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.

Author: Jenn

A busy at home scientist and mom with hypothyroid Hashimoto's, Jenn tries to make the best decisions for her family based on science, frugality, religion, health, sustainability and time management (not necessarily in that order). She occasionally writes poetry or goes ballroom dancing. Jenn regularly attends both church and mass. She also has a zoology degree from one of the most prestigious science universities in the country, more research experience than many PhD grads and a love-hate relationship with toxicology. Jenn cloth diapers mostly, but practices "elimination communication" as well. She has lived in three countries and speaks several languages. Jenn also sews, cooks, bakes, gardens, spins (wool) and loves calculus, even though she may be a bit rusty at it by now. With many food intolerances in her family, Jenn is constantly looking at dietary bypasses and evaluating food choices taking into account her education in metabolism, cell and molecular biology and biochemistry. To add to the complexity, she has started following the Auto-Immune Protocol (AIP), which is for healing the gut and putting auto-immune disease into remission.

2 thoughts on “Cloth Diapering Series, Part 2- The Economically Friendly Choice

  1. hi there I was wondering what your homemade laundry detergent is for cloth diapering?

    • I actually use Tide Free & Clear for ONLY my diapers. Everything else is washed in my homemade detergent. I’ve made several variations but with my water being so hard, I haven’t found a good blend yet. I may try again as it is supposed to work better with all natural fibers, and I have been using a cotton/polyester blended diaper.

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