If you’re like most moms you probably know that eco-friendly, or “green” disposable diapers are on average more expensive than, let’s say Pampers or Huggies, and you’re wondering if they’re really worth the additional cost. Which performs better?
- Do traditional diapers, with their freedom to use more synthetic materials, have a performance advantage over green diapers when it comes to absorbency and other metrics?
BabyGearLab took this critical issue head on, using the data from our comprehensive testing and review of 20 top disposable diapers, because frankly, there’s no way any mom would have time to do the extensive tests herself. And what we found really shocked us.
What Makes a Green Diaper Green?
We divided up the 20 diapers we tested into two groups: green and not. So what makes a diaper green? The key characteristic common to the green diapers was a preference for environmentally friendlier and/or healthier materials such as:
- (partially) biodegradable
Absorbency Performance Comparison
What do you really want from a diaper? To keep your baby dry, healthy and happy, right? So, we thoroughly tested the green diapers versus traditional diapers on absorbency (to learn more about our methods, you can read our article, “How We Tested Disposable Diapers”), and this is what we learned: on average, green disposable diapers were more absorbent than traditional disposable diapers. Yes, you read that right. And by almost 30%.
This really surprised us, because we expected the more synthetic diapers to have a performance advantage on absorbency. But, what we found was the opposite.
The two top absorbing diapers were both green, BAMBO Nature and Attitude Eco-Friendly Diapers, both of which scored perfect 10s in their absorbency performance tests. In contrast, Pampers Swaddlers and Pampers Swaddlers Sensitive diapers were the top two traditional diapers in absorbency, and they scored a 9 and 8, respectively, coming in at fourth and fifth place.
On average and individually, green diapers outperformed traditional diapers on absorbency.
Leakage and Fit Tests
Well, there’s more to a diaper than absorbency. Like Leakage and fit. You want your baby’s diaper to not only absorb the pee, but make sure that it fits well enough to keep the poo in there, too. So, how do green diapers stack up on leakage and fit? Again, the answer surprised us.
On average, green diapers scored higher than traditional diapers on leakage and fit, by almost 20%. In fact, the #1 and #2 best-performing diapers in our leakage and fit tests, were two green diapers: Earth’s Best Tender Care and BAMBO Nature, both of which scored 9 of 10. In comparison, Pampers Swaddlers and Pampers Swaddlers Sensitive were the top performing traditional diapers; both scored 8s, and came in third and fourth place respectively.
The green diapers were on average and individually, better fitting and therefore better at controlling leakage.
Comfort Test Comparison
Comfort is a key factor in diaper performance, and we frankly didn't have an intuition as to whether green or traditional diapers would have the upper hand here. In some sense, the marketing of green diapers such as Huggies Pure and Natural, emphasizing "organic cotton" leaves us expecting higher comfort, and indeed Green diapers on average earned significantly higher scores on comfort, but not so Huggies Pure and Natural which finished 11th place on comfort (and really isn't all that green from our point of view).
Once again, green diapers dominated.
The top 3 green diapers, all scoring 9s in the comfort category, outperformed the top 3 traditional diapers, which all scored 8s in the comfort category. And, on average, too: with the green diapers scoring an average 7.9 compared to traditional diapers’ 6.2, green diapers were on average 20% more comfortable than traditional diapers.
On average and individually, green diapers were more comfortable and softer than traditional diapers.
Looking at retail prices we calculated the average price of a green diaper (on a per diaper basis) at $0.40, while a traditional diaper averaged at $0.22, which makes the green diapers on average 44% more expensive than traditional diapers. Whoa! That is a real difference, and something to really consider.
Green Diaper Prices Vary Considerably
But there is a great range here, too. The difference between the most expensive green diaper and the least expensive green diaper is considerable, ranging from $0.27 to $0.55.
The difference between the most expensive traditional diaper and the least expensive is less dramatic, ranging from $0.14 to $0.31.
Is 3 Cents More Too Much to Pay?
Herein lies the good news: one of the top performing green diapers, which is also BabyGearLab’s Editors’ Choice (Earth’s Best Tender Care) is only $0.03 more expensive per diaper than the #1 traditional diaper (Pamper’s Swaddlers). Our feeling is that 3 cents premium, which works out to less than $5/month, will be worth it for most people, due to the combination of better performance and reduced risk of health issues.
Our Conclusion: Go Green
Based on all the information provided above, we believe it’s much better to be go green, since green disposable diapers outperformed disposable diapers on every metric except price.
Even on price, the Earth's Best diaper is very similarly priced to Pampers Swaddlers, yet offered significantly better performance overall. Our recommendations:
- If you are currently using (or are planning to use) Pampers or Cuties and that’s working within your budget, switch to (or use) Earth’s Best Tender Care.
- If you are currently using (or planning to use) a green diaper and cost is not an issue for you, please do us all a favor and switch to (or use) BAMBO Nature or Attitude because both are top performers, and offer increased biodegradability.
- If you are currently using (or are planning to use) any other traditional diaper because of its lower price, switch to Target’s Up & Up which offers many green characteristics at a great price (more on this below).
Click here for a side-by-side comparison chart:
Halfway to Green: Target's Up & Up
The Up & Up also received a 7 in absorbency, a 7 in fit/leakage, and an 8 in comfort, with an overall score of 69 including the eco-health rating, and a 61.5 score excluding the eco-health rating, making it the 3rd best traditional diaper, just below Pampers. And even more impressive is that the Up & Up diaper performed just about average if compared only within the green diaper group.