Cloth vs. Disposable Diapers: Which Option is More Cost-Effective?

by Bailey Bouwman

We're excited to dive into the topic of how much cloth diapering will actually cost you. It's a tricky subject, just like the many subjects we've covered before because the cost of cloth diapering is very subjective. The same can be true for disposable diapers. 

As we go through these costs, be sure to reflect on your own unique situation. What will be the hidden costs of disposable diapers? What will be the extra costs of cloth diapers? And reflect on what's the most important decision for you. 

Many families choose cloth diapering not because of the cost, but because of the other reasons. Some families choose to cloth diaper for just the budget savings. There's no right or wrong way to cloth diaper. 

In case you missed it, we've previously covered some important cloth diapering topics in our blog series, such as the benefits of choosing cloth diapers over disposables and how disposable diapers can negatively impact the environment. If you need a refresher, be sure to check out those posts before diving into this one.

Now, let's get into the nitty-gritty of cloth diaper costs and how they compare to the cost of using disposable diapers. We’re going to talk about a lot of averages here, and we want to remind you the biggest benefit of cloth diapering is being in control of the costs and the decisions being made. Because once you buy your cloth diapers, you aren't at the whimsy of inflationary costs on diapers. the biggest benefit of cloth diapering is being in control of the costs

Disposable Diaper Costs: More Than Just a Dirty Diaper

Disposable diapers can be convenient option for parents, but they come with an ongoing monthly, or weekly cost. In this section, we'll break down the costs associated with disposable diapers over the course of one year.

We use the example of one year because the length of time a child will be in diapers really varies depending on so many factors, but you will typically see these numbers multiple by 2.5 for the average potty learning age. The age of potty learning is increasing in North America. 

It’s generally assumed a child will use around 2,500 disposable diapers in a year. This is based on about 8 diapers per day - younger children will typically use more diapers per day, while older children will use less diapers per day. The cost of disposable diapers can vary widely depending on the brand and store, but let's use an estimate of $0.25 per diaper for the purposes of this calculation. This is about average in Canada right now when reflecting on various sizes you'll need. 

Using this estimate, the cost of disposable diapers for one child in a year would be $625. And for two children in a year, the cost would be $1,250.  For just diapers. This doesn't include wipes or other trash removal costs. 

But what if you opt for a more eco-friendly disposable diaper? The fancy bamboo or compostable style disposable diapers vary widely in price from about $0.40 to upwards of $1 per diaper. Let's assume an average cost of $0.50 per diaper for eco-friendly options, this is what popular online Canadian sites average it out be. 

Using this estimate, the cost of eco-friendly disposable diapers for one child in a year would be $1,250. And for two children in a year, the cost would be $2,500.

The cost of disposable diapers can add up quickly. If you're child needs more or less diapers per day, these numbers begin to really fluctuate. I think about how some children poop more often and that can mean more and more diaper changes. Some of my children would use upwards of 15-20 diapers per day during times in their life - I was using cloth diapers at the time, and not concerned about how much each diaper change costed me and just focused on providing care. 

Cost per diaper

Cost per year (8 diapers per day)

Cost for 2 years










The Hidden Costs of Disposable Diapers: More than Just the Price Tag

Critic of cloth diapering will call out the hidden costs of using cloth diapers; so as a critique of disposable diapering let's call out the hidden costs of using disposable diapers as it pertains to you the consumer. I'd love to really analyze the hidden costs of disposable diapers on our community at large but crunching those environmental concerns will probably never be possible.  

One of these hidden costs is the increased amount of garbage generated by disposable diapers. In Prince George, for example, families who use disposable diapers may need to pay for a larger garbage can to accommodate the additional waste. This can cost up to $258 per year for a large can, adding to the already significant expense of disposable diapering.

Another hidden cost is the need for diaper cream. We find parents who use disposable diapers are more likely to apply diaper creams regularly than cloth diapers. This is totally antectodal experience from talking to parents at play dates. But due to disposable diapers being so good at their job of absorbing pee they can sometimes over dry the skin barrier and cause rashes.

Cloth diapers can create rashes too but often the root cause can be found. I think I used one pop of rash cream between both kids during my diapering days with cloth and I never felt I needed a barrier. Now a solid cleanser for wipes, that's a different story but we'll chat about later.  

Moreover, families who use disposable diapers may incur additional costs associated with sourcing the diapers themselves. Prices for disposable diapers can vary widely depending on the store, and purchasing in bulk is not always an option for families who are on a tight budget. In addition, families who live in more remote areas may face additional challenges in accessing stores that sell diapers, and shipping costs can also add up.

These barrier costs of accessing diapers, and the cost that you get to access them are most impactful on families with tight budgets.  Of course, likewise the concerns facing some of these families will make cloth diapering an unsustainable choice. That's okay - this is not about cloth diapering being the best choice, but being a viable option for some families and reflecting on a wider story of options. 

We all have different lifestyles that need to be considered, and perhaps cloth diapering is beginning to be the winner. But maybe it's not - and if it's not, that is okay. 

Remember cloth diapering doesn't have to be all or nothing, it can be part time, casual, or whenever it's needed. You can reduce these costs by cloth diapering part time with a small stash, and blending together these numbers to find the perfect solution for your family. 

The Real Cost of Cloth Diapering: Understanding Your Options

Cloth diapering can be a cost-effective choice for families, especially when compared to the ongoing cost of disposable diapers. But how much does it actually cost to cloth diaper?

First, let's consider how many diapers you'll need. The average number of diaper changes per day is around 8, so for families who wash every day, a stash of 10-12 diapers is typically sufficient. For those who prefer to wash every 2-3 days, a stash of 24-30 diapers is recommended. Families who want to wash even less frequently can opt for a stash of 40-50 diapers.

Frequency of Washing Number of Diapers Needed
Every Day 10-12 diapers
Every 2-3 Days 24-30 diapers
Once a Week

40-50 diapers


The cost of cloth diapers can vary depending on the type and brand. We've tried our best to provide some very rough estimates because we know you want to know these things, but to be honest - there's so much fluctuation that can happen here depending on the style of diaper that works for your family and where and how you source them. We'll dive deeper into the individual types of clot diapers and reflect on more detailed costs later in this blog series on cloth diapering. 

Type of Cloth Diaper Cost per Diaper Cost per Day  Cost for 2-3 Day Washing 
Prefold $4-5 $32-40 $96-150
Fitted $25-40 $200-320 $600-1200
Pocket $20-25 $160-200 $480-750
All-In-One $35 $280 $840-1050
Cover $15-20 $120-160 $360-600
Wool Cover $40-60 $40-60 $120-180

Note that the cost ranges provided are estimates based on average prices and may vary depending on the brand and retailer. Additionally, the cost for 2-3 day washing assumes a 24-30 diaper stash, while the cost for once a week washing assumes a 40-50 diaper stash.

When it comes to cloth diaper extras, families may also need to purchase diaper pail liners, wet bags, and cloth wipes, which can add to the total cost. However, these items can also be reused for subsequent children, just cloth diapers. In fact, I kept most of my cloth diaper extras for life because wet bags are great for the pool, cloth wipes great for runny noses, and perhaps diaper pins the only thing I don't really reuse. 

Some families will also use diaper liners regularly - disposable liners can help with poop management, while reusable liners can be less of a regular cost but more upfront. 

It's also important to consider ongoing costs, such as water and electricity for washing and drying the diapers, as well as any costs associated with maintaining and repairing the diapers. Sometimes these costs can feel like a big impact when you switch to cloth diaper, but it's also important to consider you just added a new person to your house. 

Many parents will panic because their electricity bill went up and immediately blame it on cloth diapers - which is valid, but it's also important to reflect how your lifestyle has changed with the addition of a new baby and that some of these costs are merely the growth of your home. We can deep dive into more ways to reduce costs of cloth diapering in another article but it's really going to be focusing on simplicity.

While the upfront cost of cloth diapers may be higher than disposable diapers, it's important to remember that cloth diapers can be reused multiple times, making them a cost-effective and eco-friendly choice in the long run. 

Ultimately, the cost of cloth diapering will depend on the family's preferences and budget. By doing the math and exploring different options, families can make an informed decision about what works best for them.

I wanted to break down some of these numbers further and look at what it might cost to part time cloth diaper. You can also consider what using 2-3 cloth diapers looks like, or perhaps finding other unique ways to reduce costs, and simplify your cloth diapering experience. 

Resource Use Cloth Diapers Disposable Diapers Part-Time Cloth Diapers Part-Time Disposable Diapers
Number of Diapers Needed (2 Years) 24 7,200 12 3,600
Cost per Diaper $25 $0.25 $25 $0.25
Total Cost $600 $1,800 $300 $900


Note that the cost for part-time cloth diapering assumes that the family is using half as many cloth diapers per week as they would with full-time cloth diapering. The cost for part-time disposable diapering assumes that the family is using half as many disposable diapers per week as they would with full-time disposable diapering. The family who uses disposable and cloth diapers part time would spend about $1200 on diapers over the course of 2.5 years - more than just cloth diapers, and not significantly less than disposable diapers - but if the goal is something else besides saving money this might and probably is worth it. 

It doesn't always have to be about money, but it is a lot of the time. 

Saving Money with Cloth Diapers: A Cost Comparison

Saving Money with Cloth Diapers: Tips and Tricks for New Parents

Switching to cloth diapers can be a great way to save money in the long run, but the initial cost can seem daunting. Fortunately, there are many ways to save money when purchasing cloth diapers. Here are some tips and tricks for buying cloth diapers on a budget:

  1. Start with a small stash: You don't have to buy a full set of cloth diapers right away. You can start with just a few diapers and gradually build your collection over time.
  2. Buy secondhand: Check online marketplaces or local consignment shops for gently used cloth diapers at a lower cost.
  3. Look for sales and clearance items: Keep an eye out for sales and clearance items from retailers selling cloth diapers.
  4. Consider natural materials: Natural fiber cloth diapers, such as cotton or hemp, may be more expensive upfront but can save you money in the long run due to their durability and longer lifespan.
  5. DIY options: If you're crafty, consider making your own cloth diapers using patterns and materials available online.
  6. Cloth diaper services: Some areas offer cloth diaper services that provide a weekly pickup and drop-off service for a fee.
  7. Use cloth wipes: Instead of disposable wipes, consider using cloth wipes that can be washed and reused.

Also, many cloth diaper retailers offer trial or starter packages to start small and explore cloth diapering at a low cost before committing to a larger purchase.lending libraries and cloth diaper rental programs like Cloth for a Cause and the Cloth Diaper Library are available in some communities. With these resources, you can save money on cloth diapers and make the switch to cloth diapering more affordable.

Why Cloth Diapers Make Sense for Your Budget and the Environment

Switching to cloth diapers is not only an eco-friendly choice but a financially smart one as well. As we've discussed, using cloth diapers can help families save significant amounts of money over the course of their child's diapering years. By opting for reusable cloth diapers, families can reduce their reliance on disposable diapers and the ongoing costs associated with them, such as frequent trips to the store and garbage disposal fees.

At Nest & Sprout, we offer a wide selection of cloth diapers to fit any budget or preference. We encourage families to explore the different options available and find the one that will work for their lifestyle.

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