Are cloth nappies really cheaper than disposables?


Aside from being kinder to the environment and your baby's bum, one of the main reasons parents who use cloth cite for going the cloth route is that it's cheaper in the long run.

Others often counter this point by saying you end up spending more on water and electricity, so you're not really saving much money. 

Cloth nappies can be as cheap or expensive as you make them to be. You could go the very cheap route: flats, Snappi and some waterproof covers; mid-way: pockets; or expensive: Work At Home Mom hybrid fitted nappies (either local or imported, which can be anything from R300-R800 a nappy).

Read more: Cloth Nappies 101

We've done some calculations for you and have even provided you with a handy spreadsheet (kindly provided by the South African Cloth Nappy Users Facebook Group) so you can do these calculations depending on what disposable nappy you’re currently using and what kind of cloth nappies you would buy.

How much do disposable nappies cost over 3 years?

Here is a breakdown of how much disposables will cost you over 3 years. Your kid might potty train before the age of 3 and you might also use a different brand of nappy. We chose a mid-range nappy priced from 3 mid-range stores.

Click on the image to download a spreadsheet that you can edit to help you calculate how much you’ll spend on disposable nappies.

So how much will cloth nappies cost?

Here’s an example of what cloth nappies will cost you. This is a breakdown of the nappies we have bought for our son; our stash mostly consists of mid-range type nappies like pockets, All-in-Twos and All-in-Ones.

Read more: Why are so many crèches opposed to cloth nappies?

Keep in mind:

  • We’re intending to use our stash of cloth nappies for the second baby we’re expecting toward the end of the year. Therefore, this cost for cloth would be for two children.
  • We do intend to sell our newborn nappies as those are probably only in use for about 3 to 4 months. So we’ll make money back on those. And in case you're pulling up your nose at the thought of second-hand cloth nappies, let me tell you there is a roaring trade among cloth nappy moms. 

You can download this spreadsheet here if you'd like to do your own analysis of how much nappies are costing you.

The verdict

While the initial cost of cloth is expensive, in the long run it works out cheaper. If you’re pregnant you can start building your stash early, buying a few every month.

If you already have a child you can make the transition gradually. We used disposables and cloth side-by-side, while we built up a stash for our then 18-month-old, until we had enough cloth nappies for us to wash every third day.

Do you use cloth nappies? Has it worked out cheaper for your household? Send us your comments to and we may publish your responses.

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