Cloth Diapers: Saving Green and Being Green


cloth diapers

Before we gave birth to our first son, we had heard lots of things about using cloth diapers. So much, in fact, that it was a bit overwhelming. There were so many kinds to choose from, we didn’t even know where to start. And we had heard that washing our own cloth diapers in a front load washer (like we had) didn’t work well, because we would never get the stink out. So we bailed on washing our own and got a cloth diaper service instead. Not that this was a bad choice, but we definitely didn’t save much (or any) money this way, compared to disposable diapers. Our son did take to toileting much easier than I expected overall, so it may have had some benefits in addition to not throwing away lots of disposable diapers, but if I had it to do over again, I would have bought our own cloth diapers and just tried a few ways of washing first. Then we would have had the same diapers for our second son and really raked in the savings with our initial investment!

There are multiple advantages for using cloth diapers:

  1. You can be green: They are truly better for the environment. When you factor in about 8-10 diapers per day for at least 15-16 months, that’s a lot of trash!
  2. You definitely can save green (money): Between diapers and pull-ups (since you can buy cloth pull-up style diapers as well), your child will be somewhere between 2 1/2 and 5 before you are truly done with all diapers and pull-ups. And disposable pull-ups are incredibly expensive. Plus you can sell your cloth diaper stash after you’re done and earn a little money back afterwards.
  3. Kids in cloth diapers and pull-ups typically toilet train faster (since they can feel the wet).
  4. It’s pretty empowering for kids ages 2 and up to wear cloth vs. disposable pull-ups since they feel more like real underwear. My son flat-out refuses to wear disposable pull-ups at night and instead wants his “nighttime undies.”
  5. What could be cuter than little babies in cloth diapers? I know, I’m biased. He’s cute, though, huh?cloth diapers 2

Here are the top things I’ve learned about using (and washing) cloth diapers:

  1. You can indeed wash cloth diapers in a front-loader washer (which uses less water than a traditional top-loading washer, so is even better for the environment!). The key is to both do a rinse and spin cycle with cold water first (my washer takes 20 minutes for this) using no detergent and then just run a hot/cold cycle with detergent. Done and done.
  2. The number one thing that makes washing easier is getting a detergent that works. We seriously tried about 5 or 6 different detergents (luckily we could use all the extra for our clothes). Then I discovered plain old powder Tide. Seriously, this was a game changer. Our child doesn’t have any sensitivities to detergent, so if your child does, you may want to consider something else. But no matter what, I would recommend using powder detergent vs. liquid.
  3. Diaper sprayers rock. This is basically just the sprayer you would have on your kitchen sink for spraying dishes, but attached to your toilet instead. This helps spray off the poop into your toilet before you toss the diaper in your washer. I have read lots of complaints about them leaking, but that is just because you turn off the water pressure to it when not in use. So just shake the sprayer over the toilet to get most of the water out once you turn off the pressure to it. Spraying is quicker and easier than just dunking the diaper in the toilet.
  4. There are a few main types of cloth diapers, and depending on who will be changing your child’s diapers, you can spend a bit more or save a lot depending on how easy you want it to be to put them on. We chose to buy prefold diapers with separate covers for us to use at home (since you can go through a lot of diapers in a day and these are as cheap as cloth diapers get) and some pocket diapers for daycare (to keep it easy for them to use since they are more like disposable diapers). Everyone will have their opinion on the best brand of cloth diapers. I would recommend starting with a small number where you buy one each of a variety of brands and see which ones you like the best. Depending on your kid’s shape, some diapers may work better than others. Then once you find the kind you like, you can buy more of them. I would recommend having enough cloth diapers for 2-3 days. You’ll want to wash them about that often anyway (we wash every other day).
  5. There are a few main types of absorbency: cotton, microfiber, hemp, and bamboo. We personally have used cotton, hemp, and bamboo (since I had heard about some issues with microfiber and that it wasn’t as absorbent). We’ve really liked the absorbency of hemp and bamboo, and bamboo held its shape much better than hemp did.
  6. You can use wet washcloths for wipes. Just wash them with the cloth diapers. No reason to buy tons of fancy disposable wipes! We use one of the perineal washing bottles I got from birthing at the hospital (that I can’t imagine using anywhere else), fill it with water, and leave it in the changing table dresser to spray on the washcloths when they are needed.
  7. And the cloth doesn’t have to stop before toilet training. There are lots of cloth pull-up style diapers as well that can help make toilet training easier. You can even buy more absorbent cloth pull-ups to wear at night (most kids will be at least 4 or 5 years old by the time they can hold it all night, so you can really rake in the savings here vs. disposable). There are fewer brands for cloth pull-ups and we tried a couple different ones. During the day I was OK with the outside of it being wet (so I knew that he had peed and we could get him changed), but found for night time we wanted one that held the wet in better (to wash his sheets less often), so we chose Super Undies (their night time style) and we add some extra absorbency (which we had from our pocket cloth diapers, but you can buy it from Super Undies. You’ll want to still cover the bed with a waterproof mattress cover regardless of what you choose (which is true even for disposable diapers, since kids pee a lot!).
  8. Fluff Love University is a great website about all things cloth diaper. Great for problem-solving if you’re having issues and for help in picking a detergent (note that Tide is a top pick, especially for hard water, like we have here in Colorado).
  9. It’s OK to still use disposables! We still use disposables at night (I value sleep a lot, so would rather just use one disposable a day with our baby), as well as when we travel. I don’t feel bad about it in the slightest!

Have you ever considered using cloth diapers? What do you love about them or what has held you back from trying them?

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Mara is a married mom of two little boys (2 ½ and 2 months). The family lives in Denver near City Park and loves the combination of city life with being able to quickly get to the park to “get away from it all” (or go to the zoo to see gorillas and orangutans, her 2 ½ year old’s favorite animals). When not visiting great apes, Mara is an IT project manager, enjoys cooking (and eating!), scrapbooking, volunteering, traveling (though only state-side these days with little ones), and getting outdoors for a bit of exercise (which comes in a different form than when she was single and without kids). She captures her thoughts on sustainability, project management, etc. on her personal blog as well as documenting her favorite recipes on her food blog.


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