Mom at home scientist

Ecology of my motherhood; analyzed, frugal, and (mostly) natural.


Cloth Diapering Series, Part 2- The Economically Friendly Choice

To continue my previous post on economic based choices in cloth diapering, I will cover several of the diapering paraphernalia choices that will reduce your costs for cloth diapering. These factors are fabric content, willingness to repurpose items, washing situation, detergents required, water quality, and diapering paraphernalia.
Also, assuming you wash and dry your diapers by machine every time, I found a nice rundown of costs associated with different styles of diapering systems at for you to look at for comparison.
In order to keep costs as low as possible, you should stick to the bare bones. These of course include the diapers and covers but you will need wipes, a method for cleaning, a detergent, a storage solution and a drying method.
For wipes, you can always purchase specially made cloth diaper wipes, or even the disposable kind from the store. I suggest though, if you are pinching pennys, to find an alternative. I have in my wipes pile, baby wash cloths, cut up old tee-shirts, and repurposed double layered flannel wipes I made from swaddling blankets. You can use flannel shirts or bed sheets, but if you go to yard sales, you can usually find swaddling blankets for 25 cents each or even free if they are stained. I like to cut them up into a usable size and sew two pieces together, since flannel frays so easily.
Related to wipes is wipe solution. Most cloth diaper brands sell a solution for their wipes, but all you really need is water. I do prefer to make a diluted mixture with coconut oil, baby soap and some essential oils or grapefruit seed extract, but it is not necessary and I still rarely do it.
Detergent can also be expensive, particularly if you purchase special brands formulated for your specific diaper. If you choose non-natural fibers for your cloth diapers, then you will need to be very careful about the detergent you use and be aware that you may have to change brands several times and strip your diapers regularly until you find an ideal one. Stripping diapers is a time intensive and possibly costly chore that needs done if your diapers start to stink no matter how much you wash them, if you have ammonia problems, or if they cease to absorb liquids. To keep costs as low as possible, stick to natural fibers and you will have a greater choice of detergents, as you won’t need to buy a special brand. I have made my own homemade laundry detergent, using several different recipes. This is the cheapest option and is fairly simple to make.
Of course, in conjunction to detergents is the process of washing your diapers. Almost everyone uses a modern machine; either top-loader or front-loader, but there is a cheaper option if you have the time and energy. You can… hand wash. Yes, I did just say that. My washer went out for over a week this year and I resorted to hand washing. All you need is your soap, water, a washboard or similar surface and two hands. I do recommend having an agitator though, which you will find using a toilet bowl plunger works just fine. This works best and easiest with flatfolds, and prefolds.
Now that your diapers are clean, they need to dry. Air drying is free and all else costs something. A flatfold will dry quickly even if you had to hand wring them after hand washing, and quicker yet if they went through a spin cycle. They won’t need long in the dryer either if you choose that route.
You also need to consider your storage options for dirty diapers until they are washed. Personally, I use old laundry detergent pails, with a liner in it. I like the Kissaluvs pail liner but you could probably use an old pillowcase cover. That said, some people throw their diapers directly into the washer to wait until they have enough dirty to run a load.
One last item you most likely will want is a wet bag for when you leave the house. You could just use a plastic bag though if you don’t get out much.
If you are still finding cloth diapering, although cheaper than disposables, a bit expensive, consider incorporating elimination communication (EC). A great book on the subject is ‘Diaper Free Baby’ by Christine Gross Loh and you can check out the website in the meantime. I will probably share more on this subject at a later date although I only practice part-time EC.

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Cloth Diapering Series, Part 1- The Economically Friendly Choice

One thing I’ve had quite a bit of experience with, is cloth diapering. I’ve tried many different brands & styles over the years. Although my favorite styles change according to my needs & the needs of caretakers and babies, I do have favorites within each style.

Cloth diapering can cost more or less than shown based on style, brand, fabric content, sizing, willingness to repurpose items, washing situation, detergents required, water quality, trash services, and diapering paraphernalia. This post is devoted to the economic choice, which also happens to be the ecologically preferred choices as well.

Eco(logic & nomic)ly Superior Flats & Prefolds
First to touch on style or type of cloth diapers. The most economically friendly style would be flatfolds, followed closely by prefolds. The cost of a small flatfold from is $2 each, $2.25 for a large. Her prefolds run from $1.25 each for preemie standard cotton to $3.33 each for her large organic cotton. Her prefolds are not the cheapest you can buy upfront, but they are the best quality and should last you through at least 3 kids if you buy several sizes. Plus, you can get a free pair of pins with every dozen diapers purchased. Snappis are also a favorite of many moms but you don’t even have to use either. You can just fold the diaper and lay it in the cover and throw it on. Certain covers lend themselves better than others to this practice, such as Thirsties and Bummis. The cheapest cover you can find is the Bummis Pull-on cover for $6.50 but then you need to fasten the diaper first. The other covers cost around $12. These prices are all from the GMD website. also carries these covers, but GMDs can only be purchased through her website.

One factor which is greatly influenced by your choice to use cotton only prefolds or flatfolds, is that you can use regular detergent for cleaning. Most other fibers require special detergents which can be fairly costly. I will touch on that more when I write that post.

The other factor which is influenced by your diaper choice is energy related costs to cleaning and drying. Your flatfold will dry quickly when hung out, even in humid weather, and doesn’t take too long in a dryer. In contrast, there are certain fitteds and all in ones that have taken up to three cycles on high heat for me to dry! They also are the easiest to get thoroughly cleaned and if you ever have to hand wash… these are your diapers.

In order to give you an overall view of costs per unit diaper, not taking anything but upfront costs in mind, these are the style of cloth diaper listed from least expensive to most expensive as a general rule; flatfold, prefold, fitted, pocket, all in one (AIOs). All in twos can be anywhere between the last three styles.