I am frequently asked many, many questions about cloth diapering. I know I had the same questions before I chose to make the switch to cloth. I figured I would make a list and answer the common cloth diapering questions I get. (This will not cover certain laundry specific questions, that is another post entirely!)
Oh my, yes! I save a lot of money! Here is the actual breakdown:
Disposables: $10.99/pack (We used Seventh Generation Diapers before we switched to cloth because of my kid’s sensitivities to the chemicals in disposable diapers.) We used about 2 packs every week. So, that is $1,142. 96 per year (before tax) on diapers alone. (or $95.25 per month.) Add the $16 a month for a box of wipes and that is $1334.96 a year. (or $111.25 a month.) Add the $5 a month for the diaper genie refill. So, your grand total for disposables comes to $1394.96 a year. ($116.25 a month)
Cloth Diapers: The average price of a cloth diaper is $18, so I will use that number as my estimate. (Some diapers are more, some are less. I have quiet the mix.) So, based on that figure, I’d have 24 diapers for the same 2 kids in disposables we talked about above. That would be $432 in diapers. (My own personal diaper stash actually cost me less than $300.) And lets say you buy wipes (I made mine from flannel scraps for FREE), that would be $21 for 30. So, now our total is up to $453. Now, let’s also say you decided to buy wipe solution. That would add $21. (I buy mine for $3.50 a container and if I used a lot of it, I’d use one container every 2 months. As it is, I actually use one container about every 3 or 4 months.) Now our total is up to $474. Add two diaper pail liners at $33 for 2 and our total is now $507. (I made mine for FREE from some leftover home decor fabric I had lying around.
So, not attempting to be economical in both situations, you would save $886.96 by switching to cloth in one year. (And note that beyond that year, you continue to save more money! Your only continuing expense with cloth in this scenario is wipes solution.
What do you do when they poop?
Well, first I run in circles screaming before throwing all their clothes in the fireplace and burning them! Okay, so not really. But what do you do when your kid poops? Let’s see… you change their diaper? Wow? Really?! Me, too!
First off, let me clear the air. You are NOT SUPPOSED to roll your child’s poop up in their diaper and toss it in the trash. Human excrement is not a substance that should go to a landfill. You are SUPPOSED to dump their poop into the toilet and flush it, then throw away the soiled diaper. That said, I don’t know of anyone that uses disposable diapers that does not throw away poop! But in case you ever wondered, you are not supposed to do that!
There is a huge misconception out there that you must rinse or swirl dirty cloth diapers in the toilet or place them in some vat of magic poop erasing solution to clean them. You don’t. There are some people out there that still choose to rinse diapers or use a “wet pail” system for whatever reason, but that is not the norm. (It is usually only for people that use prefolds or flats, though some people like rinsing.) Most cloth diapering families simply dump the poop in the toilet (as everyone SHOULD- just teasing you) and then place the dirty diaper in their diaper pail. With exclusively breastfed babies, you don’t even have to dump the poop! WHAT?! Yes, the poop in water soluble and in easily rinsed off in the washer. A cold water rinse in the washing machine prior to your wash cycle.
An added note on poop, flushing all poop down the toilet teaches your kid a very important life lesson. Poop always ends up in the toilet. It makes it easier to associate poop with toilets when they ALWAYS see poop going into the toilet. (And as young as 12 months, they can begin flushing their own poop down. Allowing you to introduce them to the potty in a non-threatening and non-expecting kind of way.) The toilet is never a “new” thing since it has always been part of the diapering process.
What do you do when you go out?
We all go commando. No, really? What do YOU do when YOU go out? You change your babies diaper. If there is no trash to illegally toss that poop in, then what do you do? You put your diaper in a bag and toss it when you can (or when you get home). That is not far from what I do. If there is a toilet, I dump the poop before putting the diaper in a bag to take it home. No toilet? I put the diaper, poop and all, into a bag and dump the poop when I get home. Yes, that can be gross. But I think about that $886.96 while I’m doing it. (I once wiped butts for a living, so clearly poop & money go hand in hand for me.) I don’t find it difficult to cloth diaper ALL the time. Some families do choose to cloth diaper at home and use disposables when out.
What do you do on vacation?
Wash diapers. Seriously. When we visit family, it is easy. You just wash in their washing machines for a few days. When we went to the beach last year, we stayed in a condo that had a washing machine and dryer. Easy. If we are staying in a hotel, I will see if I can go the entire time without washing (if it is only one or two nights it is no problem at all). If I don’t make it, I then try to find a laundromat. (Disposable diapers can always be purchased if all else fails.) I have not found it to be a big deal at all. The main concern when we are heading out of town is to make sure all my diapers are washed and ready to go the moment we need to leave.
How do you sanitize them?
First, I think you think too highly of your chemical filled disposables. (Yeah, I know, a little harsh.) But seriously, you are wondering now what is lurking in my cloth diapers, so let’s imagine what chemicals are lurking in yours. (Think about the bleaches, fragrances, creepy gel filling stuff, etc.) Now, let’s talk about mine. My diapers are washed in HOT water. That plus the detergent takes care of most everything. I then dry my diapers on low heat, but after removing the PUL parts, I dry the inserts (the absorbent parts of my diapers) on high heat. That kills any bacteria that could be lurking about. Some people use a BacOut solution to get rid of harmful stuff. I think hot water and high heat are enough. (When you kids begin to potty train, what do you do if they wet the bed, their clothes, etc? You wash and dry it. If it is enough for your towels, it is enough for your diapers.)
Isn’t it gross?
Well, having kids is a fairly messy ordeal in and of itself. Changing diapers is never a CLEAN event. Kids poop. And they vomit and snot and spit all over, too, but that is beside the point. But washing diapers is no more gross than having to take out the diaper genie trash. It is also no different having a diaper pail full of cloth diapers next to your changing table than it is to have a disposable diaper pail there. You reuse your undies. Your toddlers reuse their undies. You don’t have to personally grab poop with your bare hands. You aren’t tossing dirty diapers around your house like mini time bombs. I’m not sure what is so “gross” about the concept. It is kind of funny to me that most men ask this. As if men are THAT clean? I mean, really. Your underwear are 10 years old and you’ve got rock hard pit stains on your under shirt and you think washing and using a diaper again is gross. Okay, dude.
Isn’t cloth diapering difficult?
Can you use your washing machine? Oh, you can? Well, then you won’t find cloth diapering difficult at all.
What about wasting water? Isn’t that as bad as filling up a landfill with poop?
Well, cloth diapering adds one extra load of wash a day to every other day (or every third day for some). You are going to add one toilet flush a day per child you cloth diaper. (For children eating solids and having solid poops.) That isn’t really THAT much. (Especially since that toilet flush shouldn’t really be EXTRA.) Believe me, teenagers do more water wasting than cloth diapering. (Unless it is a teenage boy in that “no bathing” stage they hit before they realize girls like clean boys.) To be honest, our water bill has not changed due to cloth diapering. If you live in an extremely dry place on SEVERE water restrictions, you probably would prefer to use disposables. But let’s all be clear and realize we are seriously talking about one medium load of laundry a day. You have to decide what makes sense for you and your community.
Don’t you have to change their diapers more often?
So, I know YOU wouldn’t ask this, but SOMEONE has. No, with cloth you cannot let a child sit in their urine all day without changing them. Yes, that creepy gel stuff in disposables does allow you to hold off for 8 hours until the gel part starts leaking down their legs. So, if you are accustomed to using 2 or 3 diapers a DAY for you child because you would hate to WASTE a diaper, then cloth diapering will seriously increase your diaper changes. You may even have to check on their diaper every 2 or 3 hours! Gasp! However, if you usually don’t like to let your child sit in urine, and change their diaper 6 to 8 times a day, cloth diapering will not increase the diaper changes you do.
On that note, cloth diapering can be very reassuring to a breastfeeding mom (especially if it is her first bay). With disposables, sometimes you wonder if it is really wet or not (especially on little babies) because that creepy gel stuff absorbs so much! If it is not OVERLY full, you wonder and worry. With cloth, you can clearly see if they are wet. You can feel the insert (or diaper) and easily see that, yes, they are wet. No wonder. No Worry.
Don’t cloth diapers leak a lot?
Well, if I left them for hours upon hours , then yes, they eventually leak. However, I have had far fewer poop leaks with cloth than with disposables. (Want to talk about gross? Newborn poo in their hair! That is gross!) Cloth diapers hold poop in much better than disposable diapers do. Like disposables, when babies get mobile, sometimes they shimmy their diaper into a weird position and will leak. It is true, cloth diapers do not hold as much liquid as the creepy gel in disposables. However, most parents do not use the full maximum absorbency that a disposable diaper has. (Except for those that throw dirty Huggies in the Wal-Mart parking lot. THOSE parents use that absorbency to the MAX!)
Won’t cloth diapers turn your child into a Democrat?
Not that I am aware. I’ll get back to you in 15 years when my oldest registers to vote.