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.