Cloth vs Disposable Diapers - Which is your better option?

Compare the pros and cons of using cloth and disposable diapers

By Linda F.
Cloth vs Disposable Diapers - Which is your better option?

A happy baby is always a source of great delight to all. To a large extent, the well-being of a baby depends on how dry and comfortable she is. This is the reason, a disposable diaper is at the forefront of every parent and caregiver’s mind in keeping a baby happy and healthy.

For a modern day working mum, it would be next to impossible to imagine a life without a disposable diaper. Disposable diapers burst into the parenting scene in the mid-1950’s when Johnson and Johnson's mass produced and marketed them; the first major company to do so.

The diapers resulted in huge lifestyle changes for parents and caregivers. The good old fashioned cloth diapers got pushed farther and farther away in the family closet because of the time, effort and labor it caused in using them. Good, old-fashioned cloth diapers were all but forgotten in the developed world!

However, the use of disposable diapers over a period of time brought into stark relief the environmental nightmare they caused. As more and more countries, developed, so did the increase in their usage.


Billions of disposable diapers were being used each year which results in millions of tons of landfills. As awareness about this potential ecological disaster grew, the humble cloth diaper came back into the limelight. At the same time, disposable diaper companies too, aware of this problem, started improvising to make them more eco-friendly.

Environmental Effects of Cloth vs Disposable Diapers

The biggest debate of all is about the environmental impact of disposable diapers. The earliest disposable diapers used in the early 19th century will only start biodegrading in the year 2500. This figures brings to stark relief, how harmful disposable diapers are to the environment, given that billions are used each year.

However, in recent years diaper companies have improvised on the way disposable diapers are made through the use of better technology. A lot of the modern diapers use organic material and most of the diapers that fill landfills today are 40% biodegradable. This figure will hopefully only get better.

Cloth diapers sustain the environment in that they can be reused, and recycled. On the other hand, used diapers require deep cleaning each time and that uses a lot of water and electricity. Another not really needed by-product, is dirty water.

Although, it is safe to assume cloth diapers are better for the environment, the fact that the earth today is left with just 2.5% of potable water, makes it particularly noteworthy.

Cost effects

Studies show that an average family spends anything between the amounts of $1,000 to $1,500 each year on a single baby’s diapers. Using cloth diapers brings that amount significantly down to less than half.

Potential issues such as manufacturing defects like the broken/ torn off velcro fastening which renders the entire diaper unusable could also mean that more money was spent per diaper. Cloth diapers come with elasticized fastenings and plastic liners which are more user-friendly.


However, if you are someone who prefers professional diaper cleaning services, then the cost for both disposable and cloth diapers, will more or less be the same. It is also notable that cloth diapers can be saved for future siblings and such. This renders them to be more cost-effective. Organic cloth diapers also cost a pretty penny in the initial phase when you have to buy several, but this may well turn out to be just a one-time expense.

Occurrence of rash for both diaper option

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The Mayo Clinic describes diaper rash as, “A bright red inflamed patch of skin on your baby’s bottom, genital or thigh area”. It most commonly occurs when a baby is left in a soiled diaper for prolonged periods of time. It is best to change a soiled diaper as soon as possible, even if it is a disposable one, as it can get very uncomfortable for the baby.

There is no scientific evidence that cloth or disposable diapers fare better in preventing rashes. What is important is not to leave a baby in a soiled one for too long. Pediatricians recommend ointments such as petroleum jelly or zinc oxide in order to create a barrier between the diaper and the baby’s skin. Doctors’ advice against the use of any talc or body powders as this can irritate a baby’s lungs.

Modern cloth diapers come with snaps, elastic bands or Velcro straps that make changing them almost as quick and easy as a regular disposable one. Rashes can cause discomfort and be very painful for your baby as the skin in the same spot gets irritated all the time. So remember to keep baby fresh and clean by frequently changing them into clean nappies! 

Other Pros and Cons

The following are some other advantages and disadvantages of cloth versus disposable diapers.

Advantages of Cloth Diapers

Cloth Diaper Disposable Diapers
Safer for sensitive skin  Limited choice of brands for sensitive skin
Cheaper in the long run Depending on the brand, may get expensive
Environmentally friendly as they can be reused over and over  Thrown after use. Produce a lot of waste

Disadvantages of Cloth Diaper

Cloth Diaper Disposable Diapers
Not as absorbent More absorbent with the latest synthetic fabric
Nappy pins (for traditional diapers) Safer with convenient closures
Have to plan if going for long travel Good for long travel
Not as hygienic compared to disposable diapers   More hygienic given use once and thrown
A few choices  Plenty of choices


In the end, it can be safely said that both cloth and disposable diapers come with their own particular advantages and disadvantages. More and more people are joining the Environment Brigade and reverting back to cloth diapers on account of their metamorphosis into the convenient options they are today.

In recent times, through years of experimenting cloth diapers have evolved from the humble pieces of cloth they used to be, to worthy competitors of the once considered to be indispensable disposable diaper.

It is up to an individual as per their lifestyle needs, to weigh in the pros and cons and decide which one of these two works best for them.



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