Sarah Deveau: Money Matters


Cloth Diapers Versus Disposable

The Clear Financial Winner

In a Moneyville article posted last week, a writer did the math on why she thinks cloth diapers are more expensive than disposable. While cloth diapers are certainly not right for every family, they make the most financial sense if you launder them yourself. Cleaning cloth diapers is not that much more disgusting than dealing with disposables.  Either way, you simply dump the solids into the toilet – a practice also recommended for disposables but not often followed – then wash the cloth diapers in the washing machine following the instructions provided when you purchased your diapers.

While I certainly don’t think cloth diapers are for everyone, such as those without washing machines at home, full time working moms who have enough to think about, etc. But this writer was misinformed about a lot of basic cloth diapering facts, and I’d like to set the record straight.

Over on my Money Smart Mom blog I break down her argument quote by quote. I’ll give you the highlights.

  She estimates her annual cost of disposable diapers to be $648. Assuming she potty trains at age two and a half, she not only gets a medal, but will have spent $1,620 on diapers for one child.

  She goes on to estimate the cost of cloth diapers, diaper pail, wet bag, laundering and costly disposable liners at $961 for a year. But as ANY experienced cloth diaper mama will tell her, cloth should cost no more than $740 in the first year (for top of the line diapers, laundering at home, diaper pail & wet bag and foregoing useless liners). And the second year? Laundering costs only. Third year? Laundering costs only!

  The writer assumed laundering costs at $160 a year, and I’ll give her that, though I suspect it’s much less if you line dry (outside or inside). One assumption she made was that she’d change her baby 12 times a day. Sure, for a newborn. But it’s a rare parent than will change their 18-month-old’s diaper 12 times a day, and if you do, you can share the medal with her for potty training a two and a half year old boy. So as her child ages, the laundering costs decrease. However, you would change disposables less frequently too, and the laundering savings is likely similar to the savings she’d get from using fewer disposables which she didn’t account for. So it comes out about even.

  If you plan on having more children, you may decide to invest in a few more diapers – let’s say $100 worth. Then again, your costs are laundering costs only.

  Assuming you have two kids in diapers for five years total, you’ll spend $3,240 on disposable diapers. Cloth? That would ring in, including laundering, at $1,480. Environmental issues and single-use-only lifestyle discussions aside, it’s a financial no-brainer.