Cloth Diapers vs Disposable: Pros and Cons

Types of cloth diapers

Trying to decide between cloth or disposable diapers? As with all things in parenthood, there is no one right answer. Ultimately, you want to do what’s best for your baby and your family’s situation. There are a lot of things to consider when choosing cloth or disposable diapers, including cost, ease of use, environmental impact and more. Read on as we break down the pros and cons of each to help you decide what’s the better choice for you.

Are cloth diapers better?

Cloth diapering has become much more sophisticated and easier to master in recent years. Plus, there’s no denying the impact on the environment you can make in choosing cloth diapers over disposables. While they may have a slight learning curve, there’s less worry in terms of keeping yourself stocked up with those monthly or weekly diaper purchases. On the flip side, that means you do need purchase enough diapers to make it through each day without constantly running your laundry machine. For newborns, that means having at least 25 cloth diapers on hand so you’re only running a load of laundry every other day.

When it comes to cloth diapers vs disposable cost, even though you may spend more upfront on cloth diapers, in the long run you’ll see a considerable savings. Other than buying larger cloth diapers when your baby grows, you’ll be saving the cost of constantly having to run to the store to buy disposable diapers. Yes, your energy and water bills may increase with additional laundry loads, but with all the spit-ups and messes kids make that uptick in laundry will likely happen with or without cloth diapers. Plus, you can save on energy costs by hanging diapers outside to dry in the sun instead of putting them in the dryer. This can help extend the life of your cloth diapers as well because dryers can sometimes be damaging.

An additional thing to consider when thinking about the cost is that cloth diapers can be passed down to future siblings or even sold to other parents after your baby out grows them. Another added bonus with cloth diapers is that cloth-diapered babies tend to potty-train faster than babies in disposables.

Cloth diaper pros

Cloth diaper cons

  • Less waste in landfills
  • More energy and water use
  • Greater cost savings over time
  • More investment upfront
  • Diapers can be passed down to future siblings
  • More cleaning and laundry time
  • Tend to be gentler on baby’s skin
  • Not always babysitter or daycare friendly
  • Are disposable diapers better?

    At first disposable diapers seem to be the easier choice based on convenience alone. There’s no learning curve and less clean up as soiled diapers can go straight into the garbage. Of course, that means you are adding hundreds of diapers to the landfill each month. Disposable diapers can be more breathable, but the absorbent chemicals used to make disposables can sometimes be irritating on babies’ skin. It may take you a few rounds of trial and error to find a disposable brand that doesn’t irritate your child’s skin and also doesn’t allow diaper leaks. So, while disposable often feels like the easiest choice it may take trying out multiple brands to find the best fit for your budget and your baby’s body and skin.

    Disposable diaper pros

    Disposable diaper cons

  • Very convenient
  • Not eco-friendly
  • Good for on-the-go & travel
  • Chemicals and dyes can irritate baby’s skin
  • Breathable & more absorbent
  • Become very costly over time
  • Daycare and babysitter friendly
  • Cloth diapers vs disposable comparison chart

    Now that you know the pros and cons of each, here’s how cloth diapers and disposable diapers stack up against each other.

    COST Depending on the brand and quantity you choose to buy ranges from $300-$1000 per child over 2 years. Average cost is $2000-$3000 per child over 2 years.
    EASE OF USE May have a small learning curve, adjustable features, need to be laundered after each use. Super convenient, little learning curve, throw away after each use.
    ENVIROMENTAL IMPACT Environmentally friendly, but may also increase water and energy use. Not environmentally friendly, but won’t raise your energy or water bills.
    SKIN HEALTH Gentle on skin, making it less likely for rashes and discomfort. Dies, gels, and materials are more likely to create skin irritants and rashes.
    POTTY TRAINING Children are more apt to potty train early Children are more likely to potty train later.

    Cloth or disposable diapers: What should you choose?

    As with anything, you can find pros and cons for either option to convince you which choice is right for you. You can debate cloth diapers vs disposable cost over time depending on brands and utility bills. Trust your instincts and go with your gut. Also know that you can always change your mind.

    Reusable swim diapers vs disposable diapers

    Another thing to consider is reusable swim diapers vs disposable ones. One reusable swim diaper can last a full swim season (maybe even more than one) as they have adjustable tabs that grow with your child and often have a better fit than disposable swim diapers. Swim diaper fit is super important as a poopy blowout is one thing, but a pool blowout is even worse.

    Cloth wipes vs disposable wipes

    If you really want to be eco-friendly, consider using cloth wipes over disposable. Cloth wipes are incredibly soft, free of toxins and ingredients that can cause irritations. Reusable cloth wipes also offer significant cost savings compared to constantly buying disposable ones. The biggest win in the choosing of cloth wipes is the environmental impact you are making by not adding hundreds more wipes to the landfills each week.

    The final decision on reusables versus disposables? You do what’s best for you. Remember, you can always choose a mix of both. Even if you use cloth diapers at home but disposable diapers and wipes on the go, you’re helping to reduce waste in our world.