How Much We Saved Cloth DiaperingOur little man is outgrowing his sister’s cloth diapers.  It seems that we’re not going to make it through potty training with the mix of medium and one-size diapers that carried us through to the joyous end of diapering with our daughter.  As such, we decided to crunch the numbers – both environmental and cost – to decide if the purchase of additional large-size diapers was worth it.  It turns out that even if we’ve only got another 6 months left, it’s still worth it – from both a financial and environmental standpoint.

This got me thinking, “How much money have we saved by cloth diapering?”  And, of course, “Has it really helped the environment?”

How much money have we saved by cloth diapering?
We have a daughter and a son. Some people balk at this, but, of course, both of our kids used the same cloth diapers – so far.  (Tip: If your first is a girl like ours, try to avoid the temptation to buy colors and patterns that you wouldn’t also use for a boy.)

We use FuzziBunz pocket diapers and they’ve held up amazingly, although I did see that BumGenius has better environmental ratings.  Here’s our inventory.

18 x FuzziBunz Cloth Pocket Diapers – Small

12 x FuzziBunz Cloth Pocket Diapers – Medium

6 x FuzziBunz One Size Cloth Pocket Diapers

Note, If I were doing this all over again, I would probably skip the medium diapers and invest only in small diapers and one-size diapers.  I found the one-size diapers too big for a newborn, so the small were still necessary; however, by the time our kids were in the medium, the one-size diapers were more than adequate.  The medium do fit a little closer, but both the medium and the one-size do the job just fine.  In fact, if the one-size had been available when we first bought the medium, we wouldn’t need to now buy large diapers for our son.

We paid $20 per diaper on average nearly 4 years ago.  (It seems the price has dropped somewhat since then.)  So, in total, that’s around $720 to date.  For our daughter, this was enough, but it seems our son’s: (a) a little larger, and (b) a little later learning to communicate his potty needs.  So, we’ll soon be adding another 6 x bumGenius One-Size Snap Closure Cloth Diapers to our diapering collection.  (As babies get older and more “scheduled”, you don’t need as many diapers, so we think this should tide us over.)  This will bring our grand total to $840 for 2 kids.  Our diapers are still in great shape, so I really don’t anticipate ever buying another diaper beyond this point – more kids or not.

Besides cloth diapering, we also used cloth wipes much of the time, which also saved us some money, but I’m going to leave that out of this analysis since I really have no clue how to compare the number of wipes used between cloth and disposable.  I just know that when I use disposable, I use more.  Many more.

I’m also going to assume that the cost of dirty diaper storage is pretty much comparable, although those disposal diaper units seem perhaps a little more advanced.  We basically use a plastic garbage can with a lid that is lined with a washable, waterproof cloth bag.

So, that really only leaves the cost of additional washing to include in my cloth diapering cost analysis.  I think that it costs about $1 each time we wash our diapers.  We use a really hot cycle to make sure the diapers are as sterile as possible.  Along with that, we just use our regular soap and a couple of drops of tea tree oil – a natural anti-bacterial.  Our diapers always come out spotless.

On average, we wash our diapers about 3 times per week.  For a newborn, it’s more or less every other day.  For a baby, it’s about every 3 days.  So, I think I’m being objective when I say laundry costs us about $3 per week.  Our daughter was done with diapers before age 2.  I’m guessing that our son will be done somewhere shortly after age 2.  So, I’d guess that washing cloth diapers has cost us $3 * 52 weeks * 4 years = $624.

That brings the cloth diapering total in at $840 + $624 = $1464.

Now, how much would disposables have cost us?

Let’s assume that we would go through an equivalent number of disposable diapers as cloth diapers in the run of a week.  So, 3 times a week, we wash 18 diapers.  This means that we wash 54 diapers per week. (Again, more at the beginning, less at the end.)  Apparently the average diaper costs 28 cents, so that means that disposable diapers would cost 54 * 28 cents * 52 * 4 = $3144.

So, could it be that we actually saved $3144 – $1464 = $1680 by cloth diapering our 2 kids?  Even for only 1 child, we would have saved $540 according to these calculations.  Even buying the extra 6 diapers my son needs for only 6 months will save us $273.  Boo-ya!

How does cloth diapering help the environment?

Let’s forget for a moment that cloth diapering is super cozy for our baby and keeps him always-dry and rash-free.  (And let’s also not mention that they are super-cute.)  Cloth diapering keeps diapers out of landfills.  We actually recently gave our small cloth diapers to a friend who is expecting.  I know it seems weird, but they are completely santized and bacteria-free, so there’s really no good reason to avoid sharing them.  Regardless, even if we only used the diapers for our kids, we would be reducing the world’s waste and reducing the cost of energy required to create all of those disposable diapers.

Of course, cloth diapering does create additional laundry, which requires additional energy to heat water and run the washer.  It also uses more water for cleaning.  The question is: does the additional use of resources required for cleaning offset the “goodness” of saving our landfills from all of those diapers?

According to GoodGuide, it largely depends on (1) how re-usable the diapers are, and (2) how they are laundered.  If the diapers are washed using an energy-efficient machine and are dried in an energy-efficient dryer, or, better yet, line dried, then cloth diapers edge out disposable diapers from an environmental impact factor – even when bought anew for each child.

Having said that, if you live in an area with limited access to water, an environmentally-sound (i.e. biodegradable) disposable may actually be a better option.  (I almost can’t believe I just wrote that.)  GoodGuide recommends Seventh Generation Chlorine Free Diapers.

So, there you have it.  We live in Canada and, as such, are happy to be doing the best we can for the environment.  And, it certainly doesn’t hurt that we’re saving a mint!  Hope this helps you make an informed and healthy decision about how to diaper your little one.


Image: digitalart /

About the Author

Just a small town mom trying to make the world a better place for my kids. One small change at a time.

2 Responses to Gasp: How Much We Saved By Cloth Diapering

  1. Andrea says:

    Hi again all. I just saw this fairly accurate cost calculator – thought I would share.

  2. Andrea says:

    I also just found this wonderful post on NPN by Destany, a mom who makes her own cloth diapers: Talk about saving! I may have to try this instead of ordering more.

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