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Cloth Diapers vs Disposables Part 3: A Cost Comparison

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One of the biggest considerations to make when deciding between cloth and disposable diapers is the cost. You may get shocked at how much good quality cloth diapers will set you back, forcing you to re-evaluate your decision. However, there are multiple factors involved when calculating the cost of using disposables, cloth or both.

Below are comparisons of the different scenarios:

Scenario 1: Exclusively Disposable Diapers

Cost1

Scenario 2: Exclusively Cloth Diapers

Cost2

Scenario 3: Cloth Diapers & Disposables (Used at Night and On-the-Go)

Cost3

* halved as washing only needs done once every other day

Assumptions

  • Average price of a single disposable diaper is RM0.55 and disposable training pants are RM0.80.
  • 12 changes daily required for a newborn, 10 times for young baby, 8 times for older baby and 6 times for a toddler.
  • A child starts potty-training at 2 years and is fully potty-trained by 3.
  • Diapers are hand-washed daily with 1 teaspoon of laundry detergent. 1 box of laundry detergent contains 60 scoops/tablespoons which is the equivalent of 180 teaspoons, which means that 1 box can last for 6 months.
  • Each wash uses 2 10-litre pails which equates to 600l/0.6m³ a month, with water rates at RM2.00/m³, costs for a month’s worth of washes is RM1.20.
  • Estimates don’t take into account variables such as electricity costs of using washing machines and dryers, accessories that come with diapering, purchasing discounted items or if baby potty trains earlier or later.

Verdict: Cloth Wins
From the above, we know that using disposables costs a third more than fully cloth diapering – which is a lot in the long run. It seems that the best option may be more expensive in the beginning but more economical in the long run. Since we use an average brand of disposable diapers and a premium brand for our cloth ones, an apple-to-apple comparison will show a much larger cost-saving margin for reusables over throw-aways.

If more kids come into the picture later, the costs of disposables will multiply, while costs for cloth will only involve washing and maintenance of wear and tear. Further savings for cloth diapers can be made not just through hand-me-downs, but also with diaper swaps and buying secondhand.

Conclusion

Oftentimes, the factors influencing your family’s diaper decision bars the numbers, logical deductions or even intentions. Despite wanting to go fully cloth for our children, we’ve come to terms with the fact that a hybrid system worked really well for us. When we moved to another country and I got pregnant again, we’ve resorted entirely to disposables for convenience’s sake.

Personally, I’m going to try again with cloth diapering my second baby not just because it’s cheaper, but also from knowing that it’s healthier for baby and gentler on the environment. Ultimately, it’s truly up to you to decide which diapering method works best for your family, child and wallet.

Cloth Diapers vs Disposables Part 1: My Experience
Cloth Diapers vs Disposables Part 2: Your Baby’s Environmental Impact

Khairun is mum to 18-month old Aidan and owner of Recovr Resources Sdn Bhd, a growing social enterprise in the recycling and equal employment industry. She and her husband Max are currently living in Jakarta, and are expecting a daughter in December.

Image credit: Nanny Reviews

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