Life expectancy of cloth diapers

We are talking about the life expectancy of a diaper, and some things we have learned over the years. Many of you ask about how to make your diapers last for more than one child, so here are tips and advice we have:

-If you are saving your diapers for more than one child, and store them in between, please store them in a temperature controlled room. Not the attic or unfinished basement, extreme heat and cold will rot your elastic and make aplix brittle.

-The diapers that will last the longest, through several children, is prefolds. If you want to invest in a system that is economical and lasts for quite some time and many washings, prefolds and covers are the way to go.

-Many mamas ask how many children their one size diapers will last through, and some are disappointed when their one size pockets only last from one child. We tell customers to expect them to last through one child for the weight expectancy of that diaper. Do you get lucky sometimes? Yes, we have had Bumgenius diapers last through 2 children partway, but usually halfway through the second child they are retired. Sized diapers will typically last through two children, but think of it this way. A one size diaper, if started at birth or shortly thereafter, is washed three times as much and used three times as much as a sized diaper. Your cost is triple, too. You can buy 3 Fuzzi Bunz sizes in small, medium and large and have them last through 2, possibly 3 children if cared for properly, but you have spent three times as much as if you had a one size pocket last for just one child. Being soaked in urine and feces, washing in hot, machine drying, being stuffed and worn puts wear and tear on a diaper over time, so keep in mind realistic expectations for your one size diapers. I know I used pockets as examples, the same can be said of one size fitteds versus sized fitteds. PUL covers seem to wear better, they aren’t soaked in urine and ammonia to the extent that absorbent diapers are, and they aren’t stretched out after drying so covers in general see more life than the actual diapers. Wool covers can pretty much go forever if you keep them away from moths and don’t over-felt them to shrink them down.

-So reading the above, which do you recommend? It really is six of one, half a dozen of the other in the case of one size vs. sized diapers. It is up to you, if you prefer the fit of sized diapers, invest the money since you will love you fluff all the more, care for them and store them properly, and they will last. If you want the simplicity of a one size pocket, expect them to last for one child (if you start half way through with one child, expect some life in a second child), and enjoy your fluff. If you really want your diapers to last and last, invest in prefolds, wool covers and take care of your PUL covers in between. Gosh, I think we have proraps in our stash that have to be close to 5 years old now, and still functional (not pretty by any stretch, but they work!)

-Always remember, cloth diapers are fabric, and how you care for them is important. Frequent bleaching will shorten their life span, as will frequent vinegar use or abrasive cleansars. Now, sometimes with various washing situations you need these items, I promise even if you cut the life of your diapers by a few months you still come well ahead financially than if you had used disposables.

I like this little calculator here:
If you want to do some cipherin’ (anyone watch the old black and white Beverly Hillbillies?)


August 21, 2010. cloth diapers, FAQ, Q & A.


  1. Christy replied:

    Do you have any ideas on what to do with “retired” diapers? I just can’t bring myself to throw them in the trash, lol. A diaper with shot elastic, worn PUL, etc…. I don’t feel like fixing them myself either, that was the original idea, but they’ve been in a bag waiting for that to happen for a year now and I’ve moved on to other diapers.

    • abbyslane replied:

      Honestly I do toss them, inserts can be used as burp cloths or swiffer rags, but there isn’t too much to be done when elastic, snaps and all the notions are shot. Some do get in the baby boxes though, if they were a sentimental favorite 🙂

  2. Julie replied:

    Okay, dummy question: When you say that pocket one-sizes will only last through one child, do you mean the pockets/covers will wear out, or the inserts? If I buy new inserts (which I planned on doing anyway because of microfiber’s lifespan), will the pockets last me through two kids??

    Also, what are the signs that a diaper needs to be “retired”? I have several that are starting to leak quite regularly, but we switched to an HE front-loader less than a month ago and therefore had to switch detergents (I was very happy with the Country Save we were using before, but hey, the liquid isn’t HE), so I wonder if it’s a detergent/buildup problem. I’m stripping today to see if that helps…

    • abbyslane replied:

      The inserts will last much longer than diapers usually, it is the wear and tear on elastic and the snaps/velcro that wears out the diaper. I have some microfiber inserts pushing 4-5 years and still function. Usually leaking indicates a need for more absorbency, have you tried adding more on the inside?

  3. Melissa replied:

    If it is

  4. Melissa replied:

    Sorry about before, my son hit the “reply” key!

    If it is just the elastic or velcro, those can be replaced and the diaper can be used again. If it is the PUL, I don’t think anything can be done.

    My microfiber inserts have been used for almost 20 months now and they are still great! Every few months I soak them with hot water, dawn and bleach to keep them absorbant.

  5. keep your cloth diapers looking great! « It's The Cloth That Counts. replied:

    […] wrote an article a little while ago about what to expect life-span wise from your cloth diapers, worth a read over when considering what to […]

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