The Wonderful World of Cloth Diapers

Well I’m surprised by the amount of debate that came up yesterday about which diapers to use.  It has got so bad it’s leaked over to MoneyGardener’s blog.  Yet I noticed expect for Lise, no one wanted to know about why we are leaving cloth diapers at all when it is a more environmentally friendly choice.  So I present a little summary of life with cloth diapers and some costs.

  1. Realize at that cloth diapers now are not what your parents used.  See Kushies Ultra Cloth diaper (which is what we have used).  It’s got layers of cotton for absorption and a built in water proof outer shell with Velcro tabs.  Generally speaking it is just as easy to use to put on and take off as a disposable.  There is a large up front cost around $50/5 diapers.  We typically had at least 15 diapers, so cost to start is about $150 plus tax or more if you want to do laundry loads less frequently.
  2. I don’t suggest getting the newborn size as you child will out grow them too quickly to save you much money.
  3. When actually using the cloth diaper we also bought the Kushies diaper liners (you can pick them up at Walmart).  There are strong when wet and allow you to remove solid wastes to the trash.  Yet if there are some leaks over the liner so we just put the entire diaper in the toilet to soak.
  4. Wet diapers or ones which have been soaked and then shake to get off solids then get transfered to a pail of water with baking soda mixed in to absorber odours.  Do not use bleach as it wrecks the cotton fibers and shortens the life of the diaper.
  5. After the all the diapers are used we put the kid in a disposable and take the pail down the washing machine.  With a top load washer this part is easy.  You just pour it all in and do a spin cycle to remove the water and other bits.  Then you may need to use a stain remover on some of the diapers which held solids and then add detergent and wash it all with an extra rinse to ensure it’s all clean.  (For a front load you have to manually load it with wet diapers and to spin out and manually pour the left over waste into the toilet and flush.  Now do we understand why my wife wants to stop doing this with our front load?)
  6. Then you move the diapers to the dryer and don’t use fabric softener.  It coats the cotton fibers.  Then take the pail to your tub and wash out with hot water and vinegar.  Refill the pail with water and baking soda.
  7. After that you are ready to start the process all over again.  Note we always used disposables for overnight because they can hold a lot more liquid in them when your child is sleeping for most of the night.

So as you can see using cloth diapers are labour intensive and you do a lot more laundry because of them.  Yet after you initial cost you are only spending money on the water for the washing machine and power for the washer and dryer.  As long as you have energy star appliances it won’t cost you much.  The diaper liners again are fairly cheap and vinegar and baking soda in large sizes is dirt cheap as well.  I can’t give you an exact cost because I don’t have any data of our before using cloth diapers on my power and water bills.  I would guess we spend around $10/month on everything for the cloth diapers, but I’ll ask my wife if that sounds about right, she has a better feel for the costs around the diapers.

I hope that helps everyone about how it all works.  Let me know if you have questions for me or my wife and we will try to answer them.

12 thoughts on “The Wonderful World of Cloth Diapers”

  1. Wow, can’t believe I’m actually commenting on this subject…my wife will be proud. But I don’t get your comment about somehow front-load washers are harder to use with reusable diapers. We have a modern (GE) front-loader, and it couldn’t be easier. We just empty the diapers into the machine (from the bucket where we keep them), run a soak cycle with hot water, then run a wash cycle. Why would we have to empty water and gunk from the washer into the toilet?

  2. Neil,

    I didn’t say all models have this problem. Just ours. If we had a larger washer it wouldn’t be a problem, but ours has a small opening which we can’t get the pail into.


  3. Ah- OK Tim. That makes total sense. A lot of them do have very small openings. Our is one of the larger heavy-duty ones (That cost a lot, unfortunately) so the opening is fine.

    I didn’t mind the reusables for the first kid, but now on our second, I have to say the old quality of life things comes into play…

  4. This is extra ordinary. I have never heard of this reusable cloth diapers before. It offers some benefit and constraints, but really open my mind on more idea of being frugal.

    Colin Joss
    East Lothian, Haddington, United Kingdom

  5. Don’t put your diapers in the dryer! Hang them out in the sun (removes many stains) or on a drying rack. They’ll last much longer. Also, Kushies and other All-in-ones are terribly expensive. You’re better off buying a few dozen quality Chinese Pre-folds and some Litewrap covers (you won’t need pins). Use Gerber liners and if they’re just wet you can throw them in the wash with the diapers and reuse them until they disintegrate. Both my daughters used this system (same diapers, some new covers for the second child). Saved us a fortune, and I’ve now given away the diapers to others. Oh, and I never soaked the diapers, just put them in a Diaper Champ covered diaper pail lined with a kitchen trash bag until I washed them (about twice a week). I agree that toploading washers are easier for this!

  6. This is great info! I am planning to use cloth diapers because friends rave about them, and I like the cost savings (sorry MoneyGardner I nearly passed out when I saw the cost of disposables for a year – $1825!). Also less waste in the landfill sounds good to me.

  7. I have a Frigidaire front loader and I am having a hard time. Maybe one of you guys can help me out with some suggestions. It seems like the washer can’t handle the diapers. On the spin cycle, it moves across the floor like crazy. When I watched it, it seem like after it drains the water and the diapers are evenly distributed in the washer, it will spin fine, until it stops to turn the other way or drain more water, and then the diapers stuck to the top and sides fall to the bottom, then the washer is uneven. Like the diapers are too heavy or something. Do you understand what I mean? Do you have any suggestions? Please let me know.

    Thank you so much

  8. Jessica,

    I wish I could help, but it could be just something with your washer. I know ours won’t keep spinning if it is too unbalanced. It keeps shifting spin directions slowly for the first bit to get the load some what balanced. That’s not to say there isn’t some vibrations, but our has never moved across the floor.

    Sorry I wish I could help more. Anyone else have this problem?


  9. Hi Jessica,

    I am currently shopping for a new H/E front loader washer and have been using cloth diapers on my new baby for about 2 months now (using a front loader). During my internet research, some of the comments I have read from people using front loaders is that because they are so efficient and use so little water, and because the diapers are so aborbant, some people have to add a bucket of water to their load of diapers in order for it to spin properly. Maybe this would solve your problem?
    I am using bum genius 3.0 one size diapers, which means you only have to buy one size that fits from newborn-35 pounds (which will hopefully mean the child will be potty trained before they outgrow the diapers). The advantage is that you only have to buy one diaper that will apparently last more than one kid’s diaper lifetime. These diapers cost around 20 bucks each, which would make them cheaper than buying 3 different sizes of the Kushies diapers. They are also quite advanced in their design – velcro tabs very much like a disposable diaper, easy enough for my reluctant husband to be able to work with. I invested in 24 diapers, and when my daughter was 3 weeks old I was doing diaper laundry every other day, now that she is a bit older I can go 3 days depending on my schedule.
    So far, I couldn’t be happier with my choice to go cloth. Not only do I believe it is cheaper and better for the environment, but I never have to stress about running out of diapers (and having to run to the store at midnight because someone used the last disposable). Oh ya, and I never have to empty a stinky garbage can 🙂

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