Cloth diaper on a dime: How to build a stash you love for less
It’s been a while since I’ve talked cloth diapers on here - rest assured they are still a BIG part of our life! I’ve talked about why we love cloth before, and everything I said there is still true - we’ve saved hundreds of dollars by choosing cloth, kept over 1000 disposable diapers out of the landfill, and have a cute little fluff bum to look at every day. A big part of our original decision to cloth diaper was financial - I actually built most of my original cloth diaper stash using Amazon gift cards that I received from participating in a study on pregnant women because we didn’t have the spare cash to spend on cloth diapers up-front.
Today I wanted to talk a little bit more about saving money on cloth diapers. So much of the content I’ve seen about diapering for cheap encourages you to choose low-quality pocket diapers made in China with questionable labor practices, then to stuff those diapers with cheap microfiber inserts that hold on to smells, damage the environment, and are prone to compression leaks. But that’s really not the only option! I’m going to break down ways to build a cloth diaper stash filled with natural fibers and high-quality diapers that will actually last.
Covers are easier than you think. When doing my original research on cloth diapering, I was very intimidated by covers because everything I read that talked about covers showed 18,000 ways to fold a flat/prefold and didn’t really mention that pad folding is just fine. It’s great, even! Just make that hunk of fabric look like a skinny rectangle, slap it in your cover, and stick it on your kid. If your kid poops and it gets on the cover - also just fine. Cloth diapers are supposed to be pooped on.
The real benefit to covers comes from how economical they are compared to pocket diapers. Because they get re-used for multiple (pee) diaper changes, you can get away with a much smaller stash (8-10) than you need with pocket diapers (24-30). This also means that you’re able to spend a little bit more on each diaper while staying within budget - ultimately resulting in a stash that’s higher quality, lasts longer, and is ethically produced.
Flour sack towels are your affordable cotton BFF. Here I am again with the intimidation factor, telling you to use something that isn’t even marketed as a cloth diaper, as a cloth diaper. But really, when you think about it - flats are just big squares of cotton. Flour sack towels (FST) are just big squares of cotton too, except they cost less than $1 each instead of $2 or more each for “proper” flats. I personally use flour sack towels (shown in the thumbnail above) for about 2/3 of our diaper changes, and love them beyond the affordability - they wash up nicely, dry quickly, and only get softer with time. Just pad-fold when they come out of the wash, and each diaper change is super quick and easy.
Don’t be 100% loyal to anything. In particular, don’t be 100% loyal to any one brand. Especially when you build your initial stash, maintain a little diversity - you never know when you’re going to fall in love with a brand, and buying only one brand from the very beginning only limits your options. You may find that you like one kind of diaper when you’re at home, and another when you’re out running errands. Or one for daytime and another for naps and a third for night. Either way, having options from the very beginning lets you work out what works for you. The same thing goes for absorbency - while I recommend starting out with a stash of (uber affordable, easy to use) flour sack towels, with time you can add other options in to the mix slowly and affordably - including prefolds, specialty inserts, and fitted diapers.
Don’t be afraid of buying used. On the topic of affordability - the most affordable way to cloth diaper is to buy used. There are lots of ways to score used diapers- Facebook is crawling with buy/sell/trade groups, Mercari, ebay, and craigslist can have used diapers for CHEAP. It’s a great way to try out new brands or new kinds of absorbency- I scored my newborn prefold stash for $1 each thanks to a local cloth diapering group on Facebook - a more than 50% savings from new! It can take a bit to get used to some of the acronyms and lingo used in the buy/sell/trade world, but if you’re patient, it can pay off big time.
Also - this is where you’ll start to see the world of extremely high-priced diapers. Limited edition prints can become in-demand in these circles, and sell for 2x retail. Just ignore these. If you want to save big on cloth this way, you shouldn’t be picky about colors or prints. But you should be a smart consumer - if the poster isn’t clear about the condition of the diaper, or you want to see more pictures, just ask for clarification.
Know where to shop. If you decide to buy new, it’s a really good idea to find a retailer you like that isn’t Amazon. Amazon is typically flooded with precisely the cheap pocket diapers we’re trying to avoid here, and the higher-quality diapers aren’t priced any better than you’ll find elsewhere. There are a number of awesome retailers online that have great rewards programs and free shipping - including Diaper Junction, Water Lilies, and Fluff & Familia. Choosing a retailer that has free shipping and great rewards helps you get more for your money, and keeps your money in the small businesses that benefit from your dollar the most - a win-win!
Be aware of sales. In addition to the typical sale cycles you’ll see with normal retail goods (ie, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and most national holidays) cloth diaper companies will also do great sales for earth day. Many specific companies also have brand reps on Instagram who have coupon codes they can share with you (typically 10-15%) if you want to try a brand out. Shopping these sales can take a diaper that is just out of budget, and nudge it back into the reasonable range.
These are all pretty basic tips to save some money - next week, I’ll get into the details on how to build an initial cloth diaper stash (including accessories like pail liners) for only $200 (or 6 months of disposables)!