The Ugly Truth About Cheap Cloth Diapers (Knock-Off Cloth Diapers)

Ugly Truth About Cheap Cloth DiapersDiapers can be expensive.  Disposable diapers aren’t cheap and many families are turning to cloth diapers as the solution.  When a family starts looking at the price of cloth diapers ($10-30 each) they question whether it’s really going to save them money.  It is estimated that the average family can save up to $2,000 per baby by switching to cloth diapers.  Cloth diapers can cost a family anywhere from $50, for the most modest and simplest stash of flats and covers, to upwards of $500 for a complete stash of 24 bumGenius 4.0 pocket diapers and accessories.

Almost every day in the Kelly’s Closet Cloth Diaper Support Group on Facebook we hear questions and comments about brands of diapers like Alva, Sunbaby, THX, and other less expensive cloth diapers that we don’t sell in our store.  We wanted to take a few minutes to explain our thoughts and feelings on these diapers from our perspective as a cloth diaper retailer here in the US.

The US/Canada modern cloth diaper industry has been made up of parents who built brands around diaper patterns they created and sewed by hand.  Brands like GroVia, bumGenius and Rumparooz (and many others) have been built from the ground up by hard working American families trying to support their families; many of these started in their garages, kitchens, or living rooms as WAHMs (work-at-home-moms).  While they may appear to you and I to be big businesses now, they are all still small family owned and operated businesses.  Many of these brands are still manufacturing their products here in the US.  While some brands have decided to manufacture their diapers outside of the US (GroVia and Rumparooz for example) that does NOT mean that they are “China Cheapies.”  In fact, they may be one of the higher end brands of diapers.  The US brands that choose to manufacture their products outside of the US do so to keep their costs down and to be able to offer you an affordable product. These brands still have to follow US rules and regulations in how they operate their business (taxes, compliance, etc).  These are the brands that helped build the cloth diaper communities that we know and love today.  You can view our selection of Made in the US and Canada cloth diapers.

Interesting Facts About Popular Cloth Diaper Brands:

  • bumGenius: Started by and still owned by Jennifer Labit with only $100 in her living room.  Currently employs about 75 people in the US, not including the manufacturing facility.  Moved most of their production to the US in 2011.  Nearly all fabrics and components are sourced in the US.  If the job task is safe, babies are allowed to join their moms at work.  Location: St Louis, MO

  • Thirsties: Started by a WAHM and later sold to the Merrill family a few years back.  Employs 10 people in the US; many of which are family and friends.  100% of manufacturing, processing and shipping is done in Colorado.  98% of their materials are also sourced in the US.  Location: Colorado

  • Rockin’ Green Laundry Detergent: Started by Kim Webb in her kitchen back in 2009.  Currently employs 10 people in the US.  Everything is still manufactured and shipping out of Texas.  Their shipping team partners with a non-profit organization that helps employ people with disabilities.  Location: Texas

  • Blueberry: Started by Margarita and her husband.  Blueberry currently employs 8 individuals in their Knoxville, TN sales and distribution office.  Manufacturing takes place in Arkansas and Virginia.  All materials are sourced in the US with the exception of birdseye cotton, hemp and microterry.  Location: Tennessee

  • Moraki: Started by the owner, Charlie (a WAHM) in San Diego, CA.  All manufacturing, processing and distribution is located in San Diego.  All of their materials are sourced from US and US based companies.  Location: California

  • Applecheeks: Owned and operated by Amy and Ilana in Montreal, Canada.  Employs 15-20 individuals depending on the season.  Many employees work from home with their children.  All manufacturing, processing and distribution is located in Montreal; with a US distribution outside of Chicago.  Almost all of their materials are sources in the US or Canada.  Location: Montreal

  • Planet Wise and Best Bottom: The original designer of the first wet/dry bag!  Nicki and her husband employ about 35 employees in the US.  Planet Wise products are manufactured in Chicago, IL and Best Bottoms are manufactured in Wisconsin.  Imagine Baby & My Swim Baby (also part of the Planet Wise family) are manufactured by a small family run facility in China which the owner has personally visited.  All processing and shipping is conducted from their warehouse in New Glarus, WI.  Planet Wise and Best Bottom products are almost all made of materials sourced in the US.

  • Bottombumpers:  Owned by a WAHM, Stacy, in Southern Illinois.  Employs 6 individuals in the US.  All manufacturing, shipping and processing is done in Illinois.  Has been in business for 9 years.  Location: Illinois

  • Happy Heiny: Employs about 8 non-sewing ladies who work part-time from home plus a team of seamstresses in Indiana and California.  Manufacturing is done in both Indiana and California, while orders are processed and shipped from their Evansville, IN office.  All of their fabric is from US companies and about half of the materials is also loomed in the US.  They obtain their PUL from the US also.  Location: California and Indiana

  • Rumparooz: Julie Ekstrom started Rumparooz by sewing diapers in her living room for her newborn baby.  They currently employ 11 employees in the US.  Their headquarters are located in Golden, CO with manufacturing in Europe and China.  Their manufacturer is opening offices in Australia later this year.  All packaging and marketing materials are sourced locally in the US.  Location: Colorado and Worldwide

  • GroVia: A committed group of family-oriented men and women in the US and elsewhere that work to bring sustainable products to families everywhere.  Founder, Kim Ormsby started The Natural Baby Company and GroVia in Montana and continues to grow their business. Many of their products are certified organically grown cotton (according to OE100 Standard).  Products are made in China and the US.  The entire Kiwi Pie line of fitteds and wool are made in the US.  Location: Montana and Worldwide

  • SoftBums: Started in Minnesota by Sarah who used to sew all the diapers herself until the business grew to large for her to continue the production herself.  Now all shells and made in the US, as well as most of the Bamboo pods.  DryTouch Pods are made in China by a very reputable company that she has personally visited and worked with for over 7 years.  SoftBums currently employs 7 people in the US and holds a patent for their design.  Location: Minnesota

There has been a trend in China (and other foreign countries) to “knock-off” patents and prints of products.  This doesn’t only happen in the diaper industry, it happens everywhere we look; from baby carriers, baby leggings, tennis shoes to clothing.  Since the cloth diaper industry is still run by many small family businesses these “knock-offs” hurt the industry and the reputable businesses who started it.

Sometimes it can be hard to tell if a diaper is a “knock-off” or a legitimate brand.  We at Kelly’s Closet do our best to ensure that we bring you the most dependable and quality products that do not steal patents/prints/designs from the brands that built this industry and that meet all CPSIA safety requirements.  We can lose our wholesale agreement with the brands that we sell if we are found to be selling products that infringe upon their patents and copyrights.

These “knock-off” brands have also been disguised by American families trying to sell their own “brand” of cloth diapers.  These “re-branded” diapers are merely Alva brand (or some other “knock-off” brand) that has been relabeled with their own brand name.  Many of these are sold at much higher prices and maybe even more than the name brands.  Another trend is families creating “Menu Diapers” by ordering the features they like from these “knock-off” manufacturers.  A menu diaper is one that may look different, have different features, different prints, etc but they are still not an original design.  These diapers may be harder to spot and the ethics behind these menu diapers becomes more grey.  Most of these diapers are manufactured overseas (mostly in China) and may not meet all safety requirements that we expect for safe baby products (CPSIA for example).  You can find many of these brands on Ebay, Amazon, Zulily, Babysteals and through their own online stores.

“Knock-off” diaper stores are also hiding as “legitimate” cloth diaper retailers.

Kelly's Closet sells the REAL cloth diaper brands!

For example, we own the domain name “www.diapershops.com” and have for many years.  There has been a new retailer that many of our customers have been seeing pop up in their web advertising.  www.shopdiaper.com  We are NOT associated with this site in ANY WAY and they have stolen copyrighted material from our site (Cloth Diapering 101) and are using it as their own.  They are even advertising on Google/Bing/Yahoo with our brand name, Kelly’s Closet.  Please know that we are addressing this issue legally but since they are a company based outside of the US there isn’t a lot that we can do. They are only selling these cheap “knock-off” brands and we urge you to not support their business in any way.

We are a small family owned business of 3-4 employees.  When you purchase these “knock-offs” you not only hurt the manufacturers who created the modern cloth diaper industry but you also hurt small retailers like ourselves.  We do appreciate that not everyone shares our concerns and that every family has different financial restrictions.  We urge you to give us (and other small family retailers) a chance to help you find a diaper style/brand that fits your budget.  With our cloth diaper coupon codes, free shipping, and Diaper Dollar rewards points we can assure you that we can find a diaper for every family.  If you need additional assistance with low cost diapering options just ask.  We’ve been in business for over 12 years and would love to continue to be the web’s premier cloth diaper retailer for many more years to come. Read more about Kelly’s Closet and our story.

KellysClosetStaff

Quality Control and Safety Concerns:  These “knock-off” brands do not have to comply with US Child Safety Regulations (CPSIA specifically).  These regulations are put into place in the US to ensure that products are safe to use on your child.   They ensure that the products do not contain lead or other toxins.  If you are in doubt, you have the right as a consumer to request CPSIA documentation from the brand.  Please note that since quality control is not a big concern for these companies your diapers may not carry a warranty past 30-60 days.  These “knock-off” diapers often delaminate or break much quicker than brand name diapers.  For the money you would spend to replace these diapers every few months, you’d be making a better investment to purchase a brand name that comes with a longer warranty and quality control standards.

We find that many new families who get started using cloth diapers with these “knock-off” brands tend to get frustrated when they have problems and can’t get support from the brands; some even giving up on using cloth diapers because of their experiences.  

We don’t tell you this information to “shame” any family for their purchases.  We know that many families do not understand how these “knock-offs” hurt the industry.  We know that many families see the $5-10 diapers as very attractive; especially if you have any budget constraints.  We understand that family and friends may purchase these “knock-offs” without knowing the harm as well.  Please do not feel bad about owning or purchasing these “knock-offs.”  Again, we know that conversations like this tend to make people very passionate and our intent is not to “shame” anyone.  We know that your purchasing decisions are your own; and not ours.

When we’ve addressed this topic in the past we’ve heard some very compelling comments from our customers and fans.  We’d like to reply to just a few of those…

“But I can’t afford a $20 diaper.”  We have diapering options for as little as $50 for a complete stash of diapers if you’re willing to try a different style of diaper.  We know that pocket diapers are the most popular style but they are not the cheapest option.  Using flats, prefolds and covers can be done easily and on a very moderate budget.  If you are really on a tight budget or facing some financial challenges there are diaper banks and organizations out there to help.  Tell us what your budget is and we’ll be happy to offer our suggestions.  We also have tips for How to Cloth Diaper When You Can’t Afford Diapers.

“I like their cute prints and patterns.”  Many of the knock-off brands are able to use unlicensed prints because they are stealing these prints without having to pay the licensing fees associated with them.  This is one reason why the big name diaper brands create their own unique prints.  Paying to license your favorite cartoon character print for a diaper can be very expensive.  Smaller work-at-home moms may not have to meet the same licensing requirements as the big brands due to the quantity of diapers that they produce. These knock-off brands have even been known to steal the original work from brand name cloth diaper companies like bumGenius and try to sell them as an original.

“I didn’t know it was a knock-off.  I feel bad every time I look at that diaper.”  Please don’t feel bad about owning and using any diaper or brand.  In the end, it is still a functioning diaper and should work just fine to catch pee and poop.  It may even be one of your favorite diapers.  Our hope is that we can help educate families so they don’t have to face difficult situations like this in the future.

“It was a baby shower gift.”  Again, please don’t feel bad about owning and using any diaper or brand.  In the end, it is still a functioning diaper and should work just fine to catch pee and poop.  It may even be one of your favorite diapers.  Our hope is that we can help educate families so they don’t have to face difficult situations like this in the future.

Ugly Truth About Cheap Cloth DiapersSupport, Customer Service, Product Care, and Troubleshooting.  This is where we really come into the story.  We are a virtual e-commerce retailer and provide customer service and support to anyone on the internet who asks us a question.  We know that the products may have been purchased from someplace else but we are still willing to provide our support to ensure that your cloth diapering experience is a successful one.  Please know that we may not have all the answers since we are not familiar with the product care suggestions of the specific brand.  Our tips and suggestions generally work for all brands but each manufacturer has their own recommendations for how to care for their products.  Please know that we will always provide support to our customers first but we are happy to help any cloth diapering family.

To learn more about Kelly’s Closet please visit us online: www.kellyscloset.com

This entry was posted in Cloth Diaper Questions Answered, Cloth Diaper Stats & Facts, Cloth Diapering 101, Misc Cloth Diaper News and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

35 Responses to The Ugly Truth About Cheap Cloth Diapers (Knock-Off Cloth Diapers)

  1. While I’m not a fan of Alva themselves, they don’t tick me off HALF as much as the “WAHMs” that sell the rebranded diapers. At the end of the day, though, I’m proud of the fact that 98% of my ridiculous stash are either from WAHMs or my local cloth diaper retailer (who only offers high end diapers).

    I feel that, as a consumer, I have a responsibility to shop ethically as well as environmentally.

    • Allyssa says:

      A mom who sells rebranded diapers and tries to pass them off as “made” by her or won’t answer the question if asked is being dishonest. A mom who sells rebranded diapers but openly admits that she does not make them or will give you a truthful answer if asked is no different than a retailer. They buy the merchandise in bulk, at a lower price, and sell it back to you for profit. If they’re not filing taxes on that, no, that’s not very honest.

      • Ashley says:

        Rebranding is not the same as a retailer selling any particular manufacturer’s diaper/products. A rebranded diaper is a diaper that is a knock-off (although I’m sure this is not always true) that someone else is putting their “label” or “brand” on and/or saying they made it and they own it, when indeed that is not true. A retailer is NOT rebranding anything by selling any particular manufacturer’s product because they are not selling it under a different name nor are they claiming “rights” to the products.

      • Vanessa B. says:

        I’ve always worried about people feeling like my diapers fall into this category. I’m a WAHM with a very small, very new diaper business. But I’m an artist and drew and designed my diapers myself and worked really hard to make sure they are custom and have a unique pattern. They are manufactured in China but I can’t find places here in the US to do it… Is it bad that they are made professionally? I would love to hear feedback on what that’s considered. I don’t sew them, but I plan to get my patent soon. I feel like until I own a patent, I’m constantly trying to prove that I drew up my own pattern.

        • Calley says:

          Vanessa – I’m genuinely curious if your diapers fall into the “menu” diapers category or if you are a genuine manufacturer. Anyone can design their own brand of diapers and have them made for them. With so many similar features on diapers these days they all seem to look alike.

      • Calley says:

        As long as they have all the appropriate CPSIA/GCC/insurance/etc and files taxes then it is a legal business. Most of the rebranded/knock-offs do not do any of that.

  2. amberH says:

    The only way my husband agreed to do cloth diapers was if I opted to make half our stash from “China cheapies” or if I miraculously manage to win at least 12 giveaways. So I’m really not bothered unless this option is eliminated in this crusade to end shopdiaper.com. Then my only option will be to switch to disposables. Not everyone is here to go green and save the environment, etc. For me china cheapies are the mostly affordable option that my husband will agree to!

    • Mel says:

      I bought gently used bumgenius and happy hiney diapers when we first started. There were a few other big brand diapers too and then I tried Sunbaby. The big name diapers left me wanting more. Sunbaby was a waste of my money. Then I found Alva baby. Bought 4 to start and loved them. My stash of 30 is their diapers. We love them. My son is 2 and aside from a few diapers that got left on top of the dryer they are great. I suggest if you go with Alva buy some solid colored ones, they are bigger especially the black diapers. They have nice packages available. I think a part of the problem with some diapers are the detergent being used so watch what you use. Good luck.

    • Calley says:

      Shopdiapers.com has stolen original content from our business WORD for WORD! That isn’t ethical or legal.

  3. littlemissmariss says:

    It took me a while to build my stash. While I was pregnant I bought a few diapers whenever I had money in the bank. But I’m happy I took the time to buy reputable diapers. I love knowing I have reliable companies to fall back on if I have any issues, that I’m supporting local families, AND my finances are intact.

  4. Julie says:

    Thanks for the information! When I first investigated cloth diapering I considered Alva for the price. The more I thought about it though, the more it bothered me. With so many great, safe diapers in the USA and Canada why would I buy a diaper that had no safe guarantee from China? I ended up driving an hour and a half to a brick & mortar cloth diapering store to buy my first diapers. The hands on experience was so helpful! Now that I have my preferences (I use inserts, prefolds, and flats with covers for myself and pockets when we have a sitter) I shop at small online retailers. The customer service I’ve received from these small retailers is priceless!

  5. Sarah Pablo says:

    Sunbaby diapers are made in China because the owner is Chinese and lives in China. They are good quality diapers. I would never call them “China cheapies”.

    • Calley says:

      I don’t believe that Sunbaby diapers meet all the safety requirements that are required of diaper businesses in the US.

  6. Deidre Davis says:

    For those looking for an affordable option to start with cloth but still want pocket or other styles, this is what I did…
    I started with 5 covers and 3 dozen flats (I soon found out I only needed 2 dozen, so don’t worry about getting 3 dozen :) ). I put aside all our spare change into my son’s piggy bank until he needed to size up in covers and I would dump out the bank and see how many covers I could buy. It worked great for us, and lo and behold, I was able to branch out to other diaper types over the next few months through sales at refutable cloth diaper retailers and occasionally buying second hand (although I warn you, used diapers will typically wear out faster-obviously, since they’ve already been used).
    I DID buy a dozen Sun Baby diapers when I didn’t know better because they had cute prints and were, well, CHEAP! :) Fast forward 4 months, and all but 1 had started to have serious leak issues. I threw them away, feeling sick to my stomach for wasting that money the whole time. To me, I’m not saving money if I have to replace my diapers that often. I have bumGenius and Swaddlebees/Blueberry diapers that I have used for FOUR years on TWO kiddos and they still work and look amazing! :)
    And flats and covers get a bad rap–they are super easy to use-we just pad fold (no fancy folds, no pins/Snappis, no fuss)! :)

    • Deidre Davis says:

      Oh, and I should note that I now have at least 2 dozen pockets, 3 fitteds (we use them for overnight and I only buy 3 since I wash every 3 days; when it is time for the next size, I sell the current one first and deal with changing through the night or use disposables for a week until the new ones arrive-there are also OS fitteds), several AIOs, and some newer covers and a prefold (yes, A prefold, lol-I already had a stash of flats, so I didn’t need to buy lots of prefolds, although I really liked the one I tried-the only downside was it was sized and my flats are one size)!
      My stash now makes newbies jealous and it amazes me I’ve got more diapers than I actually need now. I remember thinking I’d never have any extra, much less an entire stash worth of the other types. I still use the flats & covers the majority of the time to help with laundry and prolong the life of my other diapers. I’ve also found that both children potty trained early, and I think it was due in part to feeling wet from the flats. DS trained at 28 mos and DD trained at just 18 mos! :)

  7. Deidre Davis says:

    The thing that makes me the most upset is that new moms buy a whole stash (and then some, sometimes) of CC’s and then are devastated when they lose snaps or delaminate after washing just a few times. I had a local mom who told me she was interested in cloth and I told her I’d love to help her check out her options, but she just bought some CC’s instead. A few weeks later, she posted that she was DONE with CD! She had leaks constantly. I offered to help her find some good quality products, but she wasn’t interested. It’s really sad, because she was expecting twins, and cloth could have really helped them save money! :(

  8. Christie says:

    Interesting. I use Bum Genius and all of the inserts say “made in China” I thought this was strange considering that the packaging says “Made in USA”
    I still love them though.

    • Calley says:

      Christie – bumGenius has moved manufacturing to the US for their covers but microfiber is still manufactured in China. We do list that on our site. Not all materials are readily available here in the US. bumGenius the company is a US company and does support the US economy.

  9. Dawn says:

    Why don’t you sell gdiapers? Is it because of their practices, or another reason?

  10. Don’t forget Bummis as a truly North American cloth diaper company! They manufacture in my neck of the woods!

    • Calley says:

      Bummis is an amazing company! They are located in Canada and have been in business for many, many years!

  11. Emily says:

    I spent months researching cloth diaper brands and the start-up costs of each. In the end I settled on a combination of gDiapers and Flips. While I loved the gDiapers while my daughter was tiny, the Flips are now my work horse. The cost of the Flips is almost unbeatable and knowing that I was supporting a US brand made the purchase even easier.

    As consumers, how we choose to spend our money is as important as any other choice we make. You need to ask yourself if you would rather use your dollars to support a business with no real commitment to the consumer, or a business that is IN business to provide a quality product that is backed by good customer service.

  12. The most frustrating thing about all of this, to me, is the shady business practices. If someone wants to purchase inexpensive or China made diapers, that is absolutely their choice. I do find it problematic to purchase from a company that steals content from other businesses, uses deceptive advertising practices, and makes claims on their website about being certified by certain organizations when it isn’t. I get that not everyone can afford other options, but at least make purchases from a reputable retailer who does not steal the work of small businesses.

  13. I have no really problem with diapers made in China. Yes, the quality is a bit lower. I do have a huge problem with rebranded China cheapies.

  14. Cheryl says:

    I am most bothered by WAHMs who take CCs and rebrand them as thier own but at the end of the day I would much rather see people using Alva or other CCs over disposables. The quality is much better with brand name dipes but they are simply not affordable to everyone and somebody brand new to cloth does not necessarily want to start with the least stylish and most intimidating option.

  15. Megan Wilson says:

    When I first started my stash I had a mixture, mostly because I’m a foster mom and I needed A LOT. Now a year later, our stash is only BumGenius, Rumparooz, and Blueberry!!

  16. Suzy Roberts says:

    So what’s the story on fuzzibunz? They make up about half of my beginner’s stash (which started mostly pre-owned for trial and error sake). They’ve worked well for us, but now I’m curious if their story is less than desirable…

    • Calley says:

      FuzziBunz are now manufactured in China. The original designer and owner is still involved in the business but they have been manufactured overseas (Turkey, China, etc) for many, many years. The new quality control processes has improved a lot this past year and consistency is no longer a problem (or at least hasn’t been with the last few batches). We’ll see what comes from them in the rest of the year.

  17. Jane says:

    I’m genuinely curious to find out why KC stocks Kawaii and Wolbybugs. What makes them different or better than Alva, Sunbaby, and the other “China cheapies?”

    • Calley says:

      Jane – that is an excellent question. We are reconfirming that all of our manufacturers compliance certification is up to date and current. If we feel like they are not in compliance we’ll have to seriously consider if we’ll stock them again. To be continued…

  18. Weng Rodriguez says:

    I am concerned about a US cloth diaper brand’s latest launch of prints which prints I have seen a few weeks in some China brands. What is the deal with that? Is this a case of suppliers purchasing the same print from the same textile manufacturer?

    • Calley says:

      Some prints are made exclusively for a manufacturer while other prints are openly available to anyone. For example, bumGenius prints are designed just for them and their textile manufacturer is not allowed to reproduce these prints. Sadly it is happening in these knock-off brands and we’re starting to see these exclusive prints duplicated. That could be why some of the newer prints are limited edition and only available for 1-2 batch runs.

  19. Pingback: Win a ONEderful diaper from Happy Heiny! {Ends 2/19} | Dirty Diaper Laundry