Fluffy Friday: Curious About Cloth Diapers?

In case you weren't aware, Allen's Naturally is a recommended detergent for MANY cloth diaper brands! Cloth diapering your child is a great way to save money, reduce your carbon footprint and give your child a super cute "fluffy" bum. Diving into the world of cloth diapering can be intimidating however, so we're implementing a "Fluffy Friday" blog series to chat all about questions related to cloth diapering. We figured a good starting point was answering some basic cloth diaper questions. 

Q) Why should I use cloth diapers?

A) The question is why *shouldn't* you use cloth diapers?! :) Just kidding! But seriously, everyone's motives for using cloth diapers is different, but the top three are usually summed up with the three C's: Cost, chemicals, and climate! From a cost perspective, cloth diapers are considered an investment. Cloth diapers can range anywhere from $5-$40 each so it's not really fair to compare them directly to disposable diapers that average somewhere between $.20 and .$40 each. So, let's do a little math. Most children potty-train between the ages of two and three. So for the sake of this post, let's say 2.5 is the magic age your child will no longer be in diapers. If you've ever had a newborn, you'll know this next number I throw out is LOW, but let's just ballpark the average number of daily diaper changes from birth-2.5 is 8. And we've already determined the average cost of a disposable diaper is .30. Here comes the math. You will change diapers 8times a day for about 913 days. That's a whopping 7,304 diapers...at $.30 each. That's 2,191.20 in just diapers. For one child. 

With cloth diapers, it's generally recommended to do laundry every 2-3 days. So, assuming the same 8 diaper changes per day, You'd need about 16-24 diapers. Let's say 24 for argument's sake, and the average cloth diaper is $20. (This is assuming you'll be using One-Size diapers which fit around 8lbs-35 so birth to potty training). That's a cloth diaper "stash" for $480. Now, because you're on the Allen's site, you obviously will be taking great care of your diapers and laundering them properly, your diapers *should* last for more than one child. You see where I'm going here? $2,191 in disposable diapers for one child or $480 for one (most likely more!) child. Numbers don't lie! :)

Q) My baby has eczema, dry, sensitive (etc) skin and is always breaking out in rashes with disposables. Is cloth really better?

A) Since I am not a chemist or even a scientist, I'll leave this to the professionals.This information is taken from the Real Diaper Association's (RDA) website regarding the health impacts of disposable diapers.:

  • Disposable diapers contain traces of Dioxin, an extremely toxic by-product of the paper-bleaching process.  It is a carcinogenic chemical, listed by the EPA as the most toxic of all cancer-linked chemicals.  It is banned in most countries, but not the U.S..1 
  • Disposable diapers contain Tributyl-tin (TBT) - a toxic pollutant known to cause hormonal problems in humans and animals.2 
  • Disposable diapers contain sodium polyacrylate, a type of super absorbent polymer (SAP), which becomes a gel-like substance when wet. A similar substance had been used in super-absorbency tampons until the early 1980s when it was revealed that the material increased the risk of toxic shock syndrome by increasing absorbency and improving the environment for the growth of toxin-producing bacteria.3 
  • May 2000, the Archives of Disease in Childhood published research showing that scrotal temperature is increased in boys wearing disposable diapers, and that prolonged use of disposable diapers will blunt or completely abolish the physiological testicular cooling mechanism important for normal spermatogenesis 

Many families also switch to cloth wipes after using cloth diapers. After all, you're already washing the diapers, what's one more washcloth! :) If you've ever battled diaper rash, you're pediatrician's initial recommendation was most likely to do away with disposable wipes. We won't digress into the chemicals in the wipes. But, once again, if you're on our site it's because you're looking for Eco-friendly, chemical free alternatives for cleaning products so why wouldn't you want the same thing for your precious baby's bum?

Q) With all this washing of diapers, is it really better for the environment to use cloth diapers?

A) Yes! In more ways than you can imagine! Again, these facts are coming from the RDA, but it's primarily because I couldn't say it better myself! 

  • The instructions on a disposable diaper package advice that all fecal matter should be deposited in the toilet before discarding, yet less than one half of one percent of all waste from single-use diapers goes into the sewage system.
  • Over 92% of all single-use diapers end up in a landfill.
  • In 1988, nearly $300 million dollars were spent annually just to discard disposable diapers, whereas cotton diapers are reused 50 to 200 times before being turned into rags.
  • No one knows how long it takes for a disposable diaper to decompose, but it is estimated to be about 250-500 years, long after your children, grandchildren and great, great, great grandchildren will be gone.
  • Disposable diapers are the third largest single consumer item in landfills, and represent about 4% of solid waste.  In a house with a child in diapers, disposables make up 50% of household waste.5
  • Disposable diapers generate sixty times more solid waste and use twenty times more raw materials, like crude oil and wood pulp.3
  • The manufacture and use of disposable diapers amounts to 2.3 times more water wasted than cloth.3
  • Over 300 pounds of wood, 50 pounds of petroleum feedstocks and 20 pounds of chlorine are used to produce disposable diapers for one baby EACH YEAR.6
  • In 1991, an attempt towards recycling disposable diapers was made in the city of Seattle, involving 800 families, 30 day care centers, a hospital and a Seattle-based recycler for a period of one year. The conclusion made by Procter & Gamble was that recycling disposable diapers was not an economically feasible task on any scale.

So, let's hear it! What questions do you have about cloth diapers? What topics would you like to see covered in our "Fluffy Friday" series?

Looking for additional information: This video discusses some common cloth diaper myths.