Diapers Choices for the
Cloth or Disposables for your Baby?
Funny how this topic can create so many varied emotions. People defend
their choices based on environmental or emotional positions and sometimes
economical positions. I have done the same thing myself. I diapered 5 of
my 8 children in cloth diapers, the other 3 in disposable. I spent 18
years changing diapers and often had two children and at one point had 3
in diapers at the same time (one was in night time only diapers). I have
seen it from both sides. My thoughts on this topic are coming from a more
homesteading view of life. As homesteaders we strive to live a productive
life that is not consuming as much as it is providing for the needs of our
As homesteading homemakers one of our common traits is being frugal. We
typically are working on a tighter income than most and so analyzing the
cost of anything we do is important.
Another aspect of homesteading is being independent in as many areas as
possible. It is much more independent to go and wash a load of diapers
than to rely on the grocery store. We may be independent in other areas of
our life. For instance, we may bake bread instead of buy it. We may raise
our own eggs or milk. What a great feeling I get every time I am in the
grocery store and I am able to walk right on by the milk and egg aisle. Or
we grow gardens and walk right on past the lettuce and cucumbers and
tomatoes in the store all summer long. So this idea of being independent
in diapers fits right in.
Let’s talk about cost. Often the cost of using cloth diapers is nebulous.
I hear women say, “I am sure if you add up the cost of the soap,
electricity and all it would be about the same cost”, or “I feel like the
costs are about even”. Conclusions based on guesses or feelings will most
likely not give an accurate picture. One needs hard evidence to make a
choice. You need to know what the numbers are so you have something
factual to help you make this choice.
order to analyze the cost of anything we must be willing to search out the
numbers. This is not difficult to do; especially once you get the hang of
doing it, then you will find it fun!
One of the things I have learned over the years of living on one income is
that I can either choose to grumble, spend, and complain there is not
enough or I can be proactive and thankful for what I do have and learn to
be frugal! Frugality can be a wonderful and certainly worthwhile
Now back to diapers. I have been out the diaper loop, so to speak, for a
long time. But I chat with lots of women of different ages and am aware
that the diaper issue is still alive and well!
So what is the cost and how do you
figure this out?
First would be the cost of the cloth diapers themselves. The latest trend
in cloth diapering is the form fitted type diapers that look very similar
to disposable diapers. I do think these are cute and if you can afford to
invest in them they may be a good choice. But if your budget is tight you
can do what I did and buy prefolded diaper service quality diapers. Gerber
makes these (and probably other manufacturers) and they are durable and
last a long time and the cost is much less than the more fancy diapers.
Then there are more options in diaper covers, pins, etc. If frugality is
one of your main reasons for choosing cloth then the best choice for
diapers covers is old fashioned rubber pants (actually they are made of
vinyl not rubber :) ) and basic diaper pins. These will last you a long
time and be very easy on the budget.
Then finally to really know the actual cost of cloth diapers you need to
know how much you are spending on electricity to dry them and soap to wash
them. So I did a little research and math to help you know what you are
spending on your dryer and soap. You will have to plug in your own numbers
based on your dryer and your cost of electricity and the cost of your
My husband Tobin is great at deciphering the unit cost of just about
anything. So I went to him to get some help in knowing what it is costing
to run my dryer. He said that most electric dryers have a 5000 watt (also
referred to as 5 Kilowatt) element in them (1000 watts equals 1 Kilowatt).
Every dryer has a data plate, usually on the inside of the door. This will
show you exactly how many watts your dryer is using.
The cost for us per kilowatt hour is 6 cents (you can find out what you
are paying by looking at your last electricity bill). You pay for
electricity by the kilowatt hour.. so...
5 kilowatt dryer x .06 centers per kilowatt hour = .30 cents.. That is
what I would pay to run my dryer for 1 hour.
Now if your electricity is higher in cost than ours, say .08 to .09 cents
then you would multiply that by 5 (kilowatts). On the high end of .09
cents the cost would be 45 cents per hour to run. However as my hubby
pointed out that would be the maximum cost per hour because a dryer
element is like a thermostat in that it cycles on and off and does not run
continuously through the whole drying time. So the numbers calculated
would be on the highest end.
If you round the cost to 50 cents and hour and a load of diapers takes 1
1/2 hours to dry then the cost would be 75 cents per load to dry. I would
think most large capacity dryers would dry a load of diapers in less than
1 1/2 hours.
If you dry 2 loads of diapers a week, that would be $1.50 a week in dryer
cost. At this rate it would cost about $6.00 per month for dryer time. Now
even if your cost per kilowatt hour was higher than that it still would be
way less than what the cost of disposable diapers would be.
Now the laundry soap: If you wash diapers with homemade laundry soap that
works out to 1 cent per load. If you would like to see how I calculated
this cost and the recipe for making your own laundry soap you can read
A scoop of Oxy Clean for each load is .. Sorry I
don't have those numbers off the top of my head! ~smile~
I used old fashioned bleach, which is much, much less expensive than Oxy
Clean. After a couple of babies I usually needed to purchase another dozen
diapers due to the bleach use. The older diapers made great burp cloths
and I cut the centers out of some of them as well to make nursing pads. I
cut the shape and size I needed (I used a disposable pad for the pattern)
and zigzagged around the edges. They worked better than anything else I
had ever tried.
Now the last thing to keep in mind when finances are tight and you are
looking at ways to save money is that actually you are saving more than
just the cost of the diapers alone.
Your husband has to work and from his wages taxes are taken out. So if a
package of disposable diapers cost say $10.00 then he actually has to make
more than $10.00 to pay for this item... because out of his wages comes
Social Security (at the very least), Federal and sometimes state income
taxes depending on where you live. Of course there is also sales tax in
most states to pay for the disposable diapers when you buy them and
finally the cost to dispose of them.
If you are trying to decide on cloth verses disposables and finances are
an issue for you then you now have the tools and knowledge to make an
informed choice for your family. And you can have the satisfaction of
providing this for your babies and your home and not relying on the diaper
corporations (which sell billions of diapers so you know this is huge
money maker for them.. we get poorer while they get richer.. ok enough of
my rant :) )
And of course there are a lot of environmental reasons why cloth diapering
is a better choice. Being a good steward of God’s planet is also an
important factor in the decisions we make.
So in conclusion, if following the above advice on diaper type, covers and
soap, cloth diapers are less expensive then disposables. However, I do
know that this may not always be the overriding factor for many mom’s who
do choose to use disposables (remember I used them too for my last 3
children). Sometimes life is a struggle in more ways than financial and
you have to make choices based on financial means and sometimes your own
sanity. There are times when maybe something else has to give in a budget
in order to keep your sanity (~smile~).
If you sew, and you choose to use cloth diapers for you baby and would like to look into
making some of your own diapers you can see my web page
for instructions on how I did this for my oldest daughter.
© Crystal Miller, 2007 All Rights Reserved
Do Not Copy from any page of this website without permission from the owner