What Diapering system is cheaper? Cloth or Disposable?

What Diapering system is cheaper? Cloth or Disposable?

Today, we're sharing a guest post from the pen of Steven Zussino, co-founder of GroceryAlerts.ca, the Canadian website specializing in grocery coupons and Canadian flyer deals. Steve is going to talk about the cost of cloth diapers versus disposables - a very important decision when you bring a new one into the world! I personally went for disposables for my little girl, though I'm definitely considering re-usable diapers the next time round. :)

Over to Stevie!

I became a dad in April this year and one of the first decisions after my daughter was born was what diapering system we were going to use, cloth or disposable diapers.

After a long discussion with my wife about the costs of either system, I decided to take all the variables (cleaning costs, electricity, washer/dryer, and water costs) and looks at diaper use estimates from several sources to come up with an estimate on what diapering system is less expensive. So I decided to build a cloth vs disposable diaper calculator.

The calculator makes several assumptions and does not look at cost of optional accessories like a Diaper Genie, Diaper pail/wet bag/tote bag, wet/dry bags, Diaper Pail Liners, liners, doublers, inserts, or a Diaper Sprayer or disposable diaper removal costs.

The calculator assumes that when using cloth diapers that a wash will be required every 15 diaper changes.

I wanted to share the calculator results using 2 scenarios, 1 family that lives in a house and another family that rents an apartment with no access to a washer/dryer.

The Smith Family:

The Smith family lives in a 3 bedroom house and has a washer/dryer. They just gave birth to a baby boy, Billy, and estimate that he will be toilet-trained by 30 months. They have decided to go with the Bum Genius cloth diapers brand. The initial cost would be $399.

They pay only 8 cents per kWh and the laundry detergent costs only $.10 per load (buying at Costco). They also have a newer Energy Star rated washing machine.

Using the calculator, the total cumulative cost is $656.76.

The Burns Family:

The Burns family lives in a 2 bedroom apartment and has to do laundry at a laundromat. They have given birth to a baby girl, Ashley and plan on having her toilet-trained by 30 months. They have also decided to use the same Bum Genius brand.

They do not have the room in their apartment to dry their clothes so they must pay $2 per load to wash and dry the diapers.

They found a frugal recipe to make their own laundry soap and pay only $.05 per load.

Using the calculator, the total cumulative cost of using cloth diapers is $2220.02.

Now, let's see if both families decided to use disposables how much they would cost.

We will assume that each family uses standard name-brand disposable diapers (Huggies, Pampers) at a cost of $.20 per diaper. Cheaper generic diapers and more expensive natural diapers are also available.

Using the calculator, the cost of disposables would be $1348.20.


It is interesting to see that the even though the initial cost of the cloth diapers are quite high, it is usually less expensive over time to use cloth diapers over disposable diapers. Additionally, what the calculator doesn’t take a look at is the resale or reuse of the cloth diapers. If the cloth diapers are used for another child or sold after their use, the savings would be greater.

Having a child can be expensive, however there are many issues that complicate the decision to use disposable or cloth diapers and for many people it is a personal choice.

(Image credit: simplyla)


Reply to
  • joy
    "The calculator assumes that when using cloth diapers that a wash will be required every 15 diaper changes." It took a couple of re-reads of that line to understand it. I was wondering how you could use a diaper 15 times before washing it:)
    • Mei
      We cloth diaper and even though it took convincing at first to hubby, he agreed to go for it. Though I do the loads and most of it, it actually saves us from driving to the store stocking up on disposables when there is a sale and using up coupons before they expire! Also, by switching to cloth our baby's rash has gone away so no diaper cream needed! I wish I started sooner so my baby wouldn't have to be in pain!
      • Steve A.
        Mei, I have heard positives about cloth diapering (like baby rash being decreased).
      • Amitabh
        who is selling these used cloth diapers? more interestingly, who is buying these used cloth diapers?
        • Steve A.
          If they are washed, the resale market for cloth diapers is quite popular.
          • Mei
            I would buy them used now that my stash is pretty full. Mine look brand new still and he's been on cloth diaper for 2 months now!
        • Crafty501
          Interesting statistics which I am sure will help new parents decide what is best for them. However, I think to give an overall viewpoint for new parents, the article should include information on landfills that most municipalities use to cover up garbage and how long it takes for the diapers and plastic bags (the dirty diapers are stashed in before being thrown in the garbage can) to break down. Also are the diapers made totally of recycled materital or what resources are being used in the manufacturing of diapers and how does it affect the environment? You might also include how much it would cost to actually make the diapers yourself rather than buying them already made. It's not difficult to make them - time consuming perhaps until you have made a few and know exactly what your are doing. I have made lots of diapers as shower gifts. Yes, I know not everyone has a sewing machine, but lots do, so it's still something to consider - just like comparing the couple who have with a washer and dryer and the couple who have to go to the laundromat. Or perhaps in your circle of friends you know people who love to sew and you could let it be known you would love to receive cloth diapers as a shower gift or new baby gift. I have seen the second hand diapers for sale at Valu Village and they have always been very reasonable. I'm sure for anyone interested in cloth diapers, they could do a search and find stores selling them.
          • Michiemoo
            One thing that is not accounted for is time! Time is worth money, and you need to consider the amount of time you spend putting together cloth diapers and washing them (and scooping out poop even) vs the time it takes to just get a disposable and throw it out. As a new parent you're going to be incredibly exhausted and if your child ends up getting diarrhea for whatever reason, you might go crazy with cloth diapers. For some parents, time is worth money, so even though you might save a few dollars in the long run with reusing cloth diapers, the extra amount of time you put in might be worth more money than that.
            • joy
              You also have to add the time it takes to go buy diapers, look for sales, clip coupons etc. I wish cloth diapers had been as they are now when my kids were babies. I would probably go the cloth route but have some disposables on hand for times or illness or when on the go.
              • Mei
                FYI, you should be throwing out poop (when the baby is on solids) even in a disposable diaper! When the baby is before 6 months and breastfed, you don't even have to do anything but throw it in the wash when you are ready to do the load! Time is about the same! Think of driving (gas) and finding a parking spot. Waiting in line to buy diapers too!
              • bina e.
                my kids are 18 and 16 and I used both, cloth while at home and diapers when we had to make the jont into the city (which at that time was a very long distance) Local diapers were an arm and a leg and we just couldn't financially afford to toss away.