6 Reasons Why Cloth Diapers Are Better Than Disposables (And 1 Reason Why They Ain’t)

When most people think of cloth diapers, they think of a huge handkerchief that you put on with safety pins. And maybe a diaper service that comes and picks them up.

Well, some families still go that route, and that’s great. But that ain’t what I’m talking about.

I’m talking about the new school of cloth diaper. New fabrics, super absorbent pads, easy to put on and take off, simple to clean in your own washer and dryer.

These diapers are great. And they’re way better than disposables. Here’s why.

1. Cloth Diapers are cheaper

Disposable diapers will set you back at least $2,000 before your child is potty trained. And if you buy premium or biodegradable options, that number will look more like $3,000.

Whereas twenty of the most expensive cloth diapers will set you back less than $400. Factor in detergent and water bills, and you’re still looking at half the cost of disposables.

Sources:
Consumer Reports (July 8, 2009). “Cloth vs. disposable diapers: Getting started”.
http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1702357,00.html#ixzz1MLGLaVco

2. Cloth diapers are way better for the environment

An average child will go through anywhere from four to eight thousand diapers in his or her life.

Nationwide, parents in the USA use an estimated 27.4 billion disposable diapers each year. That’s around 3.4 million tons of diapers that end up in landfills each year.

Now think about all the trees that are used to make the diapers. And all the plastic, which is made from petroleum. All the chemicals used in the process. And the water. Then all that water and chemicals returning to the environment as waste. Then the plastic packaging, the transportation – airplanes and trucks carting those diapers around the world – not to mention the energy you use driving to the store and back. And then the energy used to produce your garbage bags, the trucks to haul that trash to the landfills, the equipment used to manage the landfill.

The environmental footprint of disposable diapers is staggering.

Compare that to using the same twenty cloth diapers over and over, cleaning them with safe detergent in a high efficiency washer. There’s just no contest.

Sources:
The number of diapers a child uses comes from the conservative estimate of six per day x 365 x 2 years = 5475 diapers used.
http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1702357,00.html

3. Cloth diapers are more absorbent

I speak here from experience. With a cloth diaper, I don’t have to change my baby in the middle of the night. With disposables, I do.

Then there’s the blowout factor. Cloth diapers are generous, and they contain. Disposables, not so much.

4. Disposable diapers contain nasty chemicals

Most disposables are bleached with Dioxin, which, in animal studies, caused nerve damage, birth defects, increased rates of miscarriages and changes to the immune system. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has classified dioxins as a probable human carcinogen.

Next up is Sodium Polyacrylate, the super absorbent gelling material, or AGM, that allows your baby to go long periods in one diaper. Sodium Polyacrylate has been linked in the past to toxic shock syndrome, as well as allergic reactions, and it’s is potentially lethal to pets.

AGMs are also linked to an increase in childhood asthma and a decrease in sperm count among boys.

Now, big diaper manufacturers point out that these chemicals exist in very small doses in the diapers, and so don’t post a risk. And, sure, more studies need to be done. But Mama Natural says, why risk it?

Sources:
Illinois Dept of Public health http://www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/factsheets/dioxin.htm http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/news/2004/04/63182

5. Cloth diapers may help protect your baby boy’s jewels

German scientists found that the skin temperature around baby boy’s genitals was significantly higher when they wore disposable diapers as opposed to cloth. While the scientists called for more research, they suggested that prolonged use of disposable diapers in infants could be an important factor contributing to the decline of sperm production in adult males.

Source: http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/news/2004/04/63182

6. Cloth diapers are cuter than disposables :)

Colors, patterns, textures. Especially when your baby is dressed in a diaper only. Cloth are way cuter.

1 Reason Why Cloth Diapers Ain’t Better

1. Tyranno-poops

Occasionally, all babies will produce humungous and, frankly, baffling poops. The last thing you want to do is get all hands-on with that diaper, rinse it, wash it, etc. Throwing the stinking thing out would be so much easier…

BUT, that’s an infrequent and short-term bummer. In the long term, and by just about every single measure, cloth diapers are better for you, your baby, and the world.

What do you think? Why do you use cloth diapers?

About Genevieve

After battling weight, digestive, and immune system issues for years, I know firsthand the harmful effects of conventional life. Through a long road of detox, I discovered the healing power of natural living. This transformation spread into every area of my life - physical, emotional & spiritual. Now I'm on a mission to help other mamas live happier, healthier lives.

Please note: Many links on this site, especially those to Amazon, are affiliate links. Should you click on these links and purchase something, the price is no different for you and I earn a small commission. Thanks for supporting Mama Natural!

Disclaimer: The statements made here have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. These statements are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure or prevent any disease. This notice is required by the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.

34 Comments

  1. sewing March 13, 2014 at 12:55 am

    I will be actually thinking about transitioning for you to material diapers. I will be at present expectant with the next and all the people employed disposables and to be honest, the cost is actually an excessive amount. So in the event that anyone could possibly or maybe might supply me personally more details I’d tremendously enjoy it.
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  2. lauren March 3, 2014 at 3:54 am

    i am planning on having a baby whats the best option for me

  3. Brandy January 25, 2014 at 11:54 am

    I am actually thinking about switching to cloth diapers. I am currently pregnant with my fourth and all my others used disposables and quite frankly, the cost is too much. So if anyone could or would give me more info I would greatly appreciate it. Anything such as websites, where to buy cloth diapers and roughly how much they cost as well as how to clean them and put them on baby, all these would be a great help. My husband is even on board with this as long as I want to. Thanks In advance.

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  6. Meryl April 10, 2013 at 11:09 am

    The point of cloth diapering being better for the environment, thinkin g about all the trees, planes & trucks is rediculous. I’m really supposed to be persuaded to use them so that there will be less planes & trucks emitting pollution? If so, I certainly hope that those using cloth diapers aren’t using the money saved by doing so to take trips around the world using planes to travel & thus hurting our environment!

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  8. Becka January 16, 2013 at 11:54 am

    Another thing about cloth that kind of stinks is when out. Nothing like having to carry a poopy diaper around the zoo in the summer. We have found that getting some g diapers (not sure if there are other brands out there) with the disposable liners is the solution for us. The liners can be composted and flushed! We only use them when we are out for the day (and with older kids in sports we are ALWAYS out for the day it seems)

  9. Matthew October 24, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    Using cloth diapers is not superior, it is just different. You are entitled to your opinions and decisions, but if you take the time to research the topic you’ll find that there is not that big of a difference to get this upset about it. When you factor in the initial costs, detergent, energy costs and environmental externalities cloth diapers aren’t necessarily a better financial or environmental decision.
    Form my thorough research, they don’t save money if you only use them for one child; if you use them for 2+ kids they may save money, but only if you figure in your time as worthless. If you figure that you spend an additional 10 minutes per day CDing than you would using disposables that adds up to a little under 60 hours per year; which is a conservative figure considering that moms and dads spend lots of time a) researching, buying, selling, trading and trying out different types of cloth diapers, b) removing stains, and, c) folding, stuffing and restocking cloth diapers. So, going with that conservative number, if you spend 10 minutes per day (.16 of an hour), and multiply that by 365 days in a year you get 58.4 hours less that you could have spent with your child or doing something else. If we use the 2010 median household income from the U.S Census Bureau, $50,000, and assume that there are two parents in the home that works out to your time being worth roughly $12/ hour. At $12/hour, 58.4 hours is pennies over $700.
    Now, given that 50k is the median household income there are obviously many parents who’s time is worth more. Let’s consider a dual income family, such as mine, with each parent earning in excess of $60,000 per year. To keep this simple I’m using the Learn Vest “what’s my time worth calculator” (google it, you’ll find it) and not going into opportunity costs (lost income because I was doing something other than working or monitoring investments), or other calculations that would convolute the discussion. Learn Vest says that my time is worth about $23 per hour. If we use the figure above, 58.4 hours, that works out to over $1300/ year! Enough to buy disposables for TWO kids! Or, enough to justify buying the more expensive “natural” disposables (which we usually do).
    With the possible exception of the fact that cloth diapered babies potty train earlier and the link between potty training after 32 months and urge incontinence, NO long term studies have concluded that cloth diapering is going to have any detectable benefit on the development of your child (before you go off on the scrotal temp thing make a note that I’ll get to it). However, many valid scientific studies have concluded that an increase in quality time with mommy and daddy benefits self esteem, confidence, intelligence, and emotional intelligence. Personally, I’d rather be spending time developing my child’s brain than worrying about what’s on their derrière.
    Ok, now on to the scrotal temp thing. The original study (W G Sippel et al) compared pre-fold cloth diapers without covers to the non breathable PLASTIC BACKED disposable diapers that were available over 12 years ago when the study was conducted. Since that time disposable diapers have become breathable. Additionally, most CDing parents use covers. PUL is not breathable, was not tested in the study, and does raise the temperature inside the diaper. Additional studies that are rarely cited in the pro cloth diapering arena have “clearly shown that scrotal temperatures are the same whether the child is wearing disposable or reusable cloth diapers with a protective cover. The only situation in which scrotal temperatures were found to be lower is when the cloth diaper is used alone without a protective cover but this is not representative of how these products are actually used” (Grove GL, Grove MJ, Bates NT, Wagman LM, Leyden JJ (2002). Scrotal temperatures do not differ among young boys wearing disposable or reusable diapers, Skin Research and Technology, Volume 8, Issue 4, pages 260–270, November 2002). Many cloth diaper sites promote layering with several layers of inserts and soakers, or layers of wool over pul covers. Surely that can’t be good for scrotal temperatures.
    Many people claim to cloth diaper for environmental reasons, but they are not necessarily better for the environment. Living in the American West, where water conservation is one of the biggest environmental concerns, I am 100% convinced that, for my family and those that live in this region, disposables are better for the environment. In fact, Green America agrees: “After looking carefully at the available research and considering both the environmental and health impacts, Real Green has come to the following conclusion: Organic cotton cloth diapers are still the best option, unless water conservation is a big concern in your area.” Even if you aren’t in an area where water conservation is a concern there is still a lot of evidence that the difference in the environmental impact is minimal.
    A study co-ordinated by the UK Environment Agency shows that disposable diapers have no greater impact on the environment than cloth diapers (visit: http://www.nappyinformationservice.co.uk/environment.htm). Specifically, the study confirms that neither disposable or cloth diapers can claim overall environmental superiority. The differences in the impacts between the diapers are not significant enough to voice support for one diaper type over the other on the basis of environmental factors alone. The study is updated regularly and shows that “the average 2006 disposable nappy would result in a global warming impact of approximately 550kg of carbon dioxide equivalents used over the two and a half years a child is typically in nappies” (diapers). “For reusable cloth nappies the study states ‘The baseline scenario based on average washer and drier use produced a global warming impact of approximately 570kg of carbon dioxide equivalents.’ The study showed that ‘the impacts for reusable nappies are highly dependent on the way they are laundered.”
    The study goes on to state “There have been significant improvements to disposable nappies in recent years, for example a 40% reduction in weight and volume, compact shrink wrapping in single film packaging and increased energy efficiency. All of these modifications and improvements result in lowered environmental impacts.” I do have to give credit to the cloth diaper users out there for this change, because I do feel that they have a big hand in driving the market towards more environmentally friendly disposable diapers.
    As far as chemicals in the diapers, yes there are chemicals in disposable diapers. There are also chemicals in just about every other commercially available consumer product, especially health and beauty products. In 2010, Unwirklich Vin Zant wrote an article (Are Disposable Diapers Safe? The Real Unbiased Facts) that is posted on Yahoo Voices. She makes many good points, but one of the best points she makes is “The biggest myth in parenting is that there is a right or wrong way to do it”. Millions of people have been diapered in disposable diapers and grew up healthy (myself included). Though the chemical concerns may have validity, they need to be viewed as part of the big picture; what else is harming your baby’s health and what steps are you taking to improve your baby’s health. Removing shoes before entering you home has a huge impact on a baby’s health, though it is rarely mentioned. According to a report called “The Door Mat Study”, lead-contaminated soil from the outside causes almost all the lead dust inside homes. According to the study, wiping shoes on a mat and removing them at the door cuts indoor lead dust by 60 percent. Other contaminates are brought in as well including fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides and other xenobiotics. Additionally, your carpeting releases VOC’s, do you let your baby play on the carpet? Do you have pets? They bring in contaminants as well. Indoor air quality is typically much lower than outside air quality, do you wet dust (much better for indoor air quality), replace hvac filters monthly, have air ducts cleaned annually, own and run air purifiers, keep a variety of houseplants, have natural (voc free) furniture and mattresses, and use a HEPA filter vacuum? My point is that there are TONS of things in our homes that cause asthma and other health issues, many of which you may not have been aware of. Singling out diapers is a very one sided way to approach your child health.
    Personally, I feel that many parents cloth diaper because it makes them happy. It makes them feel that they are doing something good for their child and makes them feel that they are better parents because they use cloth diapers; and that is a good thing, it shows they care about their children. But to point fingers and say that people using disposables don’t care about their kids is ignorant. The evidence is open for debate, and in my opinion, for my family, the debate points towards disposable diapers being the better option because they allow us to spend more time together, are better for the environmental preservation of the arid West and they are a better financial decision. If you decide that cloth diapers are better for your family that’s great, use ‘em. Just keep in mind that, at least here in America, everyone has a right to make their own decision and having a strong opinion does not give you the right to criticize others for their opinions and decisions.

  10. CC September 26, 2011 at 11:54 pm

    I must admit that I have used sposies…my dog had a bladder stone and whilst we were waiting for it to be removed my mother bought a package of newborn sposies because her bladder control went out the window during this time. My sister and I had to cut holes in it for the tail (how many teenagers spend their evenings cutting holes in diapers and then diapering their dog?) and I know first hand all the nasty stuff that’s in a disposable diaper. Not to mention that we only used them for a week or so, but our trashcan seemed to be FULL OF DIAPERS and NOTHING ELSE. So all in all, I am a cloth diaper convert at the ripe old age of fifteen.
    CC recently posted There’s a little man with a tickly beard who has lit a campfire in my throat and is starting to cook sausages.

    • Genevieve September 27, 2011 at 9:10 pm

      Nice! My mom put our dog in a diaper when I was growing up too (cut the hole for tail too. :). Poor dog!

  11. Lauren J September 1, 2011 at 10:40 am

    Thanks so much for the info! We don’t have children at the moment but they are definitely in the plan for the not to distant future and this is one debate I’ve been struggling with. I’m a big fan of the cloth diapering I just need to know that its actually feasible with a busy lifestyle. Seems that its worth the potential extra work it involves.
    Lauren J recently posted Discovering Our Hometown: Cataloochee Valley (Picture Heavy!)

  12. Ashley August 31, 2011 at 11:05 pm

    Thanks for this post! I was on the fence but you officially converted me. My stash comes in the mail tomorrow… Can’t wait to see the look on my husbands face! :)

    Thanks again!

    Ashley

  13. Oz Nappies June 12, 2011 at 6:06 am

    Great post and video Genevieve. We love to see others promoting the eco friendly diaper cause. Loved your light hearted video. We have have posted a reference to your video on our blog and also did a test on just how absorbant modern cloth nappies are at http://www.oznappies.com/modern-cloth-nappies/video/insert-absorbancy-test . A night nappy for a heavy wetter is 2 microfiber and a bamboo (less than 1/2 inch thick) and this holds 3 cups of liquid! Is there any disposible that can do that? So, we totally back up your number 3 point as well as all the others.

  14. Ricky May 25, 2011 at 7:17 am

    these look great, I will have a look at the possibility of getting some of these for my new born baby.
    Ricky recently posted cot bed mattress

    • Genevieve May 25, 2011 at 10:46 am

      Kewl. Start em on cloth while they’re young to get the biggest financial return.

  15. Bozena May 24, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    Yeay, I started my collection of cloth diapers, I am currently 23 weeks pregnant and was wondering how many I need… Genevieve mentioned 20, so I will go with that number! Also, it’s so nice to get this, – every time I mention that I am planing on using cloth diapers, people look at me funny. Thank you for reinforcing this message :0)

    • Genevieve May 25, 2011 at 10:45 am

      My pleasure! You won’t regret going cloth.

      We’ve got 24 bumGenius, and that number works well for us. 20 will be fine for your basic kit, and you can always pick up a few more if you find you’re doing diapers all the time :)

      Better yet, maybe you’ll win 9 cloth diapers in our giveaway that’s going on right now!

      • Bozena May 25, 2011 at 5:40 pm

        Winning more would be great! I got Thirsties, but will also try bumGenius 4.0! :)

    • Genevieve May 23, 2011 at 2:29 pm

      Awesome Kirsten! Love how you are so aware and ahead of the game :). I think disposables will be obsolete in the next decade.

  16. Shaina May 18, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    I’m so glad i learned about cloth diapering while i was pregnant. My son is currently 6 months old and we’re in love with cloth diapering. I love the many pros it has versus using disposables. Is there a certain cloth dipe you use during bedtime? We’re still on the fence with cloth diapering at night, afraid of the leakage situation. Anything you recommend?

    • Genevieve May 19, 2011 at 9:55 am

      Shaina, nightime is a challenge for us too right now since Griffin is eating 1/3 of his daily breatmilk at night! UGH! BUT, we do use double thick inserts at night and this works pretty well. We don’t have to change him and in the morning he may be wet but it isn’t to the point of having to change the sheets or even his sleep sack. I’ve noticed the nights he only wakes up once to feed, it’s no problem and no wetting through. Hope that helps!

      • Genevieve May 23, 2011 at 2:28 pm

        UPDATE: Last night we used TWO of the thicker BumGenius inserts and they worked like a charm! No wetness at all. Yay!

  17. Dawn May 17, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    We used cloth diapers for our baby girl and we LOVED them. It was so easy and convenient and so gentle on our little ones skin. No diaper rash!! Plus is was more economical and of course the environment was also a huge consideration. We were really lucky because our daycare also supported the use too. Most states do not have a law against using them in daycare settings. I highly recommend using cloth to everyone I come across. No regrets here!!!

    • Genevieve May 19, 2011 at 9:53 am

      Dawn, that’s awesome that your daycare is onbaord! Yay!

  18. Ashley English May 17, 2011 at 8:56 am

    i love this! what cloth diapering situation do you use at night? huxley is a crazy pee-er, so i’ve found that cloth won’t get him through from 8 p.m.-8 a.m. (his sleeping hours, roughly). that’s the only time i use the 7th generation.
    thanks, genevieve!!!
    Ashley English recently posted Making It Giveaway!!!

    • Genevieve May 17, 2011 at 2:09 pm

      Hi Ashley!

      Recently, Griff is a major pee-er at night too. He drinks 1/3 of his daily food at night so it makes sense… LOL! He doesn’t want to eat in the day because he wants to go.. go… go… (he’s crawling now). So what we’ve been doing is doubling up on inserts for the evening which can work if he doesn’t drink too much. But often we end up with some wetness on his pants in the morning. We just throw in laundry basket and wash in the next load. This seems to work without diaper rash.

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  1. [...] (whom we love) makes this case for cloth over disposable: 6 Reasons Why Cloth Diapers Are Better Than Disposables (And 1 Reason Why They Ain’t) She also has an explanation video for why they chose what they did, which has some great basic [...]

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