Cheap Cloth Diapers – Do your Homework

Why do cloth diapers cost what they do?

Recently there has been a new free online store set up to sell Cloth Diapers here in Malaysia.

Her diapers are cheap! RM46 each! Or even as low as RM36!

“What?!” you must be thinking, “so cheap!  The other cloth diaper stores (like Tiny Tapir, Lil Danzell, Baby Sasha N Mom, Miabambina) must be ripping us off!”

Would it surprise you to know that this new cloth diaper shop’s margin is higher than the other stores?  And in fact her profit per diaper in ringgitt terms is the same or more than the other more expensive imported cloth diapers?

Where are these diapers from?

One word.  Ebay.

You can buy a lot of cloth diapers from Ebay – especially those brands that aren’t that popular (highly sought after) and that are mass produced in places like China.  Your cost per diaper can be as low as RM18 (including shipping to you in Malaysia) – plus, because you are only buying a few pieces at a time, you won’t have to pay customs tax like resellers do – in Malaysia that’s a whopping 35% of the declared cost of the items plus shipping.

However, there’s a few reasons maybe you might not want to do this  :

  • You need to have an ebay and paypal account to pay for the goods, which are sometimes in the USA, more likely in China
  • Your package can get lost – or if the seller is not reputable, maybe it will be sent late, or not at all, or badly packaged (and therefore damaged)
  • You have no guarantee on the quality of the goods.  Cloth Diapers are not all created equal, despite what some people might have you think, comparing a RM83 diaper to a RM46 diaper is like comparing handmade leather shoes put together by a long time shoe maker in Italy or a Saville Tailored suit to Vincci shoes and a pasar malam T-shirt.  It’s ludicrous.

Yes, there are definitely good bargains on ebay – but it’s a question of whether you hit it lucky or not.  the long established Diaperswappers forum in the USA is full of people who have bought diapers from ebay only to regret it, despite the low cost of them.

There are 2 main worries when it comes to cloth diapering :

The fit

Sure, not all cloth diapers will fit all the myriad shape of children the same, just like a single brand of disposable diapers won’t fit every child the same.

However, brands that have done well enough to become well known (bum genius, rumparooz, blue berry, jam tots etc etc) have been tried and tested – they do fit a good wide range of babies shapes and sizes.  That means they have been well designed, and the designs have been tweaked carefully after many 100s of customer feedback.

On the other hand, a cheap cloth diaper, although sometimes they try to copy the established brand shape and size (which is stealing, frankly), is probably simply created – because their primary concern is to make a quick buck, not to necessarily minimize the risk of your child’s diaper leaking or falling apart after 1 month of use.

The build quality

Here is where you literally get what you pay for.

With a cheap diaper you are much more likely to get:

  • poor quality elastic (which won’t last long, given how resilient cloth diaper elastic needs to be due to frequent and heavy duty use),
  • poor quality velcro or aplix used to close up the diaper (you escape this problem with snaps, but with snaps you might get hard to snap snaps or snaps that break down after frequent use).  With velcro or aplix, if it’s not strong enough the diaper will quickly open up if your kid is running around.  Or, it will become ‘fuzzy’ quickly – meaning it might not close up at all.  Incorrect placement of velcro or aplix may also lead to the velcro cutting into the baby’s skin.
  • poor quality inner fabric.  This will mean bulk because ultra absorbent and natural fibers like high quality tightly woven organic cotton, bamboo and hemp are too expensive – you’ll never find these materials in cheap diapers.  The soakers won’t absorb as much – even within the microfiber family, there is really absorbent long lasting microfiber, and there is loose pile, quick to pill, quick to wear out microfiber
  • poor quality outer fabric (especially with waterproof diapers, PUL must be of good quality.  If not, after a month or so the PUL will start to come apart – PUL is actually a plastic layer bonded to cloth. If it’s not good quality it will separate and break down.  Some PUL will actually melt in the dryer (i’ve seen this in some used diapers that have passed my hand).  Other PUL loses its waterproofness after a few washes.
  • poor quality sewing.  Because most of these products are made in a factory by sweatshop labor (go here and play this fun game if you don’t understand the implications of that fact) and with poor quality control you might get wonky seams, poorly sewn items (with insufficient number of stitches per inch of sewing which will mean your product will fall apart faster) and even incorrectly cut diapers.

However. Let’s (illogically) put all that aside and pretend all cloth diapers are equal and do the math!! As this new shop is quite keen on tables and charts and we here at Tiny Tapir are pretty good at math if we do say so ourselves, we thought we’d use her table as a basis.  However, we corrected a few things and included the one column that was left out before.

DO THE MATH (COMPARISON CHART)

Imported Brand

Local Brand Y

New online Store One Size

Ebay Direct (same product as New online store)

1 PC

1 PC

1 PC

1 PC

Cloth Diaper

MYR 62 *

MYR 59.90

MYR46.90

MYR26.70 ***

1 Extra Insert

MYR 16**

FREE

MYR7.90

FREE with diaper!

Total

MYR 78

MYR 59.90

MYR54.80

MYR26.70

You Save

MYR 51.30

MYR33.20

MYR28.10

BEST CHOICE!

* based on a basic one size diaper (non minkey, no extra gussets)

** based on cursory random search of an established online store (not Tiny Tapir).

*** includes shipping from China to Malaysia, on the basis of purchasing a set of 8 cloth diapers

So what’s the conclusion? If money is your number 1 concern and you don’t care about diaper leakage, the useful life of the diaper and you’re OK with supporting sweatshop practices, then Ebay is totally the way to go!

Sarcasm aside though, there are gems out there which can be had for a bargain – just be cautious.  Whether cheap or expensive, it’s always recommended to buy 1 cloth diaper of a brand to use for a month first and see if it works out for you – if it does, then buy a whole bunch.  Being Penny wise and Pound foolish (i.e. buying a big lot of all the same brand and style before trying it first) is more than likely going to be a very expensive mistake and leave you very frustrated with trying to cloth diaper.

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8 thoughts on “Cheap Cloth Diapers – Do your Homework

  1. Hm Tiny Tapir, your brain must be so that tiny also. Not all items on ebay are of some fixed price. Similar items does guarantee similar end price. If you are smart enough -just as what you are pretending to be- you would not tell people that the price on ebay is that cheap, but its uncertain. Hm, I wonder if you ever know this ebay tinge is. But I have checked your site though, that your cloth diaper is no way affordable to Every MoM in Malaysia, its way too expensive. No wonder you are making freaky fuss, you fear that people knows that you rip them off!

  2. Oh, I know ebay very well. Clothdiaperwholesale has many auctions finishing at many prices – I actually used the median price. Also, the Coolababy diapers (which is the basis of the calculation above) was calculated at the Buy It Now price – so that means it’s always available at that price.

    Nice try Zero Hero.

    Furthermore, there’s no point paying $40 for something cheap that falls apart and leaks after a few uses – you are ripping people off – as I said your margin is $20 per diaper – that’s actually more than I make per cloth diaper I sell. So you are the actual one ripping people off.

    It’s better to encourage mothers who can’t afford it to use prefolds and diaper covers – which is cheaper than buying your crappy ebay diapers.

    Clothdiaperwholesale diapers will be available at our store soon too. And we will be selling them at RM35 which is our cost price – unlike YOU we will be paying the manufacturer a fair price so that at least she recuperates her manufacturing cost. And we are honoring her objective of selling cloth diapers at the lowest cost to those who are watching their pennies.

    Zero Hero indeed.

  3. in fact, you’re making $20 on each one size diaper, and on the trainers you’re actually making $15 on each of your trainers – that’s over 100% margin. Don’t pretend to be a savior for Malaysian mothers – if you want to be a savior, tell them how to buy exactly the same product you sell so cheap themselves from ebay.

    You think the reputable CD sellers don’t know about the cheap ebay diapers and that they can charge super high margins and sell them to unsuspecting customers? There’s a very good reason we don’t stock most of them in our store.

    I dare you to out yourself, after I posted the truth on your blog you deleted all the comments and your ‘comparison’ table too.

  4. Well. . . having been through the ringer with more than one legitimate website selling organic cloth diapers. . . I’m thankful for someone pointing out what I’d be missing in looking for cheaper cloth options. . .

    Ive wasted so much money on ‘quality diapers’ and then on top of it had to go buy disposables. So where can a poor single mother find cheap, decent quality cloth diapers for a pee/poo monster that leaks out of everything?

  5. I’ve been using the RM 40 something cloth diaper for quite some time but don’t see any problems that u mentioned above.
    If Zero Hero makes RM 20 margin, then cost should be around RM 20 and being a business person, I doubt you will pay higher than what the manufacturer is selling to the rest. You mean you’re so kind to buy at RM 35 (at cost) when they are actually selling RM 20 to most other purchasers? Common, don’t treat us like idiots!

    • @zhtan, actually yeah I did sell the clothdiaperwholesale diaper at cost (I did get a wholesale discount but it was much less than the shipping + 35% Malaysian sales + customs tax paid for importing the diapers, so the cost of importing did actually equal the cost price). That person purchased it from an ebay auction, I purchased it directly from the manufacturer’s website. After the ebay auctions were no longer available to her, that person stopped selling the cdw.

      Yeah you can say I’m a bad business person, but at the end of the day in this case, I felt good that the manufacturer (wahms) got some extra moolah.

      The coolababy diapers talked about previously’s manufacturing quality has improved a lot, it’s a good value buy at that price point. I still maintain there are some cheap china diapers that do fall apart very fast after purchase, so it is important to do research into the particular brand you’re thinking of buying – usually there are quite a few reviews of those brands that have been around a while. I’d just be wary of the very new ones.

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