I didn’t swear the solemn oath to start cloth diapering our firstborn right away. In fact, I had boxes of disposable diapers stacked all the way up to the ceiling in several places of our home well before our first baby was scheduled to arrive.
The only diaper concern I had was whether Pampers were really better than Huggies and where to find the best diaper coupons and deals.
It wasn’t until a good few months later that my towers of disposable convenience had started to tumble. Pampers was put on the spotlight back then for their brand new DryMax technology, one thing led to another, and all of a sudden my living room floor was flooded with enough cloth diapers to question my own sanity.
Now, after years of cloth diapering both of my kids, I consider myself a seasoned fluff pro, worthy of giving useful cloth diaper advice.
So if you’re considering cloth diapers but aren’t quite sure just yet, let me tell you what I think about the pros and cons of using cloth diapers.
ADVANTAGES OF CLOTH DIAPERS
#1 – Cloth diapers are better for the environment.
The EPA reports that about 27 billion used disposable diapers get dumped into the landfills each year here in the U.S. alone. 27 BILLION!
You know what that means, right? Unless this planet grows, we’re eventually going to run out of landfill space. Especially with the fast population growth rate.
To me this is a much bigger problem than comparing the resources required to make and distribute disposable diapers VS. making and maintaining cloth diapers. Both use a significant amount of resources, one creates tons of extra waste on a regular basis.
#2 – Reduce, reuse, recycle.
Cloth diapers can be used over and over. They should last through more than one child if you take good care of them.
You can repurpose cloth diapers when they’re no longer needed, donate them, or sell them to recuperate some of the cost back.
#3 – Cloth diapers are healthier for your child.
Modern cloth diapers allow for better airflow and contain fewer chemicals that could irritate baby’s sensitive skin. As a result, diaper rashes and allergic reactions are typically much less frequent when using cloth diapers.
If you experience recurrent rashes with cloth diapers that go away every time you switch to disposables, you may need to adjust your wash routine, switch to a different detergent, or strip your washer and/or diapers.
#4 – Cost.
One of the main advantages of cloth diapers is that unless you have a major cloth addiction problem (which does happen!), cloth diapering tends to be much cheaper than using disposables.
You can typically recoup the initial cloth diaper investment within the first year, or even in as little as few months. (And then make some money if you resell the diapers when you no longer need them.)
The best part is, if you have more kids later on, you’ll be diapering them just for the cost of running the washer/dryer and the price of detergent. Isn’t that awesome?
#5 – Versatility.
You have options.
If cloth diapers aren’t absorbent enough for, say, nighttime use when your child is a bit older, you can double up on the cloth insert.
When you’re on the go and can’t check your baby’s diaper very often, using fleece liner is a great way to help keep skin dry.
At home where there isn’t as much need for using liners, natural fiber can be all there is next to your baby’s skin.
A cloth diaper cover without the cloth insert can also be used as a swim diaper. (It works better than a disposable swim diaper, too.)
#6 – Easier and earlier potty training – supposedly!
This is another clear advantage of cloth diapers over disposables that seems to be working for most kids.
It’s been said that cloth-diapered kids often potty train earlier because they’re aware of the discomfort as wetness happens. Unlike disposable diapers where moisture is wicked and locked away, the immediate feedback of wetness helps kids connect the dots.
#7 – Solid waste goes where it’s supposed to.
Here’s the thing: the solid content of ANY diaper – cloth or disposable – is supposed to be flushed down the toilet. In reality, this hardly ever happens with disposable diapers.
When cloth diapers are used, there is no way around it and the vast majority of solid waste gets properly treated instead of sitting at a landfill creating a potential health disaster or contributing to land and water pollution.
#8 – Reliability.
You know the annoying blowouts that happen way too often in disposable diapers? The kind that ruins the cutest outfits and never really washes out?
Hands down, cloth diapers win over disposables in their ability to contain poop.
#9 – It helps spread the word.
I can’t even recall the number of times I’d been asked, “Is that a cloth diaper? How cute!”
When you use cloth diapers, you ultimately help promote awareness and conversation on this topic. It’s easier for parents to give cloth diapering a try if they see others happily using cloth.
These are the 9 advantages of using cloth diapers and the reasons why I think cloth beats disposables.
But because we’re discussing both PROS and CONS of using cloth diapers here, let’s talk about the disadvantages of cloth diapers as well.
DISADVANTAGES OF CLOTH DIAPERS
#1 – Convenience.
Let’s be real – cloth diapers aren’t very convenient. In fact, cloth diapers might seem like the most inconvenient product made in the world of parenthood.
- Learning to use cloth diapers may take some practice.
- When you change a cloth diaper outside of your home, you’ll need to carry the soiled diaper with you.
- Cloth diapers need to be washed regularly.
- Unless you use a liner that wicks moisture away from baby’s skin, you’ll need to change diapers often.
- Even if you use something like a fleece liner, cloth diapers will still need to be changed more often than disposables because they’re simply not as absorbent.
This is the cold hard truth about using cloth diapers. They are more work.
#2 – Washing diapers.
AKA the single biggest disadvantage of cloth diapers. We all have better things to do, and let’s be honest: soiled diapers are gross.
— Where to wash cloth diapers?
If you have your own washer, you’re off to a great start!
If you don’t and are stuck with a shared (or even worse – a shared coin-operated) washing machine, you may have to rethink your options.
First of all, washing and drying diapers will cost you a ton if you’re using coin-operated machines. Second of all, every time you’re using shared washers, you’re exposing your diapers (and ultimately your child) to the residue left over by other people that have used the washer before you. And, a lot of laundry products are not compatible with cloth diapers to begin with.
If you’re seriously considering cloth diapering but don’t have your own washer to use, I suggest looking into portable washers. We used one from Haier years ago that required no hook ups (you’d simply connect the washer to a sink when using it), and it was a real sanity saver.
As for drying cloth diapers, you don’t necessarily need to use a dryer when you’re cloth diapering though it does obviously speed up drying time. Using a tumble dryer has the added benefit of making cloth diapers much softer but also puts more wear and tear on diapers overall.
— The actual art of washing diapers…
- Not all detergents are OK to use with cloth diapers. (We used Country Save. Loved it.)
- You’ll need to find balance between the right amount of detergent, the hardness of your water, and the amount of diapers washed. This is a trial and error game, but once you got it, you got it. (Until something goes off.)
- The usual routine is rinse on cold, wash on hot, and running an extra rinse is helpful. You can age 5 years before your single diaper cycle is finished, but at least you don’t have to get down and dirty!
The truth and nothing but the truth?
It can get frustrating.
Your diapers may suddenly feel stiff instead of fluffy. They may become less absorbent. You may have to deal with stink issues despite of good washing practices and standing on your head in a silent remedy prayer next to your washer. The ammonia monster may even show up, the worst of them all. You may need to start experimenting and, eventually, you might need to strip.
Your diapers, of course.
#3 – Diaper creams
Beware: once you start using cloth diapers, you can no longer smear just about anything on your baby’s bum.
Oily or tacky creams can build up on the diaper, leading to reduced absorbency and stink issues. You don’t want that.
While you may be able to get away with using tiny amounts of diaper cream with your cloth diapers sparingly, it is recommended to use (inexpensive) thin disposable liners for cloth diapers that act as a barrier between a child’s skin and the diaper itself.
This is what I think about the advantages and disadvantages of cloth diapers.
Obviously I’m a huge fan because I cloth diapered both of my kids (and would do it again in a heartbeat), but I’m not the one to say that cloth diapers are for EVERYONE.
Should YOU give cloth diapering a try?
Making the right decision is about weighing both pros and cons of cloth diapers and taking your own circumstances and priorities into consideration.
Do what works for YOU!
(Hope this helped.)