Cloth Diapering is gaining in popularity and a lot of people want to get involved. Any time there is money to be made the people will come in droves to stake their claim. The Cloth Diaper Wild West has seen a lot of prospectors come and go. Some of them are bringing innovative and worthwhile products to the marketplace; others just want to make money the fast way.
You’ve seen the same diaper with a dozens of different labels. They all have the same snaps, the same look, the same prints, the same everything. The only difference is that they go by different names and they might come with a different insert. They are sold on Ebay, on dinky e-shops with a hurried look, web 1.0 graphics, and sometimes have hard to understand wording that sounds more like a Google Translation than real spoken English. The price looks too good to be true!
As a cloth diaper advocate I find it hard to ignore these diapers. They are becoming increasingly easy to find and are well known amongst cloth diaper and parenting message boards. It’s easy to see why! At .99 each with $4.00 shipping (a $5.00 cloth diaper!) a family could build their stash for $120.00 with 24 of these One Size diapers. That sounds amazing right?
Yes. It’s a modern miracle that there are products that cost as little as $5.00 each when their brand name counterparts are upwards of $20.00 each. When you consider that the most popular brand of cloth diapers will run you $17.95 each and you would spend $430.80 on 24 diapers this is a considerable savings. Some of you reading this might even be thinking “Why didn’t I buy these $5.00 diapers?! I could have saved hundreds!”
The price savings come at a cost. Period. I’ll lay out the many ways I find that these re-labeled cloth diapers made in China are not the best thing for you. Then I’ll say why they might be. Just stay with me on this…
Workmanship- The diapers being sold at .99 each cannot possibly be made as well as name brand diapers. There are often times discrepancies in the diapers when they are being manufactured that lead to snaps coming off, the leg elastic being sewn in different tightness’s making for an “interesting” fit, and so on. You might get lucky and buy the one that was made well, or you might not and end up with a useless diaper that no longer works after a few weeks or months. It’s like a cloth diaper game of Russian Roulette. Another valid point to make is that if your diapers fail you will be faced with the decision to buy more diapers (the same brand, disposables, or more expensive brands) then you will not be saving the amount you assumed you would up-front. Will these diapers last you the entire lifespan of your child’s diapering days and beyond (for future children?) There are brands that will and THIS is when the higher price tag pays off in the long run. I have diapers still in rotation from my first son (purchased 4 years ago) that are still working on my second son.
Quality and Quality Control- Having handled several of these brands I can tell you that the materials used to make them are not on par with the materials used to make the brand name diapers. The PUL has a different feeling to it (slicker and cheaper) and the fleece or suedecloth is thinner and often pills faster. I’m also going out on an (unverified) limb and assuming that there is little to no quality control happening at some of the factories. While name brands protect their reputation by not selling second quality “seconds” diapers unless otherwise marked (and discounted) these re-labeled brands are less likely to do so. I’ve witnessed many buyers receive second quality diapers without expecting them.
Customer Service- Dealing with overseas Ebay and Re-labeled Brand sellers when/if your diaper does fall apart isn’t going to be pleasant. After reviewing several of these prolific Ebay cloth diaper sellers and their feedback it seems that they are not in the “cloth diaper biz” like a reputable online or brick and mortar store. They sell anything and everything that will bring in a dollar such as “electronic cigarettes, spy pens, laptop trays, and flame-less tea lights.” These sellers are not in the business of taking care of your needs! If your diaper falls apart- tough luck. You would be lucky to receive a refund or even a response to your query. Have a question about how to care for your cloth diapers? I would guess that many of these sellers have never even used the product. I find it disheartening when I see parents purchase these re-labeled diapers and then ask hardworking WAHM’s who don’t even sell those brands about problems with said diapers. Often times these WAHM’s will still answer because they want these families to succeed with cloth diapering.
Warranty- In line with the customer service issue, buying diapers that were shipped from China poses serious issues when a defect arises. Many of these brands do have warranties but if you read the fine print they will make you ship the diaper back (overseas) and you will then have to wait for a replacement. The cost to ship your diaper will be more than the cost of the diaper itself in many cases!
Ethical Quandry- Listen to your gut- what does it say about a diaper that is made in another country, exported to the US, and sold for 5 dollars. Do you think those who made the diapers were paid a fair wage? What were the working conditions like? Even though many of the name brand diapers sold for higher prices are made overseas in various countries I feel better about purchasing them because they have men on the ground monitoring the manufacturing facilities for safe working conditions. If you want to go one better and purchase only American or Canadian made cloth diapers I have two resources you will want to bookmark: the Cloth Diaper Finder lets you check a box that will show diapers only made in the country you select. I also have a page listing cloth diapers made in the US and Canada. You can also learn the top five reasons to buy American Made Products from Made in America Challenge. To live in a world and not buy products with questionable ethical origins is hard in today’s global economy but I know that we can use our good sense and buying power to support the brands who are trying to not only bring quality reusable diapers to the marketplace but who also care about their employees’ quality of life.
I receive emails on a weekly basis from manufacturers in China pitching their wares. Here is an example:
Lovely email, yes? ANYONE can begin importing Chinese made diapers, re-label them, and sell them. Some people will see this as a good thing because it has enabled plenty of families to start bringing in money by taking advantage of the high demand of these inexpensive diapers. There is little to no transparency about the fact that the diapers are not, in fact, their design and are just a “generic” that has a new label on it. If this were made more apparent I would have less of an issue. When you see one of these re-labeled diapers being sold by one person for $20.00 and another for $8.00 you want to shoot your computer monitor in a fit of rage at the ballsy move the $20.00 seller has. Below is an image of some of the diapers they want to sell me and anyone else with a pulse and an image of two identical diapers being sold as different brands for different prices.
Brand Name Knock-Offs
Just like there are knock-offs of popular designer wares, there are even knock-off cloth diapers. For the most part these are blocked from being sold here in the US thanks to the patents held by the brands. That doesn’t mean they don’t make it up on Ebay. As with the “too good to be true” price of these relabeled diapers, think long and hard before buying what looks like a Thirsties when things are fishy.
A new trend has been rising in order to get these cheap diapers even cheaper- Co-ops. A Co-op involves a group of people who get together to place a large order of items in order to qualify for a bulk discount/wholesale price. Because these diapers can be purchased at wholesale for as low as $1.00 a piece in some cases the idea of a co-op is very enticing to save even more money. Co-ops for popular brands of these Made in China re-labeled brand diapers are increasing. Not only does this pose ethical issues (when there are rules against this per the brand) but it can also result in fraud for people in the groups. Buying reputable brands of diapers from resellers with great reputations protects your investment! Again, you may end up buying diapers twice- once from a co-op but your diapers are never shipped (worst case scenario) and again from a trusted store to replace those missing diapers. Why take the risk? If you decide to try a co-op please due your due diligence when researching the host.
The Grey Area
How can the regular shopper know that a diaper with a price “too good to be true” is a relabeled Made in China cloth diaper or just a great deal? As I said earlier, many of these diapers will look identical in almost every way- snaps, prints, sizing, and so on. The label will be different but it always looks the same.
I don’t expect everyone to know these things. Truly, I don’t. I do expect that today’s shopper is informed and knowledgeable. If you knowingly buy a diaper after understanding the above facts then that is your perogative. If you simply didn’t realize that these diapers are often copy-cats of name brands that have been slightly modified and sewn in a factory with deplorable working conditions then you are one of thousands. After reading this article maybe you will rethink your cheap cloth diaper purchases just because a brand has released a new print and instead buy an adorable WAHM diaper from an Etsy store.
The Silver Lining
If you are struggling between buying food to eat or diapers for your baby then these bargain priced diapers are tempting. With such a minuscule start-up cost a family could begin using cloth diapers for around $120.00 in the most modern of ways- pocket diapers or all-in-ones. Say what you will about prefolds and flats being as cheap or cheaper- they are. Is that an option some families will entertain? No. As a cloth diaper advocate and a human being who wishes all children have access to clean diapers I say “buy some cheap Chinese diapers and take care of the most important thing in your life.” To anyone who is in this situation I will also link Giving Diapers, Giving Hope which is a national cloth diaper lending foundation. You can also look to see if there is a cloth diaper lending organization in your local area in this post: Cloth Diaper Organizations Helping Families in Need. When you factor in how long it takes to ship diapers you are buying from China and how long it will take to apply for and potentially be approved for a stash of diapers the waits will probably be about the same. You can also look into buying used cloth diapers through forums and shops like Diaperswappers.com, ClothDiaperTrader.com, and ClothDiaperNation.com. Look into Craigslist or Freecycle. There are also brand name diapers that start at low prices in existence. Check Cloth Diaper Finder and select your price range to see diapers that fit your budget and also match your preference of country of origin, style, closure, and more. More budget cloth diaper ideas on my article: Cloth Diaper Solutions for the Budget Minded Family.
I am not a perfect person and I’m not pretending to be one. I’ve knowingly (and more often, unknowingly) purchased diapers and other items that originated from China without researching how and where they were made. The problem of rebranding and counterfeits is also extending into the baby carrier industry: opportunism knows no bounds, even when a child’s safety is at stake. With this article I’m hoping to expose the truth behind a lot of the cheap cloth diapers that are cropping up by the day. The consumer has the right to know that these designs are not proprietary nor were they sewn with love by a WAHM. I’ve seen plenty of websites make this false claim and it makes me sick. The varying prices from brand to brand, the fascade of it being their design when it is not, the downright deceit is deplorable. I used to see the cloth diaper industry as a cottage industry run by mostly female business women. Those women still exist! Let’s support them and not the people who have chosen to make a fast buck by slapping a label on a diaper and calling it “Cutesy Tootsy Bum Bum Rainbow Poop Catcher V.2.” The more we support the generic diapers the faster we put the real innovators out of business. Would you rather have the selection of hundreds or hundreds of remakes of the same design?
- Not all cloth diapers made in China are bad but many are re-labeled generic patterns sold to resellers who then set a price and sell them as their own.
- Some diapers are blatant copies of a pattern used in a manufacturing facility in China for a name brand that has been altered and is sewn with cheaper materials and given a new brand name.
- Buying re-labeled diapers is a crap shoot- sometimes you win and something you lose.
- Be an educated consumer! Read reviews of a potential diaper. Find reviews that show the diaper has been used longer than 6 months to a year. How did it hold up? Know that the diaper you are buying is potentially being manufactured by employees un unsafe, unsanitary, unfit conditions. Consdier there could even be child labor involved. Reputable brand names who manufacture in China GroVia is one) often write publicly about their facilities, their employees, and show photos from tours to prove their diapers are made with a conscience.
- Find less expensive, ethically made diapers. Buy used. Use prefolds or flats and quality covers (Thirsties make great covers that last a long time!) or even DIY your own diapers.
- If you insist on buying one of the re-labeled brands consider buying from a reputable store that sells them here domestically to still get their guarantee and customer service. Some of the better known MIC diapers are sold at online stores for slightly more than you would find on Ebay or on a sub-par webstore.
More on this subject:*Update- Even though this post was published first almost a year ago this problem still exists and more brands come knocking on my door almost every single week. I will also agree that not every well known brand has the best track record for making a quality product although your chances are better buying from an established brand that buying a black market diaper. To rule out quality concerns it is always a good idea to view reviews of a diaper before purchasing. I’m only one person so my reviews are harder to rely on when it comes to long lasting quality however crowd sourced reviews on sites like Diaper-Pin are a great way to see how long a diaper lasts. Pin It