Things to Consider When Deciding Whether or Not to Cloth Diaper (Part 1)

Many couples know what type of diapers they will use before they even become pregnant. They know there is absolutely no way they will use cloth diapers or they feel strongly that cloth is the only way to go. Other couples need to engage in lengthy deliberations before deciding which are best for their families.

Are you trying to decide whether cloth or disposable diapers are right for your family? Here are some important factors to consider.

My husband and I found ourselves in this latter camp before we had our first child. Though we finally settled on cloth, it wasn’t until we had first considered the pros and cons of both types. If you are trying to decide which are best for your family, then you might benefit from considering the following factors.

In order to prevent this post from being unreasonably long, I’ll limit our discussion today to two key considerations and then follow up next week with two additional considerations. Please note that a few of the following links are affiliate links. Click here to read about what this means.

What’s your motivation for considering cloth diapers?

There’s no question that disposal diapers will cost you a small fortune—somewhere in the neighborhood of $2,000 in the 2-3 years before your child becomes potty trained (source). If your motivation to use cloth diapers is to avoid some of this expense, then you’re likely to be successful. Cloth diapers can save you a lot of money if you make judicious choices.

I say judicious because some people don’t save money with cloth diapers. If you purchase lots of diapers in the most expensive styles from the most expensive brands and wash them in special cloth diaper laundry soap, then you may not save that much money! However, if you use simple cloth diapers from reliable, but inexpensive brands and wash them in regular laundry soap, then you can save quite a bit of money. We chose cotton prefolds and Thirsties Duo Wrap Snap covers. We’ve been very satisfied with their performance and longevity—even when washed in regular laundry detergent!

I didn’t crunch the numbers myself because there are many cost comparisons already available online. According to these, using cloth instead of disposables can save you anywhere from $199.62 (source) to $1,970 (source).

Some parents are interested in cloth diapers because they are widely believed to be more “green” than their disposable counterparts. Right now, the environmental benefits of cloth diapers are unclear and contested. I don’t have room to detail all of this here, but I will direct you to this article for additional information. Keep in mind that line drying your cloth diapers (instead of using the clothes dryer) and using as little water as is necessary to get them clean are two easy ways to reduce the amount of electricity and water needed when cloth diapering.

There are additional motivations for using cloth diapers. For example, some parents want to use gentle, natural materials on the skin of their babies. I’m not going to delve into these other motivations because I believe the two discussed above are the most common.

Are you able to wash cloth diapers?

There are two main things to consider when thinking about laundering cloth diapers. The first is access to laundry equipment and the second is time.

It’s pretty easy to wash cloth diapers if you have access to a decent clothes washer. Some families forgo using cloth because they live in apartments or homes without washers and dryers. For some of these families, it is inconvenient to use a laundromat. Others use laundromats that do not allow patrons to wash diapers in their facilities. You don’t necessarily have to give up on cloth if you are in one of these situations. Many families hand wash their diaper laundry. I’m not going to lie—the thought of having to do this makes me cringe, but many families do it and are quite satisfied with their experiences. Click here to read a detailed description of how to hand wash diaper laundry.

Some families give up on cloth because they find it tricky to wash them well in their HE washers. When my husband and I purchased a new washer this last fall, we chose a rudimentary top-load washer for this reason. However, you shouldn’t let your HE washer dictate your diaper choice! There are several online resources (including this one) that provide tips on how to use HE washers effectively.

As far as time is concerned, using cloth diapers does add an additional task to your to-do list. It doesn’t take that much time, though. For us, it typically means doing an extra load of laundry every other day. Once the diapers are washed, I simply fold the prefolds in half and stack them on the dresser we use as a changing table. This task may take a few additional minutes if you use pocket diapers because you’ll have to stuff the inserts into the diapers.

Stay tuned…

There is a lot to think about here, but it’s only the beginning! Join me next week to look at two additional considerations.

What’s your motivation for using (or wanting to use) cloth diapers? If you use cloth, share about your experience washing them. What type of washer do you use? Do you line dry your diapers or use a clothes dryer?

Shared at the following link parties:

Coffee and Conversation, Friday Frivolity, Share the Wealth, and Shine Blog Hop.






  1. I’m excited to see what other points you will make about cloth diapers-this is all really interesting! Today will be Day 3 of cloth for us, and we’re really enjoying it so far! I was really motivated to do cloth for a few reasons-definitely the money factor/savings was a big one! I also like the convenience of it. Since I stay at home, it’s not any harder to do cloth than disposables, AND it means that we don’t have to routinely run to the store to buy diapers. We live in an apartment, but it has its own washer and dryer in the bathroom, and the utility cost of water is already included in rent, so I don’t have qualms about running an extra load of laundry every couple of days 🙂 I also think it’s neat that cloth diapers are so cute-it’s amazing how many different colors and patterned fabrics are available for diaper covers! The only real struggle for me so far is figuring out when to change the diaper. I’ve been touching the prefold through the leg hole, which has been fairly accurate so far, but there are sometimes when I forget to check, and when I do remember to check and change the diaper (if Peter gets fussy, it’s one of the things we look at), it’s completely soaked and a lot messier to clean up!

    • Knowing when to change the diaper is a bit tougher with cloth than with disposables, AnneMarie. Fussiness is generally a good indicator, as is the passage of time. If it has been a couple hours, you just know to go ahead and change it. Sometimes you can feel a temperature change if baby peed recently (his or her bottom will feel warm all of a sudden due to the pee). This passes quickly, though, so you have to get lucky to catch it. 🙂 As baby gets bigger and you have a bit of a routine established, you get familiar with how much and how often they go…it becomes almost intuitive.

  2. We cloth diapered but we did use a disposable at night time (because once you get baby sleeping through the night, do you really want a soaked diaper/clothes/bedding to interfere with that)?

    I loved cloth diapering and I’m certain it saved us loads of money considering we used the same diapers with both babies.

    Thanks for sharing (and for linking up to the #SHINEbloghop).

    Wishing you a lovely day.

    • Shannon says:

      Hi Jennifer,
      I know a lot of families who use cloth during the day and disposables at night. We purchased a few hemp inserts that I add inside the diaper cover (outside of the prefold) in order to increase how much can be absorbed before a leak happens. This worked well for us! However, we do use disposables on occasion, particularly if we are traveling.
      You make an excellent point about cost savings when you can reuse the diapers on a second (or subsequent) child. The savings is considerable when you diaper multiple children in the same diapers!

  3. Some really interesting points! I had really good intentions about using cloth nappies but, when it actually came to it, I didn’t have the stomach. I think if we had another I would give it a go – though I don’t know if we’d manage to stick to just reusable.

    Thanks so much for sharing over at #FridayFrivolity! 🙂

    • Shannon says:

      Hi Jess,
      It’s nice that we live in a time where we have a choice! At the end of the day, the important thing is that your baby is clean and dry.

  4. I used an HE washer with ours and never had a problem. I know what you mean about cloth not necessarily being cheaper, some of those diapers are so ADORABLE!

    But as you point out there is no rule that says you have to go exclusive cloth (thought we pretty much did) or disposable. Like everything in parenting, do what works for your family.

    • Shannon says:

      Hi Audrey,
      I’m glad to hear you have had good success with an HE washer. I don’t have experience with one…I’ve just heard mixed reviews. I would hate for owning an HE washer to be the reason for someone to avoid cloth!
      Good point about being able to use both cloth and disposables. For some families, this works best!

  5. We cloth diapers our youngest child to save money. It he was lovely to not have to rush out and buy diapersome each week. I enjoyed the experience and it did save us money.

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