One thing I hear a lot, that I covered in my Myths and Misconceptions series is that getting started cloth diapering is expensive and it's just easier to buy disposable diapers. In reality it is very cheap to start up and once you get started you can invest your savings into getting the stash you want or trying new things. You can also sell things off that you don't like or trade them for things you want because cloth keeps it's resale value rather well especially if you care for them. In this post I'll compare a few different options for cheap cloth diapering to get you started. Do your research, compare different prices at different stores, look on craigslist and other resale or yardsale sites, and see what you can come up with! I would LOVE to hear about the deals you have scored or how you got started on the cheap!
For the sake of this comparison we will be assuming you want to wash every two days and will need 24 changes to do so. You may need more or less depending on your baby and wash routine.
Flats and Covers
The first option that comes to mind, because it's the cheapest I know of, is flats, which I talk about in depth here. I love flats because they are versatile and can be used from the newborn size until potty training. It does take some getting used to learning different folds and folding them each time you use them, but once you get the hang of it it is actually really easy. I like that you can customize the kind of fit you get based on what fold and fasteners you use! The great part about flats is you don't HAVE to use flat diapers, you can use flour sack towels (about $1-$2 each at walmart or target by the kitchen hand towels) or old flannel receiving blankets as flats, just make sure to strip used receiving blankets before using them with RLR or GroVia Mighty Bubbles to get rid of detergent and other things that may make them repel. You can often get receiving blankets for very cheap at thrift stores, garage sales, or given to you by friends! These can also be cut up and sewed around the edge to make reusable wipes!
What You'll Need:
24 Flats - $38.00
1 fastener (I recommend Snappis but you can use pins or bingos too!) - $3.95
3 covers - $26.85
TOTAL: $68.80 plus shipping
You can find OsoCozy Birdseye Flats at Mama's Emporium for $9.50 for a pack of 6. This is about $1.58 a diaper. For 24 flats that would be $38.
You can also buy a snappi from Mama's Emporium for $4.95. Cottonbabies also has them for $3.95
Lastly, you'll need 3-5 covers. The cheapest option that isn't a China Cheapie is Econobum brand from CottonBabies. They are $8.95 a piece brand new. They are simple white one sized covers that have cute colorful lining. They come in white, blue, pink, and green. For 5 you will pay $44.75 or you can get away with just having 2 at first (I know because I've done that!) which comes to $17.90. For the sake of things we'll say you need 3. That is $26.85.
So for 3 covers, 24 flats, and one snappi that comes to a total of $68.80 plus shipping. That is about 3 packs of disposable diapers or two big boxes of them! You may be able to find everything cheaper especially if you are willing to buy used. Remember you can bleach them when you buy them so you can get rid of all the germs. Just fill your washer with hot water, add 1/4 a cup of bleach, let the agitator run a minute or so then toss in the diapers! Afterwards do a wash with detergent and hot water and as many hot washes with no detergent as needed until they do not smell like bleach or anything really. Viola, clean, sanitized diapers.
You can also save some money by getting china cheapie diaper covers. I know a lot of people are opposed to buying from foreign brands and I have no experience with the brands I'm about to link you to so although I've heard good things, I cannot personally say one way or the other on them, that's why I recommend Econobum, I've used them and love them. One brand that has been recommended to me is Assunta covers. Their one sized covers are $4.99 each so it would be $24.90 for 3 covers.
Prefolds and Covers
I've talked about prefolds in depth before Here. Prefolds are about as cheap, depending on the sales you get, or even cheaper than flats. A lot of people like them better because they are already someone prefolded. You do still have to fold them, and there are plenty of ways to customize the folds for your little one, but not as much as with flats. They do take some getting used to but once you get the hang of it, just like flats, it's easier. At first I thought prefolds would be so hard but I got used to it in a day or two and now I find them easier and better at containing the mess than anything else. Plus they are tough and relatively low maintenance compared to my other diapers. Flats and prefolds can take a lot of wear and tear and are easy to bleach/sanitize. I do like that flats go from newborn to potty training and prefolds do but you may need to buy different sizes at some point or move to padfolding instead of other folds.
What You'll Need:
24 Prefolds - $36
1 fastener (I suggest having a few on hand, but you can totally get by with one, I have!) - $3.95
3 covers - $26.85
TOTAL: $66.80 with free shipping
For Prefolds I recommend OsoCozy brand better fit prefolds in red edge, which can be found at Mama's Emporium. They are great quality and fit better and longer than any other prefolds I've tried but they are a little pricier. Since we are trying to find the cheapest options here I'm going to go with what I started my stash with, an order from Cottonbabies.com.
24 Indian prefolds in infant size. I like the Indian vs the Chinese because they are softer. They are also unbleached meaning less unneeded chemicals and let's face it, who cares about white diapers? They'll just look dingier and stain easier. Plus the bleach weakens the diapers just a little so Indian prefolds tend to last a little longer. These are also great for stuffing pocket diapers if you end up buying them which will make those cheaper if you buy them without inserts!
Why You Don't Need More Covers With Prefolds and Flats
You may be thinking how do you get by with 2 or 3 covers for 24 changes? The reason is they are wipeable and unless you get poop on it, which you usually don't once you get good with your folds and fastening with both prefolds and flats, you can just wipe them down or rinse them off and dry them. You can wash the first 2 at night by hand and hang dry while little one is wearing one at night. If they get pee on them, just wipe them off with wipes or rinse and wipe dry. Super easy!
China Cheapie Pocket Diapers Without Inserts
Pocket diapers will be more expensive than flats or prefolds, but they do have their advantages. You can read my post all about pockets Here. You can get them much cheaper in co-ops but those can take a while and it's hard to figure out prices ahead of time so it would be hard for me to compare, plus shipping, co-op fee, etc all vary by co-op. This post comparing China Cheapies may help you decide which brand to try. For comparison sake we will say you decide on Sunbaby diapers.
24 Pocket Diapers from Sunbaby - $96.00
24 Indian Prefolds - $36.00
The pockets are sold without inserts and the more you buy at one time the more of a discount you get, so we'll assume you get the package of 24 without inserts. You can stuff them with trifolded Indian inserts, and that is what I mostly do. I started my stash with prefolds and covers and then added some pockets.
China Cheapie Pocket Diapers With Inserts
Remember, just as with everything else, you can find China Cheapies used for less, you may also be able to find sales or join a co-op to do a group buy and get them at wholesale prices.
24 Pocket Diapers with 24 microfiber inserts - $114.00
Why I still recommend getting prefolds to stuff with instead of inserts rather than the cheap pockets with 1 microfiber insert: There are a few reasons. First, the inserts are not very absorbent. If money weren't an issue I would stuff with 2 bamboo inserts as that's the trimmest, most absorbent solution when using the inserts. Also, microfiber can stink. After a bit of use the inserts can start to hold onto icky stuff and start to smell. It's nothing you can't get rid of I'm told, and I still use microfiber and have for a year and haven't had an issue, but I know it can be an issue for some people and they end up practically giving away (or actually giving them away or throwing them away even) their microfiber inserts. I would hate for you to have wasted money on them. The Indian prefolds aren't very trim but they aren't terribly bulky and undoable, but they are also more absorbent. I much prefer those to the inserts I use. You just trifold them and stuff them in, super easy.
The cheapest way to do it would be prefolds, flats coming in a close second. There are lots of pros and cons to each way, but no matter what you choose, you're saving money over disposable diapers and can recoup your costs very fast, then start investing in other types/brands that you would like to try and building your stash.
Where You Can Buy Everything!
Everything mentioned in this post, except the covers and cottonbabies Indian prefolds can be found at Mama's Emporium. Econobum brand covers and the Infant sized Indian Prefolds, as well as snappis, can be found at CottonBabies.com. Assunta brand covers can be found at Assuntastore.com. Sunbaby Diapers can be found at sunbabydiapers.com. If you want China Cheapies but would like them quicker because you are buying them from the USA, you can buy them at Superstash.net from $4.99 a piece up.