The Beauty of Cloth Diapers, Part 1

August 31, 2011

Probably for most of you when you think about cloth diapers the last thing you think about is beauty.  However, for those of us who have experienced cloth diapering, “beauty” really isn’t that far off from the truth.  There are so many wonderful things about clothing those cute little booties with soft, soft cloth and bright, sweet colors!  Not convinced?  Well maybe I can help.

Today I’m going to expel some ugly misconceptions associated with cloth diapering, next week I’ll explain how beautiful it really can be, and the following week I’ll give you the 401 on how to use cloth diapers–which ones we use, why we use them, how we use them, etc.  I’ll even show you some options that we don’t use!  My hope is not necessarily to convert you to a life of cloth diapering, but just to educate.  

Some Ugly Misconceptions Expelled

1. You have to touch poop all the time.

Ok, so it’s true that you have to deal with poop more than you might while using disposable diapers, but it’s really not nearly as bad as you might think.

When there’s a dirty diaper you simply drop the waste into the toilet (without touching it) and then rinse the diaper under cool water.  You might sometimes need to scrub a bit and your fingers may come into contact with some poop, but seriously.  That’s what soap is for.  It doesn’t take long to get over it, either–trust me.

2. You have to constantly be washing the diapers.

This was the thing I was most concerned with.  I mean, I really don’t care for laundry.  However, we have 18 diapers and I wash them every third(ish) day.  It doesn’t seem like that often at all.  It’s a quick load and it’s easy to grab them out of the dryer and put them back where they go.

3. You have to hand-wash them.

I suppose there may be brands of cloth diapers out there that you can only hand-wash, but for the brand we use (and all of the ones I’ve ever looked into) this is not the case.  I have used my washer and dryer to clean our diapers for almost a year and they are still in great condition.

4. You have to use super-expensive soap to wash them.

Ok, it’s true that the brand of cloth diapers we use recommends using a detergent that is not full of chemicals.  But since I use a natural detergent for my laundry anyway, we already have the proper soap on hand.

I think the thing that worries people about natural soap is that it is too expensive.  However, that’s just not the case.  Natural soap, although it often comes in large quantities and so might be more expensive up-front, is almost always cheaper in the long run (and better for you anyway).

5. They get really gross and dirty looking really fast.

I suppose if you let them sit for days cloth diapers might end up getting bad stains on them and looking gross after a while, but my diapers still look almost new.

6. They give babies diaper rashes worse than disposable diapers.

I’ve heard this, but I don’t understand it.  It just doesn’t make sense and it’s not my experience.  The only thing I can think is that a new little booty might get a bad diaper rash if the cloth diapers being used are getting washed in a detergent that is too harsh.  Our experience is that Luke gets far more rashes when using disposable than cloth diapers.

7. They don’t hold as much waste as disposable diapers.

There might be something to this if you keep a diaper on for hours and hours.  However, we’ve had the same number of “blow-outs” or “leaks” you would expect with disposable diapers when we change the cloth diaper every 3-4 hours.

It’s true that for a while we were getting leaks on the inside thigh, but we figured that out: I wasn’t rinsing them well enough and so there was build-up.  (gross, I know . . . I’ll explain more about that later in this series)

Overnight is a different story, though.  In fact, because Luke pees so much and sleeps so long during the night we’ve started using a disposable at night.  Even that one diaper a day, though, still keeps the cost under what we would be spending if we only used disposable diapers.

8. They are too expensive.

This, I think is the misconception I’ve heard most.  They are expensive up-front, it’s true.  The average cloth diaper, after tax & shipping & whatnot, is about $20 each.  For one child you need about 18 (for two, I’ve heard 24 works well).  So that’s $360.

Now think about disposable diapers.  Each package is like $50 for 275 diapers (and that’s a pretty good deal).  So you can buy 2,000 disposable diapers for the same $360 you could buy cloth diapers for.  How long will it take you to go through 2,000 disposable diapers?  Let’s say you change a diaper every 3 hours and your baby sleeps for 12 hours each day.  That’s 5 diapers a day (this is a low estimation).  So in 400 days, which is about 13 months, you’d easily make up the money you’ve spent on cloth diapers.

Remember, though, you’re going to use more than 5 diapers a day and this was just for 1 child.  (For instance, if you use 6 diapers a day, those 2,000 disposable diapers will only last you 11 months for one child).

A Note on When We Don’t Use Cloth Diapers: I feel like this is necessary to explain while I’m talking about the expense of cloth vs. disposable diapers.  I’ve explained that we use one disposable at night.  We also use disposables when Luke stays with someone else, or we have a babysitter over, or when he’s in the nursery at church.  While it’s our preference that he use cloth diapers, there’s no reason to make other people deal with them.  We want to bless those who love us and our little man enough to watch him, and so we don’t make others who have not chosen to use cloth diapers use them.  This increases the number of disposable diapers we must buy.  We usually use (including the night-time diapers) 14 disposable diapers each week.  This comes to about 56 disposables/month, or about $10/month.  This $10 is worth it to us to bless those who take time to bless us!

These are the ugly misconceptions I’ve heard most about beautiful cloth diapers. Have you heard others?  Do you have any questions/comments/concerns?  Leave a comment!

Next time: The Reasons Cloth Diapers are so Beautiful

2 Responses to “The Beauty of Cloth Diapers, Part 1”

  1. Cassandra said

    Hi Katie!

    This is a very timely post as we have been using cloth diapers with our little one for a few weeks now. I have mixed feelings about them based on what little experience I now have. Here is my response to your myths:

    8. They are too expensive.
    The only reason we are using them is because we can’t afford disposables, so they are definitely cost effective, but not as convenient as disposables. We have been very fortunate because we haven’t had to buy any ourselves; we borrowed a bunch from Ben’s cousin, and his mom has bought some used ones for us as well.

    2. You have to constantly be washing the diapers.
    I’m not sure exactly how many we have (somewhere around 30?), but since our little one is only five and a half weeks old, she goes through a LOT of diapers, so we have to wash them about every day and a half, and I hate laundry, so that’s kind of a downside. I do feel good about not creating as much waste as disposables though.

    4. You have to use super-expensive soap to wash them.
    5. They get really gross and dirty looking really fast.
    We haven’t been using the really good detergent to wash them because it does cost more (what do you use?), and we do have stains. We know we could put them in the sun to get rid of the stains, but we don’t have enough diapers to be able to wait the hours that it would take.

    1. You have to touch poop all the time.
    We haven’t had to pre-rinse them or anything because pure breastmilk poo is water-soluble. Sometimes getting them into the washing machine is kind of gross though.

    6. They give babies diaper rashes worse than disposable diapers.
    When we were using disposables, baby Leona got a really bad diaper rash, but since we switched she hasn’t had a problem. We put Angel Baby Bottom Balm on her to prevent any irritation from being wiped all the time, and use liners to protect the diapers.

    3. You have to hand-wash them.
    I haven’t heard of this. Maybe with certain brands you would?

    7. They don’t hold as much waste as disposable diapers.
    I don’t know about this one. We didn’t use disposables for very long, so it’s hard to compare. We do get leaks, but mostly because the diapers aren’t exactly the right size for her. Almost all of our diapers are adjustable size, so even on the smallest setting they aren’t quite right yet.

    What do you do for wipes? We don’t have any money, so I just asked Ben’s mom to cut up some flannel fabric and surge the edges. We keep a bowl of water with a TINY bit of Dr. Bronner’s in it (I use one squirt of the already diluted solution we use for hand soap) next to the changing table and just dip the wipes and wring them out, then wipe.

    We have only left our little one with grandparents once and not for very long, so they did the cloth diaper thing, but we have talked about using disposables sometimes too. Not sure what we’ll do for daycare when that time comes though. That would be a lot of disposables.

    Sorry to take up so much space on your blog! Just wanted to join in the conversation. :)


  2. Woah, Cassandra! Thanks so much for all this information! I’m sure you’ve helped people out with your experience! I’m so sorry it’s taken me a million years to get back to you!

    I’m going to talk about wipes on tomorrow’s post in more detail, but until, well . . . today . . . we’ve just used store-bought “regular” wipes. Usually cloth diaper companies sell their version of cloth wipes, but for some reason I just couldn’t get on board with it. I’ve heard of many people doing what you’ve done–homemade flannel wipes–and it seems to work for them. Tomorrow I’ll give in more detail what we’re beginning to use, but it’s a frugal, homemade, disposable wipe system using paper towels. I’m excited to see if it works well for us or not!

    Thanks for joining in on the discussion :)


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