How much money do cloth diapers actually save?

New parents have a tough choice between the ease and convenience of disposable diapers or the environmentally friendly but time-consuming task of reusables. It's quite the conundrum since babies will go through over 3,000 diapers in their first year and about 1,800 the year after—that's almost 5,000 diapers by their second birthday!

But how much money can you actually save by using cloth diapers over disposable ones? And is it worth the time and effort?

What it is: Cloth diapers have come a long way from those puffy bottoms held together by a giant safety pin—they are now sleek and stylish, adjustable (so they grow with your baby) and have removable inserts to absorb most of the mess and make cleaning them more manageable. 

  • Besides reducing waste, some cloth diaper enthusiasts say they are better for a baby's skin biome, reduce rashes, contain fewer chemicals and can be more comfortable to wear. 

What you'll spend: Cloth diapers will be cheaper, ranging from $1,000 to $1,300 for the first two years of your child's life if you DYI the maintenance. Cloth diaper services will do the dirty work for you and cost around $22 per week or $2,300 for two years. 

  • If you plan on taking on all the cloth diaper cleaning yourself, factor in the time you’ll spend, the cost of running the washing machine more often, and the price of a premium detergent

What you'll save: A month's worth of disposable diapers costs around $80, cheaper than the reusable service but more costly than cloth. 

  • The price difference between cloth and disposable diapers isn't that significant unless you plan on having more than one child—that's where the savings advantage comes in for cloth diapers. 

So, is it worth it? Choosing between cloth and disposable diapers is profoundly personal and more than a time/money calculation or even an environmental decision

  • There's also no rule that you can't use both depending on the situation—use disposables when out and about (so you don't have to carry a soiled diaper with you) and cloth at home, so you can treat stains as soon as they happen.