The Great Debate: Cloth Diapers vs Disposable

October 10, 2022

The Great Debate: Cloth Diapers vs Disposable

You can ask anyone and everyone if cloth diapers are cheaper than disposable, and I can guarantee you the answer will be a unanimous “Yes!”. But, the real question is, “How much cheaper?”. In fact, if you are anything like me, you want to know exactly where the numbers come from. Frugal moms need to know the information that backs up the claim that it is cheaper to go with cloth diapers vs disposable. Read on to find out the nitty-gritty on savings with cloth diapers vs disposable from birth to potty training. I am going to do all the math necessary so you don’t have to! But, I’ll explain it all along the way.

If your still new to cloth diapers, this may be all foreign to you. Check out Cloth Diapering 101 for a quick rundown of the cloth diapering basics. This may help you better understand what I mean when I refer to certain kinds of cloth diapers.

Cheapest Cloth Diapers vs Disposable

Since this is all about the dollars and cents, I’m going to make some assumptions in all of my calculations. I will assume that the disposable diapers used are the most basic, store brand and the cheapest. In my experience, these are the Target brand “Up & Up Diapers’. I will also assume that if you are cloth diapering to save money that you will want to use the cheapest cloth diapers available. Although, if you want more convenience or style with your cloth diapers; I’ll include the numbers for the 4 different main kinds of cloth diapers. These main types include prefolds, fitted cloth diapers, pocket diapers and All in One (AIO) cloth diapers.

Are you ready? Here we go…

The first thing we need to figure out is the cost of disposable diapers during the average 2.5 year span. To do that, we need to know what size diaper your child will be using at different weights/ages. Below is the size chart for Up & Up diapers that we will use in our calculations.

Diaper Size Chart (Up & Up Brand)

Cloth Diapers vs disposables
Up & Up Diaper Size by Weight Chart

Cost of Disposable Diapers Over 2 1/2 Years

Disposable diapers come in different sizes based on the weight of your baby. Typically, as you move to higher sizes, the cost per diaper increases. In addition to that, the older your child gets, the less diaper changes he or she will need throughout the day. This means we need to figure out how much each individual diaper costs at each size.

Prices for Target Up & Up disposable diapers online and on sale. The assumption here is that you will buy the biggest pack of diapers available for your child’s size. The bigger the package, the cheaper it is per diaper on average.

NB: 36 for $6.00

Size 1: 36 for $6.00

Size 2: 96 for $14.99
Size 3: 180 for $24.99
Size 4: 156 for $24.99
Size 5: 280 for $59.99

Total Average Cost for 2 1/2 Years

Cost of Disposable Diapers
Disposable diaper costs add up!

Length of time in diaper size is based on the WHO height & weight charts at the 50th percentile. I also averaged the numbers for girls and boys to make the numbers a little simpler to deal with.

One Size vs Specific Sizes

Cloth diapers can come in different sizes or in a one size until toilet trained. It is up to you which you want to do. But, keep in mind that if you don’t go for the one size cloth diapers, you will have to buy enough cloth diapers for each size group. This is where the costs can add up in cloth diapering. I did the one size cloth diaper cover with prefolds for my daughter.

Prefold Cloth Diaper Costs

Cloth diapers vs disposable
Econobum, prefold diaper with one-size cover.

When you are using prefolds, you need the cloth piece and the waterproof cover as well. You will typically need a new cover for every 3 to 4 diaper changes.

Suggested amounts based on laundry every other day:

  • 28 prefolds
  • 8 covers

If you want to do prefolds with the covers, your best choice is the Econobum Full Kit. If you are going to do full-time cloth diapering, you will need 3 kits. This will give you 36 prefolds, 9 diaper covers and 3 wet bags.

Total start-up costs: $48.95 x 3 = $146.85 (before tax)

Fitted Cloth Diaper Costs

Since fitted cloth diapers are just like prefolds except they are already in a diaper shape, the same concept goes.

Suggested amounts based on laundry every other day:

  • 28 fitted cloth diapers
  • 8 covers

Total Costs

Mother-Ease one size fitted diaper: $12.95/each on Amazon

One size diaper cover: $5.50/each on Amazon

12.95 x 28 = $362.60

5.5 x 8 = $44.00

28 Fitted Diapers + 8 Covers = $406.60


Pocket Diaper Costs

When using pocket diapers, you will need inserts in different sizes. This is assuming you will be using a one size pocket diaper, which I suggest. The reason you need different sizes is because as your child gets bigger, the diaper can grow with them but the inserts cant.

Suggested amounts based on laundry every other day:

  • 28 Small pocket inserts
  • 20 Medium pocket inserts
  • 15 Large pocket inserts
  • 28 pocket diapers

BumGenius sells a one size pocket diaper that comes with a newborn insert and a one size insert that can be snapped into a smaller insert with a thicker spot on one end. This means you don’t have to buy separate small, medium and large inserts. They sell everything you need bundled together. You will however, need to buy 28 of them if you want to cloth diaper full-time.

28 pocket diapers with inserts at $17.95/each on Amazon.

17.95 x 28 = $502.60

All in One Diaper Costs

Just as the name implies, All in One cloth diapers come as one unit. No separate pieces to buy or wash.

Suggested amounts based on laundry every other day:

  • 28 All in One cloth diapers

Total cost for 28 BumGenius AIO cloth diapers at $19.95/each on Amazon = $558.6


Cloth Diapers vs Disposable Cost Comparison Table

Up & Up Disposable Diapers
Econobum Prefolds & Covers
Fitted Diapers & Covers
BumGenius One Size Pocket Diaper
BumGenius Free-time AIO
Initial Cost
Average Monthly Detergent Costs
Average Monthly Water/Electric/Trash Costs
Average Monthly Diaper Cost
Total Cost for 2 1/2 years
Total Cost for 2 1/2 years with Hand Washing

 Cloth diaper cost comparison

Cloth Diapers vs Disposable : The Results are in!

The table above clearly shows how much each diapering option would cost you for the 2 1/2 years your child would be in diapers. Although you may be able to go cheaper and could definitely go more expensive, these are the numbers I would be spending.

You can see that the All-in-one diapers are roughly the same cost as the off brand disposable diapers. But, most people use a more expensive brand. Also, you can cut around $401.40 off of your cloth diapering costs if you washed your diapers by hand.

My top choice for cloth diapering is the pocket diapers. They allow you the most convenience and ease of hand washing since the liners come out. Using pocket diapers and hand washing them would save me 458.56 over 2 1/2 years for just one child.


Reusing Cloth Diapers for Multiple Children

In general, cloth diapers can be used for a second child of just bought used for your first. This can save you even more money. However, only lucky diapers last through a third child.

If you are using the same cloth diapers for your second child, there is no upfront cost. You only pay for the detergent and to clean them. If you choose to hand wash, you’re only paying a measly $2.54 for laundry detergent every month. Compare this to the average monthly cost of off-brand disposable diapers at $34.58. Your could save $961.20 over 2 1/2 years cloth diapering your second child. It is definitely worth it.

Cloth diapers vs disposable cost comparison? Cloth wins!

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