My Cloth Diapering Journey Part Six: Cost Comparison

We chose cloth for many reasons. One, we preferred natural, breathable fibers against our baby's skin. (We used disposables with Hunter for the first ten days and would find those absorbent beads had leaked out and were on his skin a couple of times. Ick!) Two, we wanted to avoid diaper rash. (As an infant, when we did use disposables -- even Honest brand -- he would get a rash easily.) Three, we liked the eco-friendly factor. The idea of 3,000+ diapers sitting in a landfill because of my child did not sit well with me. Finally, we thought it would be less expensive to cloth diaper. Let's see if that last reason paid off, shall we?

Here is a detailed list of what we spent out of pocket for Hunter's cloth diapers...

Wool Covers:
-$0 for Loveybums Pull-up cover (gift)*
-$53 for 2 Loveybums wrap covers ("Crepe" and "Jersey")*
-$15 for Happy Heinys Stacinator (used)*
-$49 for 2 Disana soakers*
-$24 for Myecobaby (etsy) soaker*
-$15 for MyWoolieBaby (etsy) soaker*

PUL Covers:
-$98 for 8 Thirsties Duo Wraps (four size 1 and four size 2)*
-$0 for 3 sized Thirsties wraps and 2 sized "Fluffy's" wraps (hand-me-downs from friend)*
-$5 for Happy Heinys wrap (used)*
-$10 for 2 Bummis wraps (used)*

Accessories and wash supplies:
-$21 for large wet bag and $0 for small wet bag (gift)*
-$5 for wool wash*
-$17 for Bac-Out*
-$13 for Bumkins boosters*
-$11 for RLR laundry treatment
-$40 for bidet sprayer
-$0 for Snappis (gifts)*
-$6 for misc. doublers*
-$8 for Bio-soft liners*
-$15 for Fleece liners*
-$16 for Imse Vimse Wool Cure (to relanolize wool covers)*
-$16 for bamboo french terry cloth that my mom made into reusable wipes*

-$0 for 3 hemps (gift)
-$71 for Cloth-eez/GMD (8 preemie, 8 newborn, 8 small, and 6 medium wide)
-$0 for Dandelion Diapers (6 in size two and 6 pinless in size three -- gifts)
-$0 for OsoCozy unbleached cotton diapers (12 in size one -- gifts)
-$15 for misc. single diapers (to try out sizes)

Fitted Diapers:
-$60 for 6 Cloth-eez/GMD workhorses

All-in-One Diapers:
-$10 for Organic BumGenius "Elemental" one size (used)
-$14 for Organic Grovia one size (on sale)
-$3 for super old Thirsties diaper (used)

Pocket Diapers (mostly used them without the inserts as covers):
-$0 for 2 BumGenius (gift)*
-$8 Thirsties Duo Diaper size 1 (used)*

-$40 for "back-up" disposable diapers (We used them in the early days, while on a camping trip and occasionally if we were out of clean dipes.)

Estimate of soap expenses related to cloth-diaper use: $60
-one gallon of Sal Suds, which we use for household cleaning too (though it turns out it's not recommended for washing cloth diapers -- oops!)
-supplies for homemade wipe solution

Estimate of water and energy expenses related to cloth-diaper use: $150 (Resource)

Total Cloth Diaper Cost: $868

I used this website to help me calculate, based off of Hunter's birth weight, how many diapers I would have used in the first year. I also estimated 5 diapers/day for ages 12 months to 18 months. That's 3,367 diapers! I calculated cost using the the Target price for Pampers newborn diapers, Costco Huggies brand of diapers (sizes 1-3), and Costco Huggies brand of disposable wipes (2 wipes per dipe), plus I factored in about one month's worth of diapers given as baby shower gifts.

4 boxes of newborn size = $140
3 boxes of size 1 = $112
4 boxes of size 2 = $150
8 boxes of size 3 = $344
6 boxes of wipes = $150

Estimate of what I would have spent on 18 months worth of disposables: $896

Difference: $28

Using cloth, our family experienced NO savings (or very minimal savings) for the first 18 months. After that point and if we were to use all this cloth with our next child, we would start seeing some significant savings. For example, reusing cloth for 18 months with baby #2 would only cost $250 for back-up sposies, water, energy, and soap compared to $896 for disposable diapers and wipes -- a savings of $646.

Factors to consider:
-Change in life situation
Some families have to move to a situation where washing cloth at home is no longer an option, so the cloth diapering stops earlier than anticipated. In our situation, I had planned to use cloth until potty training age, but due to a career change for me, Hunter and I both started school full-time when he was around 20 months. I didn't want his teachers to deal with cloth, and I didn't want to worry about my wash routine while studying, so our cloth diapering came to an abrupt stop.
-Number of children using the same stash of diapers
Families with 2 or more children using the same stash will definitely see savings in the long run.
-Potty training age
I've heard some people say that their child started using the potty at a very young age (before 2) because of cloth, but there are plenty of families who still use cloth past 3 years old, so it depends a lot on each child. Hunter started really using the potty at 2.5. Had we continued to use cloth for another year, we would have seen some savings even with just one child using cloth.
-One size diapers vs. sized diapers
Since I chose to use sized prefolds and fitted diapers, even if we had continued to use cloth with Hunter until he learned to use the potty, we would still have had the upfront expense of buying the next size up.

What if we had used other cloth diaper systems?

#1 No wool (same diapers and accessories, just all PUL covers instead of wool)
$868 - $177 = $691 (subtract costs associated with wool)
$691 + $49 = $740 (add 4 more Thirsties covers)
Savings compared to disposables: $156

#2 One Size and All-in-Ones
-$400 for 24 BumGenius One size AIO diapers
-$380 for misc. accessories, water, energy, soap
Total: $780
Savings compared to disposables: $116

#3 Flats (instead of prefolds and fitteds/workhorses and using only PUL covers, i.e. no wool)
$60 for 24 one size birdseye organic cotton flats versus $131 for prefolds and workhorses
$740 (cost without wool) - $131 = $609 + $60 = $669
Savings compared to disposables: $227

To conclude, cloth diapers can definitely be a cheaper solution if you're very careful and deliberate about what you buy. You can even make diapers out of old t-shirts! Plus, the savings continue the longer your child is in diapers and if you use them with subsequent children. On the other hand, cloth diapers can also be more expensive than disposables. My vice was the wool soakers. Those are the most expensive type of waterproof cover, and buying cute styles can be addictive. Other moms like collecting special edition AIO diapers from brands like BumGenius and Flip, which can quickly add up.

Although now that we are doing a cloth diaper service with Baby #2 and we aren't really saving any money compared to the cost of disposables (it's actually more expensive), at least I already have a bunch of the covers and other accessories. The only extras I bought were 2 more newborn diaper covers. *Everything else marked with an asterisk in this post, I will be able to use alongside the diaper service.

Not the conclusion you were expecting, huh? Yeah, me neither. :)


  1. I think it also matters what age your child potty trains at. Obviously you can't go into your cloth diapering journey knowing that, but my oldest didn't potty train until he was 3 (and then it took a bit longer for nighttime) and my second looks like she'll have similar timing. So in the case of your example, where it sounds like you only accounted for sposies up until 18 months, that would be the break even point and then the next 18 months we'd come out ahead with cloth ;) I'm also more of an elitist with disposable diapers than I am with cloth (when we need sposies we always use Pampers, which are the most expensive, I think) so cloth comes to the rescue in that case as well! But it's obviously going to vary a lot between families for all of those reasons!

    1. Great point about the potty training age -- I will change my post to be more specific about that! I tried to make that clear in my post that for our family we only broke even at the 18-month mark and that if we had gone longer (and were going to use this same stash for baby #2) we would start to see some savings. I don't regret doing cloth at all, it's just that I totally assumed that I had saved hundreds of dollars until I actually did the math ;) Like you said, there are so many variables to factor in when figuring if cloth is the less expensive route!


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