Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Economics of Our Cloth Diapering

We have been cloth diapering, at least on a part-time basis, since July of 2010.  Here's my attempt to document approximately how much money we have saved, or will potentially save.

July 2010:  My first order of cloth diapers and supplies was a grand total of $134.70.  Included in that order was a wetbag (somewhere to store dirty diapers) for $16.50, 6 diapers for $115.68 (~$19 a diaper), a sample of detergent for $1.25, and a free set of flushable liners (I had a coupon code for this).

Since July, we've spent the following amounts on our cloth diaper "habit":
  • Diapers: $288 on 21 diaper combinations (Average diaper cost $13.71).  This includes a set of prefolds which we honestly don't use much because of our preference, but those are easily our most inexpensive diapers.  I have also gotten one or two diapers using a free diaper coupon code from Kelly's Closet.
  • Detergent: $28 on 2 bags of special cloth diaper safe powder detergent.  We still have enough in our 2nd bag to last us a while!
  • Liners: $52 on 6 rolls/packs of flushable liners.  I don't remember what brands we've ordered, I'm guessing they all had a minimum of 100 liners in each, and add (at the high end) approximately 8 cents to each diaper change.
  • Accessories:  $61 on 3 additional wetbags and a Snappi closure for the prefolds.  We could probably get away with less wetbags, but we have a total of for simply for convenience and they can be used for lots of other things besides diapers.
I approximate that Jack has had an average of 6-8 diaper changes per day since July, or approximately 1080-1440 diaper changes.  He obviously has about half of the diaper changes than a younger baby would, but that's still a LOT of diaper changes.  Before cloth diapers, we were a Huggies family and he would've been fitting into a size 4 diaper.  The cheapest price I could find online was at Sam's Club and you would get 176 diapers for ~$40; this works out to slightly more than $0.22 a diaper [change].  To date, it would've approximately cost us $246 to $327 to diaper Jack.

Since we have spent ~$404 on the cloth diapers, we are about 2 months or less away from breaking even on the investment on the diapers... that's less than a year of cloth diapering.  Once we break even on the diapers, we'd really only be spending the $0.08 per diaper change along with the detergent cost

We have gone the more"expensive" route in cloth diapering by favoring all-in-ones & pocket diapers and using flushable liners, which will continue to be a recurring cost that we will have, along with detergent.  So far, we are okay with the additional cost of the liners.  I am looking into options like a diaper sprayer (~$45) that is a one time purchase for taking care of the poop on cloth diapers. 

I also did not include wipes in this "analysis" because we still use disposable wipes.  This is a wash financially because we would be are buying them.  I'm open to trying cloth wipes, but the idea is also very overwhelming to me (wet v. dry storage, wipes solutions, etc.) and I need to convince the husband to try them!

We have been very happy with our cloth diapering experience thus far!  If we are ever blessed with another baby, we will need to buy newborn diapers to fit a tinier baby.  But 3 out of 21 diapers we own currently are "one-size" so they should fit a small baby once they are at about 10-12 pounds.

What are we going to do with diapers Jack might outgrow or that don't fit him very well?  I am thinking about selling a diaper and extra inserts that we are never excited to use (the only diaper with which we've ever had a poop explosion ).  You can read about the different brands of cloth diapers we've tried.

I hope you've enjoyed my financial "analysis" of our cloth diapering experience.  You can find calculators out on the web but


  1. Wow, thanks for doing this analysis! I sometimes wonder if by getting the more expensive diapers plus the washing/drying, we aren't fairly close to spending as much as we would on disposables. This makes me feel much better :)

    I hadn't really thought about getting liners. My friend did get me a diaper sprayer as a shower gift, and she said they're so great once your baby eats solids. Obviously we haven't tried this yet, so I don't know how it works firsthand!

    We do cloth wipes, because another friend gave us a bunch, and it's really not hard at all. We just throw them in the diaper bag and wash them with the diapers. We use a spray bottle (1/4 tsp baby wash, 1/2 tsp baby oil, fill the rest with water) and spray the wipes right before using. I was only so-so on cloth wipes for a while, because the flannel was coming off on her a bit, but my husband shrugged it off and we persevered, and now they don't really shed at all (they've been washed enough) and I really like them. All that said, we do still keep disposable wipes on hand and use those when she poops.

  2. Haha, it has been years since I ever took an economics class so I don't know if I "did it right", but I think its a fair analysis.

    Do you have any issues with the oil from your wipes solution getting on your diapers when you wash them?

  3. Thanks for the update on the economics and your other posts about CDing! They were definitely influential in our decision to give it a try! We got some newborn/size 1 diapers for the first few weeks just in case we're a little overwhelmed...ahaha! I have a friend in Portland who has a diaper sprayer and loves it, though I've heard that if you use disposable liners that the sprayer isn't really necessary...don't know first hand though. Also, my sister uses cloth wipes too and says it is really easy because you just throw them in the wet bag too so it really isn't adding a step or anything. She likes it better than throwing dirty wipes in the trash... I bought some from amazon, she made me some from leftover flannel, and I also plan on cutting up some receiving blankets to make some (just going to sew the edges under to prevent fraying). I got the receiving blankets for 50 cents at the thrift store. So, hopefully we like the cloth wipes and diapering! We'll find out in a few months! ;)

    Question for you: How many wetbags do you suggest? I have 2 now (so one can be drying while using the other)...would you suggest more?

  4. @Marci: I don't blame you on having a stash of disposables up front. Meconium makes me nervous, but I wonder if liners would help with that? What kind of cloth diapers did you get or register for?

    We have 4 wetbags (might be overkill), but 2 are larger hanging ones for everyday use (we don't have a pail) and 2 are smaller for the diaper bag. Also, I would suggest washing wetbags separate from your diapers b/c they tend to hold suds and don't get completely rinsed out so they tend to deposit back on the diapers in a rinse cycle. Then your diapers tend to have build-up. You can read what I wrote for Nicki's diaper blog via the link: http://thechemistryofamom.blogspot.com/2010/10/guest-writer-on-nickis-diaper-blog.html