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How Long Will Cloth Diapers Really Last?

How #clothdiapers age via @chgdiapers

I’ve said several times that I think it’s unrealistic to expect that a stash of 12-18 cloth diapers can be washed hundreds of times and still look brand new after 3 years. Some people disagree with me. I think a car is a good analogy. A good vehicle can go for 200k+ miles, but not without oil changes, new tires and maybe a few scuffs and scratches along the way. Rockin’ Green wrote a 5-part post about whether cloth diapers will really last from birth to potty training. The series included the lifespan of different materials used in diapers (I was really surprised at how short the lifespan is!), as well as things that can make diapers last longer or break them down. Today I wanted to share how my own diapers have aged.

How #clothdiapers age via @chgdiapers 2 my oldest diaper How #clothdiapers age via @chgdiapers 3
How #clothdiapers age via @chgdiapers 4 inner

This is my oldest diaper, one of the original 3 Bumgenius 3.0s I purchased 4 1/2 years ago. It has been through 2 babies, and it’s pretty much been through the wringer. I started with an extremely small stash therefore this diaper was washed at least daily in the beginning, as I slowly built my stash 1 diaper at a time. It has been converted to snaps, shows wear near the rise snaps (it has been on the medium rise setting for most of its life, so that area has been rubbed on clothing and in the wash) and the elastic is relaxed. The insert is flattened and not very absorbent but it is still perfectly functional. If I were to “rehome” this diaper, I’d suggest a new insert and new elastic, but it is ready to diaper another two babies otherwise. There are no issues with the PUL or lining.

How #clothdiapers age via @chgdiapers 5 another old diaper How #clothdiapers age via @chgdiapers 6

This Blueberry diaper was purchased in November of 2009 and was one of the first I added to my stash. It has been converted to snaps, and I replaced the insert. It’s been through 2 children and is still a great diaper!

How #clothdiapers age via @chgdiapers 7 old diaper How #clothdiapers age via @chgdiapers 8 inner

My Blueberry Bamboo was purchased in December 2009 and from the outside, appears practically brand new. The inside is another story! Years of washing on hot (and drying the insert on hot) has degraded the rayon from bamboo, and the inner and insert are both threadbare. Even so, the diaper still works and would make a great cover.

How #clothdiapers age via @chgdiapers 9 old diaper How #clothdiapers age via @chgdiapers 10 inner

My Thirsties Duo Diaper is not quite 4 years old (purchased June 2010) and was used in a slightly larger, but still modest rotation. It has been converted to snaps and has some staining – on the elastic in particular. The insert is showing definite signs of wear, but the diaper is still useable.

How #clothdiapers age via @chgdiapers 11 3ish year old diaper How #clothdiapers age via @chgdiapers 12

This duo diaper has been used in a moderately larger stash for less than two years. The landing strip is pilly, the closure tabs are separating, and the insert is showing some signs of wear.

How #clothdiapers age via @chgdiapers 13 2plus year old diaper How #clothdiapers age via @chgdiapers 14

This Applecheeks diaper has been used for a bit less than 3 years (June 2011) and while the insert is a bit less absorbent than it was when new and the inner is a bit pilly, it is still looking and functioning great. This was used in a stash of 24 or so diapers.

How #clothdiapers age via @chgdiapers 15 2.5 year old diaper How #clothdiapers age via @chgdiapers 16 inner

I can’t remember when I bought this Bumgenius Albert print. I’m pretty sure it was purchased when the print was released in 2011 and used only on my second son, which would mean it has been used for a bit over 2 years. This was rotated in a nice stash of about 24-36 diapers, but it’s a favorite, so it’s grabbed fairly often! It shows some wear at the middle rise snap, where it has been snapped for most of its lifetime.

Since I had 2 in diapers for 6+ months, I purchased additional diapers for my second son. I’m still using quite a few of my older diapers, but I’ve also weeded through and donated many that were last to be chosen.

Diapers will last longer if treated well of course. Clean them properly with adequate detergent, rinse them well, line dry (or lay flat to preserve elastics), don’t stretch when hot (if you machine dry), don’t bleach unless necessary, avoid additives etc. Before the advent of one-size diapers, a diaper was more likely to last for multiple children without repairs, since they were in use for a shorter time period.

The big factor in how long your diapers will last is how often they are washed. The larger your stash, the less wear & tear on your diapers. I felt most comfortable when I had 24-30 diapers in my stash for 1 child. I could wash every other day & never run low, but I also wasn’t overwhelmed with a big pile of diapers waiting to be used.

Often a “selling point” for cloth diapers is that they will last for multiple children and/or hold resale value, and that is true. However, these are diapers and no matter how gingerly you treat them, unless you have an enormous stash, they will show some wear after being used for years. I went hunting to see if I could find information on how long brands expected their diapers to last. I could have sworn at one point someone said their inserts should last xyz washes before showing wear. I didn’t find that but I did find some tidbits from several brands.

Applecheeks:

applecheeks

GroVia:

grovia

Thirsties:

thirsties

It sounds like 24-36 diapers in your stash is a good number, and any over that will reduce the wear & tear on your diapers. Sure, you can definitely have a stash of 12-18 diapers and wash every day but you’ll see wear & tear much sooner, as evidenced by some of my older diapers that were washed very frequently. Since a stash of 36 one-size cloth diapers will generally “pay for itself” in a year or less (depending on cost of diapers, what you’d pay for disposables, how many you change per day etc.) I’m feeling pretty good about these diapers. I know that when we’re finished with cloth, they can likely diaper another baby (or three) with a little TLC.

How many diapers do you have in your stash? What kind of wear & tear have you seen?


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Maria Moser
Maria is the mother of 3, writing about cloth diapers & going green. You'll often find her juggling her preschooler and typing 1-handed in between sips of cold coffee. Maria works with many companies within the cloth diaper industry and beyond, providing social media management, product development and other services.
23 Comments
  • knitbunnie
    January 4, 2015 at 6:31 pm
    Reply

    I raised my kids in the days of Curity gauze flats that had to be folded almost origami-style, and plastic pants over them. They were one-size-fits-all with different folding for different sizes. Pre-folds were not in our diaper stack. My eldest is almost 37 , and I’m still using some of those cloth diapers as dust rags. It makes me smile when I dust, thinking of squishy babies and wet kisses.

    • January 4, 2015 at 9:53 pm
      Reply

      My mother-in-law still has Curity prefolds she used on my husband! <3

      • knitbunnie
        January 4, 2015 at 10:12 pm
        Reply

        Love (1,000,001)

  • November 12, 2014 at 9:00 am
    Reply

    […] this year, I wrote about how my cloth diapers have aged. Some of those diapers are now more than 5 years old, have been used on two children and were ready […]

  • July 16, 2014 at 8:01 pm
    Reply

    Hmm, I think I had better start laying all my covers flat to dry. Mine are all in pretty good shape, but a lot of them I’ve only been using two years or less.

  • Sara
    July 16, 2014 at 8:37 am
    Reply

    ALL -free and clear- military version (no optical brighteners like the reg all F&C), rock in Green -hard rock have been my main detergents used. A BG sample pack here and there.

    • July 16, 2014 at 9:00 am
      Reply

      You did everything “right.” 🙁 Were any still under warranty or was it already over?

      • Sarah
        July 16, 2014 at 9:25 am
        Reply

        All PUL failure was after my 1 yr warranty. Best they could tell me was to extend life with a waterproofing spray, which doesn’t appear to be sold in stores near me. Maybe I’ll sell them for someone else to spray and use or use as swim diapers 🙂

  • Sarah
    July 15, 2014 at 8:54 pm
    Reply

    I started full time diapering in June 2012 with an almost 2 yr old and a 7 mo old. I had gotten my stash up to 20 BG 3.0 and 4.0s and 9 flip covers. I recently retired all but 3 BG3.0s and maybe 4 flip covers. Now on baby 3 (2 mo old now) and bought 3 elementals 3 freetime and 6 flip covers.
    So with my stash they lasted 18-24 mo. They were retired because of the cracked PUL (line dryed, hard water).

    • July 15, 2014 at 9:21 pm
      Reply

      We have acidic well water, but we have a softener and central filter. I’m sure that hard water makes a huge difference. Still, 29ish in rotation for almost 2 years, I think you got your money’s worth! Are you feeling OK about it or like you wish they’d lasted longer?

      • Sarah
        July 15, 2014 at 11:08 pm
        Reply

        I wish my Lovelace prints had lasted longer since I had hopes to resell them. Both of my BG4.0 and one of my two flips have cracked PUL. I was expecting them to at least last 3 years. We still went through more disposables than I would have liked, so I do kinda wonder how much I really saved by going cloth.
        I was glad that I didn’t spend too much of my own money to find diapers that work for us. I had thirsties that my mom bought with my first child and I couldn’t get them to work. After trying off and on hoping that as she grew the fit would work, I ended up stopping cloth until I had my second child and decided to try flip diapers since a friend said that’s what she used. Then got a couple 4.0s with coupon codes and loved them. Bought more for the sitter.
        So overall I liked the diapers. I wish they lasted longer since I was trying to care for them well enough… But honestly who doesn’t wish their diapers would last longer 🙂
        Oh and I jut bought 5 fuzzibunz. Not liking them as much yet but still working to “understand” them better. So after another $150 I now have 11 diapers and 6 covers that are new. And I’m finding it hard to twist buying even more!

        • July 16, 2014 at 8:08 am
          Reply

          Sounds like you got some pretty good deals! Hard water is tough – may I ask what detergent you were using? I’m just curious. 🙂

          • Sarah
            July 16, 2014 at 9:30 am

            Oops $150 for BG/flip and another $50 for fuzzibunz.

  • Beth
    July 15, 2014 at 7:26 pm
    Reply

    Interesting post. I cloth diapered my almost 5 yr old, and my 2 yr old, and next year I’ll be doing it again. The thing with us is that we never used a diaper more then 6 months, only because I made them and kept selling them as I found a new way or new pattern that worked better for us. With my 2 yr old I finally found what I think is the perfect diaper (or the perfect diaper for us) but then my brother had a baby and all those “final” diapers got shipped to him. Since this is our last (or at least that’s the plan) I don’t want to be making new stashes every 6 months. Maybe I should use the extra fabric I have to make a few more, just to be on the safe side, plus, they will have better resale value that way! Thanks for the info!

  • March 26, 2014 at 11:07 pm
    Reply

    I’ve been cloth diapering for 3 years now. When I first started I only had 18 inserts and 6 shells and thus they went through a LOT of washes. 3 years later I’m still using those “well loved” diapers but they are fully worn. I only use organic cotton and so it doesn’t hold up as long anyway. I’ve got inserts full of holes now. But I expect that. Like I said, they were washed almost every day for about a year straight…and they have survived 2 kids so they’ve lived a good, well used life. 🙂

    Now I have a lot more diapers in my stash though.

  • beth newell
    March 26, 2014 at 8:15 pm
    Reply

    Yih I guess I should add with each child I added some new diapers and passed some on to diaper heaven (rag bin), through 4 kids. So some lasted very well. Baby #5 got his own stash as I had given away all my diapers by then.

    • March 26, 2014 at 8:27 pm
      Reply

      No harm in that! Prefolds make awesome rags!

  • beth newell
    March 26, 2014 at 8:10 pm
    Reply

    Found this post and the rockin green post both very interesting. With all my other kids I mostly used Kushies. And mostly basic fitted. My AIO’s didn’t last as long but I wasn’t upset about it as I’m not an AIO fan. I prefer just cotton and no cover when possible. I also was lucky to stary with a giod sized stash of over 30, washing 2-3 days there was always clean diapers and some that were barely used. Those basic cotton fitted’s lasted me a long time Longer then rockin green says cotton should last…maybe I just saved the favorites for special use (its been awhile lol). And my moms prefolds lasted very long as she kept some in hand forever and has them there for grandkids when needed. Others were made into my doll diapers. What I found sad was reading the impact of unrealistic expectations on the cloth diaper industry. I also found it interesting to see how your diapers have held up. And btw; that Albert diaper is very adorable!

    • March 26, 2014 at 8:12 pm
      Reply

      Albert is one of my favorite prints ever! My MIL still has Curity prefolds that look practically new, and my DH will be 35 this year. 🙂 Then again, things were a lot simpler in those days too! No crazy wash routines and none of these modern materials!

      • beth newell
        March 26, 2014 at 8:18 pm
        Reply

        Your DJ is a year younger then my younger sister….same diapers from me to her. I think that’s why I have had good wear. Mine are all cotton and basic fitted or prefold. This time cotton prefold and I learned to wash from my mom.

        • March 26, 2014 at 8:27 pm
          Reply

          The diapers were used on my BIL as well! 🙂 Cloth for the win!

  • Alyssa
    March 26, 2014 at 3:37 pm
    Reply

    We have at least 20 Bum Genius, another 15-20 G-diapers in mediums and large and we have another 15 or so BumWare diapers, and one Best Bottom. We also have about 12 Alvas. The Alvas are no good… Purchased them cheaply from a friend who was selling them and since I have a cloth diaper addiction I bought them. The Alvas leak. The Bum Genius we bought new and we have a 13 year old. The G’s I bought used (some are 4 years old) and some are a tad stretched. The Bum Ware’s were also used upon purchase and aside from being a tad stretched around the waist work well.

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