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Cloth and Disposable Diaper Cost Comparison

My goal here is to provide a realistic, no detail left uncovered comparison of the cost differences between cloth diapers and disposable diapers. If you can think of other information that would be useful to have, let me know and I'll get to work!

All prices as of November 2013.

Comparison of Diapers
Comparison of Accessories and other Supplies
Cost of Laundry
Time is Money
The Final Outcome

There is also a great calculator at the Diaper Pin and a really nice set of charts at Diaper Decisions.

Comparison of Diapers

Month Disposable: Parents Choice at Walmart Disposable: Pampers from Amazon Disposable: 7th Generation from Amazon Cloth: Prefolds and Covers Cloth: Wallypop Assortment Cloth: Name Brand Assortment Cloth: Name Brand One-Size Assortment Cloth: Name Brand One-Size Assortment, optimistic
1 54 90 112 126 394 408 408 864
2 54 90 112 0 0 666 1152 0
3 45 63 93 0 0 0 0 0
4 45 63 93 0 398 0 0 0
5 35 51 75 0 0 0 0 0
6 35 51 75 0 0 666 0 0
7 32 45 65 106 0 0 0 0
8 32 45 65 0 0 0 0 0
9 32 45 65 0 0 0 0 0
10 32 45 65 0 0 0 0 0
11 32 45 65 0 0 0 0 0
12 32 45 65 0 0 0 0 0
13 26 35 51 0 0 0 0 0
14 26 35 51 0 0 0 0 0
15 26 35 51 0 0 0 0 0
16 26 35 51 0 0 0 0 0
17 26 35 51 0 0 0 0 0
18 26 35 51 0 0 0 0 0
19 26 35 51 0 0 444 0 0
20 26 35 51 0 0 0 0 0
21 26 35 51 0 0 0 0 0
22 26 35 51 0 0 0 0 0
23 26 35 51 0 0 0 0 0
24 27 51 63 42 0 0 0 288
25 27 51 63 0 0 0 0 0
26 27 51 63 0 0 0 0 0
27 27 51 63 0 285 0 666 0
28 27 51 63 0 0 0 0 0
29 27 51 63 0 0 0 0 0
30 27 51 63 0 0 0 0 0
31 27 51 63 0 0 0 0 0
32 27 51 63 0 0 0 0 0
33 27 51 63 0 0 0 0 0
34 27 51 63 0 0 0 0 0
35 27 51 63 0 0 0 0 0
36 27 51 63 0 0 0 0 0
Cost, first child 1097 1726 2330 274 1077 2184 2226 1152
Cost, second child 1097 1726 2330 0 0 0 2226 1152
Total, two children 2194 3452 4660 274 1077 2184 4452 2304

 

Worth noting:
Many babies will potty train before 36 months.
Prefold and Cover families can opt to purchase only premium sized prefolds, skipping the infant size.
Cloth diaper families can save over the listed costs by buying used diapers or bartering for diapers.
Cloth diaper calculations assume washing every 3 days. Parents can buy fewer diapers and wash more often to save even more money.

Additional notes on these calculations

 

Comparison of Accessories and Other Supplies

Many people wonder about the cost of the additional supplies that you need when you cloth diaper. Let's compare the prices of those supplies to the supplies you need for disposable diapering

Disposable, Option A Disposable, Option B Cloth, Option A Cloth, Option B
Disposal:
Garbage bags
$120
Disposal:
Diaper Genie
$30
Storage: Step-Lid Garbage Can
$30
Storage: Special Diaper Pail
$20
    Disposal:
Genie Refills

$486

    Storage: Two Pail Liners
$36
Disposable Wipes,
Off Brand
$300
Disposable Wipes,
Name Brand
$400
Cloth Wipes
$39
Cloth Wipes

$39

TOTAL
$420
TOTAL
$916
TOTAL
$69
TOTAL
$95

I did not include things you'd need regardless of diapering choices, such as a changing pad or diaper bag.

Additional notes on these calculations

 

Cost of Laundry

One of the more common questions I get is "But doesn't the cost of laundry outweigh any cost savings you might receive from using cloth diapers?" As you'll see, the answer is absolutely not!

Washing
A reasonably efficient top loader uses about 30 gallons of water per load. At Des Moines current water rates (in city, Tier 1, $3.03 per 1000 gallons), that’s 9 cents per load for the water used.

According to the clean air partnership, it takes 4.3 kwh to heat water for a hot wash, which at Des Moines current electricity rates ($.08856 per kwh), means 38 cents to heat the water.

Using the US Dept of Energy’s website helps me figure out that the washer uses .1 kwh per cycle, which comes to almost 1 cent.

So, per load, to wash, for energy and water, we’re spending 48 cents. If you wash diapers three times a week, you're at less than $1.50 per week. Less than $75 per year.

Drying
If you want to dry in an electric dryer, the Multi-Housing Laundry Association says that the average dryer uses 3.3 kwh per cycle. That’s 29 cents using my electric rates. Three loads a week, less than 90 cents. A year is just over $45.

Total for one year in diapers, water and energy, assuming 3 loads a week using a not super efficient washer and an electric dryer: $120. Total for three years: $360.

 

 

Time is Money

"But my time is worth something, too!" You're right, it is.

How much time does cloth diaper laundry actually take? I can only give you my experience, and I timed myself.

Walking diaper pail from changing area down to laundry area: 30 seconds
Emptying diaper pail into washer: 10 seconds
Starting washer, putting in detergent, making sure drain is clear of toys: 20 seconds
Coming back down later to put diapers into dryer: 1 minute
Removing diapers from dryer: 1 minute
Folding diapers and putting away in drawer: 10 minutes if focused
(This step is optional, many families just use the laundry basket as their clean-diaper storage.)

TOTAL TIME: 13 minutes. (3 minutes if you skip the folding)
Weekly (three loads per week): 39 minutes. (9 minutes if you skip folding)
Annually: 34 hours. (7.8 hours if you skip folding)

Disposable diapering also involves a time investment. You must drive to the store, stand in line, purchase the diapers, and take the garbage out. "But I do these things anyway!" you might protest. "I'll just get diapers when I get groceries!" There is no doubt that this is what most families plan, but I used to do my grocery shopping and errand running late at night, often around 9 or 10 PM. Hardly a trip went by that I didn't see someone there buying - guess what - one package of disposable diapers, and that's it. oops!

 

The Final Outcome

In three years of diapering:

Disposable diapering can range from approx. $1517 to approx. $3246.

Cloth diapering can range from approx. $703 to approx. $2681 (and up).

 

Notes

Notes on Cloth vs Disposable Diaper Prices

Disposable diaper prices do not include gas or shipping. Sizing based on Wally's baby book: Size 1/2 through 2 months (14 lbs). Size 3 through 1 year (22 lbs). Size 4 through 24 months (30 lbs). Size 5 through 36 months.

Cloth diaper prices came from:
Prefolds and Proraps: ClothEeze Bleached from Greenmountaindiapers.com (Wallypop's clearancing out our prefolds); Prorap covers from wallypop.net Infant size diapers are used through month 6, Premium size diapers and Med covers are used through month 24, the same Premium diapers and large covers are used through month 36. 3 dozen diapers and 6 covers are used in each size.

Wallypop Assortment: www.wallypop.net Assumes a variety of approx. 30% prefolds with covers, 40% fitteds and covers, and 30% pockets. Purchased: 1 dozen infant prefolds, 20 fitteds, 6 pockets, and 6 Prorap covers at month 1. 1 dozen premium prefolds, 20 fitteds, 6 pockets, and 6 Prorap covers at month 4. 15 fitteds, 5 pockets, and 5 Prorap covers at month 27.

High End Brand Assortment: kellyscloset.com Assumes a variety of 50% pockets, and 50% all in ones, an assortment of name-brand diapers. 2 dozen diapers are used in size Newborn, 3 dozen diapers are used in size small, 3 dozen diapers are used in size medium, and 2 dozen are used in size large. Size Newborn worn during month 1, Size Small through month 5, size Medium through month 18, and size Large through month 36.

One Size Brand Assortment: kellyscloset.com. Assumes 100% one size all in one diapers, an assortment of name-brand diapers. 2 dozen sized diapers are used for month 1, 4 dozen one-size diapers are purchased at month 2, and 2 dozen sized diapers are added at month 27, when most babies will outgrow their one-size diapers, or the diapers will have completely fallen apart.

One Size Brand Assortment, optimistic uses the same numbers, but assumes you buy only 3 dozen diapers to start, your child fits into the one-size diapers immediately and does not outgrow them. This model assumes that 1 dozen will need to be replaced by 24 months. This is pretty optimistic.

Change Frequency: Cost is based on changing a newborn every 2 hours, changing older babies every 3 hours, and changing toddlers 4 hours. Overnight diaper changes are assumed to take place every 2 hours through 2 months, twice a night through 6 months, and once a night until 1 year.

Diaper usage assumed:

 
Monthly
Daily
Months 1-2

360

12
Months 3-4
300
10
Months 5-6
240
8
Months 7-12
210
7
Months 13-36
150
5
 

Notes on Accessories:

Disposable Option A:
Garbage Bags: Hefty 4 Gallon, purchased at Walmart, use 1 per day.
Wipes: Off Brand purchased at Walmart
Assumed the use of 10,000 wipes over the course of 3 years. This assumes parents start out using multiple wipes at every change and gradually move to using 1 wipe for poop changes and none for pee changes.

Disposable Option B:
Diaper Genie from Walmart.
Refills from Walmart: Refill holds 270 diapers. 27 refill packs over 3 years of diapering, with diaper usage estimates as outlined above.
Wipes: Name Brand (Huggies) purchased from Walmart. Assumed the use of 10,000 wipes over the course of 3 years. This assumes parents start out using multiple wipes at every change and gradually move to using 1 wipe for poop changes and none for pee changes.

Cloth Option A:
Step-Lid Garbage Can from Target (this is what I use!)
Three dozen cloth wipes from www.wallypop.net (with laundry every 3 days).

Cloth Option B:
Diaper Pail and liners from kellyscloset.com
Three dozen cloth wipes from www.wallypop.net (laundry every 3 days)

 

 
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