Cloth vs. Disposable Diapers: The Pros & Cons of Each

Mom Moment 46

baby in diaperOnce upon a time, if you had a baby, you were using cloth diapers because, well, there was no other option. And then along came disposable diapers, and moms flocked to them because they were new and oh so convenient! But I don't have to tell you that times have changed, do I? Moms are using cloth AND moms are using disposable, and there's a never-ending argument over which one is better.

So what's the answer? Is one better than the other?

More from The Stir: Save Money on Diapers With These 10 Tips

The Stir chatted up moms who have done both, and from what we can tell, it's all about what works for your family. BUT we did get some pretty clear pros and cons of using cloth diapers ... to help you figure out just what it is that DOES work for you:

Cost --


  • Buy a cloth diaper, and you get your money's worth -- it's yours to keep and reuse over and over and over again! According to Consumer Reports, if you're using disposables, expect to spend $1,500 to $2,000 or more by the time your baby is out of them. That price rises to an average of $1,600 to $2,500 if you use more "eco-friendly" brands.
  • If you use a cloth diaper service, you save on the cost of running your washing machine, buying detergent, etc.


  • If you're using a service, you could be racking up quite a bill. Services range anywhere from $20 a week on up.
  • If you're not using a service, you have to add the cost of electricity and water usage for your washing machine, plus buying detergent for all the extra laundry.

Eco-Value --


Cloth diapers can be reused, so they're not being added to the landfills. Even once they're "retired" from service, a cloth diaper makes a great rag -- once again keeping it out of the landfill.

The fewer you have to buy, the fewer that have to be manufactured.


Disposable diapers may fill up the landfill, but cloth diapers require a lot of electricity and water usage to keep them clean. There have been studies to compare the two eco-factors, but none has been completely clear on which is better for the environment.

cloth diapers vs. disposable diapers how to choose

Convenience --


Buying diapers is a one-shot deal. You buy a whole lot, and you just reuse them.

It's unlikely that you'll run out of diapers, especially if you're washing them yourself. You just grab a clean one out of the hamper.


When you're out and about with a cloth diapered kid, if they have a dirty diaper, you can't just throw it out. You have to bring that dirty diaper home with you.

Just like disposables, cloth diapers vary in quality. Some parents prefer the new moisture wicking technologies in disposables that make for fewer diaper changes.

You have to actually clean cloth diapers, even knocking the poop out into your toilet. Disposables you just fold and drop in the nearest garbage bin.

Health --


Some disposable diapers have been found to contain toxins such as dioxin.

Moms of babies with sensitive skin report that the only thing their kids could comfortably use were cotton-based cloth diapers.


Some moms reported more rashes when their kiddos were in cloth diapers because they were less absorbent and didn't have a barrier to keep moisture from the skin.

Potty Training --


Some moms say their babies trained earlier because in cloth, they could actually FEEL the wetness.


Some moms say their kiddos didn't care whether they were in cloth or disposable; they were happy to stay in diapers forever!

So what will it be? Cloth or disposable for you?


Images via CarbonNYC/Flickr; iStock

natural parenting, poop & diapers


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linzemae linzemae

We use both. If she hasn't pooped in a while ill put he rin sposies till she does.

Liz132 Liz132

I use both I love cloth but there are times where it's more convenient to use a disposable. Like if I'm going to be away from home for a long time I won't have to carry dirty diapers around or if it's going to be a long car ride sposies don't need changed as often. At home and most of the time I use cloth, it saves us a lot of money, lessens chemical exposure, less trash, and they're super cute

Jen Johnson

I use cloth after using disposables for some time. It does not require a lot of extra water or electricity. I calculated that it's costing me an extra $5.00 at the very most every month.

If you read a package of disposable diapers it tells you that you are by law required to dump the solids before disposing of the diaper for the biohazardous material inside. Just because most people are ignorant doesn't mean that that should be the accepted norm.

Every disposable that's ever been used still exists and chances are is still filled with fecal matter.

We are bringing new life into the world, let's make it one that's not going to literally and constantly be filled with their shit and leave it for them to deal with later.

Audly... AudlyLuvly

I used disposables for my first two.  My first I was young, and didn't even know cloth diapers existed.  With my second, I looked into it, but was still young, and didn't want the extra hassle with the poop.  Now, that I'm a vet mom, and on my third, I have made other life changes to cut back unneccessary costs and waste.  I have virtually no monthly baby budget (aside from clothing and toys, which all the children have), because I cloth diaper, breastfeed, and just feed him whatever table foods the rest of the family is enjoying.  When I am done with my cloth, I can pass them down to a less fortunate family who cannot afford to buy new (or even used, I may donate them), let alone the cost of using disposables.

6pacmama 6pacmama

I am a numbers nerd and to be honest washing and drying diapers didn't increase my bill.  I keep records of all of my utilities due to being self employed and my bill might have went up a dollar or 2 a month and that was it literally.  I washed every 2-3 days so I did wash quite a bit more...I did not throughouly dry diapers just til they were damp then let them air dry.  So whoever says it costs a lot more either doesn't have a good washer and dryer or they pay a Lot for water and electricity in their area...I would say it didn't even cost $5 a month for both water and electric.

nonmember avatar Gina

I just recently switched to cloth and my daughter and i are both very happy. We dont need to change as often and usually go through 4 diapers a day, 5 if shes having a poopy day. My mother however doesnt lile them and still uses disposables when she watches her. Before we switched my daughter was using 7-9 diapers a day. We have heavy wetter ones for trips. We can get 12 hours out of them, those we use for night time. I have a wet bag that i put all my dirty diapers in. Its easy

nonmember avatar HA

You don't just throw it away when your out. If you read the back of a pack of diapers you are supposed to dump waste into a toilet before throwing those away too! (I just recently read the back of a pack of diapers and figured if you have to do that either way may as well use cloth!)

Hillary Settle

I feel like a lot of the cons you have listed for cloth diapers are just a load of crap. Seriously, get a better education on cloth before you try to write something like this.

Jilectan Jilectan

I've used both. With my first, I had to switch, because he got horrible rashes from disposables that just wouldn't go away. I tried everything! Different brands, special creams, going bare (that one was fun!). Nothing worked, until we tried cloth diapers. Then it cleared up like magic. We used cloth at home on both of our daughters, too, and disposables when we were out. Cloth diapers were really easy, too. We didn't have to get special detergent, either, since we use non-scented stuff due to my problems with scents. We used liners to help with the solids, and when we were out, we had a wet bag to put diapers in, so  no smell.

Ashley Kissinger

The problem here is that the only people who are going to comment are the people who have experience in both fields.  People who choose to cloth diaper obviously will have used a disposable at least once--getting a few is cheap.  However, people who choose disposable are not going to make a large investment into cloth diapers to check to see if the grass is greener.  From what I can gather (reading online and friends), I would say that the main factors that go against cloth diapering are both the time spent literally elbow deep in poop and also the smell quotient.  People who cloth diaper usually stick their diapers into a "wet pail" of water, and that does give off an unpleasant odor.  Just like anything though, you can get used to your own house's smells--many people with pets have odors too (ergo a market in carpet deoderizer).  I have been to people's homes that cloth diaper, and it does make a difference.  Also, I have heard that the bulkiness of the cloth diapers makes buying the same size top and bottoms for baby clothes nearly impossible.  The bulky nature of the cloth diaper can also restrict movement in babies (some reported that their kids were able to take steps easier in disposables).  Anyway, that definitely has helped me to stick with disposables.  I have nothing but respect for people who chose to cloth diaper though--it's definitely more work.  More power to whatever each mom decides in the end.

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