Friday, 25 June 2010

Are cloth diapers full of crap?

I've been thinking a lot lately about whether or not we want to use cloth or disposable diapers.  It seems like a decision that requires a lot of research.  Cloth diapers are also one of those things that people either love or hate - either they tell you to absolutely go with it, they think they're great, or they look at you like you're Amish or something. 

Now, I'm not a big tree hugger, so cloth diapering is not a big environmental decision for me.  Do I like the idea that cloth diapers would keep thousands of diapers out of landfills?  Sure.  It's just not my primary reason for wanting to use cloth diapers.  My reasons are more basic - I'm cheap.  I'm really concerned about money while I'm off work and I am hoping that cloth diapers would relieve some of that burden.  Of course, cloth diapers bring up a whole other series of costs - they're expensive to buy initially, they cause you to do more laundry (and with our lovely Smart Meter, I would be wanting to do laundry on the weekends and after 9:00 to save on each load) which adds to your hydro, water and gas bills (our dryer is gas) and you're spending more on detergent.

Disposable diapers are great because they're so easy - use and toss, use and toss.  But they aren't cheap either, I read that you should expect to spend about $2000 a year on diapers.  Also, we have to buy bag tags for our garbage - so every bag we put out costs us $1.50.  Not much right now when we only have one bag a week, but it would add up if it was an extra couple of bags of just diapers sitting out at the curb each week.

There's also hybrid diapers, like gDiapers, which promise you the best of both worlds.  These ones allow you to flush or compost your liners for a more eco-friendly choice.  But it all comes at a price.

I really don't think I could do straight cloth diapering - I think I would cave when we're going on an outing or overnight, but that's what worries me.  I don't want to spend hundreds of dollars on an initial investment for cloth diapers, then end up only using them a couple of times a day.  Would I be diligent enough to balance the use of cloth and disposable diapers?  I don't know. 

Even if I do decide on cloth diapers, then there's the even bigger question of what kind to use.  bumGenius, gDiapers, Happy Heinys, FuzziBunz, Kushies, Mother-Ease...there is a swamp of cloth diapers brands out there, each one promising the best leak protection and comfort for you baby.  It's exhausting and makes me want to eat ice cream instead.

So, what's your call?  I'm interested in your opinion - cloth or disposable?  Any favourite brands?  Help a gal out!

(Oh, and in case you're wondering, I'm 17 weeks now and barely showing.  Everyone keeps telling me how small I still am, which just makes me worried that I'll be exploding in the next few weeks to make up for it.  I can still wear my usual clothes, but I got a Bella Band so I can leave my pants undone, because it's just way more comfortable.  We haven't taken any "belly pictures" yet because there just isn't much to show - maybe there'll be something closer to week 20.


Sylvia Lewis-Havard said...

go with the cloth diapers. I did some research when I was laid off on cloth diapers because I felt it was something that was under-produced (wrong) and I was thinking (crazy) of starting a diaper service in the yuppy neighbourhood I live in in Ottawa. (being suddenly laid off can put crazy thoughts in your mind)

Anyways try going to a diaper store in person (I found that I didn't really get an idea of it despit all my internet research until I went it actually looked at everything). The ones that are all-in-one deal are a waste of time and money because of all the washing, but the ones where you buy a cover and then a liner are totally cheap & SO easy. you can hang dry them to save on energy & in return they'll last longer. Also the liners are SUPER easy to make on your own using a sewing machine and old towels (which you can buy by the garbage bag for like $4 at goodwill and then just bleach them a bit), if you so choose

Either way it's pretty cheap because the covers are about 15$ and you only need a few because that part doesn't actually have to go through the wash every time, the lady at the store said most of the time you can get away with rinsing it and hang-drying (because it's just like a rain coat, and all the messy bits go into the liner)

the liners you buy in bulk packs and they last forever, and are pretty flexible in sizing, I think there are only 3 sizes, but depending on your baby they might only go through 1 or 2 of them.

so, you can get yourself a basic set-up for under 100$, with say 5 covers & a bunch of liners. You'll probably have to add a few more covers as baby grows, but some of the better ones are actually very flexible in both leg sizing and in wais sizing so they can actually vary quite a lot. I like the ones with the snaps around the legs so you can change the size based on baby's sausage legs.

You can still use the biodegradable parts if you want too, you just put them on top of the liners and when you change you just lift that part and chuck it in the toilet, and put the liner in your bucket.

Then apparently there is some PH balance that you need to worry a bit about, but apparently that can be rectified by using soda or vinegar in your wash.

I was always on the HELL NO side for cloth diapers but it's a whole new world out there now and they actually look cuter than regular ones.

Sorry that went so long! Hope some of it was helpful!

ashlie said...

Wow - thanks Sylvia! That's very helpful! You're quite the well of cloth diaper information! I definitely need to make some trips out to stores and check out these products in person - it's so hard to tell just from looking online. Did Owen and your sister in law decide to go with cloth for your nephew?

Anonymous said...

You would be surprised at how cloth diapers just become part of the routine and how most people that try them never want to go back. I currently have two in diapers (fingers crossed that one will potty train in the next couple of weeks) and throwing in a load of laundry right before bed and hanging in the morning is super easy. We don't have any disposables in the house because I think they smell and the thought would never cross my mind to use them.

Like Sylvia says, the cheapest way to go is with prefolds and covers, especially during the infant phase since they grow so quickly. And I agree, the covers wash out super fast if you even have to wash them (we only do if they get poop on them). We have never used liners, don't find them necessary. Keep in mind that even if you spend some money initially, there's a fairly good used diaper market out there so you can recover some of those costs.

I also wanted to chime in about pocket diapers and all in ones. I agree that AIOs are a waste - they take forever to dry although they are the easiest kind of diapers out there as they take no prep work. We love our one size pocket diapers as they can be stuffed based on what you need them for (more stuffing at night for example). The one size diapers don't fit before about 10 lbs though (or if you have a child with skinny chicken legs like my son, past 12 lbs), so you'll have to have something for the newborn stage anyway.

Lastly, get your hands on the diapers directly either at a store or through a trial ( has one) so you can see what works best for you and the build of your child. You can also rent Kissaluv size 0s if you do not want to mess with a prefold (they require pins/snappi and a fold that can be daunting for first time users) at a cost similar or cheaper to buying disposables.

There's a great wealth of information about cloth diapers out there ( has a great tutorial for example) and a lot of people using them who you might not expect. They are super cute and totally addicting! Good luck with your choice!

Loretta.Longo said...

I fell in love with when learning about making the switch. There is a "new to cloth" link on there that will help you out TREMENDOUSLY!

My husband was out of work and we were spending $15 on every pack of gDiapers inserts. That's $15/week at least. $60/month - conservatively. I found that for $27 I could get a dozen prefolds. I purchased 2 dozen. Then, I went onto and bought 5 covers from a lady for $25 (including shipping). I picked up a roll of Bummis bio liners for $8 and paid Green Mountain's $6.95 flat rate shipping. I will use the prefolds in my gDiapers covers as well... but 10 covers is a bit excessive, I just love them and don't want them to go to waste.

There you have it. I spent under $100 and I have enough supplies to cloth diaper my son full-time. That's less than I would have spent on diapers in TWO WHOLE MONTHS!!!

Check out as well for ideas. You may want to consider Econobum (which are the covers that I went with). For $50 you get 3 covers and a dozen prefolds. The covers are OS - meaning One Size fits all, because they have adjustable snaps. The prefolds are one size as well. For $100 you get enough to cloth diaper full time.

Give it a whirl. You might find you like it.

alysha said...

I cloth diaper part time. I bought pocket diapers (they have a pocket you put an insert in, Fuzzibunz to be exact). They are super easy to use. Stuffing all of them takes maybe 5 minutes, then I have them ready to go. We use them for around the house and short trips. I do have a little issue with them, my girl is a bit hunka hunka and these add some bulk that make many pants difficult.

I would look into prefolds (the "normal" cloth diapers) and covers. I am thinking of using those as well. I have heard of some people trifolding the prefolds (folding into thirds) and using them like in insert in the cover- no need for pins or snappis.

You would also need wet bags. I dont have one and really wish I did. There are small ones for putting dirties in when you are out and large pail ones for at home.

I do use sposies when I go out for the day (because of pant fit and no wet bag), when we travel, and when I just dont want to be bothered with the laundry and what not.

If you are looking to save some cash you can search the diaper sites for used diapers, also look on criagslist, ebay, and While it sounds gross, if you get pics and only pick diapers in good condition, you can wash them a few times and they will be safe for the baby. Dont forget, if you start and hate it for whatever reason, you can sell your stash, so you will get some of the money back :-)

Good luck!

dannyscotland said...

It looks like you have already gotten a wealth of great information to help you make your decision, but I still have to put my two cents in. Cheapest is prefolds and covers. kdbspace on Etsy has good covers that aren't expensive, but if you can get your hands on some Wonder Wraps, they are my *favorite*. They have never leaked on me as long as I was not using birdseye cloth prefolds (I do not recommend buying any of these; if you buy a brand from the store, such as Gerber, make sure they are Premium or Diaper Service Quality). If you want to use pocket diapers, I have had a lot of success with Smartipants one size diapers. They have a snap closure and don't leak. The trick to microfiber inserts is to make sure you don't let them get overfull or they will leak from the compression. That said, I have almost never had any leaks with the Smartipants.

The recommendations to go into a store are fantastic. Hopefully you have one close by, but if not there are a lot of online stores that have trial programs, you just have to check them out.

I don't use liners but I do have a diaper sprayer that I wouldn't give up for anything. I made my own microfiber inserts out of some microfiber bar mop towels I got on clearance at Target. I just cut them to the size I wanted and sewed up two sides. I left one end open to save on the sewing and it doesn't make a bit of difference. You can then make them as thick as you want and I even used them overnight until they just got too bulky and I switched to some hemp. But that's far enough down the line that you'll be more experienced when the time comes to make that decision.

I think that if you do decide to give cloth a try (I hope you will), you'll find that it is really easy, shouldn't add to your laundry routine very much, at least not much more than any baby adds to it, and if you line dry (you can even line dry them inside if you need to, if you're in an apartment or something), you can save money there, too.

Also, I recognize that the initial startup cost for cloth seems high, but if you figure you have a kid in disposables for, say 3 years, that's about a couple thousand dollars, right? The startup with 24 prefolds and 6 Wonder Wraps (one size) covers is about $90ish for the covers and about $50 for the prefolds. $150 and you're started out on your way. I hope this helps. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Cloth diaper savings ideas:

Line dry instead of using the dryer--big savings and it gets out any and all stains.

Detergent shouldn't cost much--find the cheapest stuff you can find (because it has the least amount of additives). And then you only use 1/4 of the recommended amt. We use purex--6 bucks and it lasts us 2-3 months.
Newborn: Use diaper covers (like Thirsties) and prefolds. No pins or snappis required. Have a few bumgenius AIO for when you need to run out and about (if the thought of using prefolds out and about scares you).

2 months and beyond: I recommend 24 bumgenius or pixie poppits. Both allow you to stuff them with extra absorbency.

Night time: Invest in 3 Lollidoo ecopocket diapers. They are THE night time diapering solution. My son is a major peebody and wore his for 12 hours and had a big morning poo before I could change him---no leaks at all!

I always carry ziplock bags when we are out and about. When I have to change a diaper, I put the dirty one in the bag and zip it up! Then empty into my pail when we get home.

Check out my blog: I often blog about cloth diapers/tips/my advice (for what it's worth!)

T Rex Mom said...

Initially I chose cloth because of cost. And it really has saved us money. Just resist the urge to purchase diapers just because they are cute. That's the tough part.

Then I realized it was just healthier for my baby - no chemicals, no diaper rash.

Prefolds and liners in a cover are a great option but I would recommend a few "modern" diapers - pocket style. They are easily washable and line dry decently quick. These are nice for outings or for night time.

We did the math and even if you purchased the most high end diapers available, it is still less expensive than using disposables.

And there are some modern "one-size" cloth diapers out there that will get you through most of your diaper years. Our favorite one-size is Fuzzibunz. They do take some getting used to but one you get it down, they rock.

If you do decide to use cloth and this is your first baby, it would not be a bad idea to use some disposables for the first couple weeks when you are still getting the hang of things.

Enjoy your bundle when he/she arrives and I do hope you choose cloth.

Stephanie said...

I made the stwitch about a month and ah alf ago - for the same reason you are considering cloth - CHEAP! I have a 2.5 year old and a 7 month old, and both are in diapers. The 2.5 year old has no desire to potty train (read refuses to bend to sit on the potty after 3-4 attempts in one day), so I knew diapers were going to be worn for a little while longer. I do have to say it isn't that hard. I am using prefolds and covers. Velcro is easier to attach, but I am getting used to snaps too (I see the pros and cons of both systems). I have to do laundry a few extra times a week, but it is keeping our towels and bedding cleaner (you can wash those with your diapers if you want). I only have six covers, 24 prefolds, one pocket diaper, and four brand new hemp inserts that I just prepped today.

Really, I would give it a try. By a starter package (6 diapers or so) and see how it goes for you.

I have two reviews/stories on my blog so far - feel free to read them if you want!

wendy @ ABCs and Garden Peas said...

I went back and forth on this issue for the longest time. I did the research when I was pregnant, and decided on gDiapers, but pushed them aside in favor of disposables when we had fit issues. When my son turned 6 months old, it was really eating at me and I had a bit of a light bulb moment, I realized: it's not about the cost, or the environment, it's about what's best for him, Then it was clear. I don't want those horrible plastics and toxic chemicals next to his skin.

I tried and tried with the gDiapers, but they just didn't work for us. I spent too much time learning how to make them work, and they were expensive and a little intimidating. Then we tried covers and prefolds, but they were SO bulky and my husband we baffled. Kelly's Closet offered a coupon code for a free all-in-one one size diaper, so we tried that and it was the easiest thing ever! I've now decided to go with those, mostly Fuzzibunz, and I am thrilled. We haven't had any leaks yet, and Dad and Grammie are willing to use them. You just snap them on, they fit well (and are adjustable), and when they are dirty, you just throw them in the wash. Easy, and we can use them for the next baby!
(Bonus: They are so soft and cute!) It took me a while to get here, and I may find other brands that I like, but we're well on our way and I feel so much better about this decision than when I was using disposables. I believe it's an all around better way to diaper your baby. Good luck, I hope you find something that works for you.

I'm sharing my journey with cloth on my blog if you're interested!

Jill said...

Well you have plenty of time to think on it. There is the option of trying out a cloth diaper service (they drop off fresh and pick up the dirties once a week) to see how you like it. You're only out one week's worth of $ if you end up hating it. Presuming there is one in your area. We find it easily manageable doing all of our own laundry. If you have enough diapers (say 24-36 one size diapers) you can easily plan out when to wash since that seems important to you. I know plenty of people that put them in before bedtime and then allow them to dry in the morning. You can even put them over a drying rack and use a fan if you don't want to use your gas dryer. If you are looking for super cheap, you can go with prefolds (which are often sized, so you'd have to size up) but the good news is that there are one size covers, so for an initial investment of $100-$300, you can get anything from prefolds to super easy one size pockets. We like pockets because you can adjust the absorbency levels, which can vary depending on how old your baby is and how much the 'output' so to speak. I would suggest if you don't have a diaper service to 'rent' a few diapers from a diaper store, wash them and have your baby wear them, and decide what you like from there. Then you get the option to keep what you want and purchase more. If you don't want any of them, you return them for a refund (minus a finders fee for letting you rent them of course, but it is small). Plenty of people cloth diaper part time. You are right, there is an initial investment, AND it is cheaper in the long run to cloth diaper. Good luck and best wishes on your new arrival!

ashlie said...

Wow - it is so nice to see so many options from so many new "faces"! I really appreciate all the input and it's really making me feel like this is a choice we can handle doing - once we sort through all the options! Based on what everyone is saying, it sounds like there is no one way - that a mix of prefolds and covers, AIOs and disposables might be just right for our lifestyle.

JW said...

I'm actually glad you posted this Ashlie, because now I don't have to ask the same question, and I can save the advice for when I need it.

lisaampraill said...

I went with disposibles. I get grossed out at the thought of washing those cloth diapers. Reality is I was probably partly lazy and partly ignorant. I did not research anything into it. Just went to the throw out kind!
That being said, if you did decide to go disposable best advice I ever got was to buy diapers while still working. We use to buy a bag or two at each pay cheque and stick them in the closet. I bought a variety of sized and if Alex grew out of them when I still had that size, I just exchanged them at Walmart. They are good like that! This made one less thing to buy while on mat leave. We ended up not having to buy him any diapers after he was born until after he was 4 months old! They were easily stored in the back of his closet until needed.
Good luck with your decision making :)