    • LittleHouse, I think the main reason is that people have those same memories you and I have from when baby-sitting of very messy, difficult poop catchers:) Having used both kinds of diapers I can say that cloth diapers are as easy to use as disposables and quite frankly I feel they are more sturdy and I was quite happy to come back to them after the holidays.

    • I was pretty worried about the mess too, but it isn’t that bad. Mrs. SPF and I have a little routine for when a poop arrives (assuming I am home). We call for the other person to come help. Mrs. SPF takes to wiping lil’ SPF down and getting him into a clean diaper while I head to the bathroom and scrub the wrap, if so required. Works quite well.

  • Thanks for such a thorough article Mrs. SPF and welcome back.

    I plan on using cloth diapers when we have kids. My mom used them on my and my brother and they worked just fine. There is a balance though like you mentioned. For sitters and visits with family, we will probably use a few disposables. However since I will be using cloth most of the time I am hoping I can still feel good knowing that I am still trying to do my part.

  • One thing that bothers me about disposable diaper companies is that they are creating a new culture in which it is considered normal for toddlers to graduate from diapers to pull-ups to “overnites”. Parents are constantly reassured through advertising that it is normal for kids not to be toilet trained by age 3, and naturally, they will need discrete protection at school, during sleepovers, etc. These same companies are convincing all adults over 40 that they need “light bladder protection,” i.e. adult diapers. I am convinced they want all of us in disposable paper products from cradle to grave!

    Also, when toddlers wear disposable pull-ups, they never have the feeling of being cold, wet and uncomfortable, so I think that delays their toilet learning.

  • That is some awesome savings – I was diapered with cloth when I was a baby (mostly because of cost), so I would probably do the same thing to my child.

  • The Saved Quarter

    I’m a huge fan of cloth diapers! One of my favorite things about cloth diapers is that they can be used on more than one kid, really putting into action the “reuse” part of “reduce, reuse, recycle.” I have prefolds that my oldest son wore 6 years ago, then my daughter wore 3 years ago, now ready for #3! Even the greenest disposable diapers can’t manage to last for years, through multiple bottoms, to later be used as the best cleaning rags ever.

    Additionally, I have a set of newborn cloth diapers that first belonged to a cousin’s baby, then passed along to my daughter, a friend, another cousin’s baby, and are back to me for another round of use. No matter how eco-friendly a disposable is, it couldn’t have the same reuse!

    With my kids, diapers have added about two loads of diaper laundry a week. I spray solids into the toilet with a toilet sprayer attachment and sprinkle with baking soda in the pail, so the diapers aren’t soiling the machine and don’t stink quite so much between washings. There is an environmental aspect to laundry, of course, but a great deal of water is used in the manufacture of disposables and they’ll end up taking landfill space after a single use. After quite a bit of reading on the topic, I just can’t see that disposables are less environmentally detrimental than cloth.

    I always hang dry diapers, as sunlight helps to eliminate stains and is free! (In the winter, I hang them on an indoor rack in front of the heater.)

    I did a similar post recently and included the cost of laundering diapers at home in my side by side cost evaluation, as well as ways to save even more money on diapers. We’ll be able to diaper our upcoming baby for $100 or so, plus laundry.
    http://thesavedquarter.com/2011/07/babies-on-a-budget-cloth-diapers/

    • I should look into hang drying the diapers. We do live in Canada, so winter is an issue. We have found that to keep wash cycles to a minimum we are getting close to the end of our diaper supply when we do the wash. Thus far I am not sure 24 or 30 diapers could stand to wait to dry by our hot-water-boiler heated radiators …

      Very glad you came by to comment TSQ. I had read your experiences with cloth in the past and your insight is very valuable. Thanks.

  • The Saved Quarter

    Also wanted to point out that you don’t have to use pins these days. If you two haven’t discovered the Snappi, pick up a few! They keep the prefold securely closed with no risk of poking baby.

    Those and the diaper sprayer are my most useful little extras for cloth diapering!

    Also, we used disposables occasionally while traveling, overnights when DS went through a particularly heavy wetting phase (he’d wake up for a diaper change and not go back to sleep!), and when the kids had a diaper rash since rash cream can make cloth no longer absorbant. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing, and is still far more environmentally friendly to use cloth 95% of the time and take the convenience every once and awhile so you’re not feeling like “I can never go on vacation!”

    • Thanks for the comments TheSavedQuarter…great to hear about the traveling cloth diapers getting used by so many kids!!! We have heard of the snappis and have not tried them as we find the prefolds stay in place quite well (plus lil’ SPF moves his legs so much when getting diapered that it is a struggle to simple get the diaper back on without adding an extra step of snappis). We will definetely look into the sprayer when he is on solids. We don’t use the baking soda as the carbon filter on the pail helps with the smell. As for the diaper rash, we have some bum balm from a local store for when he gets the occasional redness…most natural bum balms are okay on cloth diapers as long as they are zinc free.

      • The Saved Quarter

        My kids needed the Snappi more when they started to be more active and wiggly. As newborns, they’re not wiggling enough to get the prefold out of place, but it comes! :)

        Our diaper pail doesn’t have a carbon filter. I’ll look into that for the next baby.

  • Welcome back Mrs. SPF!

    With a lot of pregnant couples around, we were just talking about this the other day. My husband refuses to even consider it because he feels it is too yucky to “save” the diapers in a bin until they are ready to be washed. He feels that dealing with poopy diapers on top of everything a new parent has to do is too much. So I guess I have two questions
    1) How much time are you spending dealing with washing/folding and all that stuff? I am not asking this to factor in the cost of time. If it does take a lot of time, that will def. go into our decision.
    2) How much was the service where they come and pick it up? (I will have to check if there is something in our area). If doing it ourselves takes a lot of time, we will consider this service for sure, but again, not sure if this added service will make the cost go through the roof…
    I love the idea, just don’t have enough information to make a decision one way or the other…

    • The Saved Quarter

      Suba – my husband was at first grossed out by the idea, but honestly it’s not so much harder. It hardly takes any more hands on time with poo time than disposables.

      After taking the diaper off, I use a diaper sprayer and spray solids into the toilet. (You’re supposed to shake solids off of disposables, too, but I don’t think anyone does that.) I toss it into a wet bag and sprinkle with a little baking soda if it’s particularly stinky. It probably takes 2 more minutes than wrapping up a disposable and tossing it, and I never had to get my hands in the poop!

      On laundry day, I toss everything from the bag into the washing machine and run it. I do a pre-rinse in cold water, then run it in hot with cloth-friendly detergent and vinegar in one of those Downy balls. That’s usually enough, but sometimes I’ll run an extra rinse if it was a particularly stinky load (after baby is on solids!) I hang them to dry, which does take a little more time but I don’t mind it – they’re clean then! I did 2, occasionally 3 loads a week.

      I know services are available in our area but their cost was so close to disposables that it wasn’t worth it for us.

    • thanks Suba! Okay so answer to 1) extra time: doing an extra load of laundry every 3 days. Now this is not a matter of simply tossing clothes into the machines. I use tongs to get the diapers out, then wash and rinse out the pail (takes 5 min). Then set the diapers to rinse with cold water (takes about 30 min), then put detergent in and wash with hot water on biggest water setting (takes about 45 min) while the washing is happening you can be doing countless other things. Then into the dryer (takes about 90 min).(note this is how Bummis brand diapers are to be washed and it could vary for other cloth diaper brands) Then Sustainable PF folds them, (takes 5 min (he doesn’t rush)). So really takes you about 5 min more than a normal load of laundry because of the pail, As for the day to day time, we simply toss the prefold in the pail (same as you would toss a disposable in the garbage).

      When a poop gets a cover soiled we give it a quick scrub in the sink (so a stain does not set in before the next set of laundry). The covers can get washed with your regular laundry but they do not go in the dryer. So added time for scrubbing: 2 min. As for the cost of the service 6 weeks cost $192. Best gift ever for new parents!!! (put it on the baby shower list) Simply put out the dirty diaper bag in the morning once a week and shortly afterwards a bag of fresh diapers appears as if by magic at your doorstep.

      • The Saved Quarter

        Might I suggest using a wet bag that you can launder along with the diapers, so you don’t have to scrub out the pail every time. That’s been very effective with my two cloth diapered bottoms. I just dump them into the washer, turn the bag inside out and toss it in as well. I make sure velcro is closed on the covers while putting them into the bag, so I have to touch the diapers as little as possible. :)

        • This wet bag idea. Would it not, well, get moist and affect your flooring or wherever else you place the bag?

          • The Saved Quarter

            The bag is inside of a trash bin, but because it’s changed at the same time as the laundry and diapers don’t tough the bin directly, the bin stays much cleaner.

          • I have an old laundry bag I used in university that we don’t use much. Perhaps another chance for re-use!

          • The Saved Quarter

            Ours is made of the same material as the diaper covers, so moisture is contained within. It doesn’t get leaky that way. A regular laundry bag wouldn’t have quite the same moisture-holding ability, I think, and you’d still be doing the bin cleaning every time.

          • Dk

            SPF – I’m due in a few weeks and plan to use cloth (after I use up the disposables people gave me at my shower). The wetbags are made of the same PUL material that the outside of the diaper covers are made of to keep in leaks. I’m planning to get a wetbag to line the diaper pail with, just as you would use a plastic bag for disposables.

          • I’m really liking this bag idea! I will let Mrs. SPF know about it – thanks to you and The Saved Quarter for the information!

          • ClothDipeLover

            The wet bags have a laminated polyurethane layer and are made of the same stuff as a diaper cover. Bummis makes small and medium ones with a zipper and a large size with a drawstring. How are you dealing with diapers when you are out and about without using a wet bag?

            We always used a wet bag in our pail kept near the toilet and zippered ones for secondary locations. They would wear out every 6-8 months but it was worth it to not have to handle each diaper!

          • ClothDipeLover, we have a small wet bag that we use when we are out and about…however had not thought about using one in the pail but it does make a lot of sense…thanks!

  • Juan

    That is a great idea. Saving over 1k is a great way to help young couples; especially when baby food can really add up.

  • We used cloth exclusively with my son and loved them. I started to use them with my daughter, but she had some difficulties, so we resorted to disposable diapers. I agree that cloth is definitely cheaper, and with the modern convenience, they are not much different from using disposables.

  • My friend (as I do not have kids) uses a cloth diaper system and she’s pretty happy with it.

    She even has a service that picks up the soiled cloth diapers for her!

  • I’m sorry, but disposables are the way to go for me. I spent a summer scraping cow poo off a cement corral every morning at a dairy farm, and I have a hair-trigger gag reflex now to certain smells.

  • Rebecca

    A few things to add…up until recently, disposable diaper pkgs stated to dispose of the solids in the toilet—that human waste is not meant for the trash. Not sure why this disappears(attributed to when baby is formula-fed or on solids)? So, cloth is the same for that factor. Also, if you’re baby is exclusively breasted, then there is no need to scrape-flush the solids. It is completely water soluble and able to be completely dissolved in water (washing), which makes it all that much easier.

  • We tried these with DS3 but the time it took, the drying (remember the rain in Manchester?) and the bulkiness was too much! I vividly recall his little self when very tiny, bum high up in the air, face down because the nappies were so massive! Sorry – we went for disposables after that!:-(

    • Agreed John that cloth diapers are definitely more bulky than disposables…however it does depend on the brand…for instance I find the BumGenius to be only slightly thicker than a disposables whereas the Bummis are a lot bulkier.

  • Congratulations on making the decision to use cloth diapers.

    My wife and I have a stockpile of 11 packs of diapers (never paid more than 8 cents a diaper). We also have cloth diapers and we plan to using both but everyone is different in terms of what works for them.

    Some of the cloth diapers are a disaster to clean and the resources used to clean them doesn’t make sense.

    Everyone knows disposable is not the long-term solution but we plan on a careful compromise.

    We will try cloth at first and if it works we plan on donating our stockpile of diapers! At least they will be used.

    • Agreed Steve that a compromise works best, as I mentioned in the article we use disposables where we are traveling. I would encourage you to give the cloth a shot and look for a cloth support group in your area so can easily have solutions for any issues that may arise…or ask us!

  • Great resource for those with babies or expecting! What I like is not only is it sustainable but you can use the savings for other things like a retirement fund.

  • I read this post with interest to see what the current opinions on cloth diapers were. As the parent of 4 children, we have used both cloth and disposable. I agree,your arguments are all correct regarding costs diaper to diaper but to play devils advocate, you did not factor your time into the equation, by the time child #3 and #4 come along your time is invaluable. (ie: you currently use 2 people to change a diaper?) Also, what you can live with with one child is not necessarily what you will decide with 4 children. Going from being a stay at home mom to working outside the home has a great influence on decisions as well.
    I don’t know where you live but there are some municipalities that let you put diapers in your green bin and therefore they do not end up in landfill. Ottawa is in the process of applying to expand their green bin collection to accept diapers. Another factor you haven’t thought of or perhaps experienced yet is cloth may or not be the best choice for a particular child. We had to take child #2 out of cloth when she started getting teeth due to persistant diaper rash and yeast. Her skin was so sensitive we could not keep her dry enough, she was spending more time with no diaper than with one. To keep her dry we had to put her in disposables, we could now cure the rash. (trust me, we tried everything)
    Everyone needs to remember this is a personal decision based on the needs of their family.

    A been there, done that Mom

    Mrs. Caj.

    • Thank you for your comments Mrs Caj, lots of things we do not yet know as new parents…and parents of only one child. Great to hear that Ottawa is making progress with their green bin system, we are quite a ways from such a setup where we live. I am surprised that the rash problem could not be resolved with cloth…one of the big selling features of cloth is that it keeps rashes at bay…I guess reality might be different with each child.

  • Mary Green

    I wrote an introduction to cloth diapers, maybe that would be a good follow up.

  • I used cloth a lot with my son, and for my daughter as a newborn. We are back in disposables because of persistent rash problems. Ugh.

    I live in an area with extremely high water rates and I don’t know that the money I’m spending to wash diapers is worth it. Still figuring out how water is even calculated in my new town.

  • I certainly admire your spirit! Now, what do you wash these things in? Do you line dry? Some detergents are really bad for the water system. I imagine you have thought that thru!

  • TheDailyThinker

    This was a great post. We’ve been using cloth diapers since our daughter was born twenty months ago. There have been a few messes that a disposable may have prevented, but overall, I can see how we’re saving money and doing our part for the environment. We do use disposables on certain occasions, but we mostly use cloth diapers. We use the cloth diaper, thin flushable liner and reusable diaper cover combination. They are a little bulkier than disposable diapers, but they work well, and keep her pants up :)

    • That is great TheDailyThinker! Agreed that they do keep the pants up!:) I have to remember when we travel to pack clothes accordingly, i.e. clothes that he has just outgrown with the cloth diapers fit snugly with the disposables.

  • diapers

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  • Jenna

    I recently started cloth diapering my toddler daughter and wish I had started her at infancy. I have always been ashamed of how many diapers that are now in landfills we’ve used but I was previously ill-informed about cloth. Fortunately, our local big box started selling ‘Charlie Banana’ diapers so I couldn’t ignore it anymore. I am SO pleased with my purchase. I also know that I am going to pay it forward when my daughter is potty-trained and give the cloth diapers to my good friend who is pregnant-re-using and paying it forward significantly decreases the cost of diapers for all involved. It is true- we invested in a ‘greener’ laundry soap but we went with the super-size jug of Charlie Banana powder detergent that has EXCELLENT reviews and should last us a year, at least. The need for the soap wasn’t because of the diapers (we have read of people using Tide or similar for years no problem) but rather because my husband has sensitive skin and the residues from chemical detergents irritate his skin causing acne (pillowcase, sheets, t-shirts/back). I have been laundering my diapers with our regular whites (the poopies shake out into the toilet first). I havent had to ‘touch’ soiled diapers, aside from a wet insert that pulls out of the covering. This is a movement that we are all responsible for. Lead by example, talk to your friends about the benefits, re-use on your other children, give to friends, shop Craigslist and the cost of cloth diapering continues to diminish over time.

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