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 greenmountaindiapers.com 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. Cottonbabies.com 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.