A reader commented on one of my posts about cloth diapers, wondering if cloth really are more economical than disposables. People choose one or the other for a variety of reasons – in our case we chose cloth because of the environmental impact, wanting to avoid chemicals next to our baby’s tush, and of course – frugality. I do all sorts of “green” things, but most of them are also cheaper than the non-green alternative, and diapers are no exception.
So I thought I’d break down the numbers, which I hadn’t actually done until now. Our son is 12 weeks old. Here’s what we’ve spent so far:
- $20 on used sheets and t-shirts at thrift stores. we also used hand-me-down receiving blankets that we got for free. And I had enough left over from the sheets to make a ring sling, so the actual cost for the diapers is even lower – but I’ll leave it at $20 for these calculations.
- $10 on a large container of all natural liquid detergent from Costco. We use it for all our laundry – it has no chemicals in it (the cleaners are all citrus based) and works great. I use two tablespoons for a load of diapers, and the container holds 1.56 gallons, so I think it last quite a while if I only used it for diapers.
- $6 on two large containers of vinegar. I’ve used up one since our baby was born, but I use vinegar for everything from cleaning toilets to conditioning my hair. For diapers, a container would do 42 loads (I use 1/2 cup in a downey ball for each load).
- $8 on two large bags of baking soda. I use this for everything too, so I’m not sure how long it would last if I were just using it for diapers. But I’m still working on the bag I bought before our son was born. I put about 1/2 cup of baking soda into the first wash cycle when I wash diapers. The second wash has the detergent and the vinegar. That’s all I use.
- Water costs $2.80 for 1000 gallons in our town. Our washing machine uses 40 gallons for a load, but I use the medium setting for diapers, so I’m going to estimate 30 gallons. I wash each load twice, so 60 gallons to wash a load of diapers, which I do about three times per week. That’s 180 gallons per week – which costs 50 cents. So in the 12 weeks that we’ve been washing diapers, we’ve spent $6 on water.
- Drying is free. I never use the dryer for anything anymore. We can’t have clotheslines here, but I have four drying racks (all came from thrift stores) and I use them to dry all our laundry, including diapers. I’m amazed at how well the sun bleaches stains out of the diapers. When I take them out of the washer, most of them still have stains. After a couple hours on a drying rack in the back yard, there are never any stains at all. It’s like magic – I love it!
So the grand total so far is $50. The detergent, vinegar, and baking soda I have now will last at least another four months, so the only extra expense we’ll have will be water, at about $2/month. I don’t know how much electricity we’re using to wash the diapers. Our total combined electricity/gas bill is usually below $100/month, even with the extra money we pay for wind energy. The usage comparison from this year to last year has actually shown a decrease in electricity usage, so the extra to run our washing machine and water heater a bit more is obviously not a lot.
Making our own diapers was a huge part of the cost savings here. But people who buy fancy cloth diapers can recoup most of their costs by selling them when they’re child doesn’t need them anymore (I went searching for used cloth diapers online before our son was born, and couldn’t believe how close in price they were to the new ones). If you’re not into sewing or buying fancy diapers, you could also buy inexpensive prefolds. Cloth diapers have become a bit of a trend lately, but there’s really no need to use brand name diapers – they’re just going to get pooped on anyway.
Anyway, I’m glad I broke this down and saw exactly what we’re spending. By the time our son is seven months old, we will have spent about $60 to keep him in diapers. I haven’t bought any disposables, but I doubt I’d be able to get 7 months worth for $60.
And to reward yourself for reading through yet another post about diapers, go check out Cake Wrecks. I promise you will laugh.