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Our Experience with Cloth Diapering + Reusable Wipes

Cloth diaper tips based on our experience with using cloth diapers to save money for the first year of our baby's life.

FYI: this blog post is dripping with cute baby photos.

baby with cloth diaper on white background, text overlay "our experience cloth diapering and reusable wipes"

I knew at the very beginning of getting pregnant that I wanted to cloth diaper. What I didn't know was that this would be a much more okay idea with my grandmother and mother-in-law − both of whom cloth-diapered themselves − than with my peers.

In fact, Paul and I have mostly been met with scrunched-up faces and questions revealing the owner's disgust with our choice (you might be scrunching your face up as well!).

But since we generally follow the beat of our own wallets − and buying reusables instead of consumables is something we already do (such as using dish towels instead of buying paper towels, or using the Reveal Mop that allows you to wash the mop head instead of the Swiffer where you have to purchase new pads) − we went ahead with it anyway.

Plus, I was encouraged by both a friend's positive experience with them (thank you SO much for your help with this, Aurora!), as well as the people in an online Facebook group: Fluff Love and CD Science.

Conner 2 Months in jean overalls and white shirt

Buy Used Cloth Diapers Like We Did

Buying used cloth diapers is, honestly, what saved us a ton of money. Because buying an entire stash of new cloth diapers? Is going to cost you.

Let me share with you how we got our total supply.

We received six cloth pocket diapers (BumGenius 5.0) plus one package of inserts as baby shower gifts.

And my friend Aurora gave us five used covers that can be filled with an insert plus 10 prefolds.

I then purchased a pack of six inserts for $17.99 that I can use with the refillable covers, plus five Snappis for $14.98 so that we can use the prefold cloth diapers with the covers as well. I used a gift card for these purchases.

Aurora gave us 17 used reusable wipes, we received a package of reusable wipes as a gift, and then I purchased two packages of reusable wipes with gift cards, making our total number of reusable wipes 37 (about three days' worth). I already owned a small spray bottle that I repurposed for wetting the reusable wipes.

We also had to purchase a different kind of diaper rash ointment that is safe for cloth diapers (the green tube of Boudreaux's Butt Paste − you can choose from a list of other safe ones), so this was $8.19.

And then after I determined that we wanted to go ahead with cloth diapering − we couldn't know until we actually tried it out for a bit − I invested in a Kanga wet bag with a gift card ($18.99). You can also just use doubled-up grocery bags like we did for a month.

Total Out-of-Pocket Cost: $8.19*

Note: these results are NOT typical! Through the generous help of others we were able to build up a supply that makes a meaningful dent in the cost of raising a child. For ideas on how to save money building your own supply, see below.

Conner and Dad in front of a large Christmas tree

Our Experience with Cloth Diapering and Reusable Wipes

We started easing into cloth diapering about one month after our little guy was born. Up to that point, we used disposables as we were adjusting to about 10,000 brand-new things (it takes me a while to incorporate new things into my life so that first month was overwhelming enough!).

At first, it didn't go so well. He would pee (as in saturate) through about 60% of the cloth diapers.

But I'm so glad we stuck with it. With the help of the Fluff University Facebook group, Aurora, and some experimenting (plus a dash of patience), I was able to figure out that I needed to put the extra part of the insert that flapped over in the back, not in the front. For whatever reason, this made all the difference.

Then the little guy got thrush in his mouth, which subsequently turned into a yeast diaper rash. So we had to use a medicine that I found out could not be used on cloth diapers without a buffer in between his skin and the cloth diaper.

So we were stuck using disposables until we cleared the rash up, which took approximately 3 days each during two different outbreaks (yeast can be difficult to get rid of!).

I also bleached our entire supply of reusables at this point so that we could kill any residual colonies before using them again.

Conner Smiling at me

Do Cloth Diapers Save Money? The Digits

If you look online for bulk wipe purchases, you can generally get them for $0.02 each. In any 24 hours, we use approximately 13 wipes. So the monthly savings for us is approximately $7.80, or $93.60/year.

You can generally buy bulk diapers at a cost of $0.16 each. In any 24 hours, we use approximately 10 diapers. So the monthly savings for us is approximately $48.00, or $576/year.

Estimated Annual Savings: $669.60*

Note: there are, of course, additional water and electricity costs with washing diapers. However, I can confidently say that they are negligible in our household. Our water bill before cloth diapering was $30 and some change each month, and it still is. And our electricity bill for December? A mere $35, which is in par with our other December energy bills from years past.

Mommy and Conner, while Conner is sleeping, sitting on couch

Strategies to Get in On Cloth Diapering for Cheap

There is definitely an initial investment with cloth diapers (an investment that will pay you back and then some). So how can you take a minimal financial hit in the beginning and start reaping the savings more quickly?

  • Buy Used: Yes, you can buy used cloth diapers! People sell them on Mommy Facebook groups and elsewhere. You can bleach and/or strip them so that you feel more comfortable using them on your own baby (and some moms who thought they wanted cloth diapers but didn't get into them have practically new ones to sell).
  • Cloth Diaper Co-Ops: Apparently there are cloth diaper Co-Ops where you can get steep discounts by buying bulk with a group.
  • Put it on your Baby Registry: Filling out a baby registry? Be sure to include cloth diapers on it. Some registries even allow you to asterisk beside the items that are a priority for you so people may be more likely to purchase them.
  • Use Gift Cards: Earn gift cards by searching the internet, use gift cards received at birthdays and the holidays, sign up for the Amazon.com Visa Card to get their $50 gift card…there are lots of ways to get gift cards and then use them to slowly build up your stash.

To be honest, I'm not just cloth diapering to save money. I love the idea of not having to run out to the store when we are out of diapers or wipes. I love being a bit more resourceful and doing something to make our household more sustainable. And of course, yes, the money savings is the cherry on top.

Do you use cloth diapers? Would you consider it? 

Baby Money + Prep Posts You Want to Check Out:

My Freezer Cooking Day (for Baby + Beyond)
The More-than-Turnip-Sized Financial Digits

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Amanda L Grossman

Personal Finance Writer and CEO at Frugal Confessions, LLC
Amanda L. Grossman is a writer and Certified Financial Education Instructor, Plutus Foundation Grant Recipient, and founder of Frugal Confessions. Over the last 13 years, her money work has helped people with how to save money and how to manage money. She's been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger, Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, Business Insider, LifeHacker, Real Simple Magazine, Woman's World, Woman's Day, ABC 13 Houston, Keybank, and more. Read more here or on LinkedIn.


Thursday 3rd of March 2016

What a great post! We tried cloth diapers and it was a big fail for us. I have to admit - I was lazy about pushing through some of the inconvenience and now wish I had not given up so quickly. Wonderful to hear someone had great success.

Yasir Khan

Sunday 28th of February 2016

Being resourceful and practical can help you save big. Yes, it has the best of both worlds because you have more money to spend on something important as well as being smart on your way of living.

Bill in Houston

Wednesday 17th of February 2016

Hi Amanda,

Adorable baby pics! Love Bug is getting big!

We tried cloth diapering with our first, back in 2012. I hung a retractable clothes line in the side yard, and started out with the Mabu diapering system. We had been given a starter kit, along with the flushable biodegradable insert pack. The problem we ran into was finding more inserts. Turns out they were sold through "select" Wal-Marts here in Texas. The nearest store selected? Austin. We were lucky that we had a back-up plan for Bun.

We considered finding another cloth system (after all, it was good enough for my Mom with me back in 1961), but my wife was going back to work and the Montessori we found did not support cloth (they had disposable).

Before Biscuit was born last summer, we had considered cloth once again, but since she was also going into the same Montessori we opted for disposables.

Now that my wife is working from home, and the kids are with her, we're staying with the convenience of disposables for now. We buy in bulk from Costco, and take advantage of the warehouse couponing on their diapers every three months. We bought 174 size 2 for $26. Fifteen cents per disposable or a dollar a day. The down side is that I buy four or five boxes in a month to stock up until the next time they're couponed. Wipes in a box of 900 cost two cents each. About thirty cents a day. Two boxes per period.

Last fall we got good use out of the retractable clothes line. The line was festooned with Thomas the Tank Engine and Captain America underwear. My son was potty training!

Amanda L Grossman

Wednesday 2nd of March 2016

Thanks for sharing your own experience, Bill! How's your wife doing working from home and taking care of the kiddos? I find some days are easier to juggle than others, and of course I'm learning as I go:).

Alan Steinborn

Monday 15th of February 2016

This is awesome!

So glad to hear it is working out for you. Glad, also to learn of the fluffies :-)

We are having our baby in a few weeks or so and we are set up for cloth diapers as well. We had bunches of them gifted to us so we are set in that category.

Will check in and let you know how things are for us!



Wednesday 17th of February 2016

Very cool, Alan. Is this your first? I wish nothing but the best for you guys, and yes, I'd love to know how cloth diapering works for you.