The commitment to cloth diapering can be scary when you look at the upfront investment. You can save big time by purchasing used cloth diapers. There are many ways to find used cloth diapers – ebay, facebook groups, craigslist, diaper swaps, garage sales, just to name a few. But before you do so, here are some questions to ask
1. What detergent was used to wash them?
This is important because many detergents have oils in them that bond to the cloth and decrease their absorbency. Also, harsh chemicals in detergents may not rinse clean and could irritate your baby’s skin. If the diapers were washed with a less-than-desirable detergent, don’t be too hasty to say no to purchasing them. Just know that you may need to strip them or wash them a few times before using them. Take that into account before agreeing on a price.
2. Were they washed or dried with fabric softener?
Fabric softener is a big no-no for cloth diapers. I bought some gCloths on ebay that reeked of fabric softener and had such bad build up that I had to strip them several times. If I had known beforehand that fabric softener had been used on them, I definitely wouldn’t have paid as much as I did. I didn’t know to ask the question – I just assumed the person wouldn’t have used fabric softener.
3. Were the covers typically line dried or machine dried?
The PUL on diaper covers breaks down much more quickly if the diapers are machine dried. If that is how the seller dried her covers, ask to see a the PUL. You will be able to tell how it has held up by how smooth it looks. If it is pretty smooth and shiny, it is probably still in pretty good shape. If it is more wrinkly and worn looking, they may still work fine but probably don’t have as much life in them as covers that have never been machine dried. This could be useful information if you are planning to use the covers for multiple babies.
4. Have they ever been stripped? If so, by which method?
Even the best cared for dipes are likely to need a good stripping now and then. If the diapers have never been stripped, take into consideration the fact that you may need to do this. If they have, you’ll want to know how it was done. There are some scary diaper stripping methods out there that may render the diapers full of chemicals or overly worn.
5. How many babies have they been through?
Cloth diapers and covers can last a long time, surviving several babies. But they do not last forever – especially the covers. If the diapers have been through a bunch of babies, just keep that in mind before you agree on a price. Also, think about how many babies you plan to use them on. If you are on your first baby and plan to have a large family, newer dipes may be better for you. If you only plan to have one or two babies, you might be able to get away with more worn dipes.
Looking for more? Here is an excellent post by The Eco Chic on what NOT to do to cloth diapers. Reading through this may help you think of more questions to ask sellers of used dipes. If you are new to cloth diapering, here is an incredibly helpful post by View Along the Way. Kelly goes into great detail about the benefits, the costs vs. savings, and she gives a step-by-step of her washing system. I wish I had all of this info before starting out with cloth diapering. If I had, I think we would have saved some money and avoided some rather yucky situations!
Do you have any tips for purchasing cloth diapers? Please share!