Saturday, July 3, 2010

Can you really save money with cloth diapers?

Much of this article was originally posted on The Daisy Blog on April 29, 2010.

Many people jumping into cloth diapering have an idea that they might be saving some money, but really, how much? Sometimes, it seems easier to parents to keep buying $20 packages of disposable diapers instead of investing a few hundred dollars in a cloth diapering system. So, let's crunch some numbers here, and see what we can find. How much can a cloth diaper user really save?


We are going to have to make a few assumptions here in order to make this number crunching workable.
  • Let's look at the cost of diapering a child from birth until potty training starts. For our purposes, let's say children will be in diapers for 2.5 years, so we will study the costs for that time period.
  • Some people are really great about buying diapers at inexpensive prices. Others buy them at regular price in small packages. Still others focus on more high-end disposables (ie Seventh Generation and Tushies). For this study, we are going to look at the cost of buying diapers in bulk through, getting the discount of bulk without adding the discount some people get for couponing. I am going to look at the cost of Huggies Supreme diapers in the Giant Case size, a middle-of-the-road diaper as far as cost is concerned. Hopefully this will even things out overall.
  • We are going to assume there are 30 days in every month, just to make my life easier. This shorts us by about 12 days in the final cost analysis for disposables.
  • With disposables, I did not figure out the cost of garbage, just like I did not figure out the cost of water and electricity for washing. I also did not figure out the cost of manufacturing and transporting to stores (and then to consumers' homes) over 7000 disposable diapers. I am hoping the costs about even out. Let me know if you want to do the number crunching for those. :)

Sticking with Disposables

When breaking down the cost of buying disposables, you cannot pick one flat rate per diaper, because the cost of each diaper goes up as a baby increases in size, and at the same time the number of diapers used each day goes down. So, I first figured out the price per diaper at each size based on current prices at Then, I did a price breakdown of the cost per month based on the growth of my older boys, who honestly were always big for their age.

Disposable Table 1

Disposable Diaper Table 2

So, you can see that in my calculations, the cost for 2.5 years of disposable diapers is $2294.39. But there are more costs to consider, including wipes and garbage bags. For wipes, I looked at the 576 count refill of Huggies Natural Wipes on for $22.99. For garbage bags, I turned to, where you can get 180 Glad drawstring kitchen bags for $45.99.

Disposable Accessories Table

So, with these calculations, the grand total for diapering a child in disposable diapers for 2.5 years is $2489.91.

Cloth diapers

The cost of cloth diapering can be extremely variable, based on the types of cloth diapers one purchases, whether they are sized or one-size, the accessories purchased, etc. So, I did three different cost analyses. The first is for a frugal cloth diapering system, the next is for a one size system, and the third for a sized diapering system.

All three include diaper detergent and other accessories to make cloth diapering full time a possibility, including hemp doublers for nighttime and at least one pail liner and wet bag for storing diapers at home and on the road. For detergent, I picked Rockin' Green Detergent, which is the least expensive cloth diaper-specific detergent out there. Some people buy mass-market products (ie Tide), while others choose more expensive options (like Allens Naturally or Country Save). I chose this option because it is middle-of-the-road.

Here is where the numbers fall...


Frugal Cloth Diapering Costs


One Size Cloth Diaper Costs


Sized Cloth Diaper Costs

So, the cost of cloth diapering for 2.5 years ranges from $358.10 to $927.19. The savings can range from $1562.72 to $2131.81.

The Final Numbers

If I average the three cloth diapering packages, I come up with an average cost of $629.80. If I use this number as the cost of cloth diapering for 2.5 years then we find...

Cloth diaper users can save an average of $1860.11 from birth through age 2.5!

What do you think? Without even considering the environmental and health benefits of cloth, will over $1800 dollars in your pocket convince you to use cloth? For me, it is a no-brainer.

Sara, Diaper Daisy


  1. not to mention selling the cloth diapers when your done with them!

  2. Or getting to reuse them "free" for another child!

  3. Of course, it doesn't account for people like me who can't stop buying more because they are SO CUTE!

  4. when you have more kids, the savings are crazy!! yeah cloth diapers!!
    mama goose - i totally agree! and they keep coming out with cuter and cuter ones every time i have another kid...

  5. I used mostly cloth back in the dark ages of diapering 24 years ago, when disposables were a new thing. I did use disposables when away from home for extended time, no wet bags and such. Now my daughter has her own child and I bought her cloth diapers, so cute, so much easier to use, so soft and absorbent. I also believe in cloth napkins, dish clothes, rags for cleaning. So many things people dispose of are needless and just making companies lots of money. And I love my clothesline!

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  7. I compared the price of cloth to the cheapest diapers I could find (at Costco) and still found significant savings.

  8. I would definitely say you need more cloth wipes though. Ours have gotten thin pretty quickly and needed to be replaced, but still the savings are awesome.

  9. That's awesome!

    I have found that the biggest thing today is people who have never seen "modern" cloth have no idea how far it's come. They automatically think prefolds and rubber pants until I SHOW them how cool my diapers are!

  10. I don't know about most Mamas, but we DEFINITELY go through more than 3 disposable wipes per day when we use them. We love our cloth ones though!!! I did the math with the cost of energy and water and it still saves over $1000 per child and more if you sell them when you're done or use them for more kids!!

  11. That's really great that you've done all that work. For mom's that still aren't sure. Why don't you try cloth during the day when you are home and a green disposable for when you go out?

    Ok, I calculated laundry use (looked at Hydro One website for pricing).

    Dryer $0.61/hour (I figure this is one use)
    Washer $0.09/1 1/2 hour use (cold rinse & hot wash)
    Hot Water Heater $0.47/hour (for the hot wash)

    I figure I wash my diapers 2 times per week, so here's my calculation:

    $0.61 + $0.09 + $0.47 = $1.17 x 2 = $2.34/week
    $2.34 x 52 weeks/year = $121.68/year * 2.5 years = $304.20

    I also would not cancel this out with gas for picking up disposables, as most people pick those up with their groceries anyways, so it is not an added cost to their weekly routines. However, I would note that it is much more convenient to see that you are getting low in diapers and simply wash a load.

  12. found this link through a friend who commented about it on FB....

    I cloth diapered my second child from birth to 9 1/2 mos old (after a failed 'late' attempt at CD'ing my oldest from 12-15 months old with some very poorly made AIOs).

    With the second boy, my dh thought I was out of my mind, saying it would cost way too much to CD. So I kept a spreadsheet of EVERY single penny I spent related to CDing, even figuring out the cost per load of laundry in my HE washer & detergent.

    In the end, I had him in kissaluvs size 0 (some new seconds, some purchased gently used), a few specialty internet boutique diapers, some store bought AIOs (horrible!), then by 2 mos old I had him almost exclusively in Fuzzi Bunz for the rest of time.

    I did use disposables at night (at DH's request) and when we'd go away for more than a day).

    In the end, I spent a total of $900 on CDing (CDs, reuseable wipes, aloe gel & essential oils to make wipe solution, wet bag, toilet shower, etc.) I bought much of my CD supply gently used.

    I sold everything as he grew out of them since he was going to be our last child. Quit at 9 mos because I was going back to work and pressure from needing to do laundry every day (dirties started getting really stinky really fast)

    In the end, I earned $750 from selling everything. So, almost a year in cloth diapers ended up costing only $150 total. :)

    Had I done this with my first child and kept on with #2, I would have saved a tonne more!



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