Answering the Cloth Diaper Skeptics

I love encountering cloth diaper skeptics.  Why?  Because I can pretty much refute every reason they give as to why one should not use cloth diapers.  The only problem is that, so often, these skeptics state their reasons as “facts” without any real factual information to back them up… and this can scare people who were considering cloth away from the idea.  So here are some of the most common misconceptions I hear from the skeptics along with my answers.


1)  Cloth diapers are difficult and involve pins, plastic pants, and dunking & swishing.


As you will often hear in the cloth diapering community these days, “These aren’t your grandma’s cloth diapers!”  Sure, many people (myself included) love their “old-school” flats and prefolds.  They are versatile and virtually indestructible.  But with the advent of pockets and all-in-ones, putting a cloth diaper on a baby is just as simple as putting on a disposable.  As for dunking and swishing… well, that is still one way to get poop off of diapers… but there are many other options now as well such as diaper sprayers and disposable liners… and some lucky parents never have to deal with any of this as some children have “plopable” poo, meaning it is firm enough to roll right off the diaper without leaving much behind.


2)  Cloth diapers cause more rashes than disposables.


In reality, there is no evidence that one type of diaper (cloth vs disposable) is superior to the other when it comes to rashes.  Rashes can be caused by many different things… sensitivity to wetness, sensitivity to chemicals (those found in disposable diapers, disposable wipes, or in a particular detergent if using cloth), yeast (which is a fungus that thrives in dark, damp environments), etc.  Cloth diapering does offer more options that are much more breathable than disposable diapers, which can help prevent rashes.  But again, in reality, as long as both are changed as often as they should be (approximately every 2 hours after the newborn phase), there is no significant difference in the number of rashes among babies in cloth vs disposable diapers.  One issue with disposable diapers, though, is that, because they always feel dry, parents often go longer between changes than they really should… which does increase the chances of rashes.


3)  Cloth diapering does not actually save money once you factor in your increased utility bills.


This question has been asked many times on one of the cloth diapering forums I am on.  This particular forum has over 42,000 members and, even though nowhere near 42,000 people respond to any given post, the answers that are given all seem to be very similar.  The truth of the matter is that the majority of people who cloth diaper do not notice any increase in utilities, while those who do notice report that it is very small (as in $3-$5/month on average).  You should also remember that, regardless of what type of diaper you end up using, the amount of laundry you do will dramatically increase once you have a baby since both you and the baby will likely go through numerous outfits per day due to spit up and other accidents.  As a bit of a side note, cloth diapers contain poo-splosions much better than disposable diapers… so you will be doing fewer clothing changes due to poo!


4)  Cloth diapers take too much time/are difficult to care for.


Cloth diapering can be very simple to care for.  There are so many myths out there about needing a complicated wash routine, special detergents, laundry additives, periodic stripping, etc, etc, etc.  I’ll just call BS on all of that right now.  A simple washing routine with a high quality detergent is all you need.  For more detailed information about washing cloth diapers, check out my earlier blog posts The Dirty Truth About Washing Cloth Diapers and The Dirty Truth – Part 2.


5)  Cloth diapers are gross and washing them in my washer will ruin it/make it smell.


If you have children, every unpleasant bodily fluid/excrement you can think of will make its way into your washer regardless of what type of diaper you choose to use.  I, personally, would rather wash a load of diapers versus a load of clothing, half of which are soaked and/or soiled from a diaper leak (which, as mentioned above, happens very rarely if ever with cloth diapers when used properly).  During the newborn phase, if a baby is exclusively breast fed, his poo will be completely water soluble – meaning it will completely dissolve and easily wash away.  If a baby is formula fed, or once solids have been introduced, poop will go in the toilet rather than the washer.  Plus, the inside of your wash tub is metal, which will not absorb odors or stain.  I promise… if your diapers are coming out clean (and they will if you follow a proper wash routine), your washer will be clean!


6)  Using cloth diapers makes your house smell like a dirty diaper.


This couldn’t be farther from the truth.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, before I started using cloth diapers, I just assumed that the smell of disposable diapers was the normal “baby” smell.  Every nursery I had ever been in, smelled like fake baby powder (the scent added to most disposables).  Once I had my own child and started using cloth diapers, I realized that babies and nurseries do not really smell like that!  Think about it this way.  Straight out of the package, disposable diapers have an artificial baby powder scent.  Once the diaper is wet or dirtied, the smell intensifies and mixes with the smell of the actual waste.  Then, regardless of whether the diaper is just wet or also dirtied, it is all wrapped up and put in the trash.  With cloth diapers, on the other hand, poop is flushed down the toilet – not put in the trash – and the pee has very little, if any, noticeable smell as it is not mixing with any artificial scents.  We recently had houseguests for two nights who used our son’s diaper pail (which we use for disposable wipes and other random nursery trash) for their son’s disposable diapers.  Even though the trash was taken out as soon as they left (so, at most, it contained disposable diapers for only 48 hours), it took nearly a week for the disposable diaper smell to completely dissipate from the plastic pail.

So now, the next time someone raises their eyebrows when they find out you use (or plan to use) cloth diapers, you will have some great comebacks!

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