Cloth Diapering Myths

Although I really wanted to cloth diaper, I was haunted my myths that I kept hearing from non-cloth diapering moms. Luckily I had Rebecca, who guided me through the world of cloth diapers and later became my co-author and co-blogger here at Greenbabyguide.com. Now we can support other new parents by dispelling some of those cloth diapering myths that we found to be utterly untrue.

Myth #1: You’ll have to use pins and plastic pants.
When I tell people that I cloth diapered my children, it’s amazing how many of them say they just couldn’t imagine having to use pins with small infants. I show them pictures of the hourglass design and velcro and snap closures and they are amazed.
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When Are Disposables Greener than Washing Cloth Diapers?

It pains us to admit that cloth diapers do not always win the fight against disposables. We love cloth diapers for their cuteness, cheapness, and eco-friendliness, but the truth is, many people waste so much water and energy laundering their Fuzzibunz that they might as well switch to Huggies as far as the Earth is concerned.

So how can you tell if you’re doing more harm than good? Do a little bit of math to determine how much water you’re using laundering your diapers: multiply the gallons of water your washing machine uses by the number of loads you do per year. (If you aren’t sure, use 40 gallons for a top loader and 12 for a front loader.) Is your resulting number less than 4,000? Then you are on the right track! More than 4,000? You should probably re-evaluate your laundering habits.
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Eco-confession: I bought regular diapers!

First the good news: In the 2.5 years my daughter wore diapers, I bought just six packs of disposables. I thought that was pretty impressive, though I’m sure some of the cloth diaper aficionados around here managed to do even better. We used cloth for nighttime and nap time and even managed to use cloth on a few vacations. The disposables came in handy for a few trips that involved plane travel and lack of laundry facilities.


Photographic evidence

Now, the bad news: None, and I mean zero, of those six packs were Seventh Generation diapers or Nature babycare or gDiapers. No, we used . . . the generic brand we found at Fred Meyer. How could I commit such an eco-atrocity? Well, I’ve got to say that I just couldn’t stand the idea of paying so much more for chlorine-free diapers. (The only difference between regular and “greener” disposables is that the eco-disposables are made from chlorine-free tree pulp. Check out our post on the anatomy of a disposable if you want to know what else is in those plastic diapers.)
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Offsetting the Water Used to Wash Cloth Diapers

I often hear people say that cloth diapers are no better for the planet than disposables because of all the water used to wash them.  This argument has never made too much sense to me.  Water is a renewable resource, but the trees cut down to make disposable diapers are often harvested unsustainably.  The plastic used on each diaper is a petroleum product-definitely not a renewable resource.  Then there’s the whole landfill issue. . . .

Not to say that I don’t care about wasting water.  If you wash diapers every other day in a top loader, you’ll use a whopping 7,200 gallons water a year.  Do you use a wet pail to soak your diapers?  That’s 360 more gallons a year, for a grand total of 7,560.  The good news is, it’s not necessary to blow through that much water.  I estimate that I use under 1,200 gallons water a year washing diapers.  I have a front loader that uses 12.4 gallons per wash, and I wash diapers every four days instead of every other day.
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The Best Eco-friendly Diaper Websites

Diaper girlIn real life, it’s often hard–or even impossible–to find cloth diaper supplies.  Big box stores like Target or Babys-R-Us sell a few cloth diapers, but these are generally the flimsy varieties that are better used as burp cloths.  If you want to get started with cloth diapers, your best bet is to find a brick and mortar store in your town.  Here in Portland, I’ve had good luck at Mother Nature’s (for new supplies) and The Children’s Exchange (for used supplies).  Joy purchased all her cloth supplies at Bambini’s in Eugene, which carries both new and used items.  In your local shop, it’s possible to look at the diapers, ask the shopkeepers questions, and avoid shipping costs.  Many stores will offer starter kits so you can get everything you need for less than buying everything piecemeal. 
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Washable vs. Disposable—Environmental Debates to Ponder

Both Joy and I are committed to cloth diapering our offspring. First of all, we’re cheap, and our cloth diapers are much cheaper than standard disposables. We were also under the impression that cloth diapers were better for the environment than disposables. Well, we looked into it. It turns out that a major diaper study completed by the British Government in 2005 determined that the environmental impact of both diaper systems is more or less equal. How could this be? In a nutshell, disposable diapers harm the planet during their production and disposal while cloth diapers take a toll on the environment by sapping up water and energy.
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