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Hello! I’m Anjali. I’m a board certified health coach, author, wife, mom and food lover from the SF Bay area (now living in Seattle, WA!); with a passion for delicious food and a desire to make healthy eating easy, tasty and fun! Learn more about me here and stay for a while!

Anjali Shah

Cloth Diapers Vs. Disposable Diapers

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Are you trying to choose between cloth diapers vs. disposable diapers for your baby? This detailed guide covers the pros and cons of cloth diapers and disposable diapers, price, comfort, convenience, and other considerations so you can find the best diaper for your baby!

cloth diapers vs disposable diapers

For new parents, the choice between cloth diapers vs. disposable diapers can be an incredibly tough one. Many people advocate strongly for one or the other, which has led to a lot of questions about which kind of diaper is truly better for your baby. 

In addition to your baby’s bottom, there are several things to consider — environmental impact, ease of use, cost, and more. In this detailed guide, I will break down the pros and cons of each type of diaper, answering all of your questions about your baby’s diaper, and helping you find the best choice for your specific needs. 

What Are Disposable Diapers?

Easily the most popular choice for parents around the world, disposable diapers are exactly what they sound like – diapers that are designed to be thrown away after a single use. Today’s disposable diapers are preferred by many for being convenient, easy to use, and ultra-absorbent.

This type of diaper is great for on-the-go use since you can toss the dirty diapers out, rather than worrying about bringing them back home.

While disposable diapers may be a convenient option, there are more factors to consider. Because they are not reusable, these diapers create an insane amount of waste – so they aren’t exactly the best for your carbon footprint. Additionally, the disposable diaper cost over time ends up being far greater since you go through significantly more of them than reusable diapers. 

It’s also an important thing to note that the superabsorbent polymers (SAPs) found in these diapers may cause health concerns like diaper rashes on your baby’s skin.

So, the bottom line is that while the use of disposable diapers is certainly convenient, it is not the most affordable option and the production of disposable diapers may be responsible for a greater impact on global warming. 

What Are Cloth Diapers?

Also referred to as reusable diapers, cloth diapers were the traditional diapers used around the world for centuries until disposable diapers came along. Once made from natural materials that were available in the area, modern cloth diapers have come a long way in recent years.

Cloth diapers can be made from raw materials, manufactured materials, or a combination of the two. These types of diapers operate through two layers: a waterproof outer layer, or outer shell, and an absorbent insert. The inner layer can be made from flushable liners or reusable ones, depending on your preference.

While disposable diapers have certainly taken the reins over the past several decades, cloth diaper use is making a serious comeback. Parents are growing more conscious about the materials they use for their baby, and the effects their purchases have on the environment, which has led to the resurgence of cloth diapers. 

There are several types of cloth diapers to choose from: pre-fold diapers, pocket diapers, hybrid diapers, and all-in-one diapers. Each type of cloth diaper is designed differently or made with different materials to address specific needs, so it’s important to choose the one that’s right for you.

While cloth diapers tend to cost more upfront, you save money in the long haul because each diaper can be used for a fairly long time. While there are many amazing benefits of cloth diapers, there is definitely some extra work involved so the key is figuring out which option makes the most sense for your family.

Are Cloth Diapers Better For The Environment?

The answer is: It depends on how you are cleaning and laundering your cloth diapers! Cloth diapers are believed to be more environmentally friendly than disposable diapers, and from a landfill standpoint that’s certainly the case.

A recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study showed that a baby will go through up to 6,000 disposable nappies before becoming potty trained, and that disposables account for 7% of household waste in landfills.

However, there is still an environmental impact to washing cloth diapers, due to all of the energy and water needed to clean them regularly! Since cloth nappies will always use more water than disposable nappies, how you clean and wash them is key to determining their true environmental impact.

A 2008 study done by the U.K. Environment Agency revealed that based on “[average laundry habits and line drying, overall carbon emissions were about the same between cloth vs. disposable diapers. But using secondhand cloth diapers or using them for a second child + washing them in high efficiency washers in fullers load + line drying exclusively, could make them more eco friendly than disposables.]”

Cloth diapering may not be the best fit for every family, but it works as a fantastic solution for many parents who are worried primarily about cost savings and natural materials, as well as environmental impact.

Disposable Diapers

Now that you know the key differences between cloth vs disposable diapers, let’s simplify it even further. In this section, I’ll break down the pros and cons of disposable diapers, then provide my recommendation on the best disposable diaper to buy.

Pros Of Disposables

  • Convenient 
  • Easy to use
  • Absorbent material protects against leaks
  • Odor control

Cons Of Disposables

  • Expensive in the long run
  • May cause diaper rashes
  • May contain chemicals that aren’t baby friendly
  • Significant environmental costs
boxes of disposable diapers

Best Disposable Diapers To Buy 

You can find disposable diapers in basically any grocery store, drug store, or baby store. However, keep in mind that not all diapers are created equal. When choosing the best disposable diaper for your family, it’s important to consider the factors that matter to you. This could include cost, environmental impact, absorbency, fit, and even smell. 

My top pick for the best disposable diaper of 2022 is Kudos Diapers. These organic cotton diapers are soft, easy to use, and impressively absorbent.

They are also the only disposable diaper that offers a middle ground/the best of both worlds between disposable and cloth, since they are the only disposable diaper where your baby’s skin touches 100% cotton all day instead of plastic. Just like cloth diapers!

With adorable prints that differ depending on size to follow your baby’s cognitive development, Kudos Diapers are the best choice for parents who want a super clean, organic, environmentally friendly, hypoallergenic option for their baby.

They feature both one-time purchase and subscription options, so you can try them out before you commit. If you’re looking for a high-quality disposable diaper that is comfortable, long-lasting, eco friendly and has no toxic chemicals, Kudos makes a wonderful choice. 

Other Essentials You’ll Need

Wouldn’t life be great if the only essentials you needed for diaper changes were the diapers themselves? Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Regardless of whether you choose to go with cloth or disposable diapers, you will need to stock up on some additional items to keep with your diaper supply. 

If you’re using disposable diapers, here are the other essentials you’ll need:

  • Baby Wipes – A must for cleaning those delicate baby bottoms when changing their diapers.
  • Diaper Pail – Designed to hold diapers and keep the odors inside so your nursery doesn’t smell!
  • Changing Table – While there are many types of changing tables to choose from, most have a surface for changing the baby and an underneath area for storage. This helps to make diaper changing time way easier. 
  • Diaper Bag – This is made for carrying diapers and other necessities on short trips away from home, like a trip to the park or a visit at a friend or relative’s house.

Cloth Diapers

So, we have broken down the differences between cloth and disposable diapers and further defined the pros and cons of disposable diapers. Now it’s time to do the same for cloth diapers. Whether you’re a new parent or it’s your second child (or even fifth or sixth!), it’s always a good idea to educate yourself on the many options available to you.

Pros Of Cloth Diapers

  • Less landfill waste
  • Easier on sensitive skin 
  • Cheaper in the long run
  • No chemicals or plastic

Cons Of Cloth Diapers

  • Pricey upfront cost
  • Less absorbent 
  • Require more work / time / deep cleaning / laundry
  • Greater water and electricity usage / energy resources required
  • Probably not as easy (or fun) to change in the middle of the night!
cloth diapers vs disposable diapers - pack of cloth diapers

Best Cloth Diapers To Buy

When it comes to choosing the best cloth diapers for your family, you need to first determine which specific type you want. For example, do you want an all-in-one cloth diaper that features absorbency layers sewn into a waterproof cover for easy diaper changing?

If that’s the case, then the Bambino Mio Miosolo cloth diapers would be a solid choice. These leak-proof diapers are made with 100% polyester on the outer layer and 85% polyester, 15% nylon on the inner core. They also feature adjustable fasteners that allow you to alter the size as needed to fit from baby to toddler.

If you’re looking to enjoy the best of both worlds (aka convenient and eco-friendly), then hybrid cloth diapers would probably work great for your family. Essentially a cross between disposable and cloth diapers, hybrid cloth diapers consist of a reusable outer cover and a disposable insert.

My top pick for the best hybrid cloth diaper of 2022 is the GroVia hybrid cloth diaper. Made with 100% polyester, these eco-friendly diapers work with snap-in cloth inserts or disposable inserts for easy changing. These diapers are affordable, flexible, and adorably stylish. 

Other Essentials You’ll Need 

No matter which type of diapers you choose, you’re going to need baby wipes, a quality diaper bag, and a sturdy changing table. Sorry, new parents! However, if you opt for cloth diapers, there are a few other items you can expect to buy. 

If you’re using cloth diapers, here are the additional essentials you’ll need: 

  • Diaper Inserts – While these can sometimes be bought with the diaper covers, many diaper inserts are sold separately, so make sure to check before buying.
  • Laundry Machine – Get ready to do lots of laundry, parents! While you’re mentally preparing for how much water you’ll be using, do a mental note to check that your laundry detergent is cloth diaper-friendly.
  • Diaper Cover – The outer layer of your cloth diapers.
  • Wet Bag – These are essential for storing dirty diapers until laundry day.

Cloth Diapers Vs. Disposable Diapers Comparison

cloth vs disposable diapers comparison chart

Cloth Wipes Vs. Disposable Wipes

Much like cloth vs disposable diapers, cloth and disposable wipes each come with benefits and drawbacks.

Cloth wipes are a common choice for users of cloth diapers, since they can be washed in the washing machine right alongside their diapers. While these are slightly more expensive upfront, cloth wipes save you a ton of money in the long run. 

Many cloth wipe advocates also believe that they do a better job of wiping than disposable wipes, since the fabric is thicker and grabs your baby’s mess with ease.

However, cloth wipes require the additional step of washing which is not always an option when you’re on the road or don’t have access to laundry machines. 

FAQs

Are cloth diapers really worth it?

This is completely subjective. The choice between cloth vs disposable diapers really comes down to what’s most important to you and what is the most practical for your family.

If convenience is key and you’re constantly on the go, then disposable diapers might make more sense. However, if you’re particularly environmentally-conscious or have babies with extra sensitive skin, then cloth diapers would likely be worth it for you.

For our family, I just didn’t have the mental bandwidth to think about washing and drying poopy diapers constantly for years and years on top of everything else that comes along with a new baby, so I chose an eco friendly, hypoallergenic, organic disposable diaper for my kids.

Kudos Diapers hadn’t launched when my kids were still in diapers, otherwise that would have been my choice when my kids were little! (You can read more about why here!)

Are cloth diapers more sanitary?

It’s hard to say whether one type of diaper is more sanitary than the other. While disposable diapers are only used once and are therefore incredibly sanitary, cloth diapers are also perfectly sanitary as long as they are properly washed.

It is worth noting, however, that cloth diapers do not contain the chemicals found in most disposable diapers that can cause allergic reactions and rashes.

What happens to diapers in landfills?

Today’s landfills are specifically designed to minimize their impact on the surrounding environment. When diapers go to landfills, they are compressed just like any other form of solid waste. Once they are compressed, neither the ingredients in the diaper materials nor the waste inside can leach out into the earth from the landfill.

That being said, studies have shown that it takes diapers at least 500 years to fully decompose, meaning they will be stuck in our landfills for the foreseeable future once they arrive.

How do you clean cloth diapers?

Before doing a load of laundry, you’ll want to remove the inserts from your reusable diapers. You should begin by soaking your diapers with a cold rinse cycle without using detergent and make sure to use a lot of water.

Next, you’ll run a hot wash cycle with detergent. Finally, you should finish with another cold rinse cycle to ensure that all detergent has been fully rinsed away. Dry your cloth diapers according to the instructions on the tag and reuse as normal.

Are Kudos diapers compostable or biodegradable? 

Kudos diapers are made with plant-based materials like hypoallergenic cotton, sugarcane, and natural fibers from wood pulp. However, no disposal diaper that is currently available on the market is 100% compostable.

Kudos diapers, like any other disposable diaper, should be thrown away in the trash, but knowing that Kudos contains 100% biodegradable cotton in their topsheet can make us rest a bit easier.

What percentage of parents use cloth diapers?

While more and more parents are starting to hop aboard the cloth diaper train, there are still far fewer cloth diaper users than disposable diaper users. According to a 2018 article by the New York Times, 95% of parents are still choosing disposable diapers over cloth diapers. 

On average, how many disposable diapers will you use each day?

While the number of diapers each baby uses can vary, the average baby needs 8 disposable diapers in a day. This adds up to around 6,000 diapers in the first two years of a child’s life.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), over 4 million tons of disposable diapers were estimated to have been tossed into landfills in 2018 alone. That’s a lot of soiled diapers!

Final Thoughts

So, are cloth diapers better? Well, that depends on who you’re asking and what their reasoning is. There is no black and white answer when it comes to the best diapers to use. You know your family’s needs better than anyone else. 

As I mentioned, I chose disposable diapers for both of my kids, since it was the best option for our family at the time – so you should do what feels right to you! Also, don’t feel like you have to be all or nothing; you can absolutely use both! For example, maybe you prefer to use cloth diapers at home and disposable diapers when you’re on vacation – that is 100% fine! 

I hope this guide on cloth vs. disposable diapers has helped you make a decision for the best option for your baby. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out or leave a comment here. I respond to every question I get!

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