Monday, August 25, 2014

How Much Time Does it REALLY Take to Use Cloth Diapers

One of the biggest concerns people have about cloth diapering is the time commitment involved, so this got me thinking, how much extra time does it REALLY take to use cloth diapers over disposable diapers?  Now that my curiosity was piqued, I decided that I would take a week and time all of activities that I had to do extra to cloth diaper including:
1. Washing diapers
2. Sorting/Folding/Stuffing and putting away diapers and wipes
3. Refilling wipes containers
4. Spraying out dirty diapers

I timed these activities a few times though out the past week and I even had two of my friends time how long it took them to fold their diaper laundry so that I would have a good average for each activity on a weekly basis.  Note that the numbers should be used as an estimate and is based on some basic assumptions (actual results may vary).  I used numbers assuming one child in cloth diapers at a time and I also calculated based on a mixed diaper stash (all in ones, all in twos, flats/prefolds and pockets) whereas some stashes may take longer or shorter to fold (e.g. pockets probably take the longest). I made a couple assumptions about how often people wash their diapers and how many diapers they use a day (included in the details below).
Washing Diapers
If you cloth diaper, one of the biggest time commitments you will have over using disposable diapers is actually washing them.  I normally tell friends and prospective cloth diapers that the washing part isn't really that big of a deal as its mostly just pushing buttons and pouring in a little detergent.  For the purposes of my calculation I timed how long it took me to set each cycle (including the time to get off the couch and walk to the washer each time) as well as to transfer my wipes and inserts to the dryer and hang up all of my PUL shells to dry.  I found that on average to do the whole task that it took about four minutes each time I did laundry.  I assumed that most people do laundry every other day and therefore 3.5 times a week for a total of 14 minutes a week.
Sorting/Folding/Stuffing and putting away diapers and wipes
This part is definitely the most time consuming of any of the tasks and will be dependent upon what type of diapers you have and if you can talk your husband into helping you ;).  Although it takes the longest I find this part the most enjoyable because I get to see all my clean diapers laid out in front of me.  I also normally do it while watching TV so it's not that big of a deal.  For this activity the overall average was determined based on the assumption that people have a variety of diaper types and that they are folding about 1 wipe for each diaper.  For mixed stashes I found that it took about 30 seconds to fold each diaper (on average and including the associated wipe).  For my friend that only uses pocket diapers the average was closer to almost a minute per diaper and if you had a stash that only had all in ones it might be closer to 15-20 seconds for each diaper.  Based on these assumptions the average time to fold and put away all diaper and wipes was about 8-9 minutes per load (16-18 diapers and 20 wipes) and based on 3.5 loads a week the average is about 30 minutes per week.
Refilling wipes containers
I like to prewet my wipes and store them in a wipes warmer but no matter how you do it it takes a little bit of extra time to wet cloth wipes than it does to use prepackaged disposable wipes.  I find that I wet mine about every other day and that it takes me about a minute and a half each time I fill the warmer for a total of 5 extra minutes a week.  This total does not take into consideration any extra time to make your own wipe solution as I frequently just use distilled water.

Spraying out dirty diapers
The last activity (and probably my least favorite unless you are considering the positives of poop) that requires more than with cloth diapers than with disposable is taking care of any solid waste.  I timed how long it took from baby to diaper pail with various types of situations (from plopable to super messy) and found that on average it takes about one minute to deal with a dirty diaper.  Your weekly time will depend upon how many messy diapers you get a week but my calculations assumed about 10 diapers a week for a total of 10 minutes.
Total Time Spent
If you add up all of the time spent from the activities above you come up to 59 minutes a week, so just under an hour!!!  Of course this doesn't take into consideration that if I was using disposable diapers that I would spend time cutting coupons, searching the Internet for the best deal or driving to the store and battling diaper rash.  Overall spending an extra hour so that I can use cloth diapers on my girls seems very worthwhile to me but being a CPA I really needed to quantify the amount of time I spend so stay tuned for my next post (hopefully soon) where I translate the time savings into dollars!
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