When I was busy preparing for the birth of my first son, I did quite a bit of research on cloth diapering. I knew that it was something I wanted to do for so many reasons. First of all, it’s way cheaper. Second of all, it’s way less chemicals your child is exposed to. Third, it’s not much different than using commercial diapers.
So I started doing some shopping online, and I was finding that the prices of brand new cloth diapers were a bit startling. Some diapers run as much as $20+ for just one diaper. Multiply that by the approximate 35 diapers you need to get started and you are looking at a whopping $700 bill. Eeps!!
Today I wanted to share with you a few things I did, in order to get our cloth diaper bill down to only around $100. But first I just wanted to mention that I do not cloth diaper 100 percent of the time. I cloth diaper more around 80 percent of the time. I typically do not cloth diaper when we are traveling, and I do not cloth diaper overnight. My son wears a disposable diaper overnight, but you can easily add more stuffing to a cloth diaper and do overnights very easily.
At any rate, I simply wanted to touch on our own home practices because I want everyone to know that you can make small changes in your family to become more sustainable. You don’t have to be all or nothing. Cloth diapering even part of the time will make a huge impact on the Earth in the long run.
Just think if everyone cloth diapered around 50 percent of the time how much waste we would save to create a greener environment…
So here is how we decided to cloth diaper and do if for only about $100:
Buy cloth diapers used.
This may sound gross or concerning, but it’s actually great. Most people take very good care of their cloth diapers, and it’s easy to tell if a diaper is in good condition when you put your eyes on it.
Places to shop for cloth diapers used:
Things to look for in a used cloth diaper:
- Minimal stains
- Snaps that work
- Elastic around leg area in good condition
Questions to ask the seller:
- How were the diapers cared for?
- What soap was used?
- Were they stored in a wet or dry pail?
- Was diaper cream used?
All of these things effect the lifespan of a diaper, so they are important questions to ask and feel informed about before buying used. You are of course taking a leap of faith, however, in my experience I can usually tell if the seller is telling the truth or not.
Consider buying pre-folds.
Pre-folds are the most economical cloth diapers available, and they are my personal favorite. Fold them in thirds and lay them inside a diaper cover is the simplest way to use them, which is exactly what I do. You can also get creative with your diaper folds and secure with a Snappi or diaper pin; I am not particularly good at various diaper folds so I don’t use this method.
Traditional pre-folds are made with cotton but newer options are available in both hemp and bamboo. A diaper cover (i.e. shell) or wool soaker is essential to keep the wetness contained. Diaper covers may be one-sized or a sized cover.
The one-sized cover actually means it adjusts to varying sizes using snaps and grows with your child from birth to toddler. A sized cover is fixed and does not grow with your child. Pre-fold diapers also serve a dual purpose as burp cloths, household clean-ups, and more.
What I did exactly.
I bought 50 infant pre-folds and 8 shells from a mom on Craigslist for $50. The diapers were originally priced for more, and I negotiated her down on the price. One of the best reasons to buy pre-folds used is that other types of diapers are far more popular. So the demand for pre-folds used is LESS. This gives you really nice negotiating power when it comes time to purchase.
5 of the shells I purchased used were Flip Cloth Diaper Cover. I LOVE Flip Cloth Diaper Cover and I would recommend them to anyone. They have nice flaps for the pre-fold to slide into and it keeps them nicely in place. The other 3 shells I purchased were Ecobum. I’m not crazy about them, and I only used them when I run out of the Flip Cloth Diaper Cover. They do the job, but they are not as nice in my opinion.
When my son outgrew the infant pre-folds, I purchased larger OsoCozy Unbleached Cloth Prefolds — Size 2 brand new off Amazon. (The shells adjust in size from birth all the way through toddlerhood, so that is the major benefit to shells.)
- 100% soft unbleached Indian cotton
- Fits 15-30 pounds
Right now 12 diapers will run you about $38, which is a great deal considering you can use them over and over again until it’s time to learn to potty. You can of course always buy more than 12. I think right now, I have around 18 and that easily gets me through about 3 days.
How to fold and use a prefold cloth diaper.
I also just wanted to show what loose elastic looks like on a diaper shell. Ours were used when we bought them, and my son is now a toddler. So the our Flip shells have been used for quite some time. You can purchase new elastic and replace it, if that is something you would ever like to try. We still use our shells with loose elastic, and don’t experience too much issue with it.
For more information about how to cloth diaper, care for cloth diapers, and more types of cloth diapers….see The Ultimate Cloth Diapering Guide.
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What’s your best tip or question on cloth diapering on a budget? Let’s chat in the comments!