cloth diapering myths and truths revealed
Truth - cloth diapers are better for the environment

•In the United States alone, we throw away over 20 billion disposable diapers a year. That’s enough to circle the globe 90x or fill the Empire State Building 30x with diapers.

•A typical disposable diaper contains petroleum, plastics, perfumes, wood pulp and dioxins (a byproduct of the bleaching process and a known carcinogen).

•While we don’t know for sure, disposable diapers are estimated to take up to 500 years to decompose in landfills. The average amount of disposable diapers one child will use is somewhere between 6000-8000 diapers (in 2.5 years).

•Washing cloth diapers over 2.5 years could use an estimated 15,300 gallons of water. It takes approximately 9 gallons of water to produce one disposable diaper. Multiply that by 6,000 diapers and you’ll see that 54,000 gallons of water were used to produce the disposable diapers for one child.

•Irrigating a lawn twice a week for one month uses the same amount of water as all the diaper loads you will wash for one child in 2.5 years!

The figures above are cited from one our top-selling diaper brands: GroVia

Truth - No Special Detergents are Needed

•When choosing a detergent, our general rule of thumb is that you use whatever detergent you plan on using for the baby. If you are going to use a special baby detergent, then use that with the diapers. If you are going to use what you use for your own clothes, then use that for the diapers. Don’t complicate this!

Two Caveats

1.  Don’t use homemade detergents as they do not clean effectively.

2.  Eco-friendly detergents are great, especially for clothes, but don’t always clean “really dirty laundry, i.e. cloth diapers” very well. If you want to stick with an eco-friendly option, choose one that is salt based, as opposed to one that’s main ingredient is coconut or other plant based oils.  Also, with eco-friendly, you will typically need to use more than what is “recommended” for washing soiled clothes.

Cloth diaper washing history (for you researching types)

•Those that cloth diapered in the 90s and earlier usually had pretty harsh washing routines when it came to cloth diapers. Lots of bleach and soaking of the diapers were involved. They also had diapers that were very basic in design (typically just cotton fibers that could really withstand a beating when it came to washing methods).

•Move into the 2000s and modern cloth diapers started hitting the market. They were made with different materials and definitely more user-friendly. However, these fibers were not necessarily as hardy as the cotton diapers of yesteryear. The pendulum of washing diapers swung to the extreme other side during these years. At the suggestion of the manufacturers, diapers basically were to be coddled through the wash with special detergents and wash routines.

•Around 2014, give or take a year, the pendulum seemed to come to a resting place in the middle, which is where we are now. Harsh washing routines are no longer suggested nor are gentle, coddled routines. As for detergent, you don’t need to use special detergents, either.

False - Cloth Diapered Babies Potty Trainer Earlier

•Cloth diapers have earned a reputation of supposedly helping kids to potty train earlier. We aren’t aware of any “scientific studies” proving this but rather believe it to all be anecdotal. And for good reason, we're sure! You see, when the older generations were cloth diapering their little ones, diapers were made of all natural materials and the covers, i.e., rubber pants, were made of lower quality materials than we have today (therefore, not nearly as effective). This all created an ideal scenario for parents to potty train their children earlier.

Let's Make Sense of All of This

•Disposable diapers wick moisture away from baby’s skin, therefore baby does not feel wet when he or she pees in the diaper. This can delay potty training because the child is not “uncomfortable” in a wet diaper so to speak.

•Disposable pull-ups wick moisture away from the toddler’s skin just like a disposable diaper. The differences between a disposable pull-up and diaper is the ease of putting on and taking off the pull up, possibly less absorbent and definitely more expensive.

•Cloth diapers with wicking materials (“stay dry” fabrics such as mico-fleece) wick moisture away from baby’s skin much like disposables. This will have the same effect as disposable diapers in possibly delaying potty training.

•Cloth diapers with natural materials, e.g., cotton and hemp, maintain a feeling of wetness next to baby’s skin, much like the “old-fashioned diapers” did of generations past. This may aid in potty training.

•Cloth diaper covers of today are much more effective at keeping leaks at bay as opposed to their earlier forms of rubber pants (which had a high probability of leaking). These more effective covers may delay potty training because cloth diapering is no less convenient than disposable diapers.

There is more at play than what diaper type is being used when looking at the average potty training age

1.  The baby/toddler being developmentally ready to potty train.

2.  The parents being mentally ready to potty train.

From Megan, Owner of Colorado Baby, and Mom of 6 children:

All six of my children have been in a variety of diapers (ones that they felt wet in and ones that they felt dry in due to wicking capabilities) and they have all potty trained at varying ages. I have not seen a strong correlation between the diaper they were using and the age they potty trained. I had a child that potty trained as early as 22 months and another that potty trained as late as 3 years, and everything in between.

Get More Myths and Truths

We'll discuss more topics like:

  • Will Cloth Diapers Make Your House Stink
  • Do Cloth Diapers Actually Leak More Than Disposable Diapers
  • Are Cloth Diapers Hard To Use
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