Ditch the Disposables: How Much Money Can Cloth Diapers Save You?

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This is a big one, and one that has a lot of people turning back around and walking away. But how much money can cloth diapers save, and is it worth the hassle?

Photo by Laura Ohlman on Unsplash

In essence, it sounds nice. It saves you a ton of money on disposable diapers and saves the environment.

On the other hand, you are reusing diapers. You are touching pee and poo. You are praying your wash cycle did its job.

Can I tell you a secret? Even those of us who have fully committed to cloth diapers think those things.

What are the different options of cloth diapers?

When you first get started with researching cloth diapers, it can get overwhelming. We were no exception.

We had a baby on the way, and I knew I wanted to cloth diaper. But I didn’t know where to start.

Prefolds or pockets? All-in-one or flats and covers? The lingo was foreign to me, and I didn’t know what I should stock up on before the baby got here.

We did some research online to see what different types of diapers there were, the pros and cons of each (because there is no perfect type!), and what would work best for us.

Even then, you still might not know what will work best for you once the baby is here.

So here’s what we did.

We started with “preloved” diapers. That is a gentle way of saying that our diapers were hand-me-downs.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: GROSS! You used used diapers? On your baby? How COULD you?

All right, already, calm down. As it turns out, there is a huge community on Facebook that buys and sells preloved diapers. Most people see these diapers as an investment, and take very good care of them.

And even then, there are instructions on how to bleach and strip your preloved diapers, before you wash them a few times, before they even touch your baby’s bottom.

We were lucky enough to be gifted with a ton of pockets and all-in-twos. We bought some preloved covers and all-in-ones, and we were off to the races!

What type of cloth diaper worked best for us?

Honestly, we thought all-in-ones would work best for us. They are closest to a disposable (no putting anything together, just straight onto baby’s bottom like a disposable) and the least amount of hassle while you’re changing baby.

All-in-ones turned out to be a pain for us because of how long it took to dry them!

We did not put them in the dryer, and it ended up taking a day or so for them to completely dry. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

We ended up going with a combination of prefolds with covers, and all-in-twos (GroVia with soakers).

These were easiest for us since the prefolds and soakers could go in the dryer for a fast dry time. They’re also easy to hang on the line outside to get bleached by the sun (flat prefold vs several layers in an all-in-one).

We bought new prefolds on the Green Mountain Diapers website and love the quality.

How much money can cloth diapers save me?

I’m going to use us as an example, since there are so many ways you can go with buying your disposables and cloth diapers.

Adding up everything we have spent on cloth diapers so far, it’s a grand total of $536.87.

This was for:

  • 15 new covers
  • 78 new prefold diapers
  • 9 preloved all-in-ones
  • 3 preloved pockets
  • 5 preloved fitted diapers
  • 4 preloved covers

Now, onto disposables.

Doing some research online, it is estimated that a baby goes through 2,500-3,000 diapers in the first year.

Looking at a popular brand of diapers on Amazon, sizes 1-3 (a good average of sizes in the first year) average about $48.00 at the time of writing this post. The median amount of diapers in these packs is 186, so we’ll use that number.

  • 2,500 diapers per year / 186 diapers per pack = 13.44 packs / year
  • 3,000 diapers per year / 186 diapers per pack = 16.13 packs / year

If we use the average of $48.00/pack, we get:

  • 13.44 packs / year * $48.00 / pack = $657.25 / year
  • 16.13 packs / year * $48.00 / pack = $788.71 / year

Our total savings in year 1: between $120.38 and $251.84.

The savings only continue to go up from there, since I haven’t done the math for year 2 and beyond, depending on when we potty train.

And we will use these same diapers on any subsequent babies, saving us even more money!

UPDATE! (07/09/2021)

We ended up potty training our first around 25 months. So let’s add to that math!

Doing some research, little ones use approximately 1,500 to 1,800 diapers in the second year (12 to 24 months old).

Looking at Huggies on Amazon, sizes 3-5 (a good average of sizes in the second year) average to about $50 at the time of this update. The median number of diapers in these packs is 180 diapers, so we’ll use that number.

  • 1,500 diapers per year / 180 diapers per pack = 8.33 packs/year
  • 1,800 diapers per year / 180 diapers per pack = 10 packs/year

If we use an average of $50/pack, we get:

  • 8.33 packs/year * $50/pack = $416.50/year
  • 10 packs/year * $50/pack = $500.00/year

Our total savings in year 2: between $416.50 and $500.

Side note: our savings are the cost of disposables because we bought one-size and larger size prefolds in the first year, so they sized up easily with her.

We also just added a new baby into the mix, so we can double those savings!

So how much in total will we be saving with two babies?

Using the numbers in our example, we are saving between $1,610.63 (lower end) and $2,122.71!!!

Are cloth diapers better for the environment?

A big reason people look into cloth diapers, besides the cost savings, is for the environment. But some skeptics could argue that they aren’t better for the environment, since you have to use water to wash them and gas/electricity to dry them.

But here’s my counterargument.

The wastewater from your washing machine, in many cases, goes back to a water treatment plant to be reused. So even though you are using your washing machine more with cloth diapers, it doesn’t have as large of an impact on water waste as you might think.

As for drying them: you have two methods you could use. First, you could use your dryer. Second, you could use a clothesline outside.

But I don’t like the way clotheslines look in the yard.

Yeah, I hear you there. Although I have to say: I grew up with a long clothesline in my backyard and remember running through the sheets and having a blast. But I don’t think that’s what you want to talk about here.

I didn’t want a clothesline in my backyard either. It takes up space and isn’t nice to look at.

We ended up buying a retractable clothesline, and it has been AMAZING. It has two lines in it, which holds all of our prefolds perfectly. We mounted it on our brick house, and it extends over our yard to our fence.

I extend the line the day I need to line dry my diapers. Let them sit outside in the sunshine to kill any bacteria and bleach them naturally. Then retract the line back when I don’t need it.

We also bought these clothespins, which are perfect for sitting out in the sun and not rusting. They are really durable, and hold heavy, wet prefolds easily.

So overall, cloth diapers are the best option for the environment! The diapers don’t end up in landfills and the water usage isn’t as wasteful as some might think.

Are cloth diapers worth it?

Cloth diapers may seem overwhelming. But, like anything else, you buckle down and figure it out, if it’s the route you want to take.

For us, it was a no-brainer. We are saving quite a bit of money, and we’re not throwing away thousands of diapers into the landfill. Plus, we will likely use the prefolds and pocket inserts for cleaning instead of paper towels once we’re done having kids.

It’s possible to save even more money than what we did, since I wanted to buy some things new. But whatever route you go, cloth diapering can save your family a ton of money over time.

That’s looking at how much money you can save with cloth diapers!

Do you cloth diaper your littles? What has been your favorite and least favorite aspects of it?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Products mentioned in this post

How much money can cloth diapers save your family? Is it worthwhile to make the switch? Check out how much we saved! cloth diapers | diapers | save money | reusables

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