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Yesterday we talked about how to save big on disposable diapers and today I want to share another option – Cloth Diapers!
Your initial reaction, like mine, might be that it’s a lot of work and that you have to deal too closely with unsavory substances. But after talking to a lot of frugal moms who cloth diaper, it seems that many of them actually like cloth diapers for other reasons too: They come in cute patterns and colors, reduce diaper rash and make great conversation starters with other new moms!
I asked my friend Amy (who uses cloth diapers on her baby girl) for her best tips and thought I would share them with you all. Remember the goal here is to save money on whichever approach to diapering works for you and your family not to debate which one is better.
How many cloth diapers do I need?
This depends a lot on your washing routine and the type of diaper you choose. So lets break it down a little:
We established yesterday in the disposable diaper post that newborns go through 8-10 diapers per day. This gradually tapers off to 6-8 diapers per day as baby grows. At a minimum, 12 cloth diapers allows you to wash every day and a half to two days. If you want to go 2-3 days between washings then 24-30 diapers is a good number to shoot for.
The most confusing part of cloth diapering for me was deciding which type to buy from all the options:
“Fitted” diapers come in sizes (S, M, L etc.) for a certain weight range, much like disposables. If you choose this type of cloth diaper, then you will have to purchase enough of each new size as your baby grows. If you decide on 20 of each size, fitted diapers can get pricey fast.
“Prefold” diapers are the traditional square cloth that many people think of when you say cloth diaper. They are fairly inexpensive but require a cover to be waterproof and they can also come in a variety of sizes.
“One size” or “All in One” diapers expand as baby grows using elastic and velcro or snaps. These cost a little more upfront, but you only need to buy one set that will last from infancy to potty training.
We chose one-size diapers for our family, but this will depend on your personal preferences. Choose diapers that work for you so that you will stick with it and not waste money on the investment. Just keep in mind, the only money you save is money that you don’t spend. Some moms like trying lots of different types of diapers and then stocking up on one particular brand, others add to their collection over time. The main thing is to set a goal for a number of diapers you are comfortable with and then buy when they are on sale.
One tip: Cloth diapers don’t always fit well at tiny newborn stage so many moms opt to stock up with disposables or buy XS fitted diapers to get them through the first 4-6 weeks. Using disposables at the beginning has other advantages in that mom is still trying to adapt to having a new baby in the house. Assuming 10 changes a day for 6 weeks, that would mean 420 size 1 diapers.
What are some tips for saving on cloth diapers?
Jenny has taught us that everything goes on sale at some point, and it’s true for cloth diapers too! The retail price for common fitted and one size diapers is around $20 per diaper. Many times you can find deals and get them for $10-$15 instead, you just have to get creative.
Although they are gaining popularity, there aren’t many retail stores that sell cloth diapers. Target gave it a go in some Texas stores, but those have recently been clearanced out and are now only available online. The best deal for getting them at an actual store is to use a $5 off $15 purchase coupon at Buy Buy Baby. They only carry two or three brands, so it doesn’t give you much selection, but you could walk in and buy them today if you needed to. (Definitely a plus in the later stages of pregnancy or early motherhood!)
Since I tend to do a lot of my shopping online anyway, it’s easier for me to watch for daily deals instead. You can often add in a coupon code and use a cash back site to save even more. Here are several places to watch for deals:
Plum District – Watch for deals
Zulily – Daily deals on various brands at 30-70% savings
Fuzzibunz – Often does a buy 5 get 1 free sale
Cotton Babies – Often does a buy 5 get 1 free sale
Diaper Junction – Daily deals and other discounts
Used Cloth Diapers
Cloth diapers are reusable and durable. If you maintain them, they can even be used for multiple kiddos which is where the real savings are with cloth diapers. Because they hold up, they are often sold used. It might surprise you, but cloth diapers retain a lot of their initial value even after a few years of use. You might not love the idea of buying used diapers, but it can save you money or help you recoup the cost of the diapers by selling them once baby has outgrown them.
Cost of Water & Detergent
Unlike with disposables, cloth diapers require additional expense in water and laundry detergent. I can’t help you on water deals, but you can find the detergent on sale!
For most diapers the recommended wash routine is cold rinse, followed by a hot wash with detergent/cold rinse. The first rinse removes residues allowing the hot wash to really clean the diapers. The second rinse is part of a normal wash cycle to remove detergent. This adds 3-6 extra loads of laundry each week depending on how many diapers you purchase.
Cloth diapers also require certain types of laundry soap, but that doesn’t mean it has to be expensive. Various detergents range in price from 12¢-$1.50 per load. A really helpful break down of cloth diaper detergent options is available here and of course there are sales on those too.
Here are some great ways to stock up on popular diaper detergent brands:
Big Lots – Wait for a 20% off coupon and use it on Country Save detergent in store
Grocery/Drugstore Deals – Purex Free & Clear, All Free & Clear etc.
Vitacost – Use the $10 sign up bonus offer on Biokleen, Earth Friendly or Charlie’s products
Ecomom Plum District Voucher – Use 50% off voucher on Rockin Green or Charlie’s
Because there are many permutations of diapers types, number of diapers, washing routine and detergent preferences I’m going to share the costs I’ve estimated for the first year of my cloth diapering adventure as an example.
How much it cost me to cloth diaper this year:
To give you some background, we have a water saving top-load washing machine and wash every day and a half, for an average of 4 loads per week. I also chose to use disposables for the first 6 weeks until I was settled into a routine and diaper changes were a little less frequent. Following the manufacturer’s instructions on my detergent, it took me 17 weeks to get through my first 80 load bottle which cost $12.99. From that, I estimate detergent costs at $42/yr (using coupons, this could be lower). Our local utility charges .0113/gallon for water/sewer and each load consumes 40 gallons, so this works out to $94/year in water costs. The energy consumption on our washer is $13/yr from the little yellow sticker that came on it and since we are basically doubling our washing, this is a good estimate. We also air dry our diapers to make them last longer, so we don’t have any added costs there.
(12) One-Size Diapers from a Zulily deal at $13.99 each = $167.88
(10) packs of Size 1 diapers purchased with drugstore deals at an average of $5 each =$50
Laundry Soap, $42/year
So for the first year, we estimate $366 for our total expenditure. The nice thing about cloth is for the second year it goes down to $149 in washing costs and will stay that way for future kiddos.
Regardless of whether you choose cloth diapers or disposables or a combination of each, you can save money on them. I know that many of you have cloth diapered a lot longer than I have, so I’m anxious to hear more tips on how to save!