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The Cost of Cloth

Have you heard people say that once you add in the cost of washing that the costs of cloth nappies end up the same as disposables? We can tell you that's definitely not true! We've done some investigation using our own machines and recommend you do the same. You'll find our conclusion on laundry costs down the page a bit. If you're interested in the environmental cost of cloth, have a look at this blog post.

Here we've got some comparisons (general only, of course) to help you get an idea of what you can expect to spend on cloth and disposable nappies. These figures are based on full-time comparisons and will depend on when your child is toilet trained. You can of course spend less on disposables than our indicative figures, and you can spend more than we've shown on cloth. Take these figures as a guide and, using your preferences for brands and styles, work out what your costs would be.

Disposables versus Cloth Nappies Savings

According to CHOICE Magazine, a typical baby goes through about 6000 disposable nappies with the total cost (of just the nappies, excluding wipes & other accessories) varying between about $1,800 and $3,000+ each child.

Huggies has 70% of the Australian market share of disposable nappies and they are currently (2016) running a competition to win 6 months supply of Huggies products, which they value at up to $600 for the disposable nappies alone:



Here are some indicative calculations using the best selling Australian brand. Yes, you can get cheaper brands, but Huggies has 70% of the market, so most people don't.

Disposable Nappies
Single use nappy at 39 cents each (based on 10 changes a day for 3 months) $354.90
Single use nappy at 50 cents each (based on 5 changes a day for 27 months) $2,025.00
Baby wipes at $5.95 (tub of 80) per fortnight $386.75
One year night nappies for toddler 87c each $317.55
Total cost for disposables for one child $3,084.20

All figures based on requirements for 2½ years plus a night nappy for a further 12 months. This doesn't include disposable toilet training 'pull up' style nappies.

Total cost for disposables for two children - $6,168.40

Reusable Nappies: Budget option - Full-time nappy package
24 reusable cotton prefold nappies at $4 each $96.00
10 overnight boosters $38.00
24 reusable nappy liners: pack of 4 at $6.00ea $36.00
20 reusable nappy wipes: pack/5 at $10.95ea $43.80
10 nappy covers at $18 each
Laundry costs over 2.5 years (see calcs below) $146.98
Total cost full time cloth nappies $540.78
Reusable Nappies: One Size Nappy Option - Full-time nappy package
24 reusable one size nappies ($26 each) $624.00
10 overnight boosters $38.00
24 reusable nappy liners (pack of 4 at $6.00) $36.00
20 reusable nappy wipes at (pack of 5 at $10.95ea) $43.80
Laundry costs over 2.5 yrs (see calcs below) $146.98
Total cost full time fitted pocket nappies $888.78

Laundry Costs

2012 Update here.

These are our calculations, based on our machines and washing regime. So it will differ for you - so please take these figures as a guide and work out your own usage.

I wash a load of nappies 2 or 3 times a week - let's assume 120 loads of nappies a year.

Water Usage
I have an 11 year old Hoover 5.5L top loader - not the most efficient machine available! It uses 30L for a rinse cycle and 120L for a full cycle. I do a rinse cycle first and then run through the full cycle - so each load uses 150L of water = 18,000L a year. Since I also flush poo (or rinse it out) I'm adding 3L a day (a half flush is adequate) = 1,095L a year. Total water usage for a year 19,095L or 19.09kL

I'm charged $1.5343 for each kL water I use, so the yearly cost for water is $29.29. A more modern and water efficient machine would cost you less and use less water. For more information on cloth and disposable nappies and water usage see here.

I use cold water for washing my nappies. My washing machine uses 0.18kWh for each cold load and 1.33kWh per hot load. My electricity company charges me $0.1583/kWh, so a cold load costs $0.03 and a hot one costs $0.21 in electricity.

In a year I will pay $3.60 in electricity (or $25.20 if I used hot water). If you use a dryer, you will have to add the cost of electricity for the dryer to these calculations.

Total Costs for 120 washes over a year
Detergent (2 x 1kg boxes of EcoStore Laundry Powder) $25.90
Water $29.29
Electricity $3.60
Total $58.79
Total per load 49 cents

We've used these figures to calculate the laundry costs of $146.98 over 2.5 years in the total cost comparisons above, but it is quite easy to spend less depending on the methods and frequency you choose to wash your nappies.

A quality reusable modern cloth nappy system will last your baby from birth through to toilet training and will cost less than $900. To keep a baby in single use disposable nappies for the same amount of time can cost over $3,000 for the first baby and nearly $7,000 if you have two children. Depending on which nappies you choose, you can save up to $2,000 for your first child, increasing to over $5,000 for two children. The financial choice is an easy one!