Cloth Diapers or Disposable – Cost Benefit Analysis

It almost seems like it was a lifetime ago that cloth diapers were shunned and the commercially sold disposable diapers rose to rule the roost in the 1980’s. The last few decades have brought about quite a few changes with respect to the disposable versus cloth diaper issue. The question of which diaper is better and which one will cost you much more is not very obvious. The best way to decide which type of diaper is better is to do a simple analysis and weigh the costs and the benefits which you will see below is dependent upon several factors, some of which may or may not be important to you.

Money Matters

Assuming that a child spends the better part of 2 years in a diaper, here’s an easy way to look at it. Disposable diapers are available at about $0.22 per unit (purchased in larger packages with volumes of 60 and higher) whereas cloth diapers cost around $16.60 each. Disposable costs are highly dependent on volume purchased and size of the diaper (as cost per diaper increases as they progress through the various sizes), when purchased in smaller quantities the price per diaper could reach upwards of 40 cents.   This difference is huge, the fact is that you will need approximately 8,000 diapers over a period of time when it comes to disposables whereas 15 to 22 cloth diapers will cover all your baby’s diapering needs and you might also be able to use the same cloth diapers for any subsequent child. Thus, disposable diapers will cost you in the range of $2000-4000 for the life of your baby, while cloth diapers will cost less than $200, however, there is the cleaning factor involved with cloth diapers which if outsourced, the cost can be quite substantial.

Disposable diapers are still the chosen option for more than 80% parents in North America because they are considered hassle-free and convenient.

Laundering Costs Money

As mentioned, an additional expense that you will incur while using cloth diapers is the fee that is paid to a diaper washing and laundering service or your time and money to clean them on your own.

While other small expenditure items like price of detergent and water supply are called in line too, cloth diapers are seen as visibly cheaper. For one child, you might end up spending about $2,000 to $2,500 on all cloth diapering needs from start to finish if you are using a cloth diaper laundering service, and substantially less if you Do-It-Yourself.


If you intend to wash the diapers on your own, which is a path that many people are now taking because of the fact that washing cloth diapers has become so easy over time, you will end up spending around $800 to $1,100, sometimes significantly less than this if you make your own detergent and air dry. The added benefit is that you can continue using these cloth diapers for your next child. Even with the high initial cost of cloth diapers, it will take only around 8 months to break even.

Green Choice

Cost issues aside, most scientists, doctors, and environmentalists are of the opinion that using cloth diapers is the more environmentally conscious thing to do as long as you are washing the diapers in a green way too. You will find an endless variety of cloth diapers that are easy to use and as convenient as disposables without any of the other side effects. These don’t get tossed into landfills and you can do your easy bit to keep the earth green while saving a few dollars on the way.

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