Posted by: Amanda | November 18, 2010

Cost of Cloth Diapers Vs. Disposable Diapers

We decided to use cloth diapers based on a several benefits that cloth diapers offer over disposable diapers: health, environmental, logistical, and economical. The top benefit in J.R.’s mind will always be economical – who doesn’t like saving money?

I believe that some of the cost comparisons of cloth versus disposable diapers are way off, however. Try as I may, I cannot come up with a way in which we would save “thousands” (i.e. over $2,000.00) by using cloth diapers, instead of disposables, on one child over two years. I have even seen some extremely thrifty people state that cloth diapers are more costly than disposable diapers.

My own personal best-case cloth versus disposable diaper scenario is as follows:

  • Get every jumbo pack of diapers that I buy for $5.00 each (which would make diapers range from $0.11-$0.16/each, depending on size). For anyone not in the know, this would make disposable diapers half (or less) of the normal retail price.
  • Get every wipe that I use for $0.01 each. The average retail cost of disposable wipes is about $0.03 each.

I have created this chart to outline the cost of disposable vs. cloth diapers (wipes not included) over the course of a two year period, based on my own use: Thrifty_Diapering

In order to gain a better understanding of the chart, I estimate that we will spend no more than $408 ($17/month) on all cloth diapering supplies (minus wipes) over two years, and that we spend about $15 per month on detergent and added energy costs involved in washing cloth diapers. I have spent less than $20 on cloth wipes, which have no additional cost associated with them, since I am already doing diaper laundry.

My Total Cost of Cloth Diapering (one child): $788.00 (Includes cost of all diapers, detergent, and extra energy associated with washing/drying)

Total Cost of Ultra-Thrifty Cloth Diapering: $420.00 ($30 for 6 Econobum seconds covers, $30 for 36 Econobum seconds prefolds, $360 in extra energy/detergent costs, and make your own cloth wipes)

Total Cost of Thrifty Disposable Diapering: $997.90 ($954.10, plus $43.80 for wipes)

Total Cost for Average Shopper Disposable Diapering: $1966.80 ($1835.40, plus $131.40 for wipes)

Thus, my cost is about a $209.90 savings over a two year period on one child over the cost of purchasing disposable diapers in my best-case disposable diaper scenario.

A few other determinations based on my calculations:

  • The ultra-thrifty cloth diaper plan saves $577.90 over the cost of thrifty disposable diapering.
  • An average shopper using a cloth diaper system similar to mine would save about $1178.80 over using disposables.
  • An average shopper using the ultra-thrifty cloth diapering plan would save about $1546.80 over using disposables.

Savings aside, I do not believe that a price can be placed on many of the benefits of cloth diapers over their disposable counterparts. In my mind, health-related benefits are invaluable. What is the price of thousands of disposable diapers taking hundreds of years to decompose in a landfill? There is the potential time and money savings due to the greater dependability of cloth diapers in general, as well. The use of cloth diapers on any subsequent children after the first leads to greater savings over disposable diapers as well, which I have not taken into consideration in my calculations.

Overall, we have concluded that cloth diapers are “worth it” definitely, even if the financial savings aspect was non-existent.




  1. […] Some of the math for this post comes from my calculations done last year in my Cost of Cloth vs. Disposables […]

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