Itís a great feeling knowing that only a couple hundred dollars spent on cloth diapers can save you the thousands of dollars that you would have spent on disposables. I bought my cloth diapers for my first (and currently, my only) child, fully intending to have more kids and also intending to never have to spend another dime on diapering once my stash was completed (unless I want to, of course :-D). Even the best cloth diapers can wear out over time which means that you might have to add a little more money to your investment when it comes to your second and especially your third child. But there are ways you can protect your investment by prolonging the life of your cloth diaper stash.
In the Wash
The best way to help your diapers last longer is to wash them properly. Always use gentle, additive free detergent if you can, be sure to rinse them well before and after the wash, and donít let too much time pass before washing a dirty diaper. They should sit dirty for no longer than 2 or 3 days.
Machine drying is fine for your inserts and your prefolds, but diapers with elastics and Velcro or aplix will do best if they get line dried. Eventually, rubber elastics will deteriorate over time and the heat of your dryer will decrease the life of those elastics (just check out your favorite hair elastic after a couple of years!) But more than just preserving the life of your leg and waist bands, line drying will also help preserve the fabric of the diaper for longer periods of time. So, if youíre patient (Iím not) and can line dry your fitteds and AIOs (I donít), they may see a couple more months than they would if they were machine dried frequently.
The size of your stash will help a lot in giving your diapers a rest between uses. Cloth diapers get more use than any other article of clothing your kids (or you) will ever wear. If you wore a sweater every other day for two or three years straight, you wouldnít expect it to last longóespecially if you were always peeing and pooping in it! Well, cloth diapers were designed to last longer than that sweater, but still, they canít last forever. The more diapers you have in your stash, the better the diapers will fare over time because theyíll get used less frequently.
Diversify the Stash
I know not everyone has the money for a large stash full of pockets, AIOS or even fitted diapers, but you can augment your stash with some prefolds or flats (which cost as little as $2 a diaper) in order to give your more expensive diapers a rest. In fact, you can just skip the pockets, AI2s, and AIOs all together if you want to spend less than $50 on a full stash. Prefolds, unlike many other diapers, just get better, softer, and more absorbent with age. With these, tried and true diapers, you donít have to worry about snaps breaking, Velcro wearing out, or elastics losing their elasticity because there are no snaps, Velcro, or elastics! Add a dozen of these to any stash and your fancier diapers will get less use and thus will last longeróand youíll spend only as much on a full stash of these as you would on 2-4 pockets. Good deal!
Of course, buying high quality diapers will really help you out in keeping your stash for a longer time. Sometimes, the higher quality diapers cost more money, but since theyíll last you longer, you save more money in the end. I stand by my ardent love of Fuzzi Bunz for their amazing, replaceable elastics. Knickernappies use Lastin (a clear, plastic elastic) instead of rubber elastics, so the dryer wonít break them down over time. BumGenius offers refresher packs with new elastics and Velcro for the day a couple years down the road when those parts of the diaper will inevitably fail.
And there are other, high quality diapers out there that are sure to stand the test of time better then their counterparts. Talk to fellow cloth diapering parents, or read up on reviews found on blogs or, even better, retail sites. Reviews done for a product at a retailer are more likely to be honest than those done by bloggers who want to be honest but may not be brutally so in order to keep their sponsors happy.
Whether your stash is big or small, be sure to rotate your diapers well so that they all get equal use. When I replace my clean diapers in my baskets, Iím sure to pull the diapers that were already there to the front so that theyíll be the ones I grab first. Also, I try to mix it up between my fitteds, prefolds, and pockets.
But donít let any of this stress you out. Just rest assured that even if a couple of diapers donít make it to your second or third child, you still saved thousands of dollars over disposables. In fact, even if you had to buy a full stash for each child, cloth diapering would still be cheaper than using disposables.