Cost of Cloth Diapering vs. Disposables

price comparison of prefolds and disposable diapers

Diapering a baby is necessary and disposables are often thought of as the only solution. At least that was my mindset when we were having our first baby, so I never paid much attention to just how much we were spending on diapers. I knew it was a lot, but I didn't want to get discouraged with the actual figures.

Well, it's time to get discouraged. (Or, for cloth diaper users, encouraged.)

Here's some cost comparisons based on using sized prefolds and covers versus disposable diapers.

Cost of Disposable Diapers

I will be using Luvs for this comparison--they're comparable to store brands in price but better quality. Price per diaper varies greatly depending on size of package (50-count costs more per diaper than 300-count), size of diaper (size 5 costs more than size 1), and any promotions, sales or coupons. My math is based on a box of size 1 from Target, and going through 8/day.

Based on these figures disposables could cost as low as...

$.149          each diaper change
$1.19          day
$8.34          week
$36.16        month
$433.89      year

$1084.72      total low-end estimate for 2 1/2 years in disposable diapers

But that's being conservative. You'll notice lots of other cloth diaper sources will quote disposable diapers as costing a total of $1500-$2000 or more. I think that's a little crazy, especially because we were very cheap with how we used disposable diapers, so I decided to give a total closer to the low end.

Disposables will likely cost more than $1,000 because...
  • newborns can go through 10-12+ diaper changes each day, which is quite a bit more than the average 8/day used in the math above;
  • older babies may go through less changes (because none of us want to "waste" a disposable diaper by changing it too soon), but price-per-diaper goes up with the size of the diaper;
  • even though most try to buy in quantity to save money, we've all found ourselves buying the smaller, more expensive packages;
  • diaper genie refills cost about $7/roll and are quoted to hold "up to" 270 diapers adding $.025 to the cost per diaper if you chose that disposal route;
  • disposable diapers also call for disposable wet wipes, adding $.019 per diaper change, or more for messy diapers that require more wipes;
  • more expensive brands like Huggies cost $.22+ per diaper rather than the $.15 in the math above;
  • not all toddlers potty train by 2 1/2, and often the costs just transfer from diapers to disposable pull-ups which happen to cost quite a bit more than diapers.

Cost of a Prefolds-and-Covers Cloth Diaper Stash

Price ranges of cloth diapers differ drastically depending on the system used (all-in-ones tend to cost more than prefolds and covers). These estimates are based on the sized prefolds and two-size covers we've preferred.

$10         50 baby wash cloths (for cloth wipes)
$21         12 newborn prefolds
$48         24 small prefolds
$53         18 large prefolds
$8             3 Snappis
$64           6 size-1 covers
$64           6 size-2 covers
$15           1 pail liner
$10           1 small wetbag

$293  total birth-to-potty training cloth diapering costs

Items in our original wish-list that we haven't bought include 100-pack disposable liners, diaper sprayer, and a swim diaper. Even if we bought those items or chose to also get medium prefolds, our total costs from birth-to-potty training could still be less than $400.

Cloth diapering could cost less, but we cared about getting different sizes of prefolds and getting two-size diaper covers that could fit a newborn. I still feel good about how low these costs have been.

Cost Comparison of Disposable vs. Cloth Diapers

Some people might find the cost of cloth a little high, but what we've spent on our stash is still less than half of the low-end estimate for disposables. That leaves us room to buy disposables periodically as needed/desired.

Of course, there are ways to save money on disposables including sales, promotions and coupons. I've even heard people talk about getting diapers for free in various ways. I suppose if costs are your only concern, then find those people and figure out how it's done.

However, even if we broke even with costs, there are enough other benefits to keep it worth our while. Well, worth my while. The cost comparisons helps keep Daniel on board :)


Related cloth diaper posts...

our newborn product stash
our toddler product stash
benefits of cloth diapers
time + place for disposable

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