Even considering the energy and water used to wash them, reusable cloth diapers still save money and environmental impact. Petroleum-based disposables also contain troubling ingredients, including dioxin. Joy Hatch and Rebecca Kelley, authors of greenbabyguide.com, estimate the use of using and washing cloth diapers for two children over the course of two years at $250. The cost of the cheapest disposables? $1,800. Here are three ways to save money with cloth.

1. Buy secondhand. Cloth diapers are easily sanitized, so check diaper services, consignment shops and even eBay. If buying new, select organic-fiber diapers.

2. Wash full loads. And no need to presoak—just use a dry pail.

3. Start with the washing method that uses the least water and energy: cold water, heavy cycle, line dry. Experiment and adjust water temperature, cycle time, and detergent amounts as needed.