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Cloth Diapers vs Disposables

Katlyn Joy |22, July 2014


You want to do the best thing for your family, especially your baby. But like with so many parenting choices, there is no clear cut better option in the diapering debate. Here are both sides of the coin for you to consider in your diaper decision.

Diapers for baby's sensitive skin?

If you have a sensitive-skinned infant prone to allergies and rashes, either one could be problematic. My daughter has serious allergies to a number of chemicals that are common in most hygiene and cleaning products. Disposables bothered her in the early months. Some babies only get rashes from wetness, and that gives disposables the edge since they have liners that wick away moisture.

When you launder cloth diapers, you have to be careful about how you wash them, making sure to get them rinsed well and to use detergent that is non-irritating. Keeping baby dry means changing diapers promptly no matter the type of material used for the diapers. Some cloth diapers are better than others in this instance, so shop carefully and compare brands and styles.

Are Cloth Diapers Cheaper?

This one is easy; hands-down, the winner is cloth. While you'll have a bigger upfront investment, the savings will add up quickly. If you invest in high quality cloth diapers and launder well, you can even use them for a sibling yet to come. In a Consumer Reports article from November 2012, the magazine discussed pros and cons of disposables and cloth, and stated that by laundering your own cloth diapers, you'll save hundreds of dollars or more if you reuse them for a second child.

Smell factor

By the time a baby is taking in solid foods, the smelliness can be a big issue. For either type of diaper, keeping on top of the pile is key. If you go with disposables, you need to empty the waste can everyday if you want your house to smell pleasant. If you use cloth, you need to rinse promptly and flush stool right away. Keep them in a diaper pail meant to tackle soiled and wet diapers. Wash them at least twice a week to keep the stink down.


If you have to travel with baby often, you may lean towards disposables for obvious reasons. While many families manage with a "What's the big deal?" shrug, some others make a compromise and use disposables when traveling. Some daycares won't accommodate cloth diaper families, so that can be an issue at least during daycare hours. If using cloth at a daycare, you'll probably want to go with an all-in-one diaper and you'll need a container to store the used diapers. You will need to bring home all diapers each day for washing. If on the go, you can take ziplock bags to carry home wet diapers. You can use diaper liners to help keep soiled diapers from being a bigger mess. If you won't be able to do laundry for days at a time, disposables may be best.


Disposables are easier. It's true. However, it's not as big of a difference these days, as you might think. Newer types of cloth diapers mimic the ease of disposables, with easy to use snaps or Velcro closures, flushable liners and diapers and covers that are combined into one product. Laundering is extra work, no doubt, but it's probably no more than a couple loads more a week. The comparison is closer than most may assume.

Are cloth diapers better for the environment?

At first look, it would seem a no-brainer. It just has to be the greener option. However, The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Environmental Protection Agency endorse neither option. Recent studies have shown negative effects on the environment from both; the landfill is full of slowly decomposing disposables, while much energy is used to wash and dry diapers, or fuel the delivery trucks of diaper services. It appears to be a toss up.

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