What is the Cost of Washing Cloth Diapers

Making Cents of Washing Cloth Diapers: Understanding Laundry Cost Per Load

Whether you are a parent who cloth diapers full time, part time, or are simply looking to make the transition from disposable diapers, you may be thinking about how your laundry routine will change, and the real cost of cloth diaper laundry. 

To understand how the amount of cloth diaper laundry may impact your bills, there are a few things to consider such as: How frequently you are needing to do cloth diaper laundry, the amount of cloth diapers you will need, and how many you have in your stash impacting your laundry frequency.


How Often Should I be Washing My Cloth Diapers? 

We understand that every family's circumstance is different, and some families may not have access to launder their cloth diapers as frequently as other families, but it is recommended that you wash your cloth diapers every 2-3 days, and not to wait longer than 3 days between washing. The longer you wait, the more challenges you may encounter, including an increased chance of mildew growth, diapers that deteriorate over time, and additional stubborn stains that may be tough to remove. 

You will be happy to know that cleaning cloth diapers can be simple and straightforward. For more information on how prep cloth diapers and the best way to wash cloth diapers simply and effectively, check out our Washing 101 blog. 

How Many Diapers Will I Need?

Let’s say you are washing your cloth diapers every two days, and your child needs to be changed every two hours or so. 

For newborns, we would recommend a stash of 24-36 cloth diapers. Our new Newborn AIO diapers come with 14 diapers in a pack, built in inserts, and are designed to grow with your newborn from birth to 12 lbs. If you get 2 packs of Newborn AIO diapers you are going to have 28 diapers, which is a good number of diapers to have at this stage. 

As your baby gets older, you can consider transitioning to standard sized cloth diapers. Our original sized cloth diapers are designed to grow with your baby from 10-35 lbs. Each diaper will come with its own Bamboo insert, however it is always good to have some extras on hand for the times you may need some extra absorbency – whether it be overnight or on a long car ride, etc.

For toddlers, we would recommend a stash of 14 to 24 cloth diapers, again with an extra pack or two of bamboo inserts. Our new toddler sized pocket diapers are designed to grow with your toddler from 35-55lbs. Each pack of these diapers come with seven pocket diapers, and two of these packs are going to give you 14 diapers total. Inserts for these diapers are sold separately, which allows you more flexibility to stock up on extra inserts for when you need that extra absorbency most. Looking for more info? Read our blog on The Most Common Questions About Cloth Diapers Answered here.


Stash Size 

Having a larger stash of diapers means you may be able to go to day 3 before needing to wash, but If you have a smaller stash, you may be needing to run a load every night, or every other night, which is where you will see your bills fluctuate. 

Because of our newly introduced cloth diaper sizes, you can easily transition to the next size, while building your stash at the same time. Because you will likely need more diapers in the newborn stage, opposed to the toddler stage, you can focus on building your stash between a Newborn Size (birth -12 lbs), and Standard Sized Cloth Diaper (10-35 lbs) and buy a  lesser amount of Toddler Sized Pocket Diapers (35- 55 lbs) as that is when you will be transitioning into potty training. 

We get it! Cloth Diapering is a bit of a learning curve, and that’s why we are here to answer all your questions! Checkout our  How Many Cloth Diapers Do I Need? blog for more information, and to see what your upfront costs may look like.

The cost breakdown

The best way to understand the cost may simply be to look at your bills and do a comparison between before cloth diaper laundry and after, to see where your cost has increased. Now, depending on family size, everyday household laundry, amount of babies in diapers, time of year etc, the costs of water, and electricity may also fluctuate so it’s important to note that these numbers are approximations, and that every household will be different. 

The cost per wash for cloth diaper laundry can vary based on several factors, including the type of washing machine, detergent used, water and electricity costs, and even the specific cloth diaper materials. On average, however, the cost per wash for cloth diapers tends to range from $0.25 to $0.50 a load. 

Taking a closer look ( (Thinking about cloth diapering - Do Cloth Diapers Save Money? The Economics of Cloth vs. Disposable Diapers) 

Front-Load Washing Machines (approximate costs) 

  • Washing - $0.19 per cycle
  • Drying - $0.41 per cycle

Total Spend per Load - $0.60 per cycle

  • Loads per Week - 3
  • Spend per Week - $1.80

Total Cost (2.5 years) - $234.00

Top-Load Washing Machines (approximate costs) 

  • Washing - $0.37 per cycle
  • Drying - $0.44 per cycle

Total Spend per Load - $0.81 per cycle

  • Loads per Week - 3
  • Spend per Week - $2.43

Total Cost (2.5 years) - $316.00


Factors that can influence the cost per wash: 


Water and Electricity Costs: The main contributors to the cost per wash are water and electricity. High-efficiency (HE) machines tend to use less water and energy, thus reducing these expenses. Also depending on where you live, running things like your washing, or drying machine after a certain time can also help reduce these expenses. 


 Detergent Type, and Usage: The type and amount of detergent used per wash can impact costs. Some detergents are formulated for cloth diapers and might require smaller quantities for effective cleaning.

In choosing the best detergent for cloth diapers, look for detergent with high concentrations of surfactants. Enzymes also help break down stains and boost cleaning power – just be cautious with synthetic enzymes if your baby has sensitive skin. Avoid excess fragrances, dyes, bleaches and other harsh chemicals. Make sure your detergent does not contain fabric softener as this will cause repelling issues and build up on your diapers over time.  

Tide for cloth diapers comes to the top of many lists. Tide carries a number of detergents in powder, liquid and HE formulations that are highly recommended for their cleaning and stain fighting power. 

To OxiClean cloth diapers is suggested as a great bleach free option that, when combined with regular detergent, tackles tough stains and odor. 

Gain Ultra Powder Laundry Detergent and Gain Liquid Original Laundry Detergent are recommended as low-sudsing formulas that provide a great clean. Gain has been recommended as one of the best detergents for cloth diapers in soft water and is a budget friendly choice For our full list of recommendations, read our our Best Detergents For Cloth Diapers blog! 

Diaper Material: Different cloth diaper, and cloth diaper insert materials (such as microfiber, cotton, hemp, or bamboo) may also have specific washing requirements. For instance, some materials might need more washes to prep them, rinses or a different wash routine, impacting the overall cost of your laundry overtime. Check out our blog on Types of Inserts for Cloth Diapers to see the different cloth diaper insert, and pre-fold options to find the best one for you! 

Additional Costs: Consider any additional costs like water softeners, stain treatments, or special additives that might be used in the washing process. 

Hard Water, and Water Softeners

Water hardness refers to the mineral content in your water. Hard water is high in dissolved minerals – primarily calcium and magnesium. With higher concentrations of calcium and magnesium comes water with a higher degree of hardness. This high mineral content results in high PH (or alkalinity). In hard water, detergents may focus on attacking the minerals in hard water rather than attacking dirt and stains on your diapers. This can result in poor cleaning performance. If left unchecked, minerals may also become left behind and trapped in fabrics, causing repelling, ammonia build-up and leaks. 

When washing cloth diapers in hard water, consider adding a water softener to your machine and selecting the best detergent for cloth diapers in hard water.  One of the easiest ways to soften your water is to add a water softening agent directly into your washing machine. 

Water softeners are either non-precipitating or precipitating. Non-precipitating water softeners bind to hard water minerals forming a solution that easily washes away. Calgon Water Softener is a popular brand for cloth diapering. Cadies RLR Laundry Treatment is another popular, eco-friendly choice which can also be used for occasional spot treatments and for stripping your cloth diapers. 

These brands are generally available online through Amazon and other retailers like Walmart. Think you have hard water? Read our entire blog here  for more information, and how additives like a water softener may impact your laundry costs overall. 

Stripping, and Restoring Your Diapers

If you are dealing with repelling, odors, or leaks, your diapers may need to be stripped, and restored.. If you have built-up residue and stains, consider a deep cleaning to restore your diapers. For bacteria related stink, you may want to reset your cloth diapers with a deep clean using a bleach soak. For ammonia build-up, consider stripping your cloth diapers. 

Deep cleaning and/or stripping and restoring your diapers may require more laundry loads, and more water needed overall, which may also have an impact on your overall laundry costs. Getting to the root of the problem to figure out your best cleaning approach, and fixing your wash routine if needed to avoid these issues coming back is best to keep your laundry costs level. Want more information, read our full blog here to see if you need to deep clean, or strip and restore your diapers 

Stain Removal

Stains are part of cloth diapering. Over time, stains can begin to lift and wash away. However, if you’re looking to get rid of your cloth diaper stains, there are a few things you can do. Check out our full blog for our top methods for stain removal! 

It is important to know that there is nothing wrong with your wash routine when your diapers come out with a stain or two so long as your diapers smell clean. If your cloth diapers still smell soiled, it is best to throw them in for another wash. However, if they smell clean, it is likely that your cloth diapers are stained. Dealing with stains, or diapers that have not been thoroughly washed, may require you to wash your diapers again, which may also have an affect on your overall laundry costs. 

To calculate your specific cost per wash:

  • Water Usage: Find out the water consumption of your machine per cycle and multiply it by your water cost per gallon/liter.
  • Electricity Usage: Determine the energy consumption of your washer per cycle and multiply it by your electricity cost per kWh.
  • Detergent Cost: Calculate the cost of detergent used per wash based on the amount recommended or used.

Add these costs together and divide by the number of cloth diapers washed per load to get the cost per wash.

Important things to keep in mind! - your washing machine

As per our Best Detergents For Cloth Diapers Blog, It’s not just your detergent that cleans and freshens your cloth diapers. Understanding how your laundry machine works is critical to selecting the right laundry detergent for cloth diapers in your home. 

Generally, top loading machines have an agitator. The agitator is the post sticking up from the middle of the tub or the short impellers found at the bottom of some HE (high efficiency) top loaders. 

Traditional top loaders use mechanical action and a lot of water during the cleaning process. This combination of agitation and water gets good cleaning results but can be tough on fabrics over the long term.  





Remember, maintaining the washing machine in good condition, following manufacturer's guidelines, and using appropriate detergents can impact not only the cost but also the longevity of both the diapers and the machine.

Always keep an eye on your utility bills and adjust your calculations if there are changes in water or electricity rates.

Pro tip: If your diapers have been rinsed thoroughly with no serious poop or urine lingering, wash your cloth diaper laundry with other household laundry to save on the amount of loads you're doing a day!

It’s a good rule of thumb to always rinse your diapers when changing your baby. Whether they are soiled with poop or urine, rinsing them before placing them in a wet bag or diaper pail between washes can help ensure they do not hold onto odors, and give them the best clean on wash day.  

IMPORTANT! As per "Can Cloth Diapers Be Washed With Other Laundry?" Stay away from washing your cloth diapers with these items to avoid the risk of holes, snags, and premature wear and tear: 

  • Delicates items with hooks, clasps, velcro,  snaps etc.
  • Items with heavy grease or chemicals. 
  • Very heavily soiled/stained laundry.
  • Anything with sharp studs or a lot of zippers.
  • Big towels and sheets
  • Anything else you don’t want washed with your cloth diapers/inserts. 

Additional Cost Savings with Cloth Diapering

If you choose to cloth diaper your baby, there are other cost saving benefits associated with it!

  1. Cost of Disposable diapers vs. Cloth Diapers!

Disposable Diaper Costs

Overall costs for disposable diapers will vary. Costs will depend on brand, size, and store. As well as possible state taxes, location, and the frequency you are purchasing. Estimation* One disposable diaper costs approximately $0.17 for off/store brands and approximately $0.25 per diaper for brand names.

Disposable diapers can range in cost from approximately $1241 to $1825 for each baby. Factor those prices into the cost of wipes. $0.02 per wipe, and 2 wipes per change, you are looking at a minimum of $300 in wipes, and more if you use name brands! The total may be between $1500 and $2100, depending on brand.. (Thinking about cloth diapering - Do Cloth Diapers Save Money? The Economics of Cloth vs. Disposable Diapers) 


Costs of Cloth Diapers will vary on a few things. There are several types of cloth diapers you can choose from, ranging from AIO’S, pockets, covers, prefolds, and more.  

Cloth Diaper Costs

*These costs are estimates, and will vary on size of cloth diaper, and accessories used (Thinking about cloth diapering - Do Cloth Diapers Save Money? The Economics of Cloth vs. Disposable Diapers)

 Newborn AIO, Original Size, Toddler Size

AIO’s and Cover Diapers 

 2.Choosing to cloth diaper your baby can help with potty training! 

On average, baby’s can be taught to potty train 6 months earlier than babies that wear disposables. This is  because they feel wetter - if your disposable-loving kid doesn't potty-train until 3 or 3.5 years, you'll add another year of diapers and pull-ups to your costs. (Thinking about cloth diapering - Do Cloth Diapers Save Money? The Economics of Cloth vs. Disposable Diapers) 

Depending on where you live, some municipalities/regions may charge a garbage disposal fee. Since disposable diapers account for a lot of the waste from a household, you may end up facing extra fees here if you choose disposables. (Thinking about cloth diapering - Do Cloth Diapers Save Money? The Economics of Cloth vs. Disposable Diapers) 


In the journey of parenting,  whether fully committed to cloth diapering, adopting it part-time, or contemplating the shift from disposables, the question about the tangible cost differences between reusable and disposable diapers is a commonly asked question, and you're not alone! Understanding the real savings associated with this choice resonates deeply among many considering this transition, and involves several factors that will vary from household to household. 


Here at Nora’s we are committed to help provide as much transparent information as we can and reaffirm the significance of the financial aspects and environmental and practical benefits when making this impactful parenting decision.

About Nora's

Here at Nora's we pride ourselves on providing you and your little ones with sustainable Cloth Diapering and Nursery products that are made with the highest quality materials and up-to-date on stylish designs and functionality.

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