It's a fact, cloth nappies are cheaper in the long run compared to disposables. Yes, even after taking the cost of washing into account.
Let's do the calculations:
Day time - 20 pocket nappies (with 1 microfibre & 1 bamboo insert) x R115 each
Night time - 4 fitted nappies x R185 each and 4 x fleece covers x R120 each
Total - R3,520
(These prices are based on the cost of one of the most popular brands in SA)
30 months x R500pm = R15,000 (a)
With cloth you can save R12,000+ on a single child.
If you have more than one child, you can use the same cloth nappies on your second and even third child and the savings increase exponentially. You can save close to R30,000 when using cloth on two kids. This doesn't even take the potential resale value of the nappies into account. That's roughly enough to cover one year of school fees!
Let's break down the extra costs for each choice (over and above the nappies):
Cloth wipes - R40 for an 8pack. 6 packs is enough for full time use, so the total cost is R240
Disposable wipes - On average this comes to R120 per month. (a)
Cloth saving: R3,360
Cloth safe cream - on average R100 a jar and you will go through approximately 1 jar in total.
Regular bum cream used with disposable nappies - on average this will cost R50 a month as a jar lasts more than a month. (a)
Cloth saving: R1,400
For cloth nappies fleece liners help with poop cleanup as poop rolls off it easily. 24 fleece liners at R15 each will cost you R360 in total.
Most cloth parents also opt to use a wetbag to store used nappies in when out & about (or at daycare). This cost R80.
You can also opt for a bidet sprayer to spray poop off the cloth nappy. This will add a few hundred rand to the overall cost and is an optional extra.
For disposables you will typically use fragranced nappy bags for the poopy nappies. These bags cost R35 for 150. Let's say 1 poop per day, so 1 x 30 x 30 x 0.23c. Total cost - R200
Disposable saving: R240
Washing cloth nappies uses electricity, water and detergent.
Electricity: 0.5kWh (b) x 3 hours (per cycle) x R3.63 (c) = R5.45 per load. Average of 8 loads per month for cloth nappies x 30 months x R5.45 per load = R1,308.
Water: Cloth uses roughly 1.2kl pm x 30 months x R36.27 (d) per kl = R1,305
Detergent: let's say you use Omo Auto. This costs R165 for 4kg which equates to 40 washes. The cost per wash is thus R4.13. Total detergent cost = R4.13 x 8 x 30 = R991.
Total cost of cloth - R3,604 (this will vary based on your water & electricity rates as well as the detergent you choose to use)
Disposables: We assume a zero cost to be conservative, but bear in mind you will have extra laundry due to poop leakages being more prevalent in disposables.
Disposable saving: R3,604
Assumptions and Resources
Assumptions used in these calculations
The average child will be in full time nappies for 2.5 years.
The usage of night nappies after a child is off nappies during the day was not taken into account. Typically you can assume another 6 - 12 months of night nappy usage.
The cost of a newborn cloth nappy stash was not taken into account, similarly the amount of disposables used during the newborn stage (when babies tend to be poop machines), was also not taken into account.
The resale value of cloth nappies was not taken into account
a) Average monthly spend on disposable nappies, wipes and bumcream was calculated using the information provided by moms on the Mamahood Facebook group during February 2023.
b) Electricity usage of a washing machine is based on this information: https://uni24.co.za/which-appliances-use-the-most-electricity-in-south-africa
c) Based on CoCT tariffs for 2022/2023, using the most expensive tariff. This cost may differ depending on where you buy electricity from. CoCT tariffs for 2022/2023, most expensive tariff. https://www.capetown.gov.za/Family%20and%20home/residential-utility-services/residential-electricity-services/the-cost-of-electricity
d) Based on CoCT tariffs for 2023/2023 and using the 2nd most expensive tariff: https://resource.capetown.gov.za/documentcentre/Documents/Forms,%20notices,%20tariffs%20and%20lists/L3-WaterSanitationRestrictionTariffs.pdf