10 Ways to Cloth Diaper on a Budget
By The Parent Vortex on March 24, 2011
When it comes to deciding how to diaper your little one, there are lots of good reasons to choose cloth. Cloth diapers contain none of the harmful chemicals present in disposables, there is less waste going to the landfill and cloth diapering families often experience less diaper rash and skin irritations. Cloth can also be way cheaper in the long run than a couple of years of disposable diapers. Here are ten ways to save money by cloth diapering.
- 1. Ask for hand-me-downs
Whether you get a handful of prefolds from another mom who’s not quite done with diapers or you inherit a fully stocked stash, preloved cloth diapers are very easy on the budget and are so durable that they probably have a decent life left in them still.
- 2. If you need to buy new diapers, strongly consider prefolds
- 3. Go for the basics
- 4. Use cloth wipes too
- 5. Consider making your own diapers and/or covers
- 6. Line drying saves on electricity costs
- 7. Use less detergent
- 8. Practice EC while cloth diapering
- 9. Use plastic bags to carry wet diapers home
- 10. Avoid buying disposables “just in case”
While you’re likely to save money over the course of diapering a child from newborn to fully toilet trained by choosing any style of cloth diapers, prefolds and waterproof covers are the most economical choice compared to more elaborate diaper systems. On top of all that, cotton prefolds also make excellent burp cloths, spill catchers or emergency bandages. You can even use them as cleaning rags when they’re too ratty for nappies.
Hemp doublers, wool wraps and fancy inserts or liners usually fall into the ‘nice to have’ category and most of the time you can diaper a baby just fine without them. With prefolds, if you need extra absorbency just fold two prefolds together, doubling the pee-absorbing power without having to buy anything extra.
Cut up an old towel into small squares with pinking shears or sew a zig zag stitch around the edge if you’ve got a sewing machine. Even old cotton t-shirts, sweatpants, flannel sheets and other old linens make great cloth wipes. I did usually have a package of commercial wipes for going out, but we always used cloth wipes at home.
If you’re so inclined, sewing up cloth diapers and covers isn’t too tricky, and the supplies you need are readily available online or even lying around your own home. Amanda Soule offers sewing instructions for prefold style diapers in her book, Handmade Home, while the Very Baby online shop carries patterns, fabrics and all the notions you might need for diaper making.
Washing diapers doesn’t have to be any more expensive than washing a regular load of clothing. Prefolds often take more time in the tumble dryer to get fully dry since they’re so thick and absorbent, which can be more expensive if you have to run the dryer twice to get them dry all the way. An alternative is to hang them to dry, or if they’re too stiff and crunchy after being line dried, toss them in the tumble dryer when they’re almost dry to soften up.
Almost all detergents tell you to use more than you really need to get your clothes clean, presumably so you’ll use it up faster and buy more. Excess soap not only wastes money, the residue can build up on cloth diapers and cause leakage. Soap reside can also promote bacteria growth in your washing machine’s drain, causing a funky smell on your clothes. High Efficiency detergents need only a tablespoon per load.
Elimination Communication helps reduce the number of diapers you need to wash, reduces the number of poops you need to clean off bums and sometimes helps toddlers potty learn sooner, all of which save money. Well, except for cleaning fewer poops off bums, but the benefit of that is priceless.
Again, pretty wet bags are nice to have, but the ubiquitous plastic shopping bag makes a perfectly acceptable substitute, and it’s totally free. In Vancouver soft plastics are not recyclable, so while I’d usually recommend recycling or avoiding plastic bags altogether, when I was diapering little ones I felt justified using plastic bags to carry wet diapers. The bags that inevitably made their way to our home would have otherwise just gone in the garbage if I didn’t find some use for them.
Wash your diapers more frequently or buy a few more prefolds or covers if you need to stretch your supply out a little longer between washes, but if you have the disposables in the house it’s too easy to use them up. And then buy more, just in case. Not buying disposables is the best way to save money on diapering, although we did use them when going on long camping trips or holidays where it would be tricky to wash our cloth.
Did you save money using cloth diapers? Annie at Phd in Parenting estimates that she saved $4000 by cloth diapering and breastfeeding her two children. I know we certainly saved money by cloth diapering -- by the time Claire came around it was practically free to diaper her.
What are your best thrifty cloth diapering tips?