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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?