Consumer IQ

Cloth vs. Disposable Diapers: A Cost Comparison

How much poop do I want to touch? There comes a time when every expectant parent asks themselves this, and the answer is usually “none at all”.  Hence the $7 billion disposable diaper industry. As the Bargain Babe, I wanted to know the impact of disposable diapers on my wallet. My hunch was that reusables were a tad cheaper.

As it turns out, reusable diapers are not a tad cheaper. They are a TON cheaper.

I added up the total cost of using disposable diapers for the first 12 months of a child’s life, then did the same for reusables. I assumed eight soiled diapers a day and a load of laundry every three days for diapers only. (Most people abhor the thought of baby poo snuggling up to their clothes, even though they routinely wipe their kid’s tush.)

Disposables came in at $800 for the year, while reusables cost $584 - a savings of 27 percent. That savings climbs drastically – to 60 percent – when you look at the second year of your child’s life. Cloth diapers require scant extra investment, while disposables keep hacking at your wallet.

There are many, many brands of reusable and cloth diapers on the market. I priced out gDiapers because my husband and I plan to use them on our baby. We found positive reviews of gDiapers online and were impressed with their quality.

Here’s how I did the math, using a handy laundry cost calculator from Mr. Electricity:

Cost of reusable gDiapers for first 12 months  
gDiapers pant 6 pairs size small 8-14 pounds (2/$27) $81
gDiapers pant 6 pairs size medium 13-28 pounds (2/$27) $81
gDiapers 12 liners size small (6/$20) $40
gDiapers 12 liners size medium (6/$20) $40
gDiapers 24 cloth inserts size small (6/$27) $108
gDiapers 24 cloth inserts size medium (6/$27) $108
Laundry detergent for one diaper-only load every third day ($.22/wash for 122 washes) $26.84
Electricity and water costs (paying $.15/kWh and $22/1000 gallons) $99.16
Total: $584
   
Cost of disposable Huggies diapers for first 12 months  
Huggies disposable diapers size newborn (up to 8 lbs, first month) 3 boxes at $25/box of 84 $75
Disposable diapers size one (8-14lbs, second-fifth month ) 5 boxes at $42/box of 216 $210
Disposable diapers size two (15-24lbs, sixth-twelfth month) 9 boxes at $42/box of 184 $378
Playtex diaper gene (holds up to 30 diapers) $25
Diaper gene bag refills 16 at $7/180 diaper capacity) $112
   
Total: $800

 

I used prices found at Babies R Us. You may find lower prices online, at warehouse stores, second hand stores, diaper swaps, and by using coupons on whatever brand is on sale.

Aside from cost, there are many issues that complicate the decision to use disposable or reusable and that make the choice a personal one.

Pros of reusable:

Significantly cheaper

Create less trash

gDiaper material is flexible, so sizes small to medium will get you through your child’s first year, and well into his or her second

Children learn to use the toilet about three months sooner, according to Kelly Wels, author of “Changing Diapers: A Hip Mom’s Guide To Modern Cloth Diapering”

Cons of reusable:

More hands-on poop time

Extra laundry

Added costs for laundry detergent, water, and electricity or gas

Pros of disposable:

Easier to travel with because finding a washer dryer is not a concern

Refresh your supply at any superstore, warehouse, drugstore or grocer

Cons of disposable:

More expensive

Each child creates a half ton of diaper garbage per year that goes into a landfill, Wels said.

Either way, that’s a lot of smelly diapers.

Julia Scott blogs about saving money on everyday expenses like groceries, gasoline, and gifts at BargainBabe.com.