Monday, August 27, 2012

How to Cloth Diaper on a Budget

One of the reasons many parents feel that they can not cloth diaper is because they are on a very strict budget, and in order to effectively cloth diaper, there is usually a pretty hefty start up cost.

Of course, the overall savings that cloth diapering allows is significant, considering that parents end up spending a total of $2000-$3000 per child on disposable diapers, while on average, a typical cloth diaper stash and accessories usually costs around $300 (more or less). Yet, many parents who are living paycheck-to-paycheck simply find it easier or more affordable to pay $5-$10 for a "jumbo" pack of diapers, or around $40 for a box of disposables at a time, rather than going outside of the budget to put forth hundreds of dollars on cloth diapers.

That is why I am writing this post, because I believe that it is important for ALL parents who are considering cloth diapers to know, that it does NOT have to break the bank! There are ways to cloth diaper your child for much much less than what you may think! Also keep in mind, that when you cloth diaper, you can use your diapers on multiple children, and even Re-sell them when you are done!

Something that is important to keep in mind when considering how to stick to the strictest cloth diaper budget is that your baby's age affects how many diapers your baby will need.

If you plan to wash every 2 days, this is how many diapers you will need:

NB-6 months: 20-24 diapers
6-12 months: 16-20 diapers
12-24 months: 12-16 diapers
Potty learning: 4-8 diapers

In this post I will be describing to you the various ways that you can cloth diaper affordably, and I will be linking some sources to use as an example. I am in no way affiliated with the companies or brands that I am recommending. It is only my passion to spread awareness that babies can be diapered in a more healthy and eco-friendly way, whether or not you are on a strict budget!

Flats and Covers:

Flats and covers are probably one of the most cost-efficient methods of cloth diapering on the market! Flats are wonderful because not only are they completely inexpensive, but they are usually made of cotton or other natural fibers (such as hemp or bamboo) which is healthier for your baby and the environment, and because of their design they dry very quickly, even when hung to air-dry! They are very low-maintenance and do not require much "special care" as most cloth diapers do. Flats are a very good starting point for a "rookie". There are many interesting folds that you can learn, but honestly, my favorite way to use a flat diaper is in the "pad fold", where basically the entire thing is just folded into an insert-shaped rectangle and placed into a cover. Flats are very versatile, and even the largest size flat can be folded down to accomodate a very small baby.

You can usually buy a Dozen flat cloth diapers for around $20.
Some very popular and good-quality Flat cloth diaper brands are:
Imagine Birdseye Flat cloth diapers - $14.99/dozen
Diaper Rite One-size Flat cloth diapers - $17.50/dozen
Cotton Babies One-Size Flat cloth diapers - $19/dozen
Cloth-eez One-Size Flat cloth diapers - $22/dozen
OsoCozy Unbleached One-Size Flats - $22.95/dozen

For every 4-6 cloth diapers, you will need one diaper cover.
Some of the most affordable cloth diaper covers on the market are:

Green Bees one-size diaper covers - $5
ProRap sized diaper covers - $8
Lite-Wrap sized diaper covers - $8
Econobum one-size diaper cover - $8.95
Bummis Super Lite sized diaper cover - $10

Of course, by buying one-size covers, you are saving yourself the expense and trouble of having to buy larger sizes when your baby grows. .

So, on average, to cloth diaper a baby from Birth-Potty training, you could accomplish this by spending a total of at least $50 for 2 dozen Imagine birdseye flats and 4 Green Bees Covers. Even less if you have an older baby, who requires less diapers.

Just $50 (which is just a few dollars more than a box of disposables usually costs) to cloth diaper your baby and any future babies from birth-potty learning is NOT too shabby! Also consider that when your last child is potty trained, you can also resell your diapers and covers and recover a good portion of what you spent for the diapers!

Prefolds and Covers:

Prefolds and covers are wonderful because they are inexpensive, simple, and natural. Prefolds can be folded in various ways (which are much more simple and less time consuming than the Flats folding) and can simply be Tri-folded and placed into a cover.

Before I go on about the various prefold brands, I first would like to introduce my absolute favorite budget cloth diapering kit: the Econobum Full Kit.
The Econobum system is AMAZING because both the prefolds AND the cover are One-Size (which means no extra $ spent on upsizing) and their "Full Kit" includes:
a Dozen 100% unbleached cotton one-size prefolds, 3 white one-size covers, and even a wetbag for storing dirty diapers, all for only $48.95!! This means that you could completely cloth diaper one or more children from birth-potty learning for LESS than $100!  Econobum diapers are designed to be tri-folded and placed in the cover, so there is no need to learn any "fancy folds".

Some other popular prefolds brands are:

Cotton Babies Indian Prefolds - $1-$2/ea, depending on size
Cloth-eez 100% cotton prefold - $1.25-$3.25/ea, depending on size
Imagine Indian Prefold diapers - $1.75-$2.75/ea, depending on size
Osocozy Indian Prefold diapers - $1.75-$4.25/ea, depending on size
Diaper Rite Prefold diapers - $1.99-$2.89/ea, depending on size
Econobum One-Size prefolds - $2/ea, sold in packs of 3 or more.

With prefolds (as with flats), you will need one diaper cover for every 4-6 cloth diapers. (See the "Diaper Cover" recommendations, in the "Flats" section above.)

Now, using the cheapest sources listed, you could diaper your newborn for only $44 using Cotton Babies prefolds and Green Bees one-size covers. The cost would be around $24 or so when upsizing, considering that you would need less diapers for every larger size you get. It is also nice to know that prefolds are very popular in "Diaper Swap" boards and usually sell VERY quickly, for almost as much as you paid for them!
Also, don't forget the very convenient EconoBum one-size prefold and cover kit! For less than $100, you can cloth diaper from birth to potty learning! If you start cloth diapering your older baby, you could get by with just one kit, at only $48.95!

"China Cheapies"

If you prefer convenience, but are still looking for a bargain, you may want to consider the various "made in China" brands, that are endearingly called "China Cheapies" within the cloth diapering community. (note: "China Cheapies" is NOT the name of the brand) If you are not morally or ethically opposed to products that are manufactured in China, then these brands are a good place to start.

These "China Cheapies" are usually one-size pocket diapers, with stay-dry inner fabric and microfiber inserts, and they somewhat resemble the more popular brands that you may know of, but for a fraction of the cost. Some of the more popular "China Cheapies" brands are:

ALVA Baby diapers - $4-$6/ea (they also provide discounts for buying "bundles", such as 20 diapers for $96)
Green Bees diapers - $6/ea for solid-colors (discount for buying in "bundles", such as $65/dozen, and $100 for 20)
Kawaii cloth diapers- $6.99 and up (bundles are also available for a discount)
Sun Baby diapers - $60/dozen with inserts, or can be found elsewhere for around $7-$8/ea

The brands above are the most popular China brands that I am aware of. While you may come across some even cheaper China brands out there, I cannot recommend them. (I have seen some of those other brands myself, and they are not quality, and not something that I would recommend to parents.) But the brands listed above are actually very good quality, especially for the price! They offer very cute colors and prints, and some of them even have natural options, such as bamboo inner fabric, and bamboo inserts.

Fitteds and Contour Diapers

There are also some very decent fitted diapers and contour diapers that are very inexpensive. Fitteds and contours also require a cover. You will need one diaper cover for every 4-6 cloth diapers.

Pooter's One-Size Contour Diapers - made of organic cotton, $5.40-$6.00/ea
Cloth-eez Workhorse Fitteds - very popular and VERY affordable! At only $5/ea for newborn size ($3/ea when purchased in packs of 6) and $9.95/ea for sizes S-XL ($7.95/ea when purchased in packs of 6)
GMD Infant Fitted Diapers - for smaller babies, these are a very convenient and affordable option, at $7.95-$8.95/ea
Tiny Tush Organic Cotton Contour Diapers - $8.95/ea, these are by far, some of the softest diapers I have ever felt. They come in 2 sizes, which will last from birth-potty training.
Osocozy Fitted Diaper - Made from the same great cotton that their prefolds and flats are made of, this fitted makes diapering very simple! $9.95/ea

Get to Sewin'!

Got scrap fabric? You can make your own diapers! There are tutorials galore online! Often times, you can find materials that can be used for cloth diapers for sale or on clearance at a fabric store. It's definitely worth checking into!


Another great way to get a budget-friendly start on cloth diapering, is to cruise the "Clearance" sections of various cloth diaper online shops. You can often get popular brands that are overstocked, discontinued, or being cleared from the store for whatever reason. Almost every cloth diaper store has a Clearance section, and the deals are usually amazing!


Many diaper companies and online stores offer "seconds" sales, where diapers that have very slight "abnormalities" that do not affect function (such as a crooked tag, uneven stitching, snaps closer than usual,or sometimes, you can't even tell what is wrong with it) are sold for much less than retail. Seeking out "seconds" sales is a great way to buy popular cloth diaper brands for much less.

Coupon Codes

This is one of my favorite money-saving methods! Almost every cloth diaper retailer offers a coupon code, and each coupon code is different. Many times, if you sign up for an e-mail list for a store, you are usually given a coupon code just for signing up, plus you'll be informed of clearances and seconds sales! Also, a great way to get the latest couponcodes, is to "Like" your favorite cloth diaper shops on Facebook.

I've seen coupon codes offer 5%-25% off, BOGO, free shipping, free samples, free diapers or accessories with purchase, etc. Coupon codes are especially useful when stocking up on cloth diaper accessories, such as Wetbags, liners, rash creams, cloth wipes, and other things that make cloth diapering easier. I would recommend that when you choose which retailer you would like to make your diaper purchase, do a search (try for a coupon code for that particular store. You might be able to cloth diaper the cheapest way, for even less!!

Contests and Giveaways

Contests and Giveaways are constantly occuring on the blogs and facebook pages of your favorite Cloth Diaper retailers, and you might get lucky and win some free diapers or accessories! Many times, new bloggers and new retailers try to gain popularity by attracting attention with a giveaway. These are the times that you have the highest odds to win, because the number of participants is most likely very much lower than a giveaway on a more popular site. There are some facebook pages and websites that are dedicated to keeping you informed of the most recent contests and giveaways.

Buying Secondhand

You can find just about any brand you've ever wanted to try by shopping second-hand. Usually, the diapers that you find sold secondhand are usually used (sometimes barely used), but I've been lucky several times to find brand new diapers sold for much less simply because it is no longer in the package, or no longer has the tags. Some of the most popular ways to buy second-hand cloth diapers:

Craigslist - a very good option, since it is likely local and does not require shipping. Search "cloth diapers" to see what the local folk are offering for sale.
Diaperswappers - a forum that has a very expansive "for sale" section, requires a free membership
Spot's Corner - an online marketplace where gently used children's items, especially cloth diapers, are listed. - a great source to buy, sell and trade cloth diapers.
Ebay - a great source for buying new or used cloth diapers, just search "cloth diapers" or whatever brand you may be searching for.
Consignment Shops - many children's consignment shops are now offering new and used cloth diapers for sale, usually through local consigners.
Facebook Diaper Swap Groups - There is an entire community of cloth diaper swapping on facebook, with several different groups and pages that allow people to buy, sell and trade cloth diapers. Be sure to read up on the Rules and FAQs of the particular groups that you join!

Cloth Diaper Organizations

If you truly cannot afford to invest in cloth diapers, there are some very wonderful cloth diaper organizations available for those who qualify. These are generally non-profit, volunteer-run organizations that accept donations of new, "seconds", or used cloth diapers from companies, parents, and anyone who wishes to donate. Usually, you are required to fill out an application, provide proof of income and other requirements, and once approved,  you will receive everything you need to diaper your baby, free of charge. Usually, all that they ask is that when you are done, that you return them to the organization.

(Note: I am summarizing the general idea of the various cloth diaper organizations, from what I understand them to be. Each organization is different and has different guidelines. Please check with the individual organization's requirements and rules).

My absolute favorite Non-Profit cloth diaper lending organization, is:
The Rebecca Foundation's Cloth Diaper Closet

What I love about The Rebecca Foundation, is that not only do they provide the cloth diapers to families in need at ZERO cost to the family, but they also provide hands-on cloth diaper education classes, full support, troubleshooting, mentoring, and community outreach. There is a local Chapter of TRFCDC in various cities, each run by volunteers who are happy to do what they can to make your cloth diapering experience a success! I highly recommend TRFCDC!

Using Alternative Products

Yes, cloth diapering can be pricey when you get the "top of the line" products and all accessories involved. But really, how much of those fancy things are actually necessary?? Here are some ideas for saving some money while cloth diapering:

Diapers - It's sometimes not totally necessary to go out and buy a big new stash of diapers.
*Do you have a ton of old receiving blankets laying around that you no longer use? Did you know that those are PERFECT for cloth diapering?! Receiving blankets just happen to be the perfect size to be used as a flat, and is actually a very popular method of cloth diapering for less!
*Do you happen to have a bunch of old kitchen tea towels, or flour sack towels? These are relatively cheap and are also the perfect size to be used as a flat cloth diaper!
*Did you know that you can make a cloth diaper by folding an old t-shirt?! Look up how, they can actually be pretty cute!

Covers- If you happen to have some fleece pants around the house, they can also double as a diaper cover! Fleece is commonly used to make diaper covers, soakers, and longies, and really, any pair of regular fleece pants that you can find at a store or thrift shop will make a perfect cloth diaper cover!
*If you have sewing skills, you can also hit up your local thrift store and stock up on wool or fleece sweaters, and upcycle them into cloth diaper covers, soakers, or longies! =)

Wetbags- Although convenient, fancy wetbags are not entirely necessary. Before I ever purchased a wetbag, I re-used plastic grocery store bags, and simply threw the bag away after emptying the cloth diapers into the washer. This is definitely not the most eco-friendly way to store your diapers, but if you happen to already have a stockpile of plastic grocery bags, it is definitely a great way to put them to re-use until you can afford a reusable wetbag.
I also used to have one of those large zippered bags that my bed comforter came in, and I used and re-used that as a wetbag for several months! I would just spray and rinse it out between uses.
Dollar Tree also carries "Waterproof laundry bags" for only $1 each. However, I have used a few, and they are not very sturdy, so don't try to put too much diaper laundry in it at once, or it will tear. But it is a great reusable alternative to a wetbag.

Diaper Pail - Got an extra trashcan lying around? Sanitize it really well and it will make the perfect cloth diaper pail! Most people prefer to use the trashcans that have pop-up lids, as it helps contain the diaper smell inside the can. If you don't have an extra trashcan, they are very inexpensive to buy at a dollar store or thrift store.

Cloth Wipes - Cloth wipes can help cut down your diapering costs a LOT, since they are reusable, and are washed right along with your diapers. It's not always necessary to make a special purchase of cloth wipes when there are many different things laying around your house that you could use for cloth wipes.
*Baby washcloths - many parents get TONS of these at baby showers or with baby gifts. Baby washcloths make PERFECT cloth wipes! They are the perfect size and thickness, and when folded in half, they fit nicely inside of a wipe container.
*Flannel - if you have old flannel blankets laying around, or even flannel fabric, you can cut several squares (about the size of a baby washcloth) and these make perfect cloth wipes! Since flannel does not fray, there is no need to sew or serge the edges.
*Old Towels - many households have that pile of old towels that no one really wants to use anymore. Cut them up into squares or rectangles and make them into cloth wipes!
*There is rarely a fabric that can't be used for making cloth wipes. If you've got old clothes or scrap fabric and nothing to do with them, cut them up and make cloth wipes with them!

Wipe Solutions - While most wipe solutions are very cool, smell pretty, and can be super convenient, they simply are not necessary. Good old fashioned water works perfectly well to wet your cloth wipes. If you MUST have something more, just add a squirt of baby wash, and maybe a few drops of baby oil into a jar, squirt bottle, or spray bottle and fill it with water. There you go, easy, cheap wipe solution!

Diaper Liners - Diaper liners may or may not be necessary. They certainly help protect your diapers from diaper rash creams, and can be very useful in cleaning up messy diapers, but they can also be pretty pricey! The most cost-efficient option would be to make your own reusable diaper liners from old receiving blankets or clearance flannel fabric. If you are needing a stay-dry liner, you can cut up fleece rectangles to place inside your diapers. Almost every fabric store will have "scrap fabric", usually with a good amount of flannel or fleece in the mix, and this is usually very cheap, and more than enough to make liners!

Doublers - Need extra absorbency, but dont want to dish out the extra dough? There are options for doubling the absorbency in your diapers:
*Fold up a washcloth and place it in your diaper as an addition
*Many parents receive those Gerber "cloth diapers"/burp cloths at baby showers or as gifts. Although these make awful diapers, they do make wonderful doublers, when tri-folded and added as an addition to your diaper.
*Microfiber towels are VERY cheap to buy, and can be folded up and placed inside of a diaper to make a very effective doubler. Make sure that the microfiber DOES NOT touch baby's skin. Microfiber is to be used inside of a pocket diaper, or hidden within a prefold or flat.
*If you bought the newborn sized prefolds, these make very excellent doublers for your cloth diapers. It is worth it to hang onto a few of them for that purpose.

Diaper Sprayer - One of the most awesome inventions in the cloth diaper world, yet I still have never owned one in the 4 and a half years that I've cloth diapered.
What I usually do is I shake the poop into the toilet, and I rinse off the stains/leftovers in the bathroom sink, while making the faucet "spray" with my hand. I've mastered it so that I don't spray the water anywhere outside of the sink. Please note that it's very important that you sanitize the sink after each time you do this!

Cloth Diaper Detergent - You most likely have heard of those fancy special "cloth diaper detergents" that are really pricey and must be ordered. While detergent is one of the most important factors of your cloth diapering success, it is not usually necessary to get the fancy expensive detergents. There are many brands of inexpensive cloth-diaper-safe detergents that are reasonably priced and can be found at your local grocery store. My favorite is Tide. Other popular cloth-friendly store-bought brands are: Country Save, Planet, Ecos, All Free and Clear, Arm and Hammer Essentials Free, Allen's Naturally, and others. If you're really pressed for cash, there are some very good cloth diaper detegernt recipes online that you can make yourself from inexpensive ingredients such as Baking Soda, Borax, etc.

Diaper Fasteners - While I truly think that Snappi's are SO convenient, and completely worth the $3.95...if you truly cannot swing that cost, there are always diaper pins. These can usually be found near the Gerber "cloth diapers"/burp cloths, and you can usually buy a pack of them for around $1 or so. They're also great to keep on hand and in the diaper bag just in case. You never know when your Snappi may break or get lost, or when you might need to make a makeshift diaper from a receiving blanket in a pinch. It's always a good idea to keep some diaper pins around.

Take it Slow

Even if you truly cannot afford to put down even $50-$100 for a cloth diaper stash, it is so worth it to at least try to get one or two cloth diapers at a time, and slowly build your stash when you can. Every little bit counts. Just think, if you replaced only 2 cloth diapers per day, you are saving at least 60 disposable diapers per month from being in the landfill, and saving yourself the cost of TWO jumbo packs of disposable diapers! What a difference it can make to even use cloth diapers part-time! And just think, with that $20 you saved from not buying those two jumbo packs of diapers, you can use that to buy an entire stash of Flat cloth diapers!


I hope that this post has helped someone who may be on the fence about whether or not to cloth diaper realize that it does not always have to be a costly investment. There are options to begin cloth diapering for a very low start-up cost, options to use things that may just be lying around the house, and even options for those who are low-income and cannot afford diapers. When there's a will, there's a way.

Happy Cloth Diapering!!

Boheme Mom <3


  1. I would really like to cloth again. we tried a service and it gave my baby a really bad rash. we are using eco-friendly disposables but would like to switch back. our problem? up-front cost as you mentioned but also we live in an apartment with shared quarter laundry. any tips on cutting down laundry cost and time while washing efficiently? Also, baby girl is 10 months. Thanks!

    1. It sounds to me like your best option would be flats. There was a period of time over the summer that we were traveling (and staying in a hotel) and using flats. In the beginning, I would hand-wash them (which is much easier than it sounds) and hang them to dry.
      Here's the post I wrote about it:

      But after a while, I got very tired of hand washing every single diaper, so I started to put some (then eventually all) into a wet bag and take them to the laundromat. Since they're so low maintenance, there wasn't really any "extra" work I needed to do. I would just wash them on hot using Tide or Country Save detergent. Since flats are so thin, they literally dry within two or so hours when air-drying, so you could very well take them out of the washer wet and hang them to dry around your apartment. But if you really want to dry them in the dryer, they do not take long to get completely dry. =)

      I hope that helps!

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