Beginner, Cloth Diaper Savings, How to Cloth Diaper, Types of Diapers

Cloth Diapering on a Budget – Can Cloth Diapering be Done for Cheap?

Some people that may be interested in cloth diapers may not end up going through with it because of how expensive an investment it is up front. Even though it costs more in the long run, disposables may be more realistic for them because they can spread the cost out. When you go to some cloth diaper retailer websites and start to explore and see that some diapers cost as much to $30-$50 a piece, that can be very disheartening if you are on a budget. The good news for you is that there are most definitely more economical options for cloth diapering, and cloth diapering on a budget is definitely doable!

Flats and/or Prefolds with Covers

prefold-cloth-diapersOne of the cheapest ways to cloth diaper a baby is to use flats or prefolds with covers. Flats and prefolds are essentially just rectangles of cloth. Prefolds usually have many layers to them, while flats are typically just one layer. You use them by folding and putting inside a diaper cover, or you can experiment with different wraps around the baby and secure it with a pin or something called a Snappi.

Many brands of flats can be used as a one-size system, meaning you can use the same flats from birth to potty training. Prefolds are typically sized options, meaning you will need to purchase different sizes as your baby grows, but that gives you more control over the bulk, fit, and absorbency. Prefolds and flats do great at absorbing liquid, but they are not waterproof. That’s where covers come in! You will need to purchase a handful of covers to go with them.

Either way you go, they typically cost between $2-$3 a piece depending on the brand. Covers range drastically in price, but the average cost is around $15 each. You could probably get a complete system for less than $100-$150. They will still be just as functional with second children and beyond.

Hybrid Diapers

Hybrid diapers are another great economical option. While hybrids are sometimes a mix between disposable and cloth (meaning they’re not quite as economical), most hybrids have an option for all cloth inserts. Hybrids are similar to prefolds/flats and covers in that it requires a cover, but instead of using a flat or prefold inside, you use an insert that just requires being set in the diaper. No folding or pinning!

Depending on which brand you go with, some will have one size inserts (like Flips) and some will require you to buy multiple sizes (like Best Bottoms). Insert prices range quite a bit depending on the material. If you plan to purchase the inserts designed to go with that particular brand’s hybrid system, you can expect to spend anywhere from $4-$10 per insert. However, you can purchase inserts on cloth diaper retailer sites, or on sites like Amazon that are skin safe and can be used in your hybrid system for much cheaper. Here are some inserts you could consider.

Depending on which type of system you go with, I would estimate the cost of this system to be around $200–more if you need to buy sized inserts.

“Generic” Brand Pockets

If you were hoping to have a more modern style of cloth diaper, there are some “generic” brands of pocket style diapers that are quite good. (These are not to be confused with “China Cheapies”, which I will get into next).

Pocket diapers go on just like a disposable and can be closed with velcro or snaps. The outer shell has an opening between the outer material and in inner lining, in which you can stuff an insert.

Nicki’s Diapers is a diaper retailer with their own brand of pocket for a pretty reasonable price. Imagine Baby is another brand that makes an economical pocket. I have personally used Nicki’s Diapers brand and I really like them–they are very soft and have a lot of cute prints. One pro to generic pockets over the other systems I’ve described so far is that they come with inserts already, you just may find as your baby gets bigger that they outgrow the absorbency of the inserts that come standard with the diapers. They are usually made out of microfiber.

You can get a full stash of these pockets for anywhere from $250-$300.

China Cheapies

China cheapies are the nickname given to various brands of cloth diapers that are manufactured cheaply in China. Some of these brands include Alva, Kawaii, Sunbaby, and Happy Flute. There are some mixed feelings about these in the cloth diaper community, but if you are fine with not buying American/Canadian made diapers (like most of the more mainstream brands), then it is a great option!

When I first learned of China Cheapies, I was skeptical that they would hold up over time, so I didn’t purchase any for my firstborn. Once I was pregnant with my second, I decided I wanted to expand my stash a bit. I didn’t want to spend very much, so I ordered some Alvas. I was incredibly surprised at how well they did! I will say that I did have some issues with some seams coming undone around the one-year mark, but I don’t know if that is typical or just a “me problem”–I seem to have many “me problems”… πŸ˜‰ The issues with the seams were nothing that 10 minutes and a sewing machine couldn’t fix. I could have hand sewed them easily, too. All in all, the issues I had wouldn’t deter me from buying them again because they really are a very economical option.

Expect to spend $6-$8 per diaper on a China Cheapie. They also come with inserts, but just like with the generic brand diapers, you may want to upgrade the type of insert eventually. Luckily, many of these companies also make bamboo and hemp inserts (which are very absorbent!) that you can purchase for a great price.

For a full stash of diapers, expect to spend around $150.

Buying Used Cloth Diapers

buying-used-cloth-diapersBuying used is a great option for getting some pre-loved, quality diapers on a budget. Many people are willing to sell their whole stash at a fantastic price just to get rid of it once they’re out of the diaper stage. It’s also good news for you at the end of your time using diapers–if they’re in decent condition, you can sell yours and get some money back!

To do this, there are some cloth diaper buy/sell/trade groups on Facebook you could join. You could also try looking locally, but that might not give you as many options. It’s worth keeping an eye out, though! When considering used diapers, you will want to check the quality of the PUL and elastics especially. I would also ask about what type of diaper cream they used just to make sure it’s a cloth diaper safe cream. If all of those things check out, you should be good to go!

Once you get the used diapers home, it would be a good idea to do a wash with a little bleach–most likely they were taken care of really well, but you never know. It will give some peace of mind. Here are some instructions for doing a bleach strip.

It’s impossible to say how much this option would cost you because it depends on far too many factors. I recommend joining a couple buy/sell/trade groups on Facebook to see what diapers are going for!

But… It’s Still Cheaper to Buy a $25 Box of Disposables

Yes, it is….but you will probably have to buy more than one box in a month and spend at least $25-$50…just for a month! Here is a tip: When you are pregnant, take the amount that you would spend on diapers in a month once the baby comes and set it aside for 3-5 months. Take that money and buy your diapers. There! You did it! See? That wasn’t so bad.

Cloth Diapering Doesn’t Have to Be Expensive!

While many of the most popular diaper brands are an investment, you don’t HAVE to spend that much to be successful with and enjoy cloth diapering! All the options here are sound; they are wallet-friendly, eco-friendly, and baby-friendly. The quality is really not a lot different from the more expensive diapers, though I’m also not going to pretend that my $6 diaper isn’t any different from a $50 diaper…. I won’t go that far. πŸ˜‰ But they are solid diapers that will get you through!

 

Which of these options appeals to you most? Do you have any other ideas for cloth diapering on a budget? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

 

 

Holly Lee

I'm Holly and I'm the mom of two awesome young boys. We have been cloth diapering for 5 years. My family and I live in Minnesota with our dog, Ruby, and cat, Gherkin. Outside of Rocking the Cloth, I am also a middle school teacher. Thank you for visiting Rocking the Cloth--feel free to email me at holly@rockingthecloth.com if you have any questions or concerns. I'd love to help!

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18 Comments

  1. Maryann Breece says:

    One of my main concerns would probably be cleaning. With a disposable you simply fold it up and it goes off to the trash heap to fester for years. Completely far away from you and your home. No gross messes to scrub or bleach clean. As someone completely unfamiliar with how cloth diapers are maintained this is the main factor keeping me from trying them.

    How difficult is it to clean and maintain them? In order to be comfortable with cleanliness I would want them to have little to no visible staining. Is this something that is even possible with cloth diapers or would it take large amounts of bleach?

    1. Holly Lee says:

      Hi Maryann! It’s absolutely possible not to get stains! I very rarely have a stain with my diapers–as long as you wash every 2-3 days, you shouldn’t have any staining. Staining happens if they have been sitting for a week or more.

      Here is a post on when and how to remove poop from diapers, and here is another post Cleaning Cloth Diapers at Home Part 2 – Washing Instructions. Hope this helps! It’s definitely something that sounds way harder/grosser than it actually is!

  2. Wow I didn’t even realize there was still so much cloth diapering going on. I considered it when my first child was born, however it just seemed more feasible and much less time consuming to go with disposables.

    When you started looking into disposable options was it more for cost or health reasons? I have heard so many different reasons and would like to understand your input. 

    1. Holly Lee says:

      It was probably 90% budget reasons and 10% environmental (less waste). I was 23 when I got pregnant with my oldest and we were not financially prepared at all to add another member to our family, so I was researching ways to save money (since all I ever heard what how expensive kids were) and cloth diapers came up in my search. At first I didn’t really take to the idea, but I decided to look into it and realized I probably could handle it!

  3. William says:

    Holly, this is my first acquaintance with cloth diapers. That is why I really find this article, Cloth diapers on a Budget – Can Cloth diapering be done for Cheap? very interesting. One can see that you have first-hand experience of this product. The way you expose me as the reader to the different options is absolute fantastic.

    This is really a well-balanced, positive and informative article which guides and exposes me as reader to a variety of products. You also takes me to some of your favorite inserts like Bamboo, Flour Sack Towels, Hemp and Runner up – Charcoal Bamboo. I found this extremely helpful.  

    You covered every aspect that is necessary for one to make a responsible choice. You actually took me on a journey through the different options, like flats and/or Prefolds with cover, Hybrid Diapers, “Generic” Brand Pockets and China Cheapies. You even covered Used Cloth Diapers. 

    Great article! Thanks, once again.   

    1. Holly Lee says:

      Thanks so much, William! I’m glad you enjoyed the article!

  4. Thank you for this great article. As a parent that cares about the world, it is really hard to balance the cost of re-usable diapers against the guilt of throwing away thousands of diapers into the garbage. This post helps to make it clear that actually it is affordable to use re-usables, I had never considered that you could get them second hand! I will definitely look into that. I also love your tip of putting away disposable diaper money each month during pregnancy, what a simple way to look at it and solve the issue! Thanks again!

    1. Holly Lee says:

      Glad it helped, Chris! πŸ™‚ Thanks so much for reading!

  5. CravenATAT says:

    As a soon to be parent, I have been looking at a ton of reviews for cloth diapers. I love the hybrid diapers, as having no pinning or folding sounds perfect! I have looked up the Amazon insert prices, and they are a little hefty but doable none-the-less. I am against the used cloth diaper aspect, as the skin sensitivity of babies can be counterproductive to cost cutting. You are correct, cloth diapers don’t have to be as expensive as disposable ones, but if done right using the ideas you mentioned I think I have a budget and plan set out!

    1. Holly Lee says:

      That’s awesome that you’re considering cloth! Hybrids are awesome, I love them! Here is a post with more info on Hybrids if that would help: What Is a Hybrid Cloth Diaper? Simple Cloth Diapers for On-the-Go Families

      Hope that helps!

  6. I have been a follower of your website and this was the post I was waiting for.  I’m not rich so I like to know where my dollars and cents are going.  By the looks of things giving my grand baby a nice soft comfy diaper isn’t that expensive.  Keep putting out the info because I can guarantee there is at least one of us reading.

    1. Holly Lee says:

      Thanks so much, Dale! It really isn’t that pricey if you do a bit of research and planning. πŸ™‚

  7. Shannon says:

    This was a very informative piece into cloth diapers and the different ones available. I would imagine that cloth would be cheaper considering you would have to keep buying packages of diapers at least for 2 yrs. The price would always be cheaper than the cost when it’s all said and done. Having 9 months to prepare for an arrival putting 10 dollars a week should get you to your goal by the time baby is born.

    My question is about the clean up process. Is the cloth stain resistant, and is it necessary to purchase multiple covers or will one or two suffice?

    Thanks for sharing 

    Shannon

     

    1. Holly Lee says:

      Great questions, Shannon! You will probably want at least 6 covers. You’ll need less as the baby gets older, but in the early days you’ll need more. Every time the baby poops, you will need a new cover. 6 is probably fine, 8 at the most to get started.

      As far as staining, I have absolutely 0 issue with staining as long as I wash them every 2-3 days. I do find I get some stains after 5+ days between washes. But as long as you keep up with the wash routine, you’ll be just fine. I have diapers I’ve been using for four and a half years without a single stain!

  8. Rob S. says:

    Well this will be great for my daughter come February as I will be a grandparent for the first time!

    I haven’t thought about diapers for over 30 years now.From what I read, I would have to go with the hybrid diapers. But going back we used disposable diapers and I thought it was the best way to go.But I understand with the environment and all and using cloth diapers. But as you say you would have to be washing every couple of days or so.This is an interesting look at the cost of diapers too and I will present this to my daughter to see which way she will go.How often would you replace the cloth diapers?

    1. Holly Lee says:

      Hi Rob! I’m glad you found it interesting. As for how often to replace cloth diapers, unless there is an issue or significant damage, you really don’t need to replace and can even use the same diapers for more than one child. Definitely a cost saver!

  9. Babsie Wagner says:

    The more I look into diaper options for my daughter, the more I find.  Wow, options galore.  When my kids were little, I used cloth diapers for my first set of twins.  My parents generously bought me disposable diapers for my second set of twins (yes, I had two!!!) but to tell you the truth, I still used the cloth diapers when the kids were home.  They were pretty convenient, and people were like, “how do you do cloth diapers?” but I thought they were great.

    Now with all the choices of styles, there’s diapers for every budget, and they are way more appealing looking than they were back in the day.  LOL.

    Great info – you’ve really helped a lot.  Thanks.

    1. Holly Lee says:

      That’s awesome, Babsie! Yes, cloth diapers really aren’t as inconvenient as people think, especially when it comes to home use. 

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