July 21, 2012
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Is cloth diapering worth it?
We bought cloth diapers. If you search around, it's supposed to be all rah rah rah cloth diapers are the best. Save money! Save the whales! etc. So, when Alice was about a month old we went out and got 24 fuzzibunz "one size". It's pretty close to a disposable diaper, but less garbage and more laundry. My feeling of cloth vs disposable is pretty neutral. I'd like to know the costs of using cloth, but most sites seem to have a bias so I don't trust them.
If you look at the cost factors, it can be pretty complicated. For disposable you've got the cost of diapers, wipes, garbage bags, any additional trips to the store... Well, it seems like it would be pretty easy to calculate it. For cloth, you've got the following factors:
- initial cost of diapers, cloth diaper bags, cloth wipes (?), additional inserts
- ongoing cost of disposable wipes (sometimes?), wipe solution, diaper liners, etc
- how much energy does your washer, dryer, hot water heater use
- cost of water
- what setting you use for the washer
- how many diapers you put in a load
- your time to wash, re-stuff (in the case of a pocket diaper), dry, adjusting and re-adjusting
- do you try on a line outside? How long does it take to put it up, take it down, etc
Blah blah blah... Lots of variables, which probably leads to no two sites stating the same cost / savings of using cloth.
So let's calculate this a different way: how many disposable diapers can I get for my cloth, and how many washes would I break even at?
The diapers we got are currently listed from 20-22 $. We ended up needing a extra bamboo insert because she was leaking out of everything (including disposables). So, let's round the cost up to 30 $. A big box of size 3 huggies seems to cost about 30 $ for 96 diapers. So, that means to me that I'd have to wash the cloth diaper 96 times before I get close to breaking even. Wow.
So how long would that take? Well, we wash her diapers every 2 days with about 18-20 in a load. Let's call it 10 diapers a day. So that would mean... uhh... the train leaves Toronto going east at 80 km/h... carry the three... the ball accelerates toward the ground at 9.8 meters per second squared... So it would take about 10 days for us to go through at box of disposables. So every 10 days we "match" the cost of 1 cloth diaper. How long would it take us to wash any individual diaper 96 times? Estimating every other day a wash that get 192 days which is about 6.3 months.
So, assuming that your energy costs, wear and tear on your washer and dryer aren't three times the purchase cost, you're going to save money compared to disposable diapers when you use cloth diapers.
Weeee... that's what every boy dreams of hearing when they grow up.
Posted by jim at July 21, 2012 10:25 PM
There's a couple unanswered questions here. What happens to a cloth diaper after you've washed it 96 times? How many times can you reuse a cloth diaper before it too has to be disposed of. Also, that's a huge upfront cost. Assuming you need 20 diapers, and each one costs $30, that means you need $600 upfront just to buy diapers. That's a lot of money to lay out on the table, especially if you end up having issues with them leaking or not fitting right. Also, disposables tend to absorb quite a bit more. You most likely wouldn't be going through 10 diapers a day with disposables. Probably closer to 5 or 6. At least once they start eating solid foods and don't have a bowel movement every 2 hours.
Well, I can answer what happens after washing them 96 times: not much. (assuming that number of washes is reached after 6 months). The white fleece isn't *quite* as white or soft as new, but everything else seems fine. We had 2 diapers that the snaps broke, but they have a lifetime warranty on them. To replace them we just took a picture, filled out a form, and they mailed us 2 new diapers.
Yes, the initial cost is quite high, but there seems to be a lot of those when having a kid. One benefit about the diapers is that you should be able to use them for multiple kids (assuming you have more than 1 child).
We used huggies when we were in Australia for a month and they were great. But we still had leaks, blowouts, etc. The ones they have there are a lot better than the ones you can buy here. I've got no idea why the ones here are different.
I'm not against or for against cloth or disposable. We have, and continue to use both at times. I just wanted an unbiased rundown of the actual costs. However, with the effort that it would have taken for an *actual* calculation, I'm going with the above estimate instead.
Good to know that at least the cloth diapers seem to hold out well even after extended use. We used disposables for all three kids, and they do have their advantages. I think the best solution is probably to use a mixture of both, depending on the situation. Disposables are easier when you're out and about, and require almost no time commitment. Just buy them when you're out for your normal grocery run. Using cloth is probably easiest if you are at home and don't have to worry about carrying them around for the rest of the day after they've been used. One big factor for us was that we still lived in an apartment with coin-op laundry machines with the first 2 kids. That right there pretty much makes cloth diapers a non option because the cost of doing all the laundry makes quite expensive.
I can't imagine doing cloth diapers using coin machines... *shudder*
The thing that we like about cloth is the feeling that we don't have a huge garbage output.
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