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Modern Cloth Diapers

Washing away the cloth diaper water myth


grovia_washmyth_totaluseOne of the key criticisms of cloth diapers is that they require “large amounts” of water to wash. Sure, most cloth diapers must be washed after every use (although the GroVia Hybrid diaper partially changes that fact!). Assuming “typical” (not water-wise) practices, estimates suggest that laundering diapers could use 15,300 gallons over the course of a 2.5-year diapering period. If you use about the same amount of water as the average American household, washing diapers could account for up to 5% of your total water use.

Even though this seems like a lot of water, washing diapers is relatively efficient when you compare it to how much water is required to produce products. Drink a cup of coffee today? Growing the coffee beans in that one cup of coffee required more water than a load of laundry (37 gallons). grovia_washmyth_cofeeGrowing and processing the cotton used in a typical terry cloth diaper stash requires 3 times more water than will ever be used to launder the diapers. Keep in mind that not all cloth diapers are created equal. GroVia uses certified organic cotton that has a smaller water footprint than conventional cotton production. Cloth diapers may require water to produce, but with water-wise laundry techniques and the opportunity to reuse cloth on a second child, the footprint can be minimized. By contrast, approximately 9 gallons of water are required to manufacture just one disposable diaper. grovia_washmyth_disposableMultiply that water footprint by the thousands of disposables required for just one child, and the answer is simple. The real water impact is in the production of one-time-use products, not in the laundry room.

Want a water-wise family home? Here are 100 conservation tips. The easiest way to conserve water in the laundry room is by purchasing a front-loading washing machine. It will use 35% less water than a top-loader. Is bathing part of your nighttime routine? A standard 5 ft tub can hold 40 gallons, equivalent to one load in the washing machine. Bathing your baby 2-3 fewer times a week will benefit your baby’s skin and more than compensate for the additional loads of laundry. Keep in mind that the real king of household water use is lawn irrigation. Irrigating your lawn twice a week for just one month uses the same amount of water as all the diaper loads you will ever wash. Therefore, the greatest opportunity for saving water may begin at the spigot. Now stop fretting about a few extra loads of laundry, and the next time a friend tries to justify using disposable diapers using ‘the water argument’ please share some of these facts!

  1. http://www.ahpma.co.uk/docs/LCA.pdf
  2. http://www.epa.gov/WaterSense/pubs/outdoor.html. 320 gallons per day * 2.5 years = 292,000 gallons. 15,000/292,000 = 0.05 or 5%
  3. Using industrial farming practices, it takes about 140 litres (37 US gal) of water to grow the coffee seeds needed to produce one cup of coffee http://www.waterfootprint.org/?page=files/CoffeeTea
  4. Calculated based on assumptions from http://www.ahpma.co.uk/docs/LCA.pdf. LCA estimated 47000 gallons for growing cotton, 15300 gallons for washing. 47200/15300 gallons = 3.08
  5. Calculated based on assumptions from http://www.ahpma.co.uk/docs/LCA.pdf. LCA estimated 34081 gallons to manufacture all diapers needed for 1 child. 3796 diapers used during the diapering period. 34801 gallons/3796 diapers = 8.97 gallons/diaper

2 thoughts on “Washing away the cloth diaper water myth”

  • Gail

    I have been using cloth diapers for my 6 month old kid and haven't suffered the problem of huge amounts of water for any of them. This myth is created only by those cloth diaper haters.

  • […] cloth diapering is the “large amounts of water it requires.”  Little do they know, it takes 9 gallons of water to produce just one disposable diaper! In doing the math, 9 gallons x 6,000 disposables (and that is on the low end!), that is 54,000 […]

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