Monday, December 26, 2011

How long do cloth diapers last?

This is one of the most common questions I get from potential customers, and it's a good one. Before anyone makes an investment in anything this is definitely the right question to ask, but it's a tough question to answer with cloth diapering because there are several factors that contribute to the longevity of a diaper.  My daughter turned 2 years old a few weeks ago, and I'm expecting my second next summer so I'm starting to look at will my diapers last for baby #2.  Here are a few things to consider and a few of my observations:

Worn Hemp Doubler
  1. Quality of construction: Just like buying any other piece of clothing one should always check out how it's made. Does the construction look professional, or does the diaper or cover look flimsy?  Do you like the material used?  Check out the stitching and seams.  Many times this can be really difficult to ascertain, and to be honest, I haven't come across many diapers that have been so poorly constructed that it falls apart on you after a couple washes. I did have a problem a couple years ago with the older style Bum Genius AIO - the BG3.0 which has since been discontinued. The velcro tab on the body of the diaper came apart on a couple of the diapers.  But since then, I really can't say I have seen very much quality issues.
  2. Fasteners: This is where I've seen the biggest problem with the life of a diaper.  If you've read my blog post about Velcro vs. Snap Fasteners you know I'm a big proponent of velcro in the beginning and snaps for the long haul (4 months to potty training).  I've had a few covers where the velcro has failed a few months after first use (Happy Heinys OS Cover which I no longer carry, and Kushies Diaper Wrap which are currently on clearance at my website).  The Kushies, though the quality of the fabric used for their covers feels VERY cheap.... like a shower curtain, I've had NO problems with leakage.  The velcro though I think is good for a short haul so the size one's are great, but I wouldn't recommend them to go for the long-haul.  Their price point though may make it worth it.  Not all velcro is made equal though and I have come across a few good diapers where the velcro lasts - the Kushies AIO , I haven't had the velcro fail me; the velcro on the Bummis covers are pretty good, but by far the best velcro I've seen so far is on the Tots Bots Bamboozles (distributed by Bummis).  The other fastener to consider also is the Snappi.  If your baby is in a bigger size prefold (regular size) and they are in a fan fold for a year or so, and you're constantly putting the Snappi in virtually the same spot, don't be surprised if by year 2 or so that same spot gets worn.  
  3. Frequency of use: Like anything else, the more you use a product the more wear and tear you're going to have on that product.  Remember, diapers aren't like our clothes.  Yes, you may have the same old faithful t-shirt for 10 years and it's still going strong, but chances are you're not wearing and washing that t-shirt every 2-3 days right?  So don't expect miracles from your diapers.  The first set of diapers you get for your newborn may last forever because new baby is only in it for 4-6 months.  But that second set you buy - the size 2s and/or one-size-fits-all are going to be going for a while.  So ensure you choose good quality diapers with good fasteners, and if you have to replace one or two along the way don't be too upset.  
  4. Fabric: Do some fabrics wear better than others? I have had a particular brand of cotton fitteds that are not standing the test of time too well, and some of my cotton prefolds are starting to wear as well.  I haven't seen this in my other cotton products so I don't want to cast blame on the fabric here.  I haven't had any issues with the fleece liners on my pocket diapers.  What I have heard can be problems sometimes is the PUL de-laminating from covers.  I haven't personally had this problem with covers, and as of this week I just started to see my PUL de-laminating from the inside of my diaper pail... but it has been 2 years for the bag so I'm thinking I've gotten my money's worth there.
  5. Maintenance:  As I mentioned before the repetitive washing of the diapers can cause wear and tear, this is to be expected.  I have had problems with a few of my hemp doublers that have really taken a beating in the 2 years I have been using them (see pic above).  Since the doublers are stitched on in layers I have seen the top layer being shredded by my washing machine.  I simply cut away that top layer and kept on going.  Yes, I'm sure I've lost a bit of absorption there, but, I wasn't ready to give up on the doubler quite yet.  So how can one increase the life span of the diaper with all this washing? I'd say two things:
    1. Getting all the detergent out of the diapers is just as important to its absorbency as it is to its service life.  Soap stuck in the fabric will aid in its deterioration.
    2. To prevent PUL from de-laminating from covers and bags and such, avoid placing them in the direct heat of your dryer and line-dry them inside your home.
I'm praying that I can get my 2 year old potty trained in the next 6 months.  I've been using fitteds, prefolds, pocket diapers and AIOs with her for about a year and a half.  I think I may need to replace about 4 of the maybe 20 diapers I currently have in her rotation for baby #2.  I may get rid of a few more that aren't my favorites, but, they're still going strong for now.  The covers I'm using now are awesome (I have gone through several to find the ones I like) and I'm going to stick with my Gen-Y Universal and my Rumparooz One Size cover.  I have also been using my GroVia covers with their inserts, as well as with prefolds (tri-folded), and those work really well.  

When baby #2 gets here, I'll have his/her diapers prepped and ready from Becca's old stash.  This consists of infant-sized prefolds, Happy Hempies & Bummis covers.  I also have some BG3.0s in medium and regular prefolds which I used before deciding to go to one-size-fit all diapers.  The infant sized stuff are in mint condition - remember, I had an almost 8lb baby, so I didn't use those past about 4 months.  Hopefully I'll be able to give my big girl diapers a break before #2 is ready for them.  

So back to the question at hand, how long do these diapers last? Is 2 kids for 2-1/2 years each good enough for you?  If I have a third, I'll let you know just how much further I can stretch my savings ;) 

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