Should I Use a Diaper Service?

Should-I-Use-a-Diaper-Service

Sometimes I meet people who like the idea of using cloth diapers, but they are intimidated at the thought of washing them at home because (a) they don’t have enough time, or (b) they’re total wusses. I kid, I kid! Some people just don’t like the thought of dirty diapers in their washing machine. It’s completely sanitary, but I’m married to a germophobe, so I understand how those types of minds work.

Anyway, if you’re lucky enough to live in an area with a diaper service, you can have the best of both worlds! Cloth diapers without the responsibility of washing them? (I could totally go for that some weeks…) Read on to see if you should consider using a diaper service.

What is a diaper service?

Diaper services rose to popularity in the United States during World War II. At that time, many women began to seek employment outside the home, leaving precious little time for household chores. A diaper service is a professional cleaning service that delivers fresh cloth diapers to the doorsteps of its customers on a weekly basis and picks up the prior week’s dirty diapers.

Parents folding cloth diapers, 1947.

Parents folding cloth diapers, 1947.

Diaper services continued to grow in popularity until the mid-1980s, when the diapering trend shifted toward disposable diapers. Today, cloth diapers are making a strong comeback, but most families who use cloth diapers now choose to launder them at home. So you might be wondering…

Why should I use a diaper service?

Diaper services have a wide variety of customers. If any of the following describes your situation, then a diaper service might be a great idea for you:

  • You want to use cloth from the get-go but don’t want to buy a full stash of your own diapers until the baby has grown enough to wear “one-size” diapers. 
  • You’re a frazzled parent who just needs a break every now and then.
  • You have more than one child wearing diapers.
  • You don’t have a washer/dryer in your house or apartment.
  • You want some time to decide if cloth diapers work for you without buying your own first.
  • You and your spouse both work full-time outside the home.
  • You’re a celebrity and you like full service! (I can’t drop any names, but one NYC diaper service keeps fresh, clean diapers on a few celebrity baby bottoms.)

What kind of packages are available?

When diaper services first debuted, of course, flat diapers were the only option. Later, diaper services shifted toward prefolds. (Sidenote – this is why you hear some prefolds described as “DSQ” – that stands for “diaper service quality”. It means they’re workhorse diapers that are made to last, unlike the worthless stuff Gerber makes.)

clean-prefolds

Nowadays, the rental of prefolds still tends to be the most common set-up for diaper services – and of course, it’s generally the most economical service option as well. However, some diaper services have branched out to offer additional or upgraded options, including:

  • Rentals for diaper covers, wipes, doublers, pails, pail deodorizers, and other accessories.
  • Premium upgrades to fitteds, pockets, AIOs, or AI2s.
  • Delivery of eco-friendly, compostable diapers to use as a supplement for babysitters or other times when a more convenient type of diaper is desired.
  • “We wash your stash” – the diaper service comes by on a weekly basis to collect and wash your personally-owned cloth diapers for you.

How does it compare to the cost of disposables?

The cost of using a diaper service varies depending on region, type and frequency of service, and the number of children you have in diapers. In addition, a real comparison of the cost of a cloth diaper service to disposable diapers would have to include specifics regarding the brand of disposables that the parents would choose and whether they buy them with coupons or in bulk, and so on. I’m not about to bore you with a bunch of long, drawn-out scenarios and numbers.

Most of the diaper services who responded to my questions indicated that their customers are most likely paying just about as much for the diaper service as they would for disposable diapers. These customers appreciate the convenience of a diaper service and value the environmental and health benefits of using cloth diapers.

And in case you still want some actual numbers:

  • One diaper service noted that their most popular service consists of 75 cotton prefolds per week for $23 per week.
  • Another diaper service said that their most popular service includes 60 cotton prefolds per week, which costs $73 for four weeks.

However, families with multiple children in diapers can easily pay less for a diaper service than they would on disposables. This is because the service still only has to make one stop to pick up and deliver the diapers, regardless of the number of diapers a family is renting. The costs only increase slightly for the washing of the additional diapers being rented for a second (or third or OMG, fourth?!) child. 


Special thanks to the following diaper services who helped me bring you this information:

All Prefolds Are Not Created Equal

Whenever I hear someone say, “I’m not really sure if I’m going to like cloth diapers, so I’ll just start out with some inexpensive Gerber prefolds…” I cringe and think “…then you’re not going to like cloth diapers.” For some reason, Gerber prefolds are on the shelves in Targets and Walmarts galore; I’m sure it’s mainly because people use them as burp cloths.

So what’s the Diaper Wrecker to do? Waste $17 at Target on these “premium” Gerber prefolds to prove my point, that’s what!

Prefold Cover Image

Contents: cotton and polyester. Meh.

Gerber Prefold Packaging

After washing them up a few times with my regular diaper laundry they became pilly and not even a tiny bit softer than the way they felt straight out of the package. Plus, the fibers seemed pretty loosely woven, which seems contrary to their claim that these are “premium”. Premium compared to what? Leaves?

Gerber Prefold Close Up

I have, use, and love two different kinds of (real) prefolds – GroVia’s bamboo/organic cotton prefolds and the BabyKicks hemp/organic cotton prefolds. The GroVia prefolds are thick and super-soft and a little bulky. The BabyKicks are less bulky and they don’t look as pretty, but they have this awesome stretchiness that makes them so much easier to fasten on a baby. So I was curious how the three brands compare.

I present our contestants:

Prefold Absorbency Test

I did some quick absorbency testing to see how Gerber stacked up. Each prefold weighed dry, submerged in water until fully saturated, hung to drip off for 20 minutes, and then weighed wet. The difference between the dry weight and wet weight was calculated as the diaper’s absorbency. Now, this is only what I’d call “theoretical absorbency”. In reality, when worn by a baby, the diapers would leak at that capacity, due to the shifting pressure of baby’s weight. However, this theoretical absorbency is fine to use for comparison purposes since they’re all being tested the same way.

However, it’s not fair to compare the results of the straight-up absorbency of each prefold, because they’re all different sizes – and the Gerber was the smallest. Instead, you get a better understanding by looking at the ratio of absorbency (in grams) to area (in square inches). Gerber’s absorbency by area was almost half of BabyKicks’ and GroVia’s!

Comparison of Prefold Absorbency

And it’s not as if Gerber prefolds are so dirt cheap that the price justifies the limited absorbency. At $1.79 each, they’re only slightly cheaper than Cloth-Eez (a brand I used on my son as a newborn). GroVia prefolds range from $2.67 each to $5.33 each depending on size; BabyKicks start at $6.59 up to $8.79. However, those are just what I had on hand and use for my child. There are plenty of other quality prefolds available – what’s your favorite brand?