Cloth Diapers 101

They've changed a lot since Grandma's day. Here's what you need to know about the cloth-vs-disposable-diapers debate. 

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For disposable users out there who wince when contemplating your family's personal contribution to the local landfill, but even more so at the thought of the alternative, cloth diapers are an option you may want to consider again. They're not what they once were.

Say goodbye to your notions of pins, big square pieces of cotton, leaky kids, and the daunting task of cleaning up. Easily laundered all-in-one (AIO) diapers are the order of the day. With snaps or Velcro closures, waterproof banding around the waist and legs, and natural, breathable fibers that require no soaking, cloth diapers can be a more palatable choice than you may imagine.

For the fashion conscious, there are all the cool patterns to consider. For those concerned with keeping little bottoms pristine, you won't have to worry about blowouts and suspicious chemicals used in making disposables so absorbent. Add to this the potential savings and you may want to give cloth-diapering a try.

The Cost of Cloth vs. Disposable Diapers 
If you go cloth and launder them yourselves, the cost over three years will be between $800 and $1100, half as much as disposables. And diapering a second child will only cost you the laundering (about $400 for three years). By some estimates, the cost for a year of cloth diapers is less than $600, versus $800 a year for a leading brand of disposables. 

Home Laundering 101
Don't worry that your house will become a toxic waste dump. There's no longer any need to soak, rinse, or flush a diaper. Simply shake solids into the toilet and drop the diaper into a plastic-lined pail after a change. When the pail is full, tip into your washer. Wash once with a detergent like Tide or Cheer Free, reset washer, add more detergent, and wash again. Don't use bleach. Rinse twice to be sure all residue detergent is completely rinsed away and dry on hot. Not as bad as you thought! And it won't leave your washer stinky. It will be exactly as clean as the diaper and drains to the same place your toilet does.

How Many Cloth Diapers Do I Need? 
Experts estimate that you'll need about 2-3 dozen diapers if you get to the wash every third day, about 75-80 if you use a weekly diaper service. Many diaper services include diaper rentals in their price but you sacrifice choice.

Eco-Friendly Diaper Services
If your motivation to use cloth isn't based on finances, and the prospect of home laundering is an intimidating one, you may want to opt for a local diaper service. As a rule, services now use biodegradable detergents in their cleaning process rather than the harmful phosphates of old. Like disposables, the costs of using a diaper service plus diaper covers will fall in the range of $2,000-$2,500 over a three year period. Visit the EcoBusiness Directory to find a diaper laundering service near you. 

    Top Picks From a Cloth Devotee

    We asked baby guru Catherine McDiarmid of the blog Born to Love for her picks for the best cloth diapers:

    Bumkins Finer Baby Products
    "The workhorse of AIO diapers, most easily available, the most popular, with great prints." Available from Amazon and Buy Buy Baby  

    Fuzzi Bunz by Mother of Eden
    "A pocket-style AIO diaper. You can stuff it with anything—even a kitchen towel—to adjust the absorbency to suit your child's needs."

    Motherease AIO
    "Another workhorse diaper, popular, and a great price."

    How to Buy Baby Diapers on a Budget