I will come right out and say it. I use disposable diapers, I have rarely even flirted with the idea of using cloth. For a long time I just chalked it up to being lazy, my perception that disposables were just as cost-effective and my hypothesis that the overall environmental impact was the same. With all that said I have read some great posts about diapering that really got me more informed and well, with number two on the way, now is a good time to think about what I might like to try differently. So off we go.
First I wanted to look at the cost aspect. So many seem to feel it is way cheaper to cloth diaper so I did the math.
Bear in mind for the calculations that it is recommended that you:
-wash no more than 24 diapers at once
-use the highest water setting to ensure agitation and rinsing
-wash twice, a hot/cold and a cold/cold
-dry for 60-90 minutes
-use certain detergents
All the hows and whys of cloth diaper maintenance are not fully explained here, but those basic guidelines created the parameters by which I estimated cost.
Here is my breakdown:
I want 36 diapers (minimum) to cut down on laundry doing and I like the FuzziBunz at $18 a pop.
There are lots of detergent designed for this and most people say they average about $50.00 a year for that.
My washer uses 40 gallons of water per cycle on the commercial setting, so that is 80 gallons per diaper load. I pay .013¢ per gallon of water.
In electric it costs 2.8¢ for the cold/cold wash, 34.2¢ for the hot/cold wash and 47¢ to run the dryer for an hour.
Lets do the tally:
Washing/Drying (2x a week): $2.08 in water + $1.80 in electric = $3.88/week * 52 weeks = $201.76
Total it all up and I spend $899.78 on a year of cloth diapering. Divide this by the $35.00 I budget per month on disposables (thanks to sales, coupons and using our credit card points for Target gift cards my actual cost averages out to less, but whatever...) and that is 25.7 months of disposable diapers. My daughter was potty trained at 26 months. We still use diapers for nap and night, but now a case for $17.00 (give or take) lasts for 5 weeks.
For me it is an even proposition.
Granted this does not include the decrease in cost over time, the use of the diapers for a second child or the options of line drying and buying used diapers. However, it also doesn’t address the fact that my daughter would have outgrown the small set of diapers at 10 months, requiring the purchase of another set, the additional year of maintenance to the tune of roughly $250.00 and/or any replacement/repairs the diapers may need. Additionally I would have probably been purchasing disposables for the first few weeks, as many do, and with the large amount of traveling and moving we do, some additional disposable purchases would probably have been made to fill the gaps when we are sans washer and dryer. Again, its looks like a comparable argument on cost. Everyone should do their own math since our washer/dryer set is pretty low tech, and our urban utilities may be pricier than some and so on. This may not be true for everyone, and it does not mitigate the fact that “one-time” investments may be easier than monthly budgeting, but the caveat here is to actually do the math before assuming that cloth will be a money saving strategy.
Next installation will address environmental impact, which cost aside, may be enough of a motivating factor for many.