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How I Cloth Diaper on a Budget
First, understand this underlying truth: to cloth diaper is to diaper on a budget, period.
Disposable Versus Cloth Diaper Costs
Let’s compare to non-cloth diapers. During a baby’s first months of life, you can expect to go through 8-12 disposable diapers a day. Each diaper costs about 20 to 30 cents. This adds up to around $90 a month, or $360, during the newborn period.
Now, compare to cloth diapers. You will need the prefolds, the fitted diapers, and the covers. 12 diapers at $20 each, 6 covers at $11 each, and 12 prefolds at $1.20 each comes to $320.
You may think this is not a large enough price difference to cloth diaper, but: if you have more children in the future you will not need to make this investment again, OR you can sell your diapers as opposed to adding to the landfill. It’s an investment in both the environment and in your pocket.
You can buy all of the above new. Amazon Family is a popular option and has a free 30 day trial! Or you can look at your local buy/sell/trade groups or on Craigslist and buy pre-loved diapers.
Pre-loved Diapers: Checking Sanitization and Condition
The concerns most have with going pre-loved include making sure they are truly sanitized and that they are in good condition. When you pick them up you can inspect them yourself: check the snaps, Velcro, the elastics, and the PUL.
You can directly question the seller about these characteristics, and you can even ask any questions you have about the wear and tear of the items and how best to clean them and use them. It’s also a good idea to ask how long the seller had them and if they were bought new. You can ask if they have hard water. This is relevant to the steps necessary to make sure the diapers are clean and will require some extra steps.
There are steps to ensure that your pre-loved diapers are clean for your baby. You can strip them–although it’s not necessary so long as you also bleach them. Stripping cloth diapers is a process that entails soaking the diapers in hot water in a mineral removing solution. Signs that diapers need to be stripped include continuing to smell even after a wash and lacking adequate absorbency even after being checked for a good fit. It’s also more likely that the diapers will need to be stripped if they were previously washed frequently in hard water.
The next step would be to bleach them. Just don’t bleach your PUL covers with the same amount of bleach as your diapers. A hot wash with three cold rinses will usually do the trick.
Avoid fabric softeners, which increase the occurrence of both rashes and leaks.
Petroleum-based diaper creams and ointments can also cause problems if not used with a liner. Petroleum-based diaper creams can coat the fabric and cause similar problems. See our extensive Diaper Rash Cream For Cloth Diapers Index to find one that fits your needs and is cloth-diaper safe.
Laundering on a Budget
These steps are only if you’re concerned about your pre-loved diapers. On an average wash, you can keep the diapers in a diaper pail and wash them every day or two just as you would any other basket of laundry. The number of baby clothes you’ll need to wash will actually go down as you cloth diaper. So don’t expect higher laundry costs.
If you don’t have a washing machine or dryer it is still possible to wash by hand. It is work but it is doable. Flat cloth diapers are the best for this option. Because they are only one layer they will be easier to clean than prefolds. This also makes them more quick to air dry.
If you don’t have a dryer, you can dry your cloth diapers over the shower rod or using a drying rack. It can take from one to twelve hours to dry, depending on how humid it is, and also if you have a ceiling fan or if you leave them out in the sun to help them dry faster.
There are also systems that promise to help you diaper your baby from birth to potty training for an economical amount. In fact, Econobum promises to do so in under $100. BumGenius diaper systems run around $400–but considering the fact that disposables can easily cost you $1000 to $3000 this is still extremely cost-effective.
Flat cloth diapers have a bit of a learning curve in discovering how to fold them correctly. Once that hump is gotten over, however, flats can be used for multiple functions, from burp cloths to changing pads, bibs to cleaning cloths, towels to baby wipes. When they are used as a diaper they can be combined with any waterproof cover.
Seconds in the cloth diapering world refers to products that are functional but may have minor problems such as imperfections in the fabric, sewing or binding errors, or uneven edges.
Just how crafty are you? It is possible to make your own cloth diapers –even your own cloth cover. It is made out of PUL-that is the material that makes it waterproof-and you can get it at Hancock Fabrics.
Don’t forget about making your own cloth baby wipes. Might as well! Just use some flannel or fleece if you have any extra on hand.
I mentioned prefolds earlier. If you don’t know what those are, it’s because the cloth diapering world appropriated those white “burp cloths” and renamed them “prefolds.” But they aren’t the only item to stuff a cloth diaper with. You can even use a receiving blanket: they are surprisingly absorbent.
Cloth Diapering Laundry Service
If you want to cloth diaper, it can still be economical to do so while hiring a cloth diapering laundry service. Without one, it is possible to spend $800-$1000 on cloth diapers. Add in the laundry service and you can get up to $2800. But then you still have the product afterward that you can sell or reuse. Any way you look at it, cloth diapering is not only less damaging to the environment, but it is also less damaging to your pocketbook.
– Kalli Hiller