People often have very strong opinions on whether to put used CLOTHING on their children, and that is even more true of cloth diapers. I am of the opinion that this is a first world problem. If you are choosing between buying new cloth diapers for your children, or feeding them, or giving them a roof over their heads – the choice has quite a different weight than if you are choosing new cloth diapers vs. redecorating your nursery/buying a few pairs of new shoes. And this choice (diapers vs. basic needs) does not only happen in poverty-stricken third-world countries, either. It is made in homes in the US every day. I’ve been there.
That being said, there are some considerations to keep in mind when deciding between buying new or used diapers for your baby.
- Cost comparison: are new diapers close to the price you would pay for used ones? Then it might be worth it to spend the extra little bit and get new ones, they’ll probably last a little longer and you can have more say in exactly what you get. If you can get them used for 25% of the price of new, it might be better to go for the used ones.
- Shipping cost: most diapers are quite heavy, and having to pay a seller the cost of shipping on top of the cost of the diapers can make used diapers less cost effective. Most online cloth diaper retailers will offer free shipping above a certain purchase amount and that can save you a pretty penny when dealing with heavy items like prefolds. This is why I generally choose to buy prefolds new, rather than used. Cost-wise they end up being pretty close to the same when you have to factor in shipping. If you can find used ones sold locally, that is awesome! Totally different story, might be the way to go regardless of what type of diaper it is.
- Sales: if you can buy your diapers during Black Friday or other sales or when stores are offering seconds-quality new items at deep discounts, this can be a great option! You can actually end up spending less than used prices for new items if you purchase them at the right time.
- Longevity: some diapering items wear out quicker than others, while some will only be lightly used before the previous owner is ready to pass them on. Newborn diapers will generally have very little wear and can be a great item to buy used, especially since your baby will probably only wear them for a little while too. With other items, you’ll want to be sure they are in good condition – ask whether they have signs of wear, holes, leaky PUL, stretched elastics, and DON’T BUY THEM if they do. Stains are a different story – they can often be sunned out. You can get items in great shape for much cheaper if you don’t mind stains and are willing to put the work in to get rid of them.
- Resale value: just like a new car vs. a used car, diapers often depreciate significantly in value just by being “driven off the lot.” Buying used ensures you generally aren’t out too much money if the diapers end up not working for you – you can resell them for close to or as much as you paid.
- Allergies: if you or your family members are allergic to commonly used detergents, it may be in your best interest to buy diapers new. It can be very hard to know before you buy an item whether it will be irritating to your family or not. Pet allergies can also be an issue if you buy from someone with pets who didn’t mention it in their post. Do what you need to keep your family healthy. Don’t feel bad if you have to spend money on that; there are other ways to economize if used diapers aren’t an option for you for health reasons.
- WARNING: you may be tempted to buy new cheap diapers rather than investing in quality ones. DON’T DO THIS. Quality diapers can be affordable, even for you, and will be much less frustrating for you and your family. A wise man once counseled families: “Buy used until you have saved sufficiently to purchase quality new items. Purchasing poor quality merchandise almost always ends up being very expensive.” (Marvin J. Ashton, One for the Money) I have found this to be true.
What I do: I typically only buy prefolds and accessories (wipes, wetbags, pins) new, and only the wetbags and pins because they are fairly inexpensive new and it can be hard to find them used in good shape. My personal opinion is that used is the way to go for just about everything else. Just like thrift shopping, your money will go so much farther buying secondhand, and you can often find great deals that will work wonderfully for your family. This also gives you a way to try new things without making too much of an investment: if you try it and love it and want to buy more, you can purchase those items new (if you prefer) knowing you’re already going to love them.
Where to buy used cloth diapers:
- Facebook pages – there are too many to name. Search “cloth diaper” and lots will come up. There are also brand-specific buy/sell/trade groups for lots of stores and popular cloth diaper brands – if you know what you want to buy, those might be a good place to start.
- yard sales and thrift stores (this has been rare for me, but if you live in an area with a large cloth-diapering population your chances are better)
- local swap groups
- children’s clothing resale stores, like Once Upon a Child
Warning: be careful when purchasing used cloth diapers online! If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Ask lots of questions and don’t be so desperate that you end up with a bad taste in your mouth from a deal that went wrong. It’s worth it to take your time and get to know the market and what to look for before investing a lot of money in something. Start small and learn from your mistakes. You can do it. Good luck!
A final note: if you can’t afford used cloth diapers (you would not be alone in this), don’t give up! You can often make your own from things you have around the house, even if you can’t sew. Totally doable. I will add a post on that later. You can also google “budget cloth diapering” or “cloth diapering for free” to find lots of ideas from other mamas who have been where you are. There is hope for you too, I promise.
Best wishes and happy diapering!