Cloth vs Disposable

For the past 15 years disposable diapers reigned supreme at our house. With baby #1 I attempted cloth, but that was when cloth diapers still needed pins and huge rubber pants. Times have changed and so have cloth diapers. I have no idea how many disposable diapers I have used over the years, but I am sure the number is impressive.

Now as we await baby #7 thoughts of cloth diapers enter my mind. As I sat in the church nursery a few months back I was impressed with the new moms and their fancy cloth diapers. They actually looked easy to use, and the moms raved about them. Cloth diapers are better for the environment, some argue they are better for baby, but are they cheaper?

Thankfully I didn’t need to come up with a fancy math equation to figure it out. A very smart dad at our church had already crunched the numbers.

According to his very detailed spreadsheet you break even with cloth diapers at 8.5 months. This sounds like a great deal for me since my kids seem to be in diapers forever! Obviously the initial expense is higher with cloth, but the second year of your child’s life is basically free when it comes to diapering.

You can view the cost break down by downloading this Diaper Cleaning Cost Chart. This is an excel file. If you cannot open it, I have copied it onto the screen.

Cloth vs. Disposable Diapers


You might also enjoy these articles on Diapering and Potty Training from The Happy Housewife:

This post may contain a link to an affiliate. See my disclosure policy for more information.


  1. If you’re looking for easy to use you should check out

    They are fabulous. A little pricey up front, but we are using our toddler’s diapers a 2nd time around on our baby with no problems.

  2. I would love to see that chart, but I cannot download it on my computer or something.

    The way I figured it I broke even way sooner than that. But I don’t buy the expensive clth diapers either.

    And I used them with my oldest kids too, pins and all. UGH! I hated them then. But with the baby I had the nice new type. It was so easy it wasn’t funny 🙂

    Not saying I didn’t ever buy disposables, cuz I did. But not as many as I would have without the cloth diapers 🙂

    I hope you can do it, and enjoy it as much as I did!! 🙂

  3. I was just asking about this on money saving mom today!

    I can’t open the link either… is there anyway to post the chart in a separate post or is the file too large? I’m reading and learning but DH thinks it will be too messy, too expensive and too impossible without our own washer/dryer.

    Curious to see if you’ll post more about this!

  4. Not to mention you keep approximately ONE TON of garbage out of landfills for each year your kid is in cloth diapers! 😉

    Plus, you can save even more money making them yourself, if you have the time. It’s not hard. Trust me, I’m a horrible seamstress and I can make a pretty good-lookin’ diaper!

  5. i LOVE my cloth and if you go with say bum genuis they grow with your baby so thats an added savings! but i personally love fuzzi bunz the best!! if you decide to get some i really like kellys closet she usually has seconds for sale and she always seems to have a good deal going on you should check her blog out to there is a diaper giveaway everyweek you can get there from her website

  6. Okay, so this may sounds stupid…but I tried the cloth diaper thing and didn’t think it was saving much because of all the water I would spend rinsing them out after changing baby and the extra laundry—lots of extra laundry. What kind of systems do these people have in place to manage all those nasty diapers…there has to be an easier way than what I was doing.

  7. Thank you for posting the chart!! Awesome! I posted about it on my blog 🙂 🙂 🙂

  8. It’s great to hear some real-life stories about the modern diapers. My children wore the old-fashioned cloth kind, with the occasional disposable for convenience (about 3 per week). Now I’m about to become a grandmother and it seems baby clothes are designed to fit the smaller “package” a disposable provides. I’m really pleased there’s a compromise between convenience and eco-friendliness available for my daughter to use. All she wanted for Christmas was a supply of the new diapers!

  9. Elizabeth, I didn’t find it was a lot of extra laundry. I don’t rinse either. I just dump poop in the toilet, toss everything in a pail, and when the pail gets full, I dump it in the washer and wash like a regular load of clothes. I wash diapers about twice a week. Our water bill has gone up slightly now that we have a new baby that uses a lot of diapers, but considering that I would spend five times that much on disposables each month, I’m not bothered by it!

  10. Elizabeth, I did wash more laundry with cloth diapers at first when baby was going through several a day. I have 12 cloth diapers (Fuzzy Bunz–I bought seconds and they have been great), and I was washing every day or every other day until she was about 18 months. Now at 2, I’m only having to wash every 4 or 5 days (we are trying to potty train). I followed the same method as Jill. I did have to run an extra spin cycle on ocassion.

  11. I will say that it took us a bit to find the system that worked best for us, which was pockets. We initially started mainly for environmental concerns. But the fact that our son found them more comfortable and we saved money were HUGE perks.

  12. I definitely encourage cloth diapering. I’m not into the fancy ones, much preferring a simple approach of prefolds and a simple cover. And I’m definitely saving money over disposables! I’m so glad I decided to give it a shot.

  13. I also did cloth with the first and then gave up. I’ve only heard about the new ones, but I think I would have reconsidered cloth if they came out with the new features before I was done having kids.

  14. I’m not sure where you determined that one would use 9 disposables in a day. The fact is, the disposables hold more than cloth and the materials they are made with wick away the moisture. As a mother of 12 children, I would say that, unless the baby is a newborn, we go through 5 each day.

    I would love to try my hand at cloth, though. My husband doesn’t want it, so I gladly do disposable for him.

    Lord bless your day as you serve your family!

  15. Im glad that you are looking at using cloth. There are a lot of bonuses to using it instead of disposables. I encourage you to take a look at this post Kim asks a lot of good questions and her readers have a lot of good information. Some of which I think you could use. Enjoy!

    Check out this site… shows that cloth could be just as negative. You should just pick what works best for your fmaily!

  17. That sounds good except when you can get the diapers free or a lot cheaper then .22 each.

  18. Very informative! Thanks for the post. We currently do disposable, but I have thought about using cloth.

  19. Wow, very impressive chart! We made the decision to cloth diaper if/when we have more.

    Thank you for participating in Frugal Fridays! 🙂

  20. Interesting! If we have more I’ll have to look into cloth. It kills me everytime I have to purchase diapers! Thankfully the baby is nearing potty training time.

  21. I must be looking at the figures wrong. Spreading the cost of cloth over 2 years, I get $.62 per day in investment. Adding your figures for energy, I get $.07538 daily in washing/drying per diaper (times seven per day = $.52)….though I’d love to know where one could get 64 loads out of $3.00 in detergent these days….so I get a total of $1.14 a day in cloth….this gives a savings of $854.40, even more than is figured here. That’s an awesome savings.

    But really….where do I find this detergent?

  22. Wow. That was a lot of work. We used cloth in the beginning but eventually switched to disposables. I’m glad they’re much easier now.

  23. That is a lot of work! However, it would need to be altered to take out the cost of diaper genie bags (which I have never used) and lower the cost per diaper since I get them very very cheap with sales, coupons, etc.

    That being said, I have heard great things about the new cloth diapers. The water usage might be an issue, and can you wash cloth diapers in front loaders, because they do not use as much water….

    Lots to think about!

  24. We love cloth diapering. It’s really easy! We have never bought a package of disposibles – even when travelling for two days at a time (though if we left for a week I’d do sposies) Almost every baby using cloth never or rarely needs any sort of cream – rashes are much rarer with cloth! That is even more savings. The posting about cloth being just as bad – silly media – the energy and water (not to mention chemicals) used to manufacture disposibles is incomparibly higher than washing cloth. is a great resource – not all cloth diapers are the same – so I always caution people to choose what fits with their family. When something is going wrong with cloth there is usually an easy solution. I’m glad more parents are trying them! We have 6 kids and it’s been a huge $aving$ for us.

  25. I cloth diapered my youngest from birth through potty training. I loved it!!!

    Alana @

  26. I just started using cloth diapers with my 5th baby, and I love them. I wish I had started using them sooner. Here is my blog post about using cloth diapers. WOO HOO, I’ve reached the break even point, we are at 9 months old now. I hope that I have another baby so I can save even more.


  27. I’ve never seen such a clear cut price breakdown! Awesome! I am due in 4 weeks and still haven’t decided what I want to do. I hate to shell out all that money and then resort back to disposables. The only issue I had with the chart was that he said detergent only cost their family $3.00. I’d be interested in knowing what kind they use because all of the websites I looked at said you needed to use a detergent without any dyes or perfumes, like 7th Generation or Charlie’s Soap. Those cost quite a bit more than what we typically use.

    What kind of detergent do you all use to wash your cloth diapers?

  28. My cloth diapers (bum genius 3.0 one-size) only call for a very small amount of detergent. Too much detergent can affect their absorbency. I use half of a small load’s worth for each wash, and I wash them twice between uses. The detergent cost is therefore quite small! I use Purex Free and Clear ultra concentrate liquid, which is about $3 for a 32 load container–so it does 64 “diaper loads.”

  29. You can alter the values in the spreadsheet to suit your own scenario, which will result in a more personal savings calculation.

    Jenn in MO–The savings are calculated conservatively based on the exact break-even date. Each day thereafter is a complete savings, aside from maintenance costs. Spreading the initial investment over two years does show a greater savings, but depending on your actual use it may not be as accurate. I’m not a finance guy, though, so that’s just my 2 cents.

  30. I agree that there is financial savings to be had with cloth diapers. We used them for our first son. But, the question begs to be asked about environmental costs. I have heard that it is actually “greener” to go disposable if you live in an area where water is lacking. Alternately, if you live in an area with plenty of water but no landfill space, the cloth would be best. Have you heard anything like this?

  31. I love our cloth. We are not diehards though. We do use disposables when we travel, just for convienience. We use Fuzzi Bunz and Bum Genius. I am partial to Fuzzi Bunz though. We are on our 2nd kid with them. We bought many used from either friends who also cloth diaper and also I have also seen them (and sold some) on Craigslist. It makes it even less expensive (and more environmental!) when you buy them second hand. I have also shared some with my sister since our babies were in different sizes..she was using my mediums and I was using her smalls. It has worked out well and saved us a ton. In terms of the water, I read that it works out to the equivalent of one extra person taking showers in your household. Also, in terms of washing them. I use Allen’s Naturally, which lasts forever it seems, and I do a prewash with no detergent and then a regular wash with detergent. I also have a sprayer that attaches to your toilet to spray off poo. And flushable diaper liners work well too. I second being a good source. Good luck!

  32. Hey, I just wanted you to know, if you line dry your diapers (I am not THAT person, but I got a $19.95 clothesline), the cost of drying is even cheaper! I just throw them up there, and when they’re dry (by the way, the sun bleaches them QUICK) I throw them in the dryer for about 10 minutes to fluff them up!

  33. We are planning on doing cloth diapers with baby #2. I am having a hard time deciding on which to use though, as there are so many kinds/brands! It’s a bit overwhelming!

  34. great post! i’m always intrigued by the pros and cons. i’m with Ruth, though… unless i have a newborn, i don’t find i’m using 10 disposables a day per kid. my 18 month old has been on 5 a day since very early on… i buy the Fred Meyer/Kroger brand and they are both cheap and extremely effective. thanks!


  1. […] she is going to sleep. I still haven’t registered at the hospital and haven’t made the cloth vs disposable diaper decision. Oh, and we don’t have a vehicle that will fit our entire […]

  2. […] was a lot of money to spend all at once, but after looking at the cost analysis I know I will break even around 8 months. I didn’t have to buy wipes because my sweet […]

  3. […] my friend The Happy Housewife has our spreadsheet and her experiences with cloth diapering here.  Since we planned to diaper more than one child, we decided it was well worth the initial […]

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