How To Save $1500 With Cloth Diapers

Cloth diapers

This morning I was listening to the news about all the recent layoffs. I can't stop thinking about all the people out there who are sitting at their kitchen tables right now, wondering what they are going to do next.

During these tough times, every cent we save matters. We are all looking for ways to cut back. So I'm going to be writing a series of tips on how to cut costs. I pray that these tips will help a few people out there.

One of the best ways a family can cut back on spending is to switch from disposable diapers to cloth. I ran the numbers when my daughter was 6 months old, and I was stunned at the savings.

By switching to cloth diapers and wipes instead of disposables, you can save over $50 per month — which adds up to over $1,500 over 2 1/2 years.

The average child is in diapers for 30 months, and the average cost per month is $71.63. That's a total of over $2,100.

I'm basing these numbers on the cheapest diapers I could find: Huggies diapers and wipes at Costco. Did you know that a diaper costs anywhere from .20 to .25 each? That's a lot of money for something that's just going to be thrown away. Especially when a child goes through 7-15 diapers per day (depending on the age).

Take a look at these spreadsheets. Here are the costs for using disposable diapers and wipes:

diapers cost

And here are the savings when you switch to cloth:

Here is what I spent on all the stuff I needed to switch to cloth diapers:

I got Chinese prefolds, which are the most economical option. I also bought Thirstees covers, doublers (for overnight), and Snappis (fasteners that are a lot easier to use than pins).

For wipes, I cut up an old sheet using some pinking shears. No sewing required! I wash and dry them and keep them in a wipes warmer. I also keep a plastic bottle of water with a little Dr. Bronner's liquid soap at the changing table. You just squirt a little onto the cloth wipe for each change. Then the wipe gets tossed in the wash with the dirty dipes.

I even bought a fancy sprayer thing that attaches to your toilet. I don't use a diaper pail. I just rinse the diapers in the toilet with the sprayer, add a little baking soda and vinegar and use the washer as a wet pail. Then I spin it out at the end of each day, and I do wash 2-3 times per week.

Here are the average costs for doing a load of diapers 2-3 times per week (I based this on the national average):

I make my own detergent with Borax, baking soda and a bar of soap — it's super cheap (like 3-5 cents per ounce). If you want you can buy natural detergent (you can't use conventional detergent on diapers — they get a build up and smell like ammonia) but it's a lot more expensive. I'll post my recipe for homemade detergent soon.

Even if you don't make your own detergent (it's so easy but I can understand why you wouldn't want to bother with it), you'll still save a ton of money switching to cloth. Since I figured I was saving over $1000, I went out and bought myself a new Canon Rebel digital camera, which I use now for this blog — so of course, it's tax-deductible. 🙂

Oh, and guess what? All my cloth diapers and supplies are now tax deductible, too, seeing how I'm writing about them. Gosh, I love blogging. And I love my accountant.

If you have any tips for cloth diapers, please post them in the comments. You never know who you might be helping.

And for those of you out there who have questions about cloth diapering, please post below.

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Ann Marie Michaels

I have 25 years of experience in digital and online media & marketing. I started my career in Silicon Valley and Los Angeles, working at some of the world’s top ad agencies. In 2007, after my first child was born, I started this little food blog which I grew to over 250K monthly unique website visitors and over 350K social media followers. For nearly 15 years, I've helped my audience of mostly moms and women 25-65 cook for their families and live a healthier lifestyle.

 The year after I started the blog, I founded a blog network in the health & wellness space called Village Green Network. I started the company on my coffee table and bootstrapped the business to over $1.3 million in annual revenue within 5 years. During that time, I helped a number of our bloggers become six figure earners. After being censored on almost every social media platform for telling the After being censored on almost every social media platform from Facebook and Instagram to Pinterest and Twitter, and being deplatformed on Google, I am now deployed as a digital soldier, writing almost exclusively about politics on my blog Cheeseslave.com. Because who can think about food when we are fighting the second revolutionary war and third world war? Don't worry, there will be more recipes one day. After the war is over.

37 thoughts on “How To Save $1500 With Cloth Diapers

  1. It’s even more when you use them for more than one child. A lot of our diapers, are on their third little bottom. Plus, the cloth diapers are so cute 🙂

    We just started making our own detergent also. It’s so easy, there really is no excuse to not make it, haha! I need to make another batch this week actually.

    Erica’s last blog post..Under The Sea Theater Box

  2. Erica, don’t you love the homemade detergent? It doesn’t have all those chemicals and perfumes. Plus it’s so dang cheap! And you’re right — it’s easy. It takes five minutes to make it.

    Do you make the powdered kind or liquid? I make powdered. I grind up my bars of soap in the food processor. 🙂

    I just looked up the cost… “George was curious!”

    Tide at Costco costs .26 per ounce. Or $4.16 per pound.

    I am not sure what the cost is for homemade laundry detergent. It depends on the cost of the soap you use. But if you use vinegar and baking soda and bar soap from Costco, it costs about .08 per ounce. Or $1.28 per pound.

    A third of the cost.

    And of course Tide is not environmentally friendly. Nor can you use it on cloth diapers.

  3. Actually it’s cheaper than that.

    I did it wrong.

    If you use the stuff at Costco, including their cheap bar soap, it costs about 4 cents per ounce for homemade laundry detergent.

    Only .64 per pound. A fraction of the cost!

    1. those are some impressive figures!! It’s sad to me that disposable diapers are seen as a “necessity” — and what about EC!

  4. And don’t kids in cloth diapers toilet train earlier and without as many “issues”? T With cloth diapers, both parent *and* child have huge incentives to get out of diapers and into underwear. Not so with disposables, which now go up to what, sizes for kindergarteners and larger?

    Seriously, I know parents who were happy to keep their kids in disposables until well into the 4th and 5th year because it was more convenient for them than the inconvenience and unpredictability of the toilet training transition and having to take a small child to the restroom at a moment’s notice when out in public.

    1. When I started reading this next to my husband he asked – how old is the kids she’s calculating for-4? I don’t know too many 2 1/2 year olds in cotton or disposables that are trained. We have had great luck with Elimination Communication for all 3 of our children ( youngest is almost 4 months) wondering if he’ll be in true cotton underwear like big brother and big sister were at 1 1/2 years! LOVE IT 🙂

  5. I make the powder, it’s the easiest way to go. I did not want to deal with a liquid. I’m insanely lazy deep down inside 😛 . I think my clothes are much cleaner and whiter now than they have ever been also.

    Erica’s last blog post..White Bean and Ham Soup

  6. Anna –

    Yes, I have heard that they do train easier in cloth. Because the moisture is not wicked away and they feel it when they are wet.

    Kate’s at the stage where she feels it but she will not admit it. I say, “Did you poop?” and she shakes her head and says, “No.” Even though she did.

  7. Erica,

    I’m insanely lazy inside too. I work like crazy and do way too much — but deep down I’m a lazy slob (ha – my husband is all too aware of this).

    So yeah, it’s the powder for me. The liquid seemed way too hard and fussy.

    Oh, and by the way, perhaps we are lazy compared to some people but compared to many, many others we probably cannot be called lazy. I mean, the fact that we make our own laundry detergent — that alone gets us non-lazy points I think.

  8. I just made 20 flannel diapers for $30!! I made 20 doublers for $9. I bought 2 diaper covers from ProWraps (seconds) for $4.50 each. My cloth wipes are negligible because I had so much material sitting around from other projects.

    I use baking soda and vinegar only to wash.

    I agree that it gets cheaper with each kid. I have covers and diapers I used with Jonah 3 years ago. 🙂

    Now, my water is free and my electric is the cheapest in the country but the knowledge that I don’t have chemicals on my baby all day is what motivates me.

    TeamBettendorf’s last blog post..Sledding Day

  9. We ECed our son, and it was one of the best decisions we made. We used a cloth diaper backup when we were out and about. It saved us an enormous amount of money, and our son was potty-independent very, very early.

    Jenny’s last blog post..A little mercury with your soda?

  10. My first wife was an RN, charge nurse in the Intensive Care Nursery of the hospital.

    She insisted on using cloth diapers, because the hospital did for preemies. Disposable diapers break down the skin, she said.

    If you kid has a problem with rashes despite being in cotton, leave him in diapers, but omit the plastic panties, and the air will help him heal.

    Even if the diapers aren’t deductible business expense, every dollar you save is worth about $1.50 in earnings, because it’s not subject to income tax, social security tax, medicare tax.

    I didn’t notice anyone mentioning this, but kids in disposable diapers generate more non-diaper laundry, because cloth diapers do a better job of containment than disposables.

    When you consider the extra work of buying and disposing of disposable diapers, it’s really not much more work to launder cloth diapers. This is a REAL no-brainer.

    (And yes, I’m male, but I changed – and laundered – as many of my son’s diapers as my wife did. I figure any guy who won’t take care of his kid’s needs isn’t much of a father.)

    Harl Delos’s last blog post..Bread 101.

  11. Can you tell me what you make your homemade detergent with. I made it a long time ago, but could not find washing soda, just baking soda. Do you think baking soda works? I use thirsties diapers on my 4 month old and kidolog diaper on my 2 year old. I love them both, but the thirsties are kinda tight on chunky legs.
    Amy

    Amy’s last blog post..Giveaway!!

  12. At the risk of all of you knowing just how crazy I am I will share my cloth diaper advice. Even though I don’t have children and haven’t gotten pregnant yet, I have a full stash of cloth diapers. I found two separate women on craigslist.com who were selling their whole stash. They each had had one child and were done. I calculated that I spent around $1.50 on each diaper.

    Also, don’t worry about the lazy slob you have deep down; mine is pretty close to the surface.

    Spinner’s last blog post..Two steps forward, one step back

  13. I used cloth with my first two. They were great. By #3, my larger wraps had worn out and Walmart diapers were so cheap, well…..we just used disposables on 3 & 4.

    But some very kind person gave me her Fuzzi Bunz and I’ve been using them on #4. The washing instructions specifically say DON’T USE SOAP. So I must use detergent on the wraps at least….I think because they are synthetic. I would much rather use my homemade laundry soap (and I do powdered too since the homemade gel variety seems like a pita to me.) but there’s a build up issue.

    So how do you get away with using laundry soap?

  14. It’s worth mentioning gDiapers which are flushable or compostable. This is off the subject of saving money with cloth, but does cut down on landfill plastic. They were developed by parents in Australia where water shortages are a big issue so washing cloth is less desirable.
    https://www.gdiapers.com

  15. I use both unbleached chinese prefolds as well as bum genius. According to everything I have read about bum genius, you need to be careful what kind of laundry soap you use. I don’t think you are supposed to use vinegar either. Has anyone used homemade soap on bum genius with good results? Do homemade soaps rinse out thoroughly?

  16. Sarah –

    I should have clarified. I only soak my prefolds and wipes in the vinegar and baking soda. I do not soak the covers. I only wash them. Otherwise, they would get ruined.

    However, I do wash my dipes, wipes & covers (Thirstees) with the homemade laundry detergent and it works great. I have no ammonia build up. In fact, my homemade laundry detergerent has even less build up than when I was using natural earth-friendly laundry detergent.

  17. I am planning on using cloth diapers on my son who is due any day now. I purchased a few Bum Genius diapers and then read an article about how there are petroleum products in them and that it is not healthy for the baby. Does anyone have input on this? I am almost thinking of doing the pre-folds instead of the all in ones. I, too, would love the recipe for the homemade detergent.

  18. If you can’t find washing soda in the laundry aisle of your supermarket, you can probably find it with the swimming pool supplies or at a farm store. You can also find it at a good photo shop, but that stuff is terribly expensive, and you don’t need it anywhere near that refined.

    Baking soda is sodium hydrogen carbonate (NaHCO3); washing soda (also known as soda ash) is sodium carbonate (Na2CO3). They’re related, but they’re definitely not the same chemical. Baking soda can be used in foods; washing soda should not be. Washing soda will do a nice job on clothes; baking soda is pretty ineffective in laundry.

    www.saveonpoolsupplies.com has soda ash as cheap as 80c/pound. It doesn’t go bad (although it will clump if you don’t keep it dry.) If you check around, though, you probably can come close to this price locally.

    Harl Delos’s last blog post..Snorkeling in Ohio

  19. Great info, Harl! Thank you.

    I know baking soda and washing soda are not the same — and I do tend to use washing soda more often for my laundry. But I do use baking soda sometimes. I also like to use Borax.

  20. Washing soda works two ways in laundry detergent. Because it’s so caustic, it saponifies grease that may be on the clothes, turning it into soap. Soap also tends to work a little better in an alkaline environment.

    When I worked in the labs at Drackett, which owned Miracle White, the research chemists were pretty contemptuous of washing soda. They figured the basic benefit was that you ended up with a heavier box on the shelf, and it looked better to consumers who didn’t know any better. It’s rougher on the clothes you’re washing than on the dirt on the clothes.

    Although that’s not true of all-cotton diapers, much of today’s clothing is made of synthetic fibers, much the same as a plastic sponge. You know how, after you use it for a while, a plastic sponge tends to not spring back from being squeezed, and sorta has a slimy feel to it? The chemical bonds break, and fat molecules rebond at those broken links. Harsh cleaners accelerate this, changing the feel of your clothing, making it lose its shape and sag, making it lose color, and reducing strength so that it tears easily.

    Borax is a considerably better cleaner. Borax turns some of the water molecules into hydrogen peroxide, H2O2. That is, it’s an oxygen bleach, aka “reducing bleach”.

    That’s especially important if you have hard water. If you have hard water, chlorine bleach causes stains that you just plain can’t get out. Reducing bleaches are OK to use in hard water. On the other hand, borax doesn’t work very well in cold water, only in hot water.

    Phosphates got a bad rap in the late 1960s and early 1970s, because the wash water supposedly fed algae. You’d get an algae bloom, and then the algae would die from insufficient sunlight, and the oxygen consumed by the decaying algae would result in fish suffocating. Nothing like stinking fish to get people’s attention. However, it wasn’t phosphates that was the problem so much as it was nitrates. As a result, laws were passed that restricted phosphate in laundry detergent, and detergent makers put in nitrates instead.

    Tetrasodium pyrophosphate is the best “builder” for laundry anyone’s ever come up with. It makes detergents work better, but most importantly, it prevents redeposition of the soils. That’s why Tide was “the washday miracle” in the 1950s – it was the first laundry detergent to use tetrasodium pyrophosphate. TSPP is especially important if you have hard water.

    To a certain degree, EDTA has replaced TSPP, because it’s a very good chelating agent. The other good chelating agent – not nearly as powerful as EDTA but a lot cheaper – is citric acid. Hmmm. Laundry soap works best in an alkali environment, and when you add an acid. No wonder chemists lean towards a little EDTA rather than a lot of citric acid. There are a lot of different forms of EDTA, and tetra-sodium EDTA is the one to use. The most popular brand is Versene 100, last I knew.

    There are two types of detergents – ionic and nonionic. Mostly I’ve talked about ionic detergents, like Tide, that work like soap. Nonionic detergents are low-sudsing, and thus much better for use in front-loading washers. Ionics work better on dirt (“best detergent on American soil”) while nonionics are better on grease. Ionics work better in hot water. Nonionics work better in hot water, too, but they retain much of their power in cooler water, thus brands like “all-temp-a-cheer”. Quats are nonionic detergents that bear a close resemblance to ammonia, chemically speaking, and they’re used to sanitize equipment in food service. They’re also used in bathroom cleaners, because they keep the chrome shiny.

    Regular soap has a problem in hard water, in that it curdles. If you are using soap, rather than a surfactant, in your homemade laundry detergent, you might have considerably better results if you use Fletcher’s Castile soap instead of regular soap. Castile soap is simply made from vegetable oil rather than from animal fats, but Fletcher’s is a potassium soap, rather than a sodium soap, and potassium soaps have less of a curdling problem in hard water.

    If I were formulating a homemade non-detergent laundry soap, I’d use Fletchers, TSPP (available at paint stores), Versene 100, and borax. Most commercial laundry detergents contain salt which has been sprayed with coloring, strictly to provide a prettier product; people think they are “power crystals”, but they do nothing to help you.

    They also contain flourescent whitening agents. They make your clothes bright, and if you feel like your laundry glows in the light, you’re right.

    I hope some of this information is useful.

    Harl Delos’s last blog post..Bread 301: Variations On A Theme

    1. Lots of information here to consider. I have trouble with my hard water and homemade laundry soap combo. Thanks!

      1. Most of what I’ve posted was based on work in the Drackett R&D laboratories. They owned the Miracle White brand of laundry products which has pretty much disappeared. Drackett, too. Bristol-Myers shut down the company, selling Windex to SC Johnson, selling Renuzit, Drano, O-Cedar, Vanish, endust, Mr. Muscle, Twinkle, etc. to a variety of companies.

        Since moving back to Indiana, I’ve helped try to refine a laundry soap for my son’s family, and I have some to the conclusion that there’s simply no substitute for phosphate in hard water.

        Putting in a REALLY GOOD water softener helps a lot, but that basically only gets out the calcium and magnesium which cause soap curdling. It does NOTHING for iron and sulfur, which tend to be present in very hard water. You need to buy a deionizer, instead of a water softener for that, and if you have the money, it’s not a bad investment; electronics have short lives in households with sulfur water. The sulfur water escapes into the air as sulfurous and sulfuric acid. Probably not the best thing for anything in the house, really, including children, pets, and you. Plus, if you’re used to hard water showers, a shower with deionized water is sensuous luxury.

        But don’t drink deionized water, or the distilled water sold in the supermarket. It develops microorganism in nothing flat that are Not Recommended For Internal Consumption by living things. Do your cooking and drinking using spring water. Bottled water like Aquafina is pretty iffy. Coke had to recall Dasani repeatedly in Europe because someone goofed in the manufacture, and it contained carcinogens. If it says spring water, it’s simply been filtered, and treated with ozone to kill pathogens. The ozone will break down to oxygen within hours – long before the water is trucked to grocery stores.

        Phosphate is pretty safe, and it’s better for the environment than the nitrates that appeared in detergents when phosphate was frowned on in the 1970s. Environmentalists can be SO stupid sometimes, as can we all. It’s cheap if you buy much of it. You can get sodium tri-poly-phosphate in small packages at paint stores, but it’s an expensive way to buy it. A local chemical supply house may be willing to sell you a 50-pound bag. Tell them that you’re using it for fertilizer if they ask. Pyro does basically the same thing, but you get more kick from tri-poly on a per-pound basis.

        FWIW, we’re also getting substantially better results by shaving up Fletcher’s Castile soap instead of using Ivory or Irish Spring bar soaps. Irish Spring smells nice, but at Christmas time, you might want to add a little Oil of Peppermint to your soap to boost the festive mood!

  21. Interesting info, Harl! I use borax, washing soda, baking soda, and a natural soap (bar that’s been grated up). I guess I could probably ditch the baking soda, but we have hard water and I thought that helped?

    I also should add, that I do not use the soap in my diaper wash. It’s just baking soda, washing soda, and borax. I just make a special one for my diapers. It’s my understanding that soap should not be used in diapers. Which is probably why I had ammonia issues when I used commercial detergents. I’m not overly knowledgeable about detergents though. I have a combo of everything cloth diaper related and haven’t had any major issues so far!

    Erica’s last blog post..Salmonella in our Peanut Butter and Mercury in High Fructose Corn Syrup

  22. https://www.diaperpin.com/calculator/calculator.asp

    This is a great & easy way to calculate your savings.

    I’m currently using Bum Genius 3.0s which I purchased used on Craigslist, in addition to an asasortment of other diapers, also purchased used. I think my total investment right now is about $225?

    And I’d love your detergent recipe. I’m buying CrunchyClean (love supporting WAHMs) but it’d be great to go even chaper. I have read that the homemade detergents with bar soap can build up on diapers. Any experience with this?

    Lauren’s last blog post..Labor Stories

  23. Hi,
    I’ve heard of something called “evacuation” something or other, where you don’t use any diapers at all, but just let your child go around free? There’s some more to it, but I can’t even remember what it’s called. Has anyone tried this? Probably more trouble than using cloth, though.
    Also, I note that you can sell your diapers when you’re done with them, if using cloth, and get a lot of the money you did spend back.

    1. Elimination Communication is the practice. I used disposables but have friends that used cotton diapers as the back up. Interesting read even if you don’t give it a go. I was able to have my son and daughter in cotton underwear at ages 1 1/2 with no problems and working on this with child #3 🙂

  24. https://www.ninaplanck.com/index.php?article=potty_signs

    Potty signs – I definitely would have tried this when my son was a baby if I had known anything about it.

  25. Helena, I know friends who do “EC-ing” I forget what it stands for! 🙂 They love it. It’s very common in other countries. I have a Turkish friend who did it with her son.

  26. Hello all,

    I have a 2 yr old (26 months) and we use disposable diapers.. at most I spend $30 a month on diapers due to a very cheap store brand.. and wipes, I buy in bulk $13 for a box that will last me 4 months or so.
    However, trying to potty train my son has not been easy.. I knew he was ready as soon as he would strip the pamper and tell me he is dirty.. Now that I have tried putting him in Cloth underwears in the evenings to train him, he quit telling me he was dirty during the day time when he was wearing the pampers. My guess is due to fear of going to the potty?

    I am considering cloth diapers but due to a small apartment and no washer or dryer, I am on a teeter totter on a decision..

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