Posted in  Diapering
Last Modified: September 30, 2020
by pitin
The Cloth Diapers Versus Disposable Diapers

First-time parents tend to shy away from "challenging" - that is using cloth diapers. Clear cut deal breakers are dealing with messy poops, washing, folding, and absorbency issues. Most first-time parents would straight away use disposables instead. After all, what will make life easier should be the winner. 

Before you reject using a cloth diaper, here are the pros and cons of using the cloth diapers versus disposable diapers. In parenting decisions, there is no right or wrong. What is best for your child matters most.


The Cloth Diapers Versus Disposable Diapers Issues


1

Diaper Rashes

What causes them? Cloth or disposables?


One cause of rashes is when the skin is in constant contact with wetness for extended periods of time. Regardless of whether you use cloth or disposable, the idea is to change the diaper as soon as it makes your child's skin moist. The contact with moisture for longer than ideal is when the rashes starts.


Most disposables wick moisture away from baby's skin and so do some cloth diapers. In fact, if you compare a poor quality cloth diaper to a poor quality disposable diaper, both would cause rashes if you let your child's bum sit for extended period of time. Thus, it boils down to paying attention to when it is already time to change diapers.


A good quality cloth diaper and a high-quality disposable would do the best job in keeping your baby's bottoms dry.


Using a high-quality disposable would mean longer waiting time before the nappy change. The materials used for disposables make it sure that wetness stays in place and don't leak. 


A good quality cloth diaper would do a good job, too, and in a healthier way. Cloth diapers don't contain harmful chemicals to aid with wetness absorption. If it concerns you to have your child's bum to be in constant contact with toxic materials used in disposables, then cloth would be the way to go.


Studies after studies have proven that the dyes and chemicals used in manufacturing disposable diapers can cause the newborn skin to have rashes. Although, some babies do not experience rashes from day one on disposables.


Regardless of whether you use cloth or disposables, there is only one way to prevent rashes. That is making sure that your baby's skin is in constant contact with a breathable material. It also helps that the material absorbs sweat and wicks moisture away from the skin. And best of all, it should contain the least harmful materials that can irritate the skin.

2

Dealing With Messy Poops

Let's face it. First-time parents would sometimes panic at the idea of changing nappies. Are we doing it right? Is it too tight? Is it time to change it yet? Etc. All these simple questions might invite a good laugh from experienced parents.


If it is your first time, dealing with messy poops when you are out of the house, it might cause you a heart attack, LOL. Imagine your child having the most unpleasant poop at the wrong place and at the wrong time. The disposable diaper is a clear cut winner. Just look for the nearest baby room, toss the diaper away and clean away your child's bums.


If it's cloth? You will need a diaper sprayer which is not usually found in public toilets. You would have to deal with carrying along the dirty diaper wherever you go. And if you don't use the right wet bag, the smell might not be concealed from other people.


Some parents who are religiously using cloth diapers use flushable liners so that the poop is only in contact with the liner and not the cloth. Mom bloggers attest that it works.


I beg to disagree. Flushable liners tend to crumple to the center of the cover. By the time your child poops, there is no liner to catch the poop, and you would still end up with a cover that is soiled in dirty poop. It is just a matter of dealing with it which is flushing the poop in the toilet bowl and securing the dirty diaper in a small wet bag which conceals the smell.


One not-so-funny fact to remember is if you are only left with one disposable diaper while outside the house, and the last piece rips on the waist area, LOL. You'll wish you brought more with you and you are left with no choice but to find the nearest store that sells diapers.

3

Washing And Drying

It boils down to your willingness to make time to wash dirty diapers. If you have the budget to avail of laundry services, that is also an option if you are too busy to wash cloth diapers.


Some parents do not mind having a diaper washing schedule. That is every 1-2 days or every 3-4 days depending on the number of cloth diapers you have in your stash. After all, modern washers nowadays take care of all the cleaning. You just have to set it and hang the diapers dry as soon as the washing is done.


If you use disposables, you just have to stock up or buy as you need them. No hassle in throwing it in the washer and drying the cloth diapers - or folding them if you have the type of cloth diaper that requires folding.

4

Upfront Cost Versus Long-term Savings

To have an idea how much is the upfront cost for acquiring a cloth diaper stash, read this article to see the different types of cloth diapers. 


Let's set a sample computation of a cloth diaper's upfront cost, based on the most expensive type, the "all-in-one" cloth diaper type. It has basically the same look and function as a disposable diaper, except that it is washable.


You can get an all-in-one cloth diaper for as low as USD10 per piece. That's the cheapest I found in Amazon, as of writing this post. The branded ones are more expensive.


Upfront cost for 24 pieces or 8 diapers a day, good for 3 days stash (cheapest AIO cloth diaper): $10 x 24 pieces = $240


Laundry cost per year: Different washers consume electricity differently and different countries electricity charges vary. Hand washing and line drying will save water and electric bills dramatically.


Liquid laundry detergent (for baby): It depends on the brand. We used Purex for our cloth diapers.


Therefore, the estimated cost of cloth diapering for x years (until potty trained) = Initial stash + washing cost 


 

Now let us use one of the most purchased brand of disposable diaper as a sample for computation should you decide to go disposable all the way.


Number of disposable diapers needed every day: 6 to 8 pieces

Average price per piece: $0.35 but prices are always going up!


Estimated number of disposable diapers needed for a year: 365 days x 6 diapers per day (least number of diapers used per day) = 2,190 diapers in 1 year


Estimated Cost of Disposable Diapers for 3 Years: 2,190 diapers x 3 years x $0.35 per piece = $2,299.50 in 3 years!

5

Impact On The Environment

It's a sad fact that people nowadays care less about the environment. Should you belong to the minority who would sacrifice a little and not contribute to throwing something that will add up to the already massive landfill of waste, then consider using cloth full-time. If not, you can do a 50-50 thing where you only use disposables when going out or during night time.


However, some experts say that since cloth diapering uses a lot of electricity for washing and drying, it is, therefore, not very environment-friendly too.

That is probably true when you wash diapers every single hour of every day. But since you will not be, the impact on the environment is not as bad as experts claim to be.


You can also help the environment too by line drying should you happen to live in a place where there is direct access to sunlight.

In Conclusion


Some parents use disposable diapers during the early months of their children when they are still trying to cope with how to be a parent. By the time they get the hang of it, it would not hurt to explore what cloth diaper can help them with their needs. After all, it would help save cost, in the long run, should they decide to cloth diaper the next kids.

Parents who use disposable diapers should not be judged wrongly in any way. They have their valid reasons. The cloth diapers versus disposable diapers are just one of the many issues parents have to deal with. What matters most is that we are raising a healthy and happy child and is doing our best to be environment-friendly too in some other different ways.

Getting the disposables from Amazon can save a lot if you only have one child. But choosing cloth over disposables if you are planning on having a bigger family would be cheaper by using the previous cloth diapers from your old stash. The cost of disposable diapers will be felt for as long as they are not yet potty-trained, which for some toddlers can be for as long as 5 years.

Cloth-diapered babies tend to learn how to use the potty faster because they can feel that they are already wet. By the time they reach three years of age, they can communicate as to when they already want to use the toilet. Disposable diapered babies will continue to feel comfortable and delay learning to use the potty.

What do you think?

Feel free to leave your thoughts below in the comment section.

Cheers!

Pitin

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  1. -Cloth diapering can be done on the cheap or virtually free but disposables are never free (unless the government/charity is involved). A mother can sew wool covers from old wool sweaters, and use old t-shirts or flannels as flats.

    -Baby detergent usually is expensive and has perfumes. Typical “free and clear” only costs $0.10-0.15 per load. 150 loads a year and that’s less than $20/year.

    -Interesting water/electric calculation. Our electric mostly goes to our fridge and our air conditioning. Nowhere near 1/4th of our bill goes to running a washer 3-4 times a week for diapers. I did the calculation once on an energy site and it was a few pennies for a load… like $0.02-$0.05 per wash/dry. I had been interested because a friend totaled 18 years of Huggies because she thought it took more in utilities than to buy Huggies.

    -It takes a ton of water, bleach, other chemicals, and energy to create, pack, ship, and sell disposables.

    -Regular diapers don’t have to be bought at $20-30 each. There are new pocket diaper companies every week it seems that charge less than $10 per diaper, including the inserts. Prefolds new are only $2-3. Covers can be $11-18 each. Flats are cheap. Our stash of flats, prefolds, covers was $200-300. And we can sell the flats and prefolds when we are finished with them. We used $7-8 pockets with our first and somehow accumulated $40 of them but I’m selling them at $4.50 each, so we hardly lost money on those.

    -Potty training is possible before the terrible two’s. Both of ours were out of diapers, including nighttime, by two. We just stuck with it. It sure is nice to have a break from all those diapers!

    1. Hi Jennifer,

      Thank you so much for your thoughts. I find it very informative!

      I think the utility cost depends on where you live. The price I use for calculating is based on Singapore dollars, and Singapore is one of the most expensive cities in the world.:(

      I admire you for having your children potty-trained at such a young age. I usually am very lenient when it comes to potty-training as I don’t want to traumatize my child by forcing her to do something I feel she’s not ready for yet.

      Appreciate you leaving your insights. 🙂

      Regards,
      Pitin

  2. Hi Pitin,

    As a future father who is going to become a father again in 1 month from now, this was a very interesting article for me. We were using disposable diapers with our first son because they were more convenient for us parents. I carefully read your very clear content with pros and cons… and believe me, I am going to show it to my wife.

    Thank you for this useful article,

    Bora.

    1. Hi Bora,

      Congratulations on your new addition to your family. 🙂 Goodluck with everything! Regardless of what both of you end up using, I am sure you both know better what is good for your baby. 🙂

      Regards,

      Pitin

  3. We tried cloth diapers at first, we got them at a local market and found them to be poor quality and too much work so we went with Pampers. But it looks like it’s getting better on the cloth front, I like your advice on using both also. Good info for any new parent.

    1. Hi Pierre,

      Going cloth really is a hit and miss. In my case, I was lucky to buy good quality pocket diapers to start my stash. When I decided to go cloth even at night and when going out, I started experimenting with different types and different brands until I found what is working for us and fits our lifestyle. 🙂

      I hope my honest reviews help new parents find what they are looking for.

      Cheers,
      Pitin

  4. Great article. I hadn’t considered that washing cloth diapers had an impact on the environment, or that disposable diapers subjected toddlers to chemicals. A lot to consider and no easy answers for sure. I like the idea of using a combination on different scenarios. A great compromise between all the various cons.

    1. The energy used by washers is what the experts are claiming to have an adverse impact on the environment. I think it’s not as bad as they claim it to be since parents don’t use electricity (are not washing cloth diapers) 24/7. As for the toxic chemical contained in disposable diapers, experts have yet to prove the long-term effect of using disposables on children. It’s all claims and has yet to be proven, and some parents like me better play it safe by going cloth.

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