Cloth Diapering: Our Reality

We made the decision to use cloth diapers with our son from jump a few months before he was born and after I researched and convinced my husband they were the most economical and practical diapering route we could take. Period. Although I had done the research and came to my conclusions, my husband was a complete skeptic at first, believing we would be using the old school “nappies” complete with safety pins and stains. After having used them the past 19+ months, I think he would even be open to even those now, though.

Our newly folded "stash"

Our newly folded “stash”

At first, we tried a newborn size diaper, but they leaked terribly. I felt like such a failure but never had the urge to give up on them. We tried some normal size diapers (8-35 pounds or birth-potty training size), which made us realize our 9 ½ pound son was simply too big for the newborn diapers. We now have about a dozen newborn diapers that I’m praying our next son will be able to wear for a spell. I’m actually going to attempt to some degree Elimination Communication (EC) or going “diaper-free” with the next babe. This will depend on how much time and energy I have to devote to it, but it would be the absolute most ideal method. You can find more information about this at

Reason and rationale

Our primary reasons for taking a particular route for our children and family are health and money. Thankfully, cloth diapering gets an A+ on both of these. Along with these two, there is a myriad of rationale behind cloth diapering your baby. Here’s some reasons for our decision on cloth diapering:

  1. Costs. According to the Real Diaper Association, cloth diapering costs a tenth the cost of disposables. The average child costs about $1,600 to diaper for two years according to the site, but I’ve read articles on this being $2,700. We’ve spent less than $1,000 on cloth diapers and cloth wipes for our son. We will use the same diapers on our other children (replacing any overused as necessary, of course), thus increasing our savings for every child we’re blessed with. Cloth wipes offer additional savings, particularly if you make your own wash as I do (with a cup of water, a tablespoon of baking soda and [optional] some essential oils). Instead of having a traditional baby shower (complete with a lot of things any crunchy momma like me won’t use), have a cloth diaper shower where you invite guests to buy one cloth diaper. 24 guests who bring one each could cover all your diapering needs for your baby’s lifetime! Cha-ching! Cloth diapered babies also potty train sooner than babies in disposables, which translates to saving some green and time in diapers. Lastly, so many people are struggling to provide for their families in our country now more than ever—breastfeeding and cloth diapering could help in so many situations!
  2. Health. Disposable diapers contain traces of Dioxin, an extremely toxic by-product of paper-bleaching process that is a carcinogenic chemical and banned in most countries outside the US, and Tributyl-tin, which is a toxic pollutant known to cause hormonal problems in humans and animals. (1) These chemicals can cause rashes and allergic reactions, which typically force a mother to switch to cloth diapers—why not start out with cloth diapers and not go through the trial period?? The Dioxin chemical can cause cancer, birth defects, liver damage, skin diseases, and genetic disorders. (2)
  3. Convenience. Yes, that’s right, cloth diapers are more convenient in many ways. We never run out of diapers. We don’t have to budget for them. If we forget to wash them, which we only have to do every 2-3 days, we can make impromptu diapers with pretty much any cloth while the others are being washed. The notion that cloth diapers are a hassle would stem from the fact you do have to wash and dry them. Good news on this front is you grow completely accustomed to it, or if you’re like me and you’ve never dealt with disposables, you really are clueless to the “convenience” of disposable diapers anyways. As far as time goes, we’ve cloth diapered through my husband and I worked full-time jobs, and now we both go to school full-time and my husband works nearly full-time while we’re completely renovating our house. I’m pretty sure anyone can cloth diaper no matter what their situation is. I’ve heard women complain of the idea of having to deal with poo. If you have a baby, there’s no way around this no matter what diapers you use for one, so welcome to reality. 😉 An exclusively breastfed baby’s dirty diapers can go straight into the wash with scraping any poo off in the toilet anyways, so you get the first 4-6 months easy! Cloth diapers can get smelly, but there are so many cheap and natural cleaning methods to combat this issue. You wouldn’t be able to tell we cloth diaper based on our son’s smell—although he didn’t smell like a baby ever when he was first born because apparently those chemicals in disposables make the babies I’ve been around “smell like babies”. I hadn’t been around enough cloth diapered babies to tell the difference before our son.
  4. Environment. I’m not an environmentalist, but I believe we have a responsibility to take care of what God’s given us. Disposable diapers are horrible for our planet and babies in so many ways. Over 300 pounds of wood, 50 pounds of petroleum feedstocks and 20 pounds of chlorine are used to produce disposable diapers for a single baby each years. (1) 92% of the approximate 27.4 billion disposables consumed yearly in America end up in a landfill, and each diaper can take an estimate 250-500 years to decompose. (1) Ironically, I’ve got cloth diapers that decompose in a landfill in 5 years that I will continue to use for multiple children! Speaking of irony, many people assume cloth diapers waste water; however, the manufacture and use of disposable diapers amounts to 2.3 times more water wasted than cloth. (1)

Our favorite diaper

Last note I’ll make is about the brand of cloth diaper. Everyone has their own opinion on which brands and types work best, so it’s really up to you to decide. We’ve tried 15 different brands of cloth diapers, and our absolute favorite is Tots Bots Easy Fit All-In-One diapers. They are incredible in pretty much every way, but my favorite things about them are the fact they are slim-fitting, soft, absorbent and durable. I highly recommend Velcro over snaps because they’re more customizable; however, the only brand we’ve found that has a durable Velcro is Tots Bots. They cost slightly more than most, but they’ve been worth every penny. Also, if you buy the six-pack I have linked above, they’re about the same as most cloth diapers. Total, we’ve paid around $20-25 each for all our diapers other than the newborn sized ones and those we received at the baby shower. Oh, and did I mention they’re cute??

My favorite Tots Bots pattern: Chicken Little

My favorite Tots Bots pattern: Chicken Little





I’m wholly nuts about Soap Nuts!

Similar to so many cloth diapering mommas, I have attempted pretty much every method of laundering to remove the “stinky” from Asher’s diapers (and cloth wipes, though they hardly take the beating diapers do) since his birth when Jesse and I started the cloth diapering.  I’ll go into our rationale for using cloth diapers in lieu of disposables in another post.  I have found success with several methods of cleaning; however, these methods required numerous washings and rinsing—a big no-no for a house lady on a budget.  Cue the soap nut and angelic ‘ahhh’…

Soap nuts by Greener Living Products LTD

My soap nuts voyage

My soap nuts journey began with a former [male] coworker with whom I spent a lot of time chatting amid work—in particular about parenting philosophies, breastfeeding, cloth diapering…and how best to keep them clean.  Side note:  my very manly coworker is a very involved father of his two wonderful children to say the least and was a tremendous blessing to me since I learned a lot from him and his wife.  We discussed soap nuts several times, but I wasn’t convinced of my need to try them until he and his wife heard the owner of a local cloth diaper store in Columbus, Georgia swears by them.  Of course, this secondhand information prompted an investigation that led me to believe soap nuts are truly God’s gift to the frugal homemaker!

Naturally, my next step was to hype them up to my husband and sister—eh, maybe a little trial should come about before for next super product?  Next I scoured the web for the cheapest soap nuts, which led me to putting a bag in my ever-filling Amazon shopping cart.  There they sat for months until I found a 1.1-pound box by Greener Living Products LTD for about $8 less at MaMa Jean’s Market.  BO-nus because I wholly support local stores, especially this one, and I didn’t have to wait for shipping!

Theory tested…and approved!

The following day I entered my trial period for my glorious soap nuts.  I threw about five nuts in a provided muslin bag and ran them through a fairly heavy wash cycle using the extra water feature on warm (or was it cold?) then dried them in the dryer as usual.  When I threw them in the dryer, I did my typical sniffing for stinkies and they smelled remarkably clean—better than ever before even with my hypersensitive smeller (thank you, pregnancy hormones)!  Wow, I must be dreaming!  After they finished drying, I discovered I had actually been dreaming…they smelled awful!  Ugh!  All my touting and fantasizing of the soap nuts was down the drain with that load.

After four uses, they're still going strong!

After four uses, they’re still going strong!

As my husband could testify, I’m not one to easily give up on things like this—I did give up on homemade dishwasher detergent after a few attempts while I was still working full-time (and only a part-time homemaker), but now that I’m a newly commissioned, full-time homemaker, I will try, try again someday…when we get a dishwasher.  I digress.  Instead of giving up on my soap nuts, I added a couple more nuts to the bag and threw them back in the wash for a second, heavier washing.  After finishing drying this time, they smelled great—not as great as they’ve been in the past with a different washing method, but a whole lot better than the first attempt.

My final trial-and-error session concluded the next washing, which now includes the soap nuts and occasionally a few drops of tea tree oil in the wash.  Ba-zing!  Our cloth diapers are cleaner and smell better than ever at a fraction of the cost.  I’m convinced my first run was a fluke and caused by build-up in the diapers—I also might have washed them on cold, which is a soap nuts no-no.  Apparently there’s a soap nut soak out there you can use to wash in cold, but I haven’t tried it.

Some quick info on soap nuts

–   They come from the berry-like fruit of the Sapindus Mukorrosi tree (yes, I’m looking into growing my own—wholly money saving potential!)
–   They produce Saponin, a natural soap compound found in soap nuts which I like to refer to as God’s soap
–   You do not need a fabric softener when you use them
–   You use 4-6 per bag in the wash, remove the bag before drying and reuse the soap nuts until they run out of soap and turn gray and mushy (4-6 times)—you can test their soapiness by shaking them in water in a glass jar to see if they produce suds still
–   If you accidentally dry them with the clothes, you can still reuse them
–   They’re the most natural detergent on the planet and are safe for everyone and everything
–   You can use them to make a multitude of other cleaning such as a mosquito repellent, shampoo, liquid laundry detergent, an all-purpose cleaner, a window & glass cleaner and in the dishwasher, which I will do…as soon as I get my dishwasher[1]

–   There is a ton of skepticism out there (I certainly was), but I’ve yet to read anything other than reviews from people like me who are entirely blown away by the efficacy of the soap nut

I have yet to use them on our normal laundry since I’ve still got some of my pricier detergent, but they’ll work…if they can clean the crap out of a diaper (sorry, I had to use the pun), they can certainly clean anything!  I think the key is to not give up if they don’t initially work and just find the right combination of wash cycles and essential oils as necessary.  Hopefully, you’ll find the soap nuts to be as much a blessing to your frugal homemaking as they are to mine!




Matt Johnson, G. L. (2013). How to Use Them. Retrieved February 5, 2013, from