The Cons of Diapering with Cloth Diapers and Disposable Diapers

Often times when I talk about cloth diapers, I want so badly for people to at least consider them that I worry that I gloss over the fact that yes, there are indeed cons to cloth diapering, just as there are cons to disposable diapering.


I’ve heard from several disposable diapering friends that they feel cloth diaperers are SO excited about “converting” disposable diaperers that they seem to “fluff up” (pun intended) the benefits of cloth and exaggerate the cons of disposables. I’m not saying these people are dishonest–heck, I do this all the time. Just last night my writing class was talking about cloth diapering and I simply said, “It’s SO easy” and left out the moments where cloth diapering came back and bit me (see picture above!).

But I wanted to bring up some of my cons for disposable diapering AND cloth diapering, just because I want you to feel like you’ve seen both sides. I personally use both. When my son had health conditions, I used disposables because I was behind on laundry AND he didn’t seem to sleep well in cloth diapers. But 95% of the time, I prefer cloth diapers.

Cons of Disposable Diapers

* Well the obvious one is it costs MONEY. In the post linked here, I break down what I consider to be a pretty honest comparison of cloth diaper vs disposable costs (many people are skeptical of cloth diaper estimates out there because they overlook things like accessories, washing costs, energy bills, etc). But in my opinion, you are saving at least $1,000 for choosing cloth diapers.

* The ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT is huge.  Roughly 28 billion disposables go into landfills each year (Wells, 2011), and there still isn’t sufficient research to say how long it takes for them to actually break down (if they do at all).  The New Parents Guide states that, “It takes 80,000 pounds of plastic and over 200,000 trees a year to manufacture the disposable diapers for American babies alone.” Crazy, right?

* They have A LOT OF CHEMICALS in them. In her book, Changing Diapers: The Hip Mom’s Guide to Modern Cloth Diapering, Kelly Wels lists some common ingredients in a disposable diaper: dioxin, sodium polyacrylate, dyes, fragrances, plastics, toluene, xylene, ethylbenzene, and dipentene. That’s a huge list! That’s why some people find that their babies get rashes with all of the chemicals in disposable diapers.

* THE SMELL is bad. Some would argue that the smell of cloth diapers is bad, but I personally don’t care for disposable diaper smell. I can smell it from about a mile away and it drives me crazy. Another thing is that when a baby poops in a cloth diaper, you can just spray out the poop and flush it away–and although the packaging on disposables says you should flush away poop in disposables, most don’t do it and many poops aren’t ploppable. So you are stuck with that diaper in the house, stinking up the wazoo, unless you take it out to the garbage.

* I always dealt with POOP LEAKS with disposables. These were grosser than just dealing with a poopy cloth diaper, if you ask me. It seemed to get EVERYWHERE! But I could count on one hand the number of poop leaks my kids got with cloth diapers.

Cons of Cloth Diapers

* One con for many is THE INITIAL COST. It can cost anywhere from $100-$500 to start up. I personally think of it this way: since a box of diapers is about $20 and you are buying a box a week, you could instead buy BEFORE having the baby and you wouldn’t have spent extra money. If you are already using disposables, but don’t have the finances to start a stash, I say start slowly. I was getting about 1 cloth diaper a month by cashing in my SwagBucks. There is also the con of buying a diaper that didn’t fit right or work right for your baby. You can use the reviews here to try and limit that as much as possible

* DEALING WITH THE POOP isn’t fun, I’ll admit. You could use disposable liners that just flush the poop away. I tend not to use those because they shift around while I am putting a diaper on my little guy. I use a sprayer. BUT, I will say there have been a handful of times where I’ve been so tired that I’ve sprayed myself in the face with the sprayer (as shown above).

* They hog the LAUNDRY MACHINE. Since it takes roughly 2-3 hours to wash and dry my diapers, they kind of hog the machine. The downside is my laundry is a little more backed up than it would be if I didn’t use cloth diapers.

* You can get LEAKS. I have heavy wetters, so leaks with cloth diapers happen quite a bit in this house. That’s why I recommend you do your research. If your kid pees a lot, check out the statistics pages at Padded Tush Stats to see what diapers work best on heavy wetters. You do have to change them faster than disposables, that’s for sure–but I don’t really like the thought of my child just sitting in their pee anyway.

* They are BULKY. Let me tell you, baby got back with these! They can look pretty big. I like some trim options. The Ragababe 2-Step is pretty trim, but so are just using flour sack towels/flats! I think that the industry is getting much better with this, as they are starting to use different diapers that still absorb, but are much more trim. But still, nothing will probably get as trim as a disposable.

* You CARRY SOILED ONES around when out and about. I really envy disposable diaperers who can just toss a messy diaper in the trash. I do use a wet bag to trap in the stink and wetness, and that really helps. My big issue is that I am always missing my wet bag, so it takes a bit to find it!

So those are my big cons for cloth diapering and disposable cloth diapering. You can see that there are legitimate concerns on BOTH ends of the spectrum. I encourage you to try out cloth diapers and see if the cons really do outweigh the pros. In my opinion, they don’t AT ALL. In my opinion, cloth diapering is still totally worth it for me.

Can you think of any cons for disposables or cloth diapers? Please share! 


Tara Porter

Tara Porter began using cloth diapers in 2011 when she felt that using disposable diapers was costing too much money. The problem was, a lot of the highly recommended diapers weren’t working for her baby. What she finally discovered was that her baby was skinny and a heavy wetter, and that diapers worked differently for those baby types. Because of her professional work with survey design and statistics, she designed Padded Tush Stats as a way to determine how different cloth diapers worked on different babies.

Tara moved on to other career endeavors in 2014 but can still be found online blogging about health and fitness at Fit Baby Steps.
  • http://www.facebook.com/christine.sturtz Christine Sturtz

    Just so you know there is a typo above in the cons of disposable diapering- That’s why some people find that their babies get rashes with all of the chemicals in cloth diapers Shouldnt this say disposable diapers?

    • Tara

      Thanks! Fixed!

    • http://www.makingitworkblog.com/ Carolyn Russell

      Good catch, but it’s apparently been fixed ;)

  • http://www.makingitworkblog.com/ Carolyn Russell

    I’ve never used the sprayer facing the wrong way, but the water pressure in the bathroom where ours is installed is really high, so if I’m not careful, the poopy water sprays EVERYWHERE! (Don’t worry, guests! I keep Lysol wipes next to the toilet just for those circumstances!) Also, I always say that with cloth diapers and a heavy wetter, we do have frequent pee leaks, but we had frequent poop leaks with disposables. Given the choice between pee or poop leaking onto my clothes, I’ll take the pee any day of the week! ;)

    • http://www.CraftyHippoDesigns.com/ Jeannette
      • http://www.makingitworkblog.com/ Carolyn Russell

        LOL, yes, it’s currently on my wish list ;)

  • Kaitlin

    We were in disposables for 3 months thanks to a terrible yeast rash instance, but all in all I have pros and cons for both: Cons only, though–

    Disposable–

    1.We were in disposables mostly during the summer. Because we typically do cloth, we don’t own any shorts for babies (nor the money to just go buy some whenever we like). We mostly have my daughter in dresses and disposables pick up EVERYTHING outside. It may seem like a petty thing, but I needed to vacuum out my car and her crib from all of the dirt, leaves, grass, etc. that my daughter kept picking up in her diaper. I eventually just started putting a cloth cover over the disposables to help with this.

    2. Half of the time, I felt like the tabs weren’t holding the diaper on very well.

    3. Changing a diaper about an hour before bedtime was so infuriating for me! The diaper wouldn’t be wet or soiled but because the tabs weren’t sticking anymore, the diaper was done. I’ll admit, I’d never thought about timing diaper changes and bath/bedtime to not waste money before the summer.

    4. We never had a blowout or leak, but I was constantly checking because I’ve never met a person using disposables who doesn’t have one of those stories about covered outfits, car seats, etc. Call me lazy, but I one of the things I like about cloth is not ever worrying about this.
    5. I hated that when we were in disposables we produced at least 2-3 bags of trash more than usual. I’d gotten used to being able to only need to take out trash 2-3/month thanks to recycling and composting. If we didn’t take out the trash more often while in disposables, the house seemed to be filled with used diapers and the smell was bad, too.

    Cloth–
    1. Stomach bugs and yeast rashes are not fun to deal with (for different reasons) in cloth. Stomach bugs are just gross to clean up after, and yeast rashes take either too many liners to use Desitin and antiobotics/antifungals to be really practical or just take a lot of time to bleach/strip/sanitize after each round with rashes.
    2. I hate doing laundry, and to be honest I don’t like that I need to wash every other day. I could buy more diapers, but the fact is that eventually I do have to wash the diapers.
    3.Diaper sprayers are great, but they do not necessarily take away the need for either a toothbrush/scraper/gloves. Even the disposable liners aren’t 100% protection from dealing with poop.

    4. Little things seem to cause issues with wash routines, rashes, etc. Things like switching to solid food, sleeping through the night, moving towns or even apartments, etc. required re-thinking our wash routine, detergent, etc. Thankfully, there are great resources that make this process easier and shorter, but it can be a hassle at the time.
    5. The smell with cloth can be bad, too, if you don’t wash often enough. Thankfully, small stuff like baking soda discs in your pail and/or washing every other day usually makes this a non-issue, but you’ve been warned.

    Sorry for the length!

  • Mama Rachael

    I appreciate this post, its a good look at both sides. I’ve never sprayed myself in the face, but I have gotten some spray back. Ugh.

    We hit an odd snag. For the past week, Little Boy has woken up with wet left leg. I increased absorbency, but it never helped. Finally, Hubby pointed out that boy parts are all about ‘aim’. So, my current test is a prefold, not folded, but rolled up the sides to create a canal. So, we will see in the morning! I wonder if sposies ever have this problem?

    • http://www.makingitworkblog.com/ Carolyn Russell

      I worked with a kid whose dad had to tell me about the “aim” issue (apparently when we put his child in pull-ups, we didn’t know to make sure he was aimed downward, and he was peeing up and out the top of the diaper! Oops!) So, I’m not sure about sposies and out the leg, but I know it can be an issue out the top! ;)

    • http://www.facebook.com/cspruance Catherine Lee Spruance

      Disposable diapers definitely have this issue. My husband didn’t learn to aim our son’s parts until I started making him do the clean up laundry. We didn’t start cloth until our daughter, but my gut feeling is that the aiming issue is universal.

  • http://twitter.com/sara_may Sara

    I find that a con of cloth is that other caregivers are unfamiliar with them and as such, they can be put on poorly causing leaks. They are also not as easy to travel with, but it can be done.

  • Samantha

    Pros of cloth diapers for us: Not worrying about running out of diapers in between paydays and not having money for more. No more poopy blowouts! So much more comfortable for our super-delicate baby. Far less rashes. So much less trash and smell in the house. Cons: Bulk under clothes (but we’re currently working on a fix for that). Our washer recently died, so a big con is hand-washing diapers until we get a new one. The laundry mat just didn’t get them clean enough and other peoples’ fabric softener ended up in our wash from the dryer and caused major rashes. Still not willing to go to disposables though :)

    • http://www.makingitworkblog.com/ Carolyn Russell

      Oh MAN, you have to hand wash them??? That is a bummer :( What commitment, though! ;)

  • http://twitter.com/HealthBeautyBlg Honeybee

    I agree to use cloth diapers considering the economical factor. But I continue using disposable one especially at night because he is uncomfortable –and because i hate to do laundry. But most of the time, reusable diaper is the best. using them may benefit the baby to expose less to chemicals.

    http://newdadsclub.blogspot.com/

  • lea

    Ointments…I hate having to run out for sposies when LO gets a rash because I have yet to find a good rash cream..and the disinfecting after yeast rash. It stinks to spend money on disposables when I have a big fluffy stash sitting unused. (Can you tell I’m in the midst of a yeast war?)

    • busymom29

      Have you tried putting some plain greek yogurt on the yeast rash?

  • Becky Bromley-Trujillo

    Just adding a couple of cons for disposables- having to take out diaper trash. With my first son I lived on the 3rd floor of an apartment complex and had to carry that nasty very far once I got down the steps. Also, having to go out and buy diapers is a pain.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=514888987 Sasha Oystrakh

    I can only think of things you mentioned but Disposables I noticed have meant A LOT more leaks and blowouts especially the fact that he wakes up soaked in the NIGHT disposables even after sleeping only 8 or so hours. Oh rashes with disposables are horrible. One thing that sucks for cloth and the only real minus for me is that clothing is “small” in the crotch area because cloth is at least slightly more bulky (because it is material and not chemical gels!)

  • MNMama

    Another Con is finding a cloth friendly daycare, there is still a perception that cloth diapers are unsanitary or more work for the daycare provider.

  • Rose

    I don’t see carrying the soiled diapers when out and about as a con because we did the same thing with disposables too as there often wasn’t a trash can around to put them in and a wet bag contains the stink of cloth sooo much better than a plastic bag contains the stink of a soiled disposable. A con to cloth though is that your diapers can get destroyed if you forget about or miss a soiled diaper for several laundry days.

  • Donna-Lynn Craig

    My cons for cloth diapering is the not being able to fit in pants the same as in sposies. With disposables I hated the pooplosions up the back and wreck the clothes or hours of soaking. With cloth the elastics stop pooplosions from going up the back.

  • Melissa Morgan

    Thank you for being honest with the cons as well. I think cloth is best, but some negative aspects aren’t talked about as much as they should be. Knowing downsides to different cloth options can help you purchase a product that is more suitable to your needs.