A Cost Analysis Of Cloth Vs. Disposable Diapers

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cloth diapers vs. disposable
flickr / Audrey

Your baby is going to produce a lot of poop before they start dropping loads in a toilet. You’re going to need something to catch all that crap (and, no, turning their entire nursery into a litter box is not an option). If you happen to be concerned about the annual deposit of 20 billion disposable diapers in US landfills, you may be considering going the cloth diaper route. But dang, they look expensive. So what’s the economic breakdown? And how do you keep from having your own?

Cloth Diapers: Not A Crappy Investment

The high initial cost will cause most people shy away from wrapping their baby’s nethers in luxurious, absorbent cloth. That’s because when you buy into cloth diapers, you have to buy into an entire system. These systems include shells, absorbent inserts, and various accessories to keep you out of the crap.

The fact that a single shell can cost upwards of $30 might make you guffaw. After all, you don’t poop into a golden toilet, so why should your kid poop on something that costs more than a 3D blu-ray copy of Suicide Squad. Which, to be fair, was also totally crapped on … by everyone.

But keep this in mind: the cost of investment into a cloth system becomes much more manageable when amortized across your kid’s diaper-pooping career. By the end of year two, if you’ve bought into a sturdy enough system, cloth diapers start to look downright cheap. Use ‘em for a second kid and you’re saving even more. Use ‘em to wax your car when your kids grow up and you’re basically earning money. Just call you, Warren Buffet.

In the end, if you look at the lifetime cost of a well cared for, high-value cloth diaper system, it works out to around $300. Easy peasy.

An Accessory To Pooping

It would be awesome if the story stopped there, but sadly there are additional costs (insert record scratch here). Consider the additional money spent on utilities due to increased laundry burden ($50 – $100 per year) and laundry detergent ($30 – $100 per year).

And just like you wouldn’t buy a car without getting satellite radio (tuned to Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville station 24/7), you wouldn’t buy a diapering system with a high-pressure toilet sprayer to knock the solids off the insets (add about $50). And you may want to simplify with additions like cloth-specific but creams and disposable liners. All in you’ve added about $275 for a grand total of $575-ish for lifetime use. But! The costs and varieties of systems are enormous. So do your homework.

Disposable Heroes

The cost of disposable diapers will vary wildly depending on what type of diapers you want to use on your baby. Middle-of-the-road name brand disposable diapers for the first 12 months can total out at around $650. Go all-natural and biodegradable and you could add several hundred onto that. You’ll also need a diaper pail, liners and wipes. So you’re looking at a grand total of about over $1,000. You’ll need that disposable income, bro.

Poopy Bottom Line

Most financial and baby-stuff expert who look at this issue regularly estimate that cloth diapers will save you about 60-percent by the time your kid starts pooping in the toilet. That’s a lot of dough. But it’s also additional labor. And while cloth diapering systems have become increasingly easy to use, there is still rinsing and washing involved. So it really comes down to how much you want to pay for convenience. And considering your 7-11 slurpee bill, that would be a lot.

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