Cloth or disposable diapers: Pros and cons

Unless you are practicing baby elimination communication you won’t get away from using diapers when your baby is born. Next to commonly used disposable diapers, there is an alternative. The cloth diaper. Now, before you yell; ‘that is disgusting’ or ‘that is not better for the environment as you have to wash the diapers”, I made an overview to compare both.

The pros and cons of cloth diapers.
  Disposable Cloth
Usability Easy to use Aditional activities
Availability Everywhere Mostely online
Scent Chemical Barely (yes really)
Number needed 4000 30
Costs €750,- per child €800 (incl washing) (all childern)
Value after use - 25% - 40% of the new value
Water use for production and/or washing 118m3 85m3
Engery use for production and/or washing 1804kWh 94kWh
 Material Chemical (about 1 cup of crude oil per diaper) Plant based material (cotton, bamboo or hemp)
Fit Compact around baby's bum Bulky around baby's bum
Feeling on baby's bum Dry Wet

 Even though some disposable diapers have a handy indicator to let you know the diaper is wet, there is a big downside to the use of disposable diapers. It has a lot of chemicals. For example dioxin (polychlorinated dibenzodioxin) that is a byproduct of the bleaching of the wood fibers for the diapers (DeVito and Schecter 2002). Dioxin is carcinogenic that can harm our reproduction and immune system. The authors of the article say that the amount is not harmful to (adult) humans but I highly doubt if this is also true for babies. Tributyltin is used to make the diaper waterproof. It is known to be very toxic for marine life but may still be used in disposable diapers around the sensitive skin of your baby (Smajgl and Obhodas 2015).

The pros and cons of cloth diapers.

The highly absorbent gel, that will become small balls when in contact with moisture is potassium polyacrylate. This substance is known to cause toxic shock syndrome in women who use tampons. So, lots of chemicals are used that are not 100% safe for your baby.


If you had a choice to have cotton pants around your bum or one with the chemicals mentioned above, what would you choose?


These references are Dutch.





Write a comment

Comments: 5
  • #1

    Nicole Salgado (Monday, 10 December 2018 19:15)

    I would choose for sure without chemicals. I had to idea it had so many chemicals like this. Thanks for this informative post.

  • #2

    Anna (Monday, 10 December 2018 19:20)

    The costs of cloth can differ so much, depending on what you are buying. But it can also be cheaper then mentioned here.
    I do really like the numbers on elektricity and water usage, I did not know that jet.
    Thnx for the info!

  • #3

    Kaylee (Monday, 10 December 2018 20:22)

    We’ve always used cloth diapers. They’re better for baby, they’re better for the environment and they’re better for your wallet (especially if you plan to have more than 1 kid). And I’ve never had a problem finding cloth diapers in stores. I didn’t realize how many chemicals were actually in disposable diapers though, learn something new everyday!

  • #4

    Ženja | Aim Green (Tuesday, 11 December 2018 01:29)

    Wow, I haven't realised how much water is used in the production of disposable diapers. I guess my main concern with cloth diapers would be that if the feeling on baby's bum is wet, wouldn't it cause irritation? But on the other hand, plenty of irritation can be cause by chemicals and materials. Thank you so much for such a great information, gives a lot of food for thought!

  • #5

    Jenica, Zero Waste Wisdom (Tuesday, 11 December 2018 19:52)

    When I have kids, I definitely plan on using cloth diapers! I think another thing to consider is whether you machine dry your cloth diapers or hang dry them. If you have the time to hang dry them, it cuts down on the electricity and carbon footprint even more!