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Expensive to Wash Cloth Diapers?

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Dear Catherine;
I thought I would use cloth diapers, but my husband keeps going on about how expensive will it be to wash them!

There has been a great deal of talk about how expensive washing cloth diapers can be. But is it real? Or just hype to scare you back to using disposable diapers? Pull out your grocery bill, and utility bills, and let's talk dollars and sense!

Here are some sample calculations. Your washing methods, detergent supplies, household utilities and how often you change your baby may vary. Use your own costs for a more personalized total. The calculation below is based on 6,500 diaper changes over a period of 2.5 years. This is an average of 7-8 diaper changes/day (10-11 changes for newborns, 5-6 changes for 2-year olds.)

A optimal diaper washload is 24 diapers, so with 24 diaper changes per washload, you will be washing 271 loads over a period of 2.5 years.
Detergent (@ 27 cents/load x 271 loads) = $73.17;
(Optional) Diaper pail additive (200ml of vinegar @ 15 cents/load) = $40.65;

Water and sewer - 1 normal wash cycle, 45 gal;
(Optional - 4 toilet flushes, 16 gal; rinsing and filling pail, 7 gal).
Total of 68 gal. @ $0.0067 = 46 cents/load = $124.66;
Natural gas to heat the washer water (20 cu.ft. of natural gas @ $.0015 = 3 cents/load) = $8.13;
Electrical power to run your dryer (5.76 kw/hr. for 1 hr., 5.76kwh @ 7 cents = 40 cents/load) = $108.40;
Electrical power to run your washer (0.76 kwh@ 7 cents = 5 cents/load) = $13.55;
Depreciation on your washer and dryer (16 cents for washer + 9 cents for dryer = 25 cents/load [a]) = $67.75

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YOUR TOTAL COST TO WASH 6,500 diapers over 2.5 years = $436 ($1.60/load). [b]
(To calculate your labor costs for home laundering, allow at least 40 hours over 2.5 years. [c])

Washing diapers at home, every three days? It will cost you $3.20 a week or $16.00 per month.
Washing diapers at the laundromat, two loads a week? It will cost you $5.55 a week, or $22.20 per month.

So, is it expensive to wash cloth diapers? You will have to judge for yourself. If money is the only concern, ultilies are high, and disposables are cheap, perhaps washing diapers is expensive for you. But if your baby's health, and the state of our environment are also important to you, it might be worth a second look at the costs involved.



[a] A $600 washer is estimated to last a family of 4 for 12 years. Based on 6 loads/wk x 624 wks., a washer will wash 3,744 loads before having to be replaced. $600 / 3,744 loads = 16 cents/load. Dryer is estimated to last 15 years and dry 4,680 loads. $400 / 4,680 loads = 8.5 cents/load.

[b] Laundromat: detergent $73.17, vinegar $40.65, flushing $29.05 = $142.87 + washing ($1.25 x 271 loads = $338.75) + drying ($1.00 x 271) = $752.62.

[c] 8-10 minutes per load x 271 loads = 40 hours. Time test assumed: 10 washer and dryer in the basement; 20 no-fold diapers left in basket until used (i.e. no folding or stacking); and excluding the time when washer or dryer runs unattended.

Numbers for this article have been taken from the booklet "Alternatives in Diapering" by the Peace River Childbirth Education Association.

Hope that helps! Write again to if you have a diapering question you would like answered.

P.S. Here are some other articles that might interest you:

• Frugal Diaper Washing

• Do Cloth Diapers Seem Expensive?


This article compliments of Born to Love.

The Diaper Facts column:
How Do I Get Started With Cloth Diapering?
Cloth Diapering With A Diaper Service
How Do I Wash Cloth Diapers?
Expensive to Wash Cloth Diapers?
The STINK on Stinky Diapers
Why are my cloth diapers and covers stinky?
Here's my Stinky Diaper Solution!
Why are my cloth diapers and/or diaper covers leaking?!?
How Do I Make My Diaper Covers Last?

Other articles that might be of interest:
How to Choose the Perfect Cloth Diapering System
Feeling Confused About Your Cloth Diapering Decision?
Diapering Expert Shares Secrets!
Do Cloth Diapers Seem Too Expensive?
Frugal Diaper Washing
Frugal Diapering
Frugal Baby Tips: Make Your Own Baby Bum Sweaters!
Your Choice Does Make a Difference!
What's Wrong With 'Disposable' Single-Use Diapers?
Environmental Concerns - What Do They Mean For You and Your Baby?
Environmental Concerns II - Looking at Both Sides of the Issue


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Last updated - July 20, 2009