Sunday, January 24, 2010

Diaper Dollars

I have been an avid cloth diapering mama for the past 16 months. I decided to switch to cloth when Eli was 5 months old after battling persistent diaper rashes causing me to launch an investigation into the not-so-good effects of a baby's tender skin being subjected 24/7 to the bleach and other chemicals that are placed in disposables today to make them "super absorbent." What I found prompted me to look for an alternative, leading me straight into the small but quickly growing community of cloth diapering parents. Weeks of research went into my decision over which brand to purchase and it took some major convincing to get John on board with the switch. To make a long story short, we now use 2 brands of one-sized all-in-one diapers, meaning they grow with the child and are able to be used from birth until potty training. And they all either velcro or snap on, eliminating the need for the old-fashioned diaper pins and waterproof covers your grandmas used.
With the arrival of baby #2 less than 3 months away, I've started thinking again about diaper logistics and how long we will have 2 babies in diapers before Eli begins to potty train. Do we have enough diapers? Am I ready to double the amount of washing, sorting and stuffing? How much money are we saving by using cloth? All of these questions have lead me to this blog entry and to figure out exactly what the cost/savings ratios are of using disposables vs. cloth. So, yes, maybe you're thinking I have too much time on my hands at this point. Or maybe that I am a huge dork. Either way, here are the results of my research and calculations....

We'll start with disposables. I prefer Huggies brand over all others because of how they fit Eli's body. According to current pricing from, 1 jumbo box of size 5 Huggies costs $38.39 for 132 diapers. That's a unit price of $0.29 per diaper.
-Eli uses an average of 6 diapers in 24 hours bringing the daily cost to $1.74 and the monthly cost to $52.20
-Over the span of 1 year, the cost of diapers equals $626.40
-Assuming Eli will potty train around 3 years of age, the total cost for disposables (not including wipes, blow-outs, and the ever-wetting newborn stage) will amount to roughly $1,879.20
-Add another child for another 3 years and its a whopping $3,758.40, not to mention nearly 13,000 diapers piled up in a landfill somewhere.
Ok, and now the cloth. Our initial investment in 24 total diapers that are one-sized and able to work from birth until potty cost $280.
-I wash the diapers twice weekly in a double cycle load (first cold/cold, then hot/hot). According to the manual for our front-loader washer and local water rates, it costs $0.41 per double cycle X 2 per week, equaling 0.82/week in washing. The diapers are then line-dried which is FREE!
-The diapers require a special dye-free, soap-free detergent. I use Planet 2X He Ultra Laundry Liquid detergent that I order in bulk from Amazon. The cost of detergent per week is $0.28
-The year 1 cost for diapers, washing, and detergent is $332.80
-Every year after this only adds $52.80 to the total for the washing/detergent. So 3 total years of cloth diapering = $438.30 That's a savings of $1,440.90 per child. That's a lot of cash!
If you are still reading this post, you are a trooper. The moral of the story is that I am obviously a big fan of cloth diapering and now I feel better knowing that it is truly saving our family money as well as keeping Eli's bum safely tucked away in the brightly colored cotton fabrics. It is a little more work, but definitely not as hard to do as one might imagine. If you've ever thought about using cloth, go for it. You wont regret it!


  1. You are hilarious! I have to admit I skipped over most of the math part. We have about 20 cloth diaper and I was washing about every day and a half for both boys if that helps.

  2. I thoroughly enjoyed this post! You are right, that is some WHOPPER savings!!! You go girl.

  3. so i have to tell you... i REALLY appreciated this. i read it out loud to jared :) as a CPA i KNOW he apprecaited your calculations and ultimately your commitment to now only your childrens well being but of course saving money:) thanks for sharing this!!!


  4. Great math.... you must have attended an outstanding HS! But you have omitted the total cost of extra labor in pre-scraping and pre-washing the cloth diapers, which I estimate at about $8 per change...