Are Cloth Diapers Really That Expensive? Complete Breakdown!

Have cloth diapers caught your eye lately when trying to find out how not to spend a small fortune on your new baby?

Perhaps your little one is already with you, and you’re starting to realize how quickly disposable diapers’ costs pile up (much like actual piles in the landfills).

Maybe you’re starting to realize that we live in times where nothing is sure anymore, and supply chains get disrupted easily, meaning you can’t count on disposable diapers to be available at all times anymore. Because of this, they’re also getting more and more expensive.

You’ve probably already heard how cloth diapers can save you money in the long run, but when you start researching them, you can’t help but wonder: why are they so expensive?

Eco-friendly materials’ cost and handling influence cloth diaper prices. Many manufacturers are small businesses aware of the importance of fair employee salaries. Nevertheless, on average, cloth diapers are cheaper than disposable diapers in the long run.

Read on for more details about the price of cloth diapers, how much an average cloth diaper costs, and how high the maintenance costs are. 

Additionally, I made a few tables to compare cloth diaper cost and disposable diaper costs to analyze how long it takes to start seeing financial benefits from choosing cloth. 

Last but not least, find out if it still makes financial sense for you to start cloth diapering even if your child is older and how to make your cloth diapering experience as cheap as possible.

Why do cloth diapers cost that much?

Cloth diapers have a higher initial cost compared to disposable diapers, where the cost of disposable diapers is spread evenly through the months.

The first cost to consider is the cost of materials used for cloth diapers.

Commonly used are natural fabrics and synthetic materials. 

PUL (a synthetic waterproof material) and natural fibers, such as cotton, bamboo, wool, and hemp, are more expensive than synthetic materials like microfiber and fleece. Since PUL is usually present as the waterproof layer in the cloth diaper, handling it takes special care to avoid damaging it during the manufacturing process.

The other very important reason for a higher cost is that many cloth diaper manufacturers are small family businesses that aim to use as many environmentally friendly materials as possible. 

They usually can’t afford lower prices like their counterparts in disposable diaper production, many of whom have their manufacturing facilities in cheap labor countries.   

They are also likely to be more aware of the well-being of their employees and make sure they are paid fairly. 

And let’s get one thing straight, cloth diapers are generally not more expensive than disposable diapers; they only require a higher upfront cost. 

In the long term, parents spend much more on disposable diapers. Still, since the cost is spread out evenly, many don’t even notice how much the entire cost accumulates over the years.

How much does an average (cloth) diaper cost by type?

I researched the current prices of different cloth diapers and disposable diapers online (Amazon). I also included some necessary accessories that go together with cloth diapers, such as diaper pail liners, traveling wet bags, and reusable wipes. For disposable diapers, I added disposable wipes to the data.

I searched for each type as presented in the table and noted the prices of 6 different brands. I followed the same principle for disposable diapers.

I used this data to calculate the average prices shown in the tables below.

One-size cloth diaper typeCost per item in USD ($)
Flour sack towel2.08
Flat diaper2.55
Pocket diaper6.95
PUL cover11.09
Fitted diaper15.32
All-in-one cloth diaper (AIO)25.28
Wool cover35.48
The average cost of one-size cloth diaper types (from the cheapest to the most expensive)

Prefolds, flour sack towels, and flat diapers are among the most affordable options for absorbent parts, while all-in-ones (AIOs) are more than 10-times their cost. Wool covers are more expensive than AIOs; however, fewer are needed compared to AIOs.

Newborn-sized cloth diaper typeCost per item in USD ($)
Newborn prefold2.06
Newborn PUL cover10.51
Newborn all-in-one diaper12.66
The average price of newborn-sized cloth diaper types (from the cheapest to the most expensive)

Newborn-sized cloth diapers typically don’t offer as much variety in types as one-size cloth diapers. While there are a couple of options to choose from, prefolds with a cover are very popular for this size. Newborn AIOs are a bit more expensive option but more convenient.

Cloth diaper accessoriesCost per item in USD ($)
Diaper pail liner11.64
Travel wet bags8.24
Reusable wipes0.93
The average price of standard cloth diaper accessories

Diaper pail liners, traveling wet bags (also great for daycare), and reusable wipes are the most common cloth diapering accessories.

Disposable diapers and accessoriesCost per item in USD ($)
Size 10.27
Size 20.30
Size 30.32
Size 40.36
Size 50.37
Size 60.42
The average price of disposable diapers by size and average price of wipes

I’ve collected data for sizes 1-6; however, most 2.5-year-olds will still use size four before they potty train, so we’ll only be considering sizes 1-4 when calculating the average cost.

How much does cloth diaper maintenance cost?

The cost of cloth diaper maintenance has to be considered together with the price of cloth diapers. 

According to this source, washing and drying cloth diapers in a dryer will cost you about $430 over 2.5 years ($172 per year or $14.3 per month). This includes detergent, electricity, water heating, and depreciation for the washer and dryer.

A cloth diaper service will take away the laundry duty from you, meaning you give them dirty diapers, and they provide you with clean ones. They will, however, cost you about $25 per week on average, depending on how expensive diaper services are in your area. This will amount to about $1300 per year.

When do you break even if using cloth diapers compared to disposable diapers?

I’ve collected and analyzed all relevant data for cloth diapers and disposable diapers, including average diaper costs, cloth diaper size sets, laundering, and cost of accessories (diaper pail liner, traveling wet bags, and wipes).

On average, parents will break even on month 7 with the investment in cloth diapers compared to disposable diapers. From that point onward, cloth diapers will be cheaper than disposable diapers. The break-even points vary from month 3 to month 33, depending on which diapers match the family’s needs.

Cheapest disposable diapersAverage disposable diapersEco-friendly disposable diapers
Prefolds with coversMonth 12Month 6Month 3
Average cloth diaper setMonth 15Month 7Month 4
All-in-one cloth diapersMonth 33Month 15Month 9
Break-even points for various comparisons of cloth and disposable diapers

As presented in the above table and the diagram below, break-even points vary between different diaper cost categories.

Break-even points for different cloth diaper combinations vs. disposable diapers. Cloth diapers are complete lines in the chart; disposable are dotted.

The table below shows the cost of the chosen diapering system over 2.5 years, and the price per diaper change accordingly. The total cost includes standard accessories and maintenance.

Total cost over 2.5 years in USD ($)Price per diaper change in USD ($)
Prefolds with covers858.180.14
Average cloth diaper set969.810.16
All-in-one cloth diapers1582.270.26
Cheapest disposable diapers1188.600.20
Average disposable diapers2105.500.35
Eco-friendly disposable diapers3450.000.58
The total cost of different diapering scenarios over 2.5 years and price per diaper change, assuming 6000 diaper changes in this period

Items used in the analysis for each scenario

To compare the costs effectively, I’ve created three different cloth diapering scenarios and three different disposable diaper scenarios, ranging from the cheapest to the most expensive sets.

I included the following diapers, accessories, and maintenance in each of the six scenarios.

Prefolds with covers: 36 newborn-sized (NB) prefolds, 12 NB covers, 24 one-size (OS) prefolds, 8 OS covers, 2 diaper pail liners, 4 traveling wet bags, 36 reusable wipes, laundering over 2.5 years.

Average cloth diaper set: 9 NB all-in-ones, 27 NB prefolds, and 9 NB covers, 8 OS all-in-ones, 7 OS pocket diapers, 3 OS fitted diapers, 4 OS covers, 6 OS prefolds, 2 diaper pail liners, 4 traveling wet bags, 36 reusable wipes, laundering over 2.5 years.

All-in-one cloth diapers: 36 NB all-in-ones, 24 OS all-in-ones, 2 diaper pail liners, 4 traveling wet bags, 36 reusable wipes, laundering over 2.5 years.

Cheapest disposable diapers: 6000 disposable diapers sizes 1-4 (average diaper price $0.17), 6000 disposable wipes.

Average disposable diapers: 6000 disposable diapers sizes 1-4 (average diaper price $0.31), 6000 disposable wipes.

Eco-friendly disposable diapers: 6000 disposable diapers sizes 1-4 (average diaper price $0.51), 6000 disposable wipes.

Assumptions made during the analysis

Assumption 1: You will do your own laundering.

Assumption 2: Your child will use diapers for 2.5 years (30 months).

Assumption 3: You will do 6000 diaper changes and use 6000 wipes in 2.5 years (30 months).

Assumption 4: The newborn-sized cloth diaper set will require enough items for 36 diaper changes. One-size cloth diaper set will require enough items for 24 diaper changes.

Assumption 5: Newborn-sized cloth diapers will be used for the first 3 months, then resold for 70% of the original value.

Assumption 6: Necessary cloth diaper accessories: 2 large diaper pail liners, 4 traveling wet bags, and 36 reusable wipes.

Assumption 7: An average price of sizes 1-4 of disposable diapers is used in the analysis to present a set monthly cost. Since a child will spend the most time in sizes 3 and 4, the overall cost of disposable diapers might be higher than presented in the analysis.

Is it worth it to start cloth diapering after the baby is already a couple of months old?

If you started wondering about cloth diapers later when your baby is already bigger, you’re probably not sure if it still makes sense to invest a lot of money into an entire cloth diaper set.

That’s where I can help you determine if it still makes financial sense to go down the cloth diaper journey.

First, check how the average price of disposable diapers, you’re using right now compares to the prices in the chapter Items used in the analysis for each scenario. Then check the break-even points for any of the three cloth diaper scenarios in the table Break-even points for various comparisons of cloth and disposable diapers above.

Let’s say your baby is eight months old, and the average cost of disposable diapers you’re using is around $0.29. This will put them in the Average disposable diapers category. To break even with cloth diapers, you will need to use them for about six months for the cheapest option and about 15 months if you want to use all-in-one cloth diapers, which are the most convenient and expensive option. These numbers are still estimates; you can find even cheaper options if you research a little bit.

Our hypothetical baby will be 23 months old at the most when the cloth diaper investment starts to pay off. And that is by using completely new, the most expensive cloth diaper type. The calculations don’t consider that you can resell cloth diapers (resell value can be anywhere from 15 to 50%, obviously depending on the diaper state) and that more than one child can wear them. Imagine how much quicker the investment pays off!

On average, cloth diapering (including newborn-sized cloth diapers) will save about $1135 per child over 2.5 years compared to average-priced disposable diapers. The savings include cloth diaper accessories and laundering costs.

How to make cloth diapering less expensive

Even if the financial benefits convince you of cloth diapers, you might still wonder how to afford such a significant upfront cost.

If your baby hasn’t arrived yet, consider buying a few each month for a couple of months so the significant expense doesn’t overwhelm your wallet too much.

Some parents wish for cloth diapers to be brought as presents at baby showers.

You can also buy used cloth diapers (check your local Facebook group, there are usually a lot of them for sale by previous owners) that will be significantly cheaper than new ones. If you’re trying to spend as minimal as possible, consider prefolds and flat diapers with covers. Read this post to learn all about the flat diapers and start using them!

If you’re at least a little crafty and know your way around the sewing machine, you can easily make your own inserts for pocket diapers made of old towels or bed linens.

Last but not least, sell the diapers when you no longer need them!


When I first became a mom, it shocked me how much more waste we produced by adding a tiny little member to our family. Since then, it's become very important to me to be more sustainable as a family. I'm excited to share with you what I'm learning along the way!

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