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cloth vs disposable - is it a wash?

Cloth vs disposable diapers.

February 25, 2013

One might think that diapers would be the simplest decision a parent could make for their baby. Diapers only have one function after all: make sure baby’s waste doesn’t end up all over the place.

It used to be an incredibly simple decision. You used what was available (which probably meant an absorbent piece of cloth and a sturdy rubber pant). But then someone had to jump in there and make it all complicated by adding OPTIONS for goodness sake. It’s become a battle royale. Diaper vs diaper. Cloth diapers vs disposable diapers. And ohmyword then there’s ANOTHER choice with gDiapers, which is a bit of both.

The decision about what kind of diaper to put on baby’s bottom is one that moms and dads get passionate over. They join discussion boards based on their diaper preference. They sport t-shirts with their favorite brand’s logo (thank you gMums!). They have debates on the environmental benefits and pitfalls of cloth vs disposable. They defend their wallet and their choices, rightfully so. They may even dabble across the options, using one diaper during the day, another at night, another for travel, another for grandma’s house, and another for special occasions. Diapers have even become collector’s items. Diapers have come a long way, baby.

Why is this? we wonder. What has shifted that has taken diapers from being a purely utilitarian product in service to baby’s bodily waste to passion products that pit parent against parent, defensively even, about the diaper choice they have made for their little one?

The basic arguments are out there. Just google it. You’ll find arguments to substantiate your decision, or to easily change your mind. It all depends on who is writing the arguments and how willing/resistant you are to hearing them. You’ll read about cloth diapers saving you money in the long run, disposable diapers being more affordable day to day, cloth diapers using a lot of water, disposable diapers filling up garbage cans, and of gDiapers trying to buck the status quo.

The bottom line: cloth vs disposable diapers is truly a personal decision. And one that’s not made as lightly as it was even a decade ago. We’re not here to magically solve that decision for you. If only marketing were that easy. What we are here for is to kick off the discussion:

What diaper did you choose for your baby? How did you come to your decision? Are you happy with it? What did you learn from the process of making that decision? What would you do differently (or the same) with another baby? And what would be your wish for new parents who are facing the same diaper dilemma? Leave your comments. Your experience is valuable.

about the author Kelli Martinelli – Kelli has been with gDiapers since its infancy in 2006. She writes the gDiapers blog, email campaigns, web content, manages social media and customer service and supports PR. She occasionally takes a stab at her own blog It’s Me, Kelli, where she chronicles her waste reduction efforts and her stories as a single mama to two kiddos. Stay in touch on the gDiapers bloggoogle + and twitter.

20 thoughts on “Cloth vs disposable diapers.”

  1. I love the LOOK of cloth diapers – those yummy bright colours – I hate the cartoon character colour strip on many popular disposables.

    I use cloth diapers with a cloth liner and then a disposable liner; and I fling them in with the clothes wash which I’d be doing anyway.

    But there are uses for disposables – I travel a lot with Baby, so often don’t have access to a washing machine, and who wants to handwash dirty diapers?

    When I use disposables, I aim for Chlorine-free.

  2. I chose gDiapers because it was a happy medium for me. I really wanted to cloth diaper for environmental reasons. Yet, I didn’t want to lug around dirty cloth diapers in a diaper bag while out and about. I like to pack as light as I can. The cost of using disposables while out of the house seemed to not make it worth it to cloth diaper at home. We are an active family and the balance between the two just didn’t seem to be there for me. That’s when I learned about gDiapers. I loved the idea of having a choice of disposable or cloth. To be honest, the idea of cloth still scared me a little in terms of care. It was a nice way for me to ease into it. The option of having a disposable insert to use while out of our home was great. Did I have some dirty diaper parts to still lug around? Yes, but it wasn’t nearly as bulky as a full cloth diaper. At home, the cloth strips were great. I used the disposables at night when Erin started to sleep through the night for more absorbancy. The wash and care were much easier than I expected. I felt that I did same money for us. Also, knowing that the resale value is pretty good is a comfort to know that I will be able to get some of my money back when I go to sell my stash when I’m done with them for good. With our next child, i wouldn’t do anything different. I’d still choose gDiapers. May advice to future parents: figure out what is most infortant to you and what will make parenthood fun. If you would rather throw away diapers at the end of the day rather than do 2 or 3 extra loads of laundry a week, so be it. That is your choice.

  3. I wanted to cloth diaper our son when he was born. But when I went out and bought gDiapers against my husbands wishes he was outraged. So we use disposables :(

  4. Originally, we went with disposable diapers. It did not even cross our minds to do anything differently. We went with huggies and stuck with them. Finally, when our little one was about 8 months, we decided that we would try for another one in about a year. At that point, we talked about cloth diapering that baby. It still took us another 2 months to make that decision for our little guy. I did A TON of research. Even though there are several options, gDiapers offered the look, the environmentally aspect, and the convenience option that we were looking for. They was a learning curve, and the ladies at gDiapers have helped a lot as well. We run a small load of diapers and his clothes every night. We have a load size sensing washer so it’s not costing too much. We have not bought a pack of disposable diapers, minus the gDiapers disposable, in almost two months. It is WONDERFUL! Thank you gDiapers!

  5. We started our first baby with gDiapers two months ago because a friend used to use them, we liked being able to cloth diaper but have an environmentally friendly disposable option if we’re out, and cause they’re stinking cute! :) Hasn’t been as smooth-sailing as I’d hoped, so we exploring other options, but we like ’em overall.

  6. We chose cloth mainly for environmental reasons and then a little bit for economical. However after becoming addicted to cloth, I’m not sure I’m ahead in the economical department!! :) But it’s okay. At least we are doing our part for the Earth.

  7. We went with cloth because my sister used gDiapers and loved them. We used disposables in the beginning, assuming baby would grow out of the tiny sized before they were worth the money, but we spent at least 90 dollars in the first month on diapers. Next time around we will get the tiny’s, but we will be able to since we already have the small, medium, and larges! It was overwhelming shopping for diapers. there are so many kinds, and people are so for or against their particular brand that it is difficult to get good feedback. We ended up going with gDiapers because a: they were somewhat familiar to me using them with my nephew, and b: i liked how you didn’t have to buy so many. With the pocket diapers and the AIOs, it seemed like you had to buy 20 diapers or so. and each time you had to switch out to a different diaper. With the g’s, I only have 6 or 7 in each size, and most days, I can get away with switching out between 2 of the. I also hate the one size ones that have snaps all over them, nothing ruins the cuteness of a diaper like those snaps all over the front.

  8. I don’t have a child yet but I know for sure that I will be a Gmum. My fiancé and I are tree huggers and also lazy (lol). We know that Gdiapers are for us because they are good for the environment and they are easy too. I love your product and what your company stands for. I tell everyone about them!

  9. We’ve used and loved gDiapers for almost three years. My husband and I made the decision solely for financial reasons (I quit work after we had our first baby, and we knew we’d have more than one child) and we’re so happy that we did. After using several AIO/AI2s, it was clear that gDiapers with prefolds were the way to go. Cost has been minimal (about $400 total to date, including additional prefolds and pouches for baby #2), potty training DS at 22 months was a breeze, and we never have to worry about making a midnight run to the store for more diapers. No high water bills here due to laundry (we do diaper laundry twice a week, but our water usage per quarter remains about 1/3 of the local average) plus we’re not on the road once a week buying diapers or having them flown across the country to be delivered to our doorstep, so hopefully we’re keeping our carbon footprint smaller, too.

  10. I am a super thrifty person, so once I heard of cloth I was sold. The first 4 months of my sons life we used disposables and spent over 100 on diapers. My so didn’t want to do cloth, but we agreed that whoever changed the most diapers got to choose. Me! My son is 25 months now, still in diapers and I have spent less than 150 buying cloth, and based on 100 for 4 months of sposies, even the water and electricity usage is less with cloth. And then when we are done, we will donate them. No one wants a used sposie.

  11. I tried several brands of cloth diapers that I bought used when my daughter was about 3 months old. I originally decided to try cloth after a month of using lousy plastic post-partum pads for myself (ever had “diaper rash” as an adult because you were out too long and forgot to bring an extra pad with you?!) and then trying some momma cloth. I VASTLY prefer the feel of cloth to plastic, myself. So it was easy to decide I would rather use that on my own baby. I liked both the gDiapers and the sized BumGenius all-in-ones, but I found myself reaching for the gDiapers more often, perhaps because I could re-use the cover more than once a day and the inserts dried faster so they were easier on my laundry schedule. I didn’t try /all/ cloth diaper options, I tried to find the ones that didn’t give my baby “bubble butt” and were easy to teach my babysitter to use. In spite of all the experiementing with different brands I did I still came out ahead money-wise, since most of them I sold for nearly the same price as I bought them for used (including the small gDiapers when we graduated to the next size). When I went all-gDiapers it cost a bit tho, as I started getting some of the fun prints new – at that point I had already saved a bunch of money tho not using disposables for several months. The money wasn’t honestly as much of a factor in decideing to cloth diaper for me, but my husband sure liked that perk. :)

  12. Used gcloth from the start and g-inserts for travel which was fantastic flexibility…but once she was on mostly solids we switched to only using the g-inserts…was just a lot easier and still very little environmental impact. Loved the optionality that g’s offered.

  13. with my first 2 sons, i used disposables just because i didn’t know any better. When i had a ‘gap baby’ in 2012, i did loads of research throughout my pregnancy & decided i wanted to use g’s. However, the cost of getting started kept that from happening. We used disposables the first 6 weeks before we could get the money together for a g starter pack. After a couple of packs of inserts, i realized they were costing us more than disposables. I was so upset because i really wanted the g’s to work out for us. But i just couldn’t justify paying 1.5x as much (plus the cost of the pants–whew! Those are expensive!!!). So i went back to the drawing board–disposables were a last resort in my mind. What i found was a kindle book called ‘how to make all in one, one size fits most cloth diapers’ by Jennifer Berry. That was the best $5 i spent! Using her very clear instructions, i was able to make 15 cloth diapers for around $50. I use my handmade diapers exclusively now. And in a couple of years when we have another baby, the same 15 diapers will be deployed again :).

  14. We started using BumGenius diapers exclusively when our son was three months old. I missed having a disposable option, so we tried gdiapers. After using both, I found that I definitely prefer gdiapers with the disposable inserts. I found that the microfiber BumGenius diapers, our HE washing machine, and hard water were not a good combination! (Lots of smells and mess that are hard to get rid of!) We are selling our other diapers and filling up the rest of our stash with gdiapers and disposable inserts. The only downside is they are more expensive than disposables or other cloth options. However, they are best for our baby, good for the environment, and easiest for us to manage, so they are worth the extra money to me!

  15. We use disposable inserts my so would not cloth diaper, and as a family who travels frequently cloth diaper did not appeal to our busy lifestyle. I like that we have the option of flushing as I find myself doing this at home and on the go. We have also had no diaper rash which keeps the little one happy. I love all the patterns , colors, and customs I have gotten from other gmama’s. My only complaint is the inserts are more expensive than disposables. But I love them and have found ways to cut corners elsewhere.

  16. we have a 12 year old daughter who started wetting the bed early last summer and i ordered cloth diapers and rubber pants for her to wear at night.the diapers are thick and i pin them on he with regular diaper pins.the rubber pants i got are in pastel colors and fit her loose.they work well and keep her bed dry.i dont mind washing the cloth diapers and the rubber pants as i know it is better for the environment than throwing disposables away.She was a flower girl in a cousins wedding last month and i did one of her diapers and rubber pants under her flower girl dress just in case.

  17. I started with gs when my little guy was about 10 weeks. My husband refused to go cloth, but gs offered the disposable inserts so that was our compromise. Then at around 6 months my son developed a reaction to his gs. I have my stash and I keep debating trying the cloth inserts, but they intimidate me. I also don’t want to mess with mister sensitive when we have something that is not irritating him.
    We opt for non chlorine, non gmo plant derived diapers when they are available. There is a biodegradable brand we use occassionally but they don’t overnight well.
    That’s our story.

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