Saturday, January 19, 2013

How Much Work is it to Use Cloth Diapers?

When people first hear about cloth diapers their minds may immediately go to how much work it must be.  With both parents employed, it may seem that cloth diapering is something totally out of the picture.  This is far from the case.
How much work does it really take to use cloth diapers?

  • Washing diapers (5 minutes of work, 1 hour of washing). Washing cloth diapers is the simplest part of the entire diaper care process.  Simply dump soiled cloth diapers from your wet bag directly into the washing machine.  Run a cold water rinse, hot water wash, and a final rinse.  My husband always volunteers to help with this task because he knows it will take less than 5 minutes!  If you are planning to hand wash diapers this will be significantly more work.  The benefit to handwashing is you'll require fewer diapers in your stash, however you'll need to wash them every 1-2 days to keep things manageable.  Handwashing is possible: I've done it and it's a wonderful option for those without a washing machine.

  • Drying diapers (5-10 minutes of work, 2 hours in a dryer/12-24 hours on a clothes line). If you dry your diapers in a dryer, this will be a pretty quick step.  I've noticed with thicker cloth diapers and microfiber, that drying this way takes too long for my preference and sometimes diapers still feel a bit damp.  Line drying takes a little longer to pin everything up, however it seems like less effort compared to multiple rounds in a dryer (and better for the environment).

  • Folding diapers/ stuffing pocket diapers (10-30 minutes). Folding cloth diapers is probably the most labor intensive part of the procedure.  I usually like to sit down with a big load of clean diapers and fold them all at once.  Some people prefer to skip folding all together, and simply use clean diapers straight from the laundry basket (or stuff pocket diapers as needed).  Diapers are definitely the easiest type of laundry to fold: there are no socks to match up, everything is the same size and shape, and nothing gets wrinkled if it sits in the basket for a few days.  If I'm focused (not zoning into the TV), I can easily fold 3-4 days worth of diapers in 10 minutes.

Adding up these numbers, it takes our family about 40-80 minutes a week to use cloth diapers.  This amount of time is very reasonable for us even with two full-time working parents.  We found it extremely helpful to settle into a good wash routine and also purchase extra diapers to give ourselves some flexibility when needed.  We consistently wash diapers on Sundays and Wednesdays, which helps to keep a good stock of diapers ready for daycare.

Do you have any time-saving tips for using cloth diapers?
1. Weather permitting, we love drying cloth diapers outside during the weekends.


  1. Thanks for posting this! My husband is very skeptical as we get started. The more I can show him, the more supportive he will be :) "Time is money" he says.

    1. I cloth diapered two at once (my older two are 11 months apart) and I think I spent 50-60 minutes a week total on diaper laundry. I used a combination of AI2 and pockets and even line dried in the summer months. We had enough diapers to go 3-4 days at a time and honestly it wasn't any real fuss. I am expecting my third child this spring and he will use the same diapers his older siblings used. So third baby birth to potty cost will be $0, unless mommy decides to splurge on a diaper or two (or ten).

  2. I think it would be harder for my situation because I live in a small two bedroom apartment. We don't have washer or dryers here except for in the community laundry room. We have a small patio which faces the other apartments. It may be a policy as well not to hang out laundry which could take up two 24 Hours. I would totally try it if I had my own home.

    1. Can you get a camping washer or a handwasher and wash them in your bathroom. You can then either hang dry them in your windows (buy some rope) or use the community dryers. It may take a little longer than those with their own w/d but it is doable.