After Cloth Diapers: 21 Reusable Products For Your Home & How Much You Can Save!

By April Duffy •  Updated: 06/22/23 •  16 min read

Before I began using cloth diapers, I was blinded by the supposed convenience of disposable products. Disposable diapers, paper plates, and towels, tampons, you name it. It seemed like the word disposable was synonymous with easy.

Our venture into cloth diapering really opened my eyes to a world of greener possibilities. Using cloth diapers encouraged me to take a look around my home and identify other areas where reusable products could replace disposable ones, all while keeping a few extra dollars in my pocket.

Below, you’ll find a list of 21 ideas for reusable products that can replace single-use products we all buy. Just note these amounts are going to be unique for everyone and are using average USD prices.

21 Reusable Products To Use Around the House

Dryer Balls

One of the first things I did when I started greening up my home was to ditch the dryer sheets, which I of course couldn’t use for my cloth diapers anyway.

They’re expensive, only suitable for one use, and really cause you more laundry problems than they solve.  Instead, I invested in a few Dryer Balls. They bounce around in the dryer, lifting up clothing for better air circulation (and less drying time) and naturally softening all at once! Plus, the look pretty sitting in their basket above my washer. I’m a fan of anything that makes the task of laundry a little more pleasant.

How Much Can You Save Replacing Dryer Sheets with Dryer Balls?

To figure out how much you can save, we first need to know how many dryer sheets those dryer balls are replacing. Here’s what I’ve found:

  1. The number of loads of laundry you do each year (and remember, you’re not using them for your diapers anyway). According to Procter & Gamble Co., the average American family washes about 300 – 390 loads of laundry per year​1​.
  2. The size of your laundry loads and the level of fragrance you desire, among other factors. Most dryer sheet manufacturers recommend adding one sheet for small to average-sized loads and two sheets for average to large loads. They even go on to say that if you have a large capacity washer and dryer, or if you’re using a large capacity dryer at a laundromat, you may wish to add three dryer sheets​2​. This is a lot to me, and I have yet to meet anyone who uses more than one dryersheet for their laundry loads outside of very rare occasions, so I’m going to stick to one dryer sheet per load for our purposes.

The average cost of dryer sheets is around $0.0384 per sheet. Considering that the average American family does 300 – 390 loads of laundry per year, the annual cost for dryer sheets ranges from $11.52 to $14.976. On the other hand, a pack of 6 wool dryer balls costs roughly $20 (for really good ones like the ones I’ll post below) and can last for about 5 years. This brings the annual cost of dryer balls down to about $5 per year. Therefore, a family could save between $6.52 and $9.98 annually by switching from dryer sheets to dryer balls.

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09/27/2023 12:33 am GMT

Drying Racks and Clotheslines

If the weather is warm and you’re looking to cut down on your home’s energy usage, a drying rack is a great way to do that! Available in all sorts of materials and sizes, drying racks are great for clothing and diapers alike, especially if you want to sun out a few stubborn stains.

How Much Can You Save by Switching from Dryer to Drying Rack?

On average, it costs between $0.29 and $0.57 to dry a load of laundry in an electric dryer in the U.S​ 3​. Using the midpoint of these costs ($0.43 per load), the average American family would spend about $129 to $167.70 to dry their average 300-390 loads of laundry. Note that this excludes the savings made from drying your cloth diapers on a drying rack as that 300-390 loads of laundry is just for clothing.

On the other hand, air drying clothes on a drying rack costs essentially nothing, once the cost of the rack itself is accounted for. A typical drying rack might cost around $20-$50, but it can be used for many years — decades even — so the annual cost is minimal.

Therefore, a family could save almost the full $129 to $167.70 annually by switching from using the to a clothesline or drying rack.

Refillable Cleaning Solutions

Store-bought cleaning products often come in single-use plastic containers and can contain harsh chemicals. Eco-friendly cleaning solutions, on the other hand, use natural ingredients and come in reusable or refillable containers. You can even make your own at home using ingredients like vinegar and salt.

How Much Can You Save by Switching from Single-Use to Refillable Cleaning Solutions?

A typical American family spends approximately $600 annually on single-use cleaning supplies, with around $120-$240 of this amount being spent on surface cleaners alone​4​. Transitioning to eco-friendly cleaning solutions can result in substantial cost savings. Let’s consider some of the top eco-friendly cleaning products on the market today:

  1. The Supernatural Starter Set costs approx. $75* and includes reusable glass spray bottles and glass concentrate vials containing essential oil blends for different cleaning needs​​.
  2. The Blueland Concentrated Cleaner Kit is available for roughly $39* and includes dissolvable tablets for various cleaning tasks along with reusable bottles​​.
  3. The Branch Basics Concentrated Cleaner Kit, priced at $75*, offers a substantial 34-ounce bottle of sustainable concentrated cleaning solution that can fill three bottles each of all-purpose cleaner, glass cleaner, bathroom cleaner, and foaming wash, plus a 64-load laundry bottle​​.
  4. The Grove Concentrated Cleaner Kit, the most affordable option at $12*, includes three cleaning concentrates and corresponding bottles​.
  5. The Seventh Generation All-Purpose Cleaner costs $16* and is a bio-based product ideal for sensitive households​.

Based on these options, let’s take the Blueland kit as an example due to its balance of cost-effectiveness and inclusivity of different cleaning needs. Assuming a family would need to purchase this kit and a set of refills to meet their cleaning needs, the annual cost would be around $80*. This equates to a saving of around $520-$740 per year compared to traditional cleaning supplies, demonstrating that switching to reusable, eco-friendly cleaning solutions can not only benefit the environment but also offer significant financial savings.

Unpaper Towels

I was confused at first by the term “unpaper towels.” Obviously, a towel that’s not made of paper is just a regular ol’ towel, or rag right? Whatever you want to call them, they’re a money-saving must-have in my opinion.

I’ve found that they’re great for cleaning up whatever sort of mess my kiddo can create, and more effective than the paper variety to boot. Suddenly the only reason I could think of for having paper towels on hand was for cooking bacon… so now we just bake it. And baked bacon is easier to clean up anyway!

How Much Can you Save by Switching from Paper to Un-Paper Towels?

The average family uses around 1.5-2 rolls of paper towel every two weeks, which equates to approximately 39-52 rolls per year​1​. If we take an average cost of paper towels as $5.94 per roll, following the costs of popular brands like Bounty and Viva​2​, this means that an average family spends between $231.66 to $309.28 on paper towels annually.

In contrast, consider the ZeroWastely unpaper towels. Sold in a bundle of 24 reusable towels for about $36, these are an efficient and sustainable alternative. Given that these towels are reusable, two bundles (48 towels in total) for $72 should be sufficient for a year, even accounting for washing and larger spills.

So, by switching to ZeroWastely unpaper towels, an average family could save between $159.66 to $237.28 each year, while also contributing less to waste production. It’s a win-win situation, both for your wallet and the environment!

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09/27/2023 11:57 am GMT

Cloth Napkins

Why use paper napkins when you can opt for reusable cloth versions? Not only are cloth napkins more elegant and durable, but they also reduce paper waste. These can be used for everyday meals or special occasions and then simply thrown in the laundry. You can even personalize your collection by choosing designs and fabrics that reflect your style.

Snack Bags and Bento Boxes

Now that my oldest has started school, this one really makes sense. Plastic baggies create a ton of waste, and are a waste of money! I began using snack and sandwich bags from various cloth diaper brands, which come in lots of fun kid-approved prints, for my son’s lunches and field trips. They’re also great for taking along a small snack in your diaper bag for younger siblings… or you!

Bento boxes, a lunchtime staple in Japan, have found their way to the US in recent years via food and parenting blogs. The box itself is typically made from stainless steel or BPA-free plastic (I’ve also seen glass, though I wouldn’t recommend that for kids!) and the food within is packed tightly to prevent it from shuffling around in transit. Bento lunches are fun to accessorize and eat, and they help with portion control due to their small size. I credit them with helping my now 7-year-old get over her picky eater phase!

Reusable Snack Puree Pouches

Perfect for little ones who enjoy purees and smoothies, reusable snack puree pouches are a practical and environmentally friendly alternative to single-use pouches. Fill them up with homemade puree, seal them, and they’re ready to go. When your child has finished eating, simply rinse out the pouch and run it through the dishwasher.

Reusable Grocery Sacs

I will be the first to admit that I am HORRIBLE at remembering to bring my reusable bags to the grocery store. I’ve amassed a small collection of the cheap $1-2 bags you see in the checkout line specifically for this reason. However, ditching plastic grocery bags in favor of cloth ones can actually save you a little money (a lot of grocery stores offer a small discount per bag) and they are a lot stronger than your average plastic bag, making them less likely to break before you get them in the house. (Admit it… you try to get all the groceries in one trip. It’s okay, most of us do.) And, like cloth diapers, reusable grocery sacs come in all sorts of fun colors and patterns. And if they’re pretty, I’m more likely to use them. I’m vain like that.

Reusable Produce Bags

The next time you head to the grocery store or farmers’ market, consider taking along some reusable produce bags. These bags, often made from mesh or organic cotton, are designed to replace the flimsy plastic bags found in the produce and bulk goods sections. Sturdier and easier to use, reusable produce bags are perfect for everything from apples and avocados to bulk grains or nuts. Beyond their eco-friendly aspect, I appreciate the fact that they’re washable, meaning I can easily clean them between uses. Not only does this reduce plastic waste, but they also help your produce breathe, keeping it fresh for longer. I’d highly recommend investing in a set – not only will they benefit the planet, but they’re also a lot more stylish!

Pail Liners

With the decrease in plastic bags being brought into my house, I needed a new solution for our small trash cans! Enter the pail liner. Available in various sizes, pail liners can act as a trash bag for whatever size trash can you need (in my case, the small ones in our bathrooms and office.) Elastic snaps tight around the edge of the can to keep it in place. Plus, they’re washable for whatever messes and, well… trash they happen to encounter.

Admittedly, this works best in a home rather than an apartment because the idea is to just empty your trash from your small, lined, bin into your large trash bin or one of the big black trash bags for when it’s time to bring it to the curb.

Beeswax Food Wraps

Replace your disposable cling wrap and aluminum foil with these eco-friendly alternatives. They can be used for wrapping up leftovers, covering bowls, or packaging sandwiches and snacks for on-the-go. Simply clean them with cool water and mild soap, and they’re ready to be reused again and again!

Reusable Food Storage Bags

Say goodbye to single-use plastic storage bags and hello to reusable food storage bags. These durable silicone or cloth bags can store leftovers, pack lunches, and even keep produce fresh. From sandwiches to chopped fruits and veggies, these bags are a versatile kitchen essential. Plus, they can be easily cleaned, either by hand or in the dishwasher, and used again and again.

Silicone Stretch Lids

A great replacement for cling film or aluminum foil, silicone stretch lids are designed to fit over a variety of containers, from pots and pans to glassware and even cut fruits. Made from durable and stretchable silicone, these lids create a secure seal to keep your food fresh. They’re also safe for use in the freezer, microwave, and dishwasher, making them a versatile addition to your kitchen.

Silicone Baking Mats

If you’re an avid baker, silicone baking mats are a must-have addition to your kitchen arsenal. These sturdy, flexible mats are designed to fit on your baking sheets, creating a non-stick surface that’s perfect for everything from cookies to roasted vegetables. The beauty of these mats is that they eliminate the need for disposable baking paper or aluminum foil. And the clean-up couldn’t be easier – simply wipe it down or toss it in the dishwasher, and it’s ready for its next use. Beyond their eco-friendly credentials, silicone baking mats are a boon for even heat distribution, resulting in more evenly baked goods. They’re a classic example of how going green can also mean upping your baking game!

Reusable Coffee Filters or Pods

The morning coffee ritual is sacred to many of us, and with reusable coffee filters or pods, it can also be eco-friendly. These devices can drastically cut down on paper waste and even enhance the flavor of your coffee. For drip machines, reusable filters, often made of metal mesh, allow more of the coffee oils to pass through than paper filters, giving your brew a richer taste. For those using a single-serve pod system, refillable pods can be filled with your favorite coffee grounds. Not only does this allow you to enjoy better-quality coffee, but it also helps to reduce the considerable waste created by disposable pods. Plus, investing in a reusable filter or pod is a smart move financially; though the initial cost might be more than a pack of disposable filters, the savings over time are considerable.

Reusable Tea Infusers

Tea lovers, it’s time to ditch disposable tea bags and embrace reusable tea infusers. These handy devices, often made from stainless steel or silicone, are designed to be filled with loose-leaf tea. Not only does this allow for a more flavorful brew – loose-leaf tea is typically of higher quality than bagged tea – but it also reduces waste. A reusable tea infuser is a one-time purchase that can be used indefinitely, unlike disposable tea bags that create waste with every cup. Plus, it opens up a whole new world of tea options, as many of the best teas are only available in loose-leaf form. So sit back, steep your tea, and savor the knowledge that every cup is a small victory for the environment.

Reusable Straws

Plastic straws contribute a significant amount to the world’s plastic pollution problem. Switching to a reusable metal, glass, or silicone straw can make a big difference.

Water Filters

Instead of buying bottled water, consider installing a water filter at home. Paired with a reusable water bottle, this can save you a lot of money and significantly reduce your plastic waste.

Reusable Baby Wipes

Anyone who’s ever had a baby knows that the amount of baby wipes you go through is staggering. But have you ever considered reusable baby wipes? These wipes, often made from bamboo or cotton, are soft, gentle on your baby’s skin, and can be washed and reused hundreds of times. Using them is simple – just wet with a bit of water and you’re good to go. Not only are they an eco-friendly alternative, but they can also save you a significant amount of money in the long run. And let’s face it, anything that’s kinder to your baby’s skin and the environment is a win in my book. If you’re new to the world of reusable baby wipes or want to know more, check out my complete guide to reusable cloth wipes to get started!

Menstrual Cups and Cloth Pads

The biggest leap for me, and ultimately the last one I made in my strive for a greener household, was switching to reusable menstrual products. Being on your period is no fun no matter how you look at it, and using tampons and disposable feminine pads can make the experience more irritating and painful than it has to be. Fortunately, reusable products like the menstrual cup and cloth menstrual pads are picking up steam thanks to them appearing on pharmacy shelves.

Reusable Breast Pads

New moms can go through a lot of disposable breast pads, but there’s a reusable option that’s more eco-friendly and cost-effective. Reusable breast pads are often made from absorbent and hypoallergenic materials like organic cotton or bamboo. They’re comfortable, easy to clean, and much kinder to both the environment and your wallet.

Bonus Reusable: Cloth Training Pants

Instead of using disposable training pants during the potty-training phase, parents can opt for cloth training pants. They can be washed and reused, making them an eco-friendly and cost-saving alternative.

References

  1. Smartklean. (2023). How much is your laundry REALLY costing you? Smartklean’s Blog. Retrieved from https://smartklean.wordpress.com/2023/05/17/how-much-is-your-laundry-really-costing-you/
  2. Deziel, C. (2023). How Many Dryer Sheets Should You Use Per Load? The Spruce. Retrieved from https://www.thespruce.com/how-many-dryer-sheets-should-you-use-5092917
  3. EcoCostSavings. (2023). Dryer Electricity Cost [233 Dryers Analyzed + 11 Cost Saving Tips]. EcoCostSavings. Retrieved from https://www.ecocostsavings.com/dryer-electricity-cost
  4. Nickerson, H. (2018). How Much Money Does an Average Family Spend on Cleaning Products in a Year? Budgeting Money – The Nest. Retrieved June 23, 2023, from https://budgeting.thenest.com/much-money-average-family-spend-cleaning-products-year-23539.html
  5. Eco Family Life. (n.d.). Paper Towel Usage Facts | 7 Amazing Things You Need to Know. Eco Family Life. Retrieved June 23, 2023, from https://ecofamilylife.com/paper-towel-usage-facts/.

April Duffy

April is the founder of Cloth Diapers for Beginners and author of The Cloth Diaper Wash & Care Handbook. Since 2015, April has helped well over 75,000 parents and caregivers cloth diaper their children through this website, her book, her YouTube Channel, and the Cloth Diapers for Beginners Facebook Group.