Jan 11, 2012  •  In Baby, Personal, Shopping

Why We Don’t Cloth Diaper or Buy Used Clothes

Let me preface this post by saying that I do not look down on anyone who cloth diapers or purchases used clothes. I do not think that I’m any better than those who choose to, nor do I believe that our way is the best and the ultimate. Once again, this is a personal decision that we have made for our own family based on our unique preferences and circumstances.

There was a period in time as I neared the end of my pregnancy with Claire when I seriously considered cloth diapering. It is more green. They say it’s more economical in the long-run. I have also read that today’s cloth diapers are superior to those in the past, and that they can actually be better on babies’ sensitive skin. Plus, look at all the cute designs!

(image source)

When I relayed my thoughts to my mother, she was vehemently against it.

“No, you will not be cloth-diapering your kids. And that is that.”

I know what you must be thinking: they are my children, and I have the right to raise them how I see fit. My mother should trust that I can make these decisions on my own, and she should respect them, right?

But my mother had her reasons. You see, she and my father have been in the clothes-cleaning business (dry cleaning and laundromat) for over twenty years now. And her main reason for being against cloth diapers is that soiled cloths can never really be clean again, no matter what cleaning method you use. And the stuff that gets on these diapers is some of the worst that can stain your clothes — at least in my mother’s eyes.

I finally understood when she pointed out that I wouldn’t just wash, and re-wear my clothes if they had been soaked in urine or had been smeared with stool; I would discard them. (And this is true — it is a personal quirk of mine.) So why would I expose my children’s sensitive skin to cloths that get exposed to urine and stool over and over again, especially since it sits against their skin for such prolonged periods of time?

“Besides,” she added. “I cloth-diapered both you and your sister, but only because we didn’t have disposable diapers back then. Why would you purposely add more work to your life when being a mother is already so much work?”

It made sense.

Yes, I am aware that there are chemicals in disposable diapers that may irritate babies’ skin. Yes, I know disposables are more expensive. But in my experience, they are easier, cleaner, and both my girls’ bottoms have remained free of diaper rash since birth.

My mother uses the same logic for buying used clothes. But in her mind, there is an added strike against used clothes because you don’t know who wore those clothes before you. In other words, you don’t know what type of lifestyle they led, if they were clean people, and so forth.

“I have run dry-cleaners for over twenty years. I have seen the horrible stuff that people do to their clothes — it makes no difference if they’re rich or poor, or if their clothes are expensive or not,” she tells me.

She understands that most of the clothes that are sold in second hand stores are in good condition. But she says that after some of the things she has been exposed to in her line of work, she can never place her trust in strangers to have taken good care of the clothes that she will wear, even if they have been carefully cleaned.

I have been exposed to a sliver of her business too. And I too, refuse to purchase second-hand clothes for my family for the same reason. Hand-me-downs from trusted friends and family members? Yes. But used clothes from strangers? No. 

ETA, 8/12/13:

It seems that this post was linked to from a pro-cloth-diapering Facebook group, as well as GBCN. If this is your first time visiting this blog, then welcome. :-) I wanted to write this addendum because I keep having to repeat myself in the comments…

  1. Please note that this was written more than 1.5 years ago. My first is out of diapers, and my second will be getting potty-trained soon, so there really isn’t any point in trying to switch to cloth at this point. :-)
  2. We live in an apartment in a city. So although we are lucky enough to have our own washer and dryer, we are still very limited on space and our W&D unit is pretty small. Additionally, we get very little direct sunlight (with small windows, to boot) which I know is one of the most recommended methods of disinfecting CD’s.
  3. How about blowouts? Do I throw out every piece of clothing that gets soiled? To me, there is a difference between having a few blowouts and getting them cleaned, versus using a cloth diaper which is continually getting soiled and cleaned over a period of 1-2+ years. (Luckily my girls had VERY few blowouts, and whenever they did I immediately scrubbed and soaked their clothes…something I can’t do with cloth diapers with my limited time and space.)
  4. I am not OCD about keeping everything clean. I do not keep my kids in a bubble. If anything, some people criticize me for not keeping their toys spic and span all the time, not regularly using hand sanitizer, etc. Just because I have this quirk (that others may find unreasonable) doesn’t mean it carries to all other aspects of my, and my kids’ lives.
  5. We try our best to “make up” for disposables by recycling, reusing, and saving as much as we can.
  6. We welcome hand-me-downs from trusted friends and family, just not from strangers. And we hand down all our girls’ used clothes (with the exception of badly stained/damaged ones) to friends with younger children.
  7. We may never buy secondhand clothes, but at the same time, my husband and I hardly ever buy new clothes for ourselves. Besides, I consider my refusal to buy secondhand clothes from strangers similar to CD’ing families who won’t buy used CD’s, especially stained ones.
  8. To those questioning my parents’ business and work ethics, my mother has confidence in her dry-cleaning business and the ability to get her customers’ clothes clean. But being in the business that they are, and having seen so much grime on clothes (much more so than the average person), it’s hard not to think about that stuff when wearing strangers’ clothes. Their own clothes? Fine. But to them, it’s a matter of the unknown. This is different from not believing in the quality of their work, IMO.

This is actually an old post that has rarely gotten attention since it was first written, so I don’t think I have any influence over other moms in this regard. (If other parents stumble upon this obscure post in a web search, I trust that they’re smart enough to do their own research and make their own decisions regarding diapers.)

If you feel that strongly against what I have written and feel the need to gather the troops in order to correct a complete stranger on the internet, you should know that linking to, and continuing to comment on this post, will only give me more credibility in the eyes of search engines — which may possibly lead to…gasp…this post convincing others NOT to use cloth diapers! (Also, I have ads on this site, so thanks for the extra traffic!)

In all seriousness though, this post was not meant to spread propaganda, nor was it written to stir up controversy. My intention was NOT to sway others from cloth diapers. This is a PERSONAL blog and I was just sharing with my readers an aspect of our lives. To me, CD’ing was just not worth the extra time, effort, and space. I know others must have made it work with less resources…kudos to them! It was just not for us.

(via xkcd)

The ignorant, unreasonable, first-world-problem-ridden OCD blogger who lives an entitled, middle-class lifestyle

115 Responses to “Why We Don’t Cloth Diaper or Buy Used Clothes”

  1. Kim says:

    YoUr mom’s logic sounds like my mom’s, lol! It does make sense though. Always do what’s best for you and your family. Nice post ;)

  2. Eek565 says:

    Hm, I buy used clothes for my kids all the time. Can you elaborate on what type of things keep you from buying used clothes?

    • It’s mostly the spills and stains that have been there previously. I think it’s largely psychological too, that you don’t know what’s been in contact with these clothes (I can give some morbid examples, but I won’t) or what they did in them, or with them. I guess this could be said for ALL clothes, even brand-new ones, but at least with the new clothes I know that there is less chance of this kind of exposure.

  3. Courtney says:

    Wow. I buy used clothes all the time. This is so counter to my thought process that I have questions for you!

    Does this mean that when your kids have a leaky diaper you throw those clothes away instead of just washing them? If you do wash them, where is the cut off of acceptable?

    Also, what about when you clothing shop- other people may have tried on those clothes or worn them and returned them- does that bother you?

    When you got married, did J and your dad wear rented tuxedos? Were they skeeved out by that?

    What about when you stay in a hotel and sleep on bed linens that hundreds of others have slept on (and probably done more than just sleep on)? Comforters that may not have even been washed between guests? Bath towels that were in somebody else’s crotch? Pillows that a stranger drooled on?

    When you were in the hospital, you used a gown they provided and probably got nastiness on it (at least I did when I had my daughter)- did you consider that it’s been worn by lots of people who could’ve gotten their nastiness on it?

    • Luckily, my kids have rarely had leaky diapers. But on the few occasions, if the soiled part is small (like an inch diameter) I will immediately spray it and wash it. But yes, I have thrown clothes away.

      Clothing shop, I always always buy from the bottom of the pile/back of the rack. But it doesn’t bother me as much if they were tried on or returned because that’s almost always different from someone purchasing them, wearing them, and donating/selling them. (I know some clothes in used clothes stores are barely worn or not worn at all, but those are rare…and like I said to Eek565’s comment above, it’s largely psychological.) Luckily, I really don’t care about fashion much and I hardly go clothes shopping.

      When we got married J and my dad got brand new tuxes.

      I hardly ever travel so I rarely sleep in hotels, but when I do I actually find comfort in the strong bleach smell on the sheets and comforters. And again, it’s only temporary whereas with clothes it’s different. The same goes for the hospital.

    • I should also add that I have thrown clothes and sheets out over my own stains too, even period stains. Yes, I acknowledge that it’s a (sometimes expensive) quirk that I have.

      • Courtney says:

        So when you call it a quirk- is that an acknowledgement that it’s not necessarily a rational thought process? Or do you think it is logical and rational to think/feel that laundered clothes can never be sufficiently clean?

        This post- and your description of your thought process brought to mind this article and the phenomenon of “psychological contagion” http://www.npr.org/2011/08/16/139642271/why-cleaned-wastewater-stays-dirty-in-our-minds

        The irrational idea that once an item has been ‘contaminated’ it can never be sufficiently cleaned. The article is about water and sewage treatment. Even though it is cost-effective and scientifically proven to be safe and sound, communities will not accept the water that comes out of sewage treatment plants as drinking water. They would prefer water from other ‘natural’ sources, even if they are empirically less clean.

        One other example they give a toothbrush in a toilet bowl- most people wouldn’t even use it again, even if it had been sterilized and proven to be free of bacteria and germs.

        • I wouldn’t necessarily call it irrational. Because you have to admit that once a piece of cloth has been soiled, it is not as clean as it was before, even if you wash it. So I guess my answer to you is that I believe it’s logical and rational to think that laundered clothes can never be AS clean.

          But I do realize that my thinking this way may not seem entirely reasonable, and that stems from my OCD-like tendencies when it comes to cleaning certain things. For example, I don’t let anyone else wash my babies’ bottles aside from myself because I don’t trust them to clean it as well as I do. I also don’t use dishwashing gloves because I can’t get into every nook and cranny with them, and with bare hands I can feel the texture of the item I’m handwashing to make sure it’s squeaky clean.

          I’m sure that “psychological contagion” comes into play when it comes to my refusal to buy used clothes, but it also has to do with my not trusting strangers (because as stated in the post, I’m fine with hand-me-downs from those I trust).

          • Courtney says:

            Well, soiled with what? I think that would be where the rational part comes in. In your mind, you can logically know that whatever is left behind isn’t harmful or dangerous, right? Your unwillingness to wear it would be just be based on a less rational feeling that something is gross.

            I’m a biologist, so I think my idea of clean when it comes to lots of things is synonymous with “free of disease-causing germs.”

            So while a bedsheet that has been stained with blood would probably become a rag, or used as a drop cloth, the reasoning would purely be that it was unsightly, and not because it was ‘dirty’ (since the stain is just left by the iron and heme found in red blood cells).

            I wouldn’t ever want to wear used underwear, but I acknowledge that the reasoning is just an irrational feeling of yuckiness- since it would be possible to bleach them and leave them entirely sterile enough to dress an open wound and I would still be grossed out.

            PS- For some reason, I’m finding it fascinating to see everyone’s thought process when it comes to this topic.

            • Soiled with anything. Even just worn once without staining. :-) Yes, I know it’s not harmful or dangerous, but it is, by definition, not as clean. And yes, I’m aware that I wear “unclean” clothes all the time, but at least I know that I know where the”dirt” came from.

              Like I said above, I fully recognize that the psychology comes into play here, especially considering my parents’ line of work.

      • Sarah says:

        I really cannot agree with your “quirk”. Buying clothes/linens and practically everything else is expensive. Especially when babies only wear clothes for a small period of time. And your Mothers logic makes no sense, with todays cleaners and products there should be no need to worry if things actually get clean or not. I do agree that her job is probably nasty. But have you read stories on the brand new things?? That can be as gross as anything else. Oh and I worked in a hotel. That is just as gross. Isn’t going to stop me from staying one from time to time. But regardless that’s not a good enough excuse to not buy used clothing. And I HAVE bought used sheets before. But I made sure they looked decent. And washed them really well before using them. Desperate times. So with your logic we should all wear nothing but our birthday suits. And we should keep ourselves in little strerilized bubbles. Not good for the immune system. But like anyone else, do what you think is best.

        • Actually, I let my kids play in the dirt and get dirty all the time. Sorry you don’t agree with my “quirk,” but like you said, we all do what we believe is best for our families. :-)

  4. Tin says:

    I recently had a garage sale and I was surprised at how many people bought used clothes! I generally won’t wear used clothing because I don’t know how clothing was cared for, cleaned and worn. But I do use cloth diapers. Although I know I won’t get the cloth diapers 100% clean as they were when they were purchased new, I do my best to make sure they have zero stains and zero smell. I don’t throw away my baby’s clothes, car seat cover or his sheets whenever he wets or soils himself. I clean them as best as I can so he can use them again and little is wasted. I totally understand the argument for disposables though. I use them at night, on long trips away from home and at daycare for convenience and whenever I can’t change his diaper every 2-3 hours. I don’t have to worry about waking him up in the middle of night (baby wet the bed and would leak out of his bamboo cloth diapers once he started solids) and I can use whatever diaper cream I like without worrying about damage to the diaper.

  5. Jessica says:

    But what’s the worst that happens here? I mean, is this not why we have skin? My daughter touches dirty things all day long, but I rely on her skin and her immune system to do their jobs.

    I’m not a huge fan of used clothing for other reasons, and for psychological reasons would never ever buy something like used underwear. But cloth diapers? My goodness, the kiddos don’t – and can’t – live in bubbles.

    To each their own of course, but I just don’t follow you to what the awful conclusion is here. What terrible thing happens if they wear something that’s been (washed after being) stained or pooped on?

    • “What terrible thing happens if they wear something that’s been (washed after being) stained or pooped on?” — Not much. Like I said in the post, this is our personal decision, one that is probably more psychologically-driven. And I’m a huge proponent of letting kids get some germs on them (eg, we don’t use hand sanitizers). But we all feel strongly about certain issues due to our own experiences and exposures. I’m not saying using cloth diapers is a bad thing. It’s just not for our family due to our own beliefs which were outlined in the post.

  6. Mina says:

    i think whatever makes you feel comfortable is fine. we all have our preferences, and whether they are rational or not (by whose judgment, i don’t know), we all live by them to some degree. for me, your preferences definitely fall into the non-offensive, she-feels-differently-than-i-do-and-that’s-okay category. it would be different if, say, you wanted to go beat up every person you thought was dirty (which you don’t, do you?).

    • Don’t you that know this is only the beginning of my attempt to ban cloth diapers? ;-)

      All kidding aside, I seriously have NO problem with those who cloth diaper, nor do I look at their babies’ butts and think, “Oh poor baby with the unclean diaper.” But for MY kids, due to my own quirks, I can’t cloth diaper. Thanks for putting this post in the “non-offensive, she-feels-differently-than-i-do-and-that’s-okay” category. :-)

  7. cil says:

    My parents are korean and own a dry cleaners as well but they are not against cloth diapering. If anything, they appreciate the cost effectiveness of them. Their whole business is based on the illogical fears of humans – that paying more to clean something makes something more acceptable.

    I understand you’re just voicing your opinion on your blog, which is why I enjoy reading it. But I’m a little disturbed with how you realize that something like this is based on your own illogical reasoning and yet you’re still choosing to accept that. Also it bugs me that in a previous post you mention being economically strapped, and yet this illogical fear of “dirtiness” is keeping you from saving a lot of money if you just cloth diapered.

    I dunno, it’s like, don’t you want to do what’s “better” and “makes sense” rather than do “whatever I feel like just because I feel like it” ????

    • Please note that I am not saying one way is better than the other, just that one way may be better for different families. Yes, it may be based on “illogical” reasoning but that’s what works for us and makes us happy.

      Additionally, I have actually compared the costs of cloth vs disposables in our case, based on the high costs of water, gas, and electricity in our area, there isn’t much of a financial difference. Besides, we only spend about $30/month on diapers per kid (so with Claire, that was only $360 for her first year which is probably around what we would have spent on cloth diapers anyway) which we are more than willing to sacrifice in other areas.

      I actually take some offense to what you said about doing “what I feel like just because I feel like it” because I put a lot of thought into this, and it’s not like I can just ignore my OCD tendencies on cleanliness. Sure, I may spend more money on this aspect of my life, but I cut back on others to make up for it.

  8. I’m definitely in the other camp. Used things just don’t bother me. I don’t buy used clothes that often but I’ll pick up a sweater, shirt or dress sometimes, no biggie. I plan on cloth diapering one day. The nastiness if you call it that, just doesn’t bother me; no more than kids eating food off the floor or putting their hands on something out in public then shoving them into their mouths. To me it’s life. Heck that’s how people pick up germs normally; on grocery carts, doors, even our own pillows.

  9. megan marie says:

    interesting post!
    i am completely the opposite. not afraid of germs, or dirt, or anything like that. in high school i totally wore my punk rock clothes straight from the thrift store, without a single washing :) i wouldn’t do that now, nor would i buy anything secondhand that couldn’t be washed (a couch or mattress), but only because i am petrified of bedbugs!!!

    also, i haven’t read the above comments so i don’t know if this has been addressed… but i am curious: when it comes time to potty train your daughters, will you really throw away every single item of clothing that becomes soiled? i mean, speaking from experience, one urine accident can soil a pair of underwear, a shirt, pants, socks, a jacket and even a pair of shoes! or sheets and blankets from night time accidents? it just seems so wasteful to me, i wouldn’t be able to do it. not judging your choices, just wondering about them!

    • I’ve been thinking about this too, as we want to start potty training Claire asap (Asians usually start potty training a lot earlier than here in the west). I will probably not throw away everything, but will be more liberal about what does get thrown out…and start soaking soiled items every night. Once they are potty trained, I’ll probably throw out items that were soiled (i.e., not pass them down to others as we currently do). My mother and MIL tell us that we were all pretty easy to potty train, so I’m hoping the same for our girls (and I’ll def be sharing tips when we get there).

      • Julie Voelker says:

        I find it interesting that throughout this thread you continue to exert your superior attitude about your choices. If you are totally comfortable with what you believe, leave it at that. Let everyone else ponder their choices and be done- after all, this is your personal blogging attempt to tell the world how you live your life. One of the last comments from you that I read, was in response to potty-training and throwing away clothing. You actually tried to cut every replying mother off at the knees again with your derisive quip about “Asians usually potty training their children much earlier than here in the west”. (ho, hum.. I am obviously more adept at this than you..) Seriously??? Way to go blanket statement! Kudos. You have filled your quote/unquote personal exclamation to the world with a bunch of upper-middle class musings that personally offend (obviously) quite a few readers- mostly from our cloth diapering thread boards that led us to this train wreck of consumerism at it’s finest. Good luck raising those lil’ ladies- hopefully they have a better grasp of ecology, biology and ego than you.

        • Well, like I said throughout the comments and in the addendum to this post, my intention was never to offend so I apologize if I have. As for your accusation that I made a blanket statement….I guess I should have been clear in the original comment that this is anecdotal, as every Asian (not Asian-American, but Asian) I know do generally potty-train earlier than the families I know here. For example, my mother, MIL, and aunties (who all spent the majority of their lives in Asia) all encouraged me to start when my children turned 1, and told me that this is when they started with their kids (including myself). My family and friends back in Asia all seem to potty-train earlier than my acquaintances here too. Maybe I just have a skewed sample of friends and family? Again, this is purely anecdotal.

          I actually AM very comfortable about my choices. I still use disposables with my second, and am very happy with our situation. The only reason I have been replying is because: (1) in my experience, most commenters want a reply; and (2) I want to make clarifications and/or corrections. If I don’t reply to any comments, someone will undoubtedly say that I’m acting superior by ignoring helpful commenters, so I really can’t win in this regard, can I? :-)

          I would actually ask you a similar question. I have repeatedly said that this post is not meant to offend or sway or even educate; these are purely my beliefs — someone who is obviously a complete stranger to the vast majority of those who have chosen to comment. Someone who has no, or very close to no impact on the choices that families make for their diapers. Someone who wrote this post a year and a half ago and forgot about it until now. Someone who never goes to baby/parenting boards talking about this subject. Why are you so offended?

  10. schmei says:

    I’m typing this while my son naps in a cloth diaper, a PJ set from a consignment sale, and a hand-me-down swaddling blanket – so we’re on different ends of the spectrum here. :-) (We did buy the cloth diapers new, but we’re expecting to get years of use out of them, theoretically with more than one child). Our choices are almost purely financial – I simply couldn’t afford to dress our son in all-new clothes. Do you have a line on where to get new baby clothes that don’t cost a lot? If so… any chance you’d share tips with your readers?

    • Aside from hand-me-downs, we usually only purchase about 10 pieces per size cycle, and we only buy when they’re on sale. I like to get BRU brand or Carters since they usually tend to be the cheapest. And the girls are almost aways in 1-piece footed sleepers, which I’ve found to be more economical as well as easier to manage (no need to pick matching pieces, less pieces to launder, etc).

      I know this will change as they get older and will want to pick out their own outfits, start comparing their clothes to their peers, etc. But for now, this method works and it saves us tons of money!

  11. Liz says:

    I think it’s nice that you voice an opinion that is a bit contrary to what is generally praised in the baby-rearing community. (Cloth diapering, breast-feeding) Obviously cloth diapers are touted to be more eco-friendly but like you said, they do cause you to use more water & electricity and you do need to make more of a financial investment initially.

    In general I always find myself somewhere in between. We mostly use disposables, but I have purchased a few different cloth diapers to try. I use them when I’m at home after my baby has already gone #2 and only expect her to pee.

  12. I saw the title and thought… Oh, she’s in for a tough comments section today. Bravo for putting an alternative perspective out there. I think it’s so important for people to get all different sides and perspectives to an issue no matter how rational or irrational. More voices, more choices, more effective and confident decision making. Keep your voice coming.

    • Thanks for that. :-) I feel exactly as you do, and while I certainly do not agree with everything I read out there, I always feel good to know that there are differing voices and opinions on each issue.

  13. Eve says:

    Eh, I don’t really see what all the big fuss is about. Life is hectic enough that I’ll more than likely be using regular diapers instead of cloth.

  14. Carmela says:

    Good for you for writing about something a lot of us think about but don’t have the guts to put out there. I view the cloth diaper thing a bit differently as it’s my own son’s stuff, but some people will not bat an eye at buying used cloth diapers.

  15. Christine says:

    I cloth diapered my son when I started potty training him at 4 mos (he’s 13 mos now and potty trained for some time now). We used the disposables in the beginning and at night or when we travelled). I see no issue with it. When we cloth diapered with the potty training, my son only ever pooped in the cloth diaper twice. He was pretty much potty trained at 6 mos (and by that, I mean he wasn’t pooing or peeing in his diaper, but he had a very distinctive cry that we would take him to the potty and he would go right away). I think this was very clean. We thought about using the disposable, but re-using a disposable all day long for a baby that does not actually soil the diaper is difficult because the velcro doesn’t work well. I don’t think cloth diapering is unclean at all.

    Also, I get hand me downs from friends, but I also shop baby consignment stores. I love it. babies grow so quickly out of clothes, that I don’t mind if it’s “used”. I can understand your qualms about it. My parents and husband find it horribly disgusting to wear a strangers clothing, but I don’t. Maybe that’s just me. I don’t buy any used bottles or nipples (I can’t believe ppl even sell those at consignment shops!), so I guess I feel there’s a limit, and that’s the limit for used items.

    I respect your decisions not to go the used clothing or cloth diaper route. We all parent differently.

  16. Nodakademic says:

    I’m with you on the diapers, for BOTH of the reasons. And yes, my mom said the same exact thing to me when I mentioned that a friend of mine was cloth diapering. She just could not comprehend it! We will not be doing that when the time comes. Regarding clothes, I am on the fence. I would never buy used pajamas, workout clothes, sweatpants, undergarments, or other things that tend to be worn a lot, in sweaty situations, and often worn without anything between the skin and the clothing. I have gotten nice sweaters, shirts, and dresses second hand though, and don’t have an issue with that personally. Thanks for sharing. I think it’s funny that people have said you should change your reasoning simply based on the fact that you admitted it may be “illogical”. WTF. People are allowed to have preferences. Why change, if you don’t have a good reason to? As you said, your daughters have been good in disposables and it’s not like you are in a position where you need to buy used clothing. Whatever.

  17. Carol says:

    VERY intriguing post. As always, I admire your honesty and putting yourself out there for criticism on a hot topic.

    With that said, “new” clothing is chemically treated, handled by factory workers in undisclosed conditions, and then delivered to a department store to be handled every which way until it makes its way into our homes. I’m sure you heard of all the stories where there were cases of bed bugs found in various retail stores including Abercrombie & Fitch and formaldehyde found on clothing at Victoria’s Secret. A carcinogen! I mean, poop is gross (I’ve never found anything with a poop/urine/human matter stain on my thrifted clothing) but some chemicals new clothing is treated with are carcinogenic. Yikes. I’ll take poop over that any day.

    I’m actually starting a resale business with a close friend and we know ALL about the nitty, gritty of resale shopping and stocking. It’s pretty intense and luckily my partner has an iron stomach. However, whatever I purchase for myself or our shop is laundered or dry-cleaned first. With new clothing, that doesn’t happen. I myself will put on a sweater/top/dress/whatever without washing because it’s “new.” So, in that sense, I believe thrifting is actually much more hygienic than buying new.

    Additionally, a lifestyle of buying new and throwing out old (or barely used and soiled) is not ecologically sustainable. I understand your cutting back on things to accommodate the costs of your daughters’ needs (no shopping for one year? Blog about that – amazing!) but, in response to your fear about what kind of world your girls are growing up in (from a previous post) this idea of sustainability must factor in. Your daughters, like my future children (hopefully), will definitely feel the burden of the decisions that we make in the future. For example, the did you know that Staten Island has the highest occurrence of certain cancers and its linked with the fact that S.I. also has the largest dumps in NY state? All of our waste is disposed there and its consequences are felt by others, if not us eventually. Think about it – we’re running out of space to put this crap. Playing on a covered up landfill might be the only options for your grandchildren. Scary.

    I hear you though – some things are just easier. I’m not a mom and I have no clue what effort it takes to even get from morning to evening.

    And just to add a few more cents to my two cents, my future wee ones will definitely be cloth-diapered and wear used clothing from family and occasionally, a thrift store.

    • Oh yes. I have read about all the chemicals that go into new clothing, and that’s why I wash everything before wearing. :-) Someone replied to this post with a tweet yesterday and said that she prefers poop over chemicals too…but personally, I prefer new, chemically-treated clothes I have washed, to poop. To each their own.

      As for the environmental impact, when you consider the energy used to create water hot enough to really clean a soaked diaper over and over again, plus the amount of water, gas, and electricity used (I have read that most cloth-diapering families add 2 loads of laundry per week), there really doesn’t seem to be much of a difference. And in places where water is scarce, I imagine cloth diapers to have even more of an impact. There are studies to support either way, but in the end it really seems to come down to how much your time is worth.

      And our own used clothes? If they are stained I throw them out, but for the rest we hand them down or donate. I know that just because I feel this way doesn’t mean that everyone should, and I respect their decisions and know that they will be appreciative of our used clothes.

      Oh, and thank you for respectfully disagreeing. :-)

      • Dana C says:

        That’s not true. It actually take more water to create disposables than to wash cloth diapers on a diaper to diaper comparison. I can’t remember the exact number, but the treating of the plastic and paper, stuffing and the entire bleaching process use a staggering amount more water. PLUS the crude oil used, trees killed, and plastic that sits in a landfill for 550 years. I appreciate your viewpoint, I really do, but don’t put false information out there. Someone who may be considering cloth for the environmental aspects may take your word at face value and not realize the damage they’re doing, and I think that would really bother them. By all means, don’t choose cloth diapers for any number of reasons, I’m comfortable in my research on the subject.

      • Julie Grace says:

        I am all about everyone doing what they think is best for their families. I use cloth because of my values and you do the opposite, because of your values. People are allowed to value different things!
        That being said, I must say that I very much disagree with your statement that disposables and cloth have a comparable environmental impact.
        It is a fact that the manufacturing process of disposables amounts to 2.3 times more water wasted than cloth. Not to mention that technically disposables should also be rinsed/ dumped before being thrown in the trash. It is illegal in some states to put human waste in a landfill. When you take that into account, disposables don’t seem all that much more “convenient”.
        My point is, don’t use cloth for whatever reasons you like, that is your choice and I respect that. But, saying they have the same environmental impact is false.

    • I just remembered that you’d like to see a blog post about not buying clothes for a year. I don’t think it warrants an entire post because the truth is, there is no big secret or tips…we just didn’t buy clothes! We just made do with what we already have and it’s served us fine (although I admit that sometimes we get tempted to go clothes shopping…but we just resist the urge).

  18. Carol says:

    One more thing – my husband is TOTALLY with you. He strictly forbids me to buy him used clothing.

  19. stella says:

    Great post.

    Out of my own curiosity:

    For those that are pro-cloth diapering: What do you think about buying used cloth diapers with stains on them for your babies, knowing it’s been thoroughly washed like any other type of clothing? Where do you draw the line? Food for thought.

    I’m neutral on this topic.

    Thanks for posting this Jenny!

    • Budgie says:

      I buy used diapers, and some have been stained. No big deal.

    • Rachel G says:

      Used with stains is cheaper. When you get them from a stranger, you bleach and/or sun to disinfect and get rid of stains. It’s only cheaper because of the added steps.

    • Jen says:

      I don’t tend to buy stained ones because I just don’t like stains but there also aren’t too many you can’t sun right out. I’ve used cloth on 2 kids and have bought quite a few used as well as new & rarely have a stain I can’t get out. Disposable diapers are horrible for the baby & the environment. They use way more water, chemicals, you wouldn’t believe what crap is in them. No pun intended. And even tho most people don’t realized without knowing it you do soil your underwear. You wash them. What is the point of washing your clothes if washing supposedly doesn’t “clean” them.

  20. MrsW says:

    Oh wow… let’s just say we are VERY different. I think I’ve bought my 2 year old a grand total of 10 pieces of clothing (if that) new, her entire life. Everything else has been gift, thrift, or hand-me-down. She’s also in cloth diapers, though I did buy new. Actually, at the beginning we had a loan through a diaper charity so she was using other kid’s diapers.

    I can see your perspective, especially with your parent’s background (would a mechanic want to buy a rebuilt wreck? etc.) But I guess I just have a lot of faith in our immune systems, in other people to not totally junk out their clothing before donating (I worked at a thrift store in high school, and we threw out a LOT before it hit the floor), and in the frictions of everyday life to just sort of balance everything out, germ-wise.

    And please don’t take this as a judgment on you, but I think it’s good that there are people who are able to rewear or reuse or cloth diaper, because I just don’t think a whole world of throw-it-outers would be sustainable.

    Enjoyed the opportunity to think about something differently! :)

    • I didn’t take your comments as being offensive or judgmental at all. :-) I apologize if I sounded catty at all in my replies, as I hurriedly wrote them during my “break” while Aerin was sleeping. I enjoy our little debates too. :-D

  21. T says:

    I think we should all just follow the Chinese and use crotchless diapers :) although I am not sure if those are worn at homr or just in public where the parents can just ignore the mess

  22. This is purely coincidental, but I saw TWO pieces about diapering in my Google Reader this morning, both from non-parenting sites:



    The comments are very varied, and really add to this discussion!

  23. nellie says:

    Very interesting perspective and one that sounds just like my mother’s! My mother scoffed at the idea of cloth diapers. And as for clothes, I honestly feel the same way about second hand clothes. I have purchased vintage accessories and clothes before but not for my daughter. With children’s clothes, sales and clearances make some items even more cost-effective than second hand, so why not just buy new? Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this Jenny. Very insightful!

  24. Amanda says:

    It’s not actually true that you can’t get germs out of linen – if it were, many, many people would die in hospital, where bed linen is washed and reused all the time. Our society is obsessed with everything being sterile, which ironically reduces our tolerance to bacteria and thus to illness and infection. And of course, from an environmental perspective, refusal to reuse and recycle is damaging to the planet with its finite resources and infinite population. We all want to do what’s best for our kids but I personally believe that we have to think about the world we’re handing over to our children, too – I’m sure you’re aware that disposable diapers take between 50 years and NEVER to break down in landfill, release greenhouse gases and leak sewage and chemicals back into the water table (which strikes me as pretty unhygenic) and that they cost a fortune to the taxpayer to dispose of them. But we live in a free society and make personal choices and it’s totally your prerogative to do what you, not me, think is right for your family!

    • Jen says:

      I think the last thing I read about diapers in landfills is it takes an average of 500yrs to break down. And I agree with everything you just said. We honestly live in a very destructive society.

  25. Anon says:

    Being too clean is also bad for your baby. A bit of dirt never hurt anybody.

    I don’t understand why putting clothes you’ve bought from a second hand shop through a hot wash before wearing them is somehow not acceptable. If you have a good look at them, and they have no stains or flaws on them, what is there to be concerned about? Do you think people can put invisible wee and poo on their clothes just before they hand them into a charity shop / second hand store?

    Do you really think the brand new clothes you buy are actually clean?

    This is absurd. Utterly absurd. Back in the real world, where we’re not made of money, we will wash our cloths and our babies will not die and they will not become deathly ill and guess what, the world will keep spinning.

  26. Kim says:

    Any ladies reading this and it putting thefinal nail in the coffin over nappys not being hygenic she is very WRONG.. get sunlight on those nappys and it kills bacteria and even makes any stains vanish! To the poster:- your mom said ‘why make more work for yourself’ simple using cloth nappys means in 100 years time your babies poop wont still be inside that chemical filled nappy in a landfil

  27. April says:

    I can’t imagine how filled the landfills would be if everyone had this thought process… We’d all be living in a garbage dump. Nothing would be “clean” then lol

  28. Aimee says:

    What I think is hard to hear is that there are so many that would give anything to have a clean shirt or a shirt without a hole in it or something to keep them warm and you are just throwing things away.

  29. Alison Ngo says:

    Keep in mind some people cannot afford brand new clothing/diapers, to bring such attention to that clothing being a horrible option is pretty low of you! I am a SAHM and have the option to buy whatever I would like, but I would not DARE to buy new clothing because it is not green and earth friendly. Vanity is really not in these days, so if your child has a stain or two on their clothing they will live and so will you. PS- I wish you had support with CD, it really is an awesome aspect of parenting!

  30. Beasly says:

    This just reeks of spoiled affluence. So wasteful, just throwing away thousands of diapers and even soiled clothing just because you can and then making it sound like a completely reasonable thing that people should do. When so many people are struggling right now, this is completely crazy. You do whatever you want. I just don’t know why you felt a need to share something so obviously meant to stir up some sort of controversy.

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