What’s the Deal with Cloth Diapers?

When you begin your parenting journey, diapers may be one of the first things that come to mind.  Many eco-friendly parents are choosing a greener way of diapering with cloth diapers.  It’s not for everyone, but cloth diapering has some advantages that you may not have considered, including helping you save money, keeping your baby safe from toxins and supporting the environment.

What's the deal with cloth diapers?

Photo by MissMessie via Wikimedia Commons

If you still think cloth diapers are a burp cloth fastened with a safety pin, you’re living in the dark ages.  Cloth diapers have come a long way since your great-grandma used them.  Today cloth diapers come in a variety of styles and are actually pretty cute.  Some are self-contained all-in-one systems that include absorbent pads and fit snugly at the waist and legs with a water-proof outer layer.  Others contain removable or disposable pads.  Most modern cloth diapers have built-in fasteners in the form of snaps or Velcro.  And get this, they come in some really fun colors and patterns that are much more appealing than the average disposable diaper.

Many parents are fear cloth diapers because of the mess.  It may seem much easier and sanitary to throw away the waste.  But with a little effort, you can keep everyone and everything just as clean.  With cloth diapers, you simply dump solid waste into the toilet and rinse them before putting them in a laundry bin.  On laundry day, tip the bag of cloth diapers into the washing machine and wash twice with regular detergent.  Running two cycles will ensure your diapers are residue free and all of the waste has drained from your washer.  If you use a washable inner lining, you may only need to wash the lining if waste hasn’t spilled into the shell of the diaper.  When using a disposable inner lining, you may only need to toss the liner and replace it to continue using the same diaper. This cuts down on laundry.

Despite a few extra loads of laundry every week, there’s no doubt about it: cloth diapers save money.  For a first child, cloth diapers can cut your diapering bill in half, saving you around $1,000 over three years.  For additional children, you save much more as you can reuse your cloth diapers from child-to-child.  And you’ll never run out of diapers if you use cloth.  Just run a load of laundry and you’ve immediately restocked.

Beyond the financial benefits, your baby may benefit from cloth diapers too.  Many disposable diapers contain toxic chemicals that are constantly rubbing against your baby’s skin and therefore being absorbed into the body.  These chemicals, including chlorine, perfumes and polyacrylate, are a result of the manufacturing process, are used to make disposable diapers more absorbent and may be added as color dyes for the outer aesthetics.  They can reduce healthy bacteria that protect the pH balance of skin and may cause skin dryness and irritation leading to diaper rashes and even more serious long-term conditions.  While the toxicity of disposable diapers may be minimal on an individual basis, consider the number of diapers you use daily, weekly and monthly.  The accumulation of toxins is what can have a damaging effect on children.  Additionally, many parents believe cloth diapers help potty train children because they are better able feel a damp sensation when they urinate.  This leads to an easier connection between the urge to go to the bathroom and the need to get to a toilet.


Of course the most obvious reason for cloth diapering is that you are producing less waste and it is better for the environment.  Disposable diapers are one of the most prevalent items that take a long time to biodegrade in landfills.  It may be hard to see how your contribution can make a difference but the cumulative results of many families making the choice to use cloth diapers can make a big impact on the environment.  Plus, teaching eco-friendly practices to your children, including reducing waste and reusing items, is a wonderful lesson from day one.  You don’t have to be a green fanatic to choose cloth diapering.  But it does show you really care about being a thoughtful citizen of the world and it’s a great way to be a role model to your children.

Cloth diapering is certainly a personal choice.  Knowing the advantages can help you make that decision for your family, your baby and the world around you.