So you're interested in cloth. We can help! We narrowed down over 50 competing products to find the 13 best cloth diapers of 2019. Through extensive research and testing, we were able to rank them and make the perfect recommendation for every lifestyle. Using cloth is less wasteful, better for the environment, and potentially healthier for baby. But it can be difficult to sift through all the companies, articles, and personal blogs out there each offering their own two cents. With so much information, and so many new styles and cloth routines to choose from today, it can get a bit overwhelming. Use our experience to your advantage and take a look at our favorites below.
The Search for the Best Cloth Diapers
The Rumparooz Pocket diaper is the top-scoring product in our absorbency tests, earning a 9 of 10, and impressing us with its overall ease of use. It has a soft microfleece lining that covers the entire inner side of the diaper. It comes with two microfiber soakers that can be used separately or together to achieve the desired level of absorbency. We loved that this diaper did a great job of quickly absorbing and then locking away liquid. Almost all moisture was wicked away from baby, and the inserts felt dry to the touch after changing. The double gusset offers backup protection for more explosive poops. With four rise adjustments and 5 for the waist, you should be able to find the perfect fit for almost any baby.
While there is much to love about the Rumparooz, pocket diapers require extra work before and after each change. This diaper can also seem excessively bulky at times, boosting absorbency, but also making it hard to fit under regular clothes. Some users noted that this diaper runs a bit small, which can reduce the lifetime use, but may also make it better for smaller or younger babies. It may be able to take the place of newborn sized products sooner than other diapers. We think that the benefits of this diaper outweigh the flaws, and believe it will keep both mom and baby happy throughout the entirety of its use.
Read Review: Rumparooz Pocket
We tested the Thirsties Duo Wrap hybrid system with the coordinating Stay Dry Duo Insert and were very pleased with its overall performance. The two-part insert is one of the best in the group. It is highly absorbent and has excellent wicking properties, feeling nearly dry to the touch after being soaked. As a hybrid style, it has a trimmer profile that fits well under most regular baby clothes. Despite this, the thing we like most about the Duo Wrap cover is that it can also handle a surprising amount of bulk. Its extra adjustability and double gussets make it a good choice if you need to add some extra layers in there. It is easy to clean and can be reused a few times with new liners before needing to be fully washed.
Unfortunately, the insert is not attached to the cover, so if you have an extra wiggly baby, it may move around a make a bigger mess of the contents of the diaper. We also struggled somewhat with finding a good fit for baby. There is only a single row of snaps around the waist, so we found that the diaper did not feel as secure as those with a double row of snaps. We recommend this product to anyone looking for a versatile cover for their prefolds, fitteds, or inserts that you can trust to handle some heavy-duty messes.
Read Review: Thirsties Duo Wrap with Stay Dry Duo Insert
The Imagine Baby Pocket Snap was one of the top-performing diapers in our tests, and is also the lowest priced believe it or not. This pocket diaper has a 4-layer microfiber insert that soaks up liquid and locks it away from baby's skin, earning it an 8 in our absorbency tests. The soft micro-fleece fabric lines the entire diaper and does a great job of keeping baby comfortable and dry. The pocket opening is larger than some others and is easier to stuff and prepare for baby before each change. It is large enough that you can place more than one insert inside if you have an especially heavy wetter or would like to use it overnight. We appreciate that there is a double row of waist snaps that keep the diaper securely in place and help relieve single points of pressure around baby's stomach. Although it only has a single gusset, we had no problems with leakage.
The Imagine Baby can be rather bulky, and we would have liked to have a smaller insert included for use with younger infants. However, with older babies, this extra bulk means extra absorbency. Without it, the diaper would not be nearly as absorbent as it is, and we feel this is a small price to pay in the long run. As with any pocket diaper, you will have to put in a little more work before each change. You must take the time to stuff the insert, but this may be the price you have to pay for performance. We were pleasantly surprised by the Imagine Baby Pocket Snap. Its above-average performance and budget-friendly price tag are hard to beat.
Read Review: Imagine Baby Pocket Snap
We tested the Flip with the matching Flip Stay Dry Insert and found it to be an award-winning combo. Most hybrid systems fit a little trimmer than others, and the Flip is no exception to this. It is small enough that it may almost look like a normal diaper under regular baby clothes. It is simple to lay the single microfiber insert in the cover and adjust it to fit baby, while a double row of waist snaps helps with both fit and comfort. Although it only has a single gusset, we did not experience any leaks, especially since it was so easy to get a proper fit. With a score of 7 for absorbency, it was on the upper end, and we were happy with its performance.
Since this is a hybrid system, there is nothing to hold the insert in place aside from the cover. So if you don't secure the snaps snugly enough, it may move around as baby moves and make more of a mess than anticipated. It also only has a single gusset, so you much be more watchful for blowouts. Remember, you do not have any backup you can rely on to keep the mess inside. Because the insert and cover are two separate pieces, this system requires a bit of extra prep before each change, but the post-change clean up is much simpler. We like this one size fits all hybrid and found that it fits well on most babies and it will save you a chunk of change by not having to buy different sizes as baby grows. It is an economical hybrid system that measures up to the competition.
Read Review: Flip with Stay Dry Insert
The GroVia O.N.E. is a top-notch diaper that stood out from the group for its great absorbency potential and ease of use. It is an all-in-one (AIO) product with foolproof snap-in inserts that allow you to tailor to your absorbency needs. The double row of waist snaps is easy to adjust, and the cozy microfleece lining has some outstanding wicking properties. This diaper is ideal for babies who usually need frequent diaper changes, or for overnight use. The O.N.E. comes with optional velcro closure tabs that attach to already present snaps. This way, you don't have to send your diapers to a conversion program to make the switch.
As the bulkiest diaper of the group, trying to put regular clothes on overtop produced a comical effect. The numerous layers also take a much longer time to dry, even when snapped apart. Although many users rave about absorbency for a good reason, GroVia recommends washing the diaper 3-5 times before first use. We found that it does not reach maximum absorbency until even later, maybe 9 to 10 cycles through the wash. This process means a lot of prep beforehand and the risk of leaks if you use the diaper too soon. Overall, we were pleased with this high-quality diaper. We love that it is multipurpose and easy to use, and think you will too.
Read Review: GroVia O.N.E.
The bumGenius Freetime is a parent favorite thanks to its pure simplicity. It is an all-in-one diaper that requires no snapping, stuffing or folding. This diaper has two inserts that are sewn into the diaper on one end only. They then lay over the top of each other for a double layer of absorbency that can be adjusted and customized as needed. We like that this system keeps the diaper all as one piece, but also allows the inserts to unfold into a single layer for faster dry time. The top side of the polyester inserts has a lining of stay-dry fabric that keeps baby from feeling soggy. Lastly, there is a handy dandy pocket sew into the underside of each insert, in case you need to add some extra absorbency.
Being an AIO, you must wash the Freetime diaper in its entirety after every change. It cannot be machine dried and will take longer to dry than a hybrid style diaper even with the advantage of the unfolding inserts. This diaper gets a bit bulky, and if your baby doesn't need both inserts, too bad. It is impossible to take out either one as they are both sewn into the liner. We did not experience any leaks during testing, but this diaper only has a single gusset, rather than two. Even with these few drawbacks, this is a great and versatile diaper. We would especially recommend it for first-time cloth users or any parent who is looking to keep things simple.
Read Review: bumGenius Freetime
OsoCozy Premium Bamboo/Organic Cotton Prefolds are our favorite prefolds out there. We love their simplicity and durability. The bamboo cotton blend makes for some very soft fabric. It is all-natural, so you can feel better about what is next to baby's skin and what you're putting into the environment. Thanks to their simple square design, these cloths are super versatile and can be used for far more than just diapering. They will last far beyond potty training days. Many parents love to use them as burp cloths, bibs, or just a handy rag to keep around for those inevitable messes. For diapering, we like to use the Thirsties Duo Wrap cover with these.
One of the downsides to any prefold is that there is a lot more prep involved in diaper changes. Learning how to fold, position, and fasten the cloth on baby properly can take a bit of time. It is not something that every parent wants to tackle along with so many other firsts during this time. You can use these with only a cover to keep them in place, but we recommend getting a cloth diaper fastener to make your life a bit easier. Additionally, we found many reports of the fabric holding onto stains. While it is not a deal-breaker, as the cloth can be adequately cleaned and used again, but they won't look as beautiful. If you choose to purchase these, you must remember to account for some significant shrinkage. OsoCozy is clear about this, and take it into account when labeling sizes, so any complaints about the diaper being too small are usually due to user error. However, it is good to keep it in mind. These diapers are one of the most cost-effective options out there, but you must be able and willing to dedicate some extra time to each diaper change. If you can make it past the learning curve, we think that OsoCozy Prefolds are a great budget option that you can use long past the diaper days.
Read Review: OsoCozy Premium Bamboo/Organic Cotton Prefolds
The Thirsties Newborn All In One is an itty bitty cloth diaper specially sized for use with newborns. Regularly sized cloth diapers are usually way too big for the average newborn, and so many parents opt to go with disposables until baby is a bit older. However, if you have made up your mind about cloth, and want to stick with it 100% of the time, then this is the diaper for you. It is an AIO style, with two absorbent inserts sewn into the liner. The fabric is a natural cotton-hemp blend with a waterproof polyester outer cover. With two snap adjustments for the rise and four waist adjustment options, this diaper can get tiny, making it perfect for those brand new babies and even premies.
Unfortunately, it only fits babies from 5-14 lbs, and your baby will outgrow this diaper very quickly. So you must be sure to have larger diapers on hand for when that happens. Also, for such a short usage range, the cost of this diaper is on par with that of any other and is higher than our Best Value award winner, the Imagine Baby Pocket Snap. The inserts are not removable, and there is no pocket, so you are unable to customize absorbency. We appreciate the natural fiber interior, but the wicking properties are not excellent and may leave baby feeling damp or soggy. However, this is a problem that will occur with any natural fiber and may be worth the trade-off if you are more conscious about what you put next to baby's skin. For those who are die-hard cloth users, disposable is unacceptable, and this Newborn All In One from Thirsties is the perfect solution to fill that newborn gap.
Read Review: Thirsties Newborn All In One
The Happy Endings Kid's diaper is a pull-up style diaper with a LOT of potential for absorbency. As is, with just the included insert, it performed very well in our absorbency tests and has a stuffable pocket so it can handle even more if necessary. Thanks to this capability, and its versatile sizing, it may be a good overnight option for heavy wetters or older children who are a little late to potty train. This diaper can be used with snaps, but also has two removable stretchy tabs that make it larger around the waist, and allow it to be pulled on and off by the wearer. The double gusset helps to keep everything contained, and the microfiber lining is super soft to the touch.
When stuffed to its maximum potential, the absorbency is incredible, but so is the bulk. It is already a generously cut diaper, and with extra inserts, it may seem excessive. But if extra absorbency is what you are looking for, it may be worth the trade-off. This diaper has a very narrow fit that may accentuate the bulkiness in some areas. It also makes it a bit difficult to get the adjustments just right, and it may not fit every child. Some users also mention that this diaper retains a bit of a pee smell even after washing. We think this is because of the thick absorbent layers and would caution parents to remember to wash their diapers according to manufacturer directions. We feel that this diaper is an excellent product for specific situations. If you have a child that is taking their time with the toilet or having trouble wetting the bed at night, this could be the perfect transition solution.
Read Review: Happy Endings Kid's
The Sustainablebabyish Snapless Multi Fitted is a fitted cloth diaper made by Sloomb. The liner has a terry cloth feel, and it includes a smoother small and large doubler that can be layered inside as needed. All components are composed of a highly absorbent blend of bamboo and organic cotton, so absorbent, in fact, that this is a favorite nighttime option for many parents. This diaper is snapless, which means you can get the perfect fit every time without having to worry about adjusting and readjusting snaps. It comes with an extra-large safety pin to secure the diaper, but we recommend using a Snappi as they are much easier and safer. Users also rave about the durability of this diaper. Its simple and sturdy construction means it can withstand years of heavy use. Some say that it still functions well even after the elastic in the legs wears out.
As a fitted, you must use the Sustainablebabyish with a cover of some sort. We like the Thirsties Duo Wrap to use with this one. The benefit to this is that you can reuse the cover a few times while just replacing the liner with each change. While you always want your diaper to absorb and lock in liquids to its best ability, better absorbency also means extra bulk and longer dry time. Luckily the three pieces of this diaper can be separated to encourage faster dry time, but it is still longer than average. As we noted above, this diaper is snapless, which can be handy when it comes to getting the perfect fit. However, it does require the use of an additional accessory and adds a few extra steps to your diapering routine. The Thirsties Natural One Size Fitted is a similar product made by Thirsties that has snap closures. However, if this does not bother you, we think that the Sustainablebabyish diaper is an excellent fitted option and could be the perfect overnight solution for heavy wetters.
The Snappi is one of the great modern conveniences of cloth diapering. This alternative cloth diaper fastener is something that many parents would consider indispensable for use with fitted and prefold diapers. It takes the place of hazardous safety pins and removes the risk of accidentally poking baby. The three-pronged elastic band has small plastic teeth on each tab that grab onto the fabric and keep it securely wrapped around baby. If properly stretched, these things don't budge, and many parents think that it is even more secure than a safety pin.
Although the three-step process is relatively simple, it may take some time to get it down just right. However, with time, you will likely discover all the small tricks and adjustments that you need to make to get the best fit possible. The Snappi is quite durable, but if there is a slight tear anywhere on the product, there is not much you can do to stop it from growing. You will end up having to toss the fastener and get a new one. Also, if any mess from inside the diaper gets on the Snappi, it can be challenging to clean the small nooks and crannies. We recommend soaking it in hot soapy water if this happens. When it comes to prefold and fitted diapers, you can't go wrong with the Snappi. It is a product that oozes convenience, and we think it will make your life that much simpler if you choose to use it.
Blueberry Trainers is the perfect product for the next step. Made up of fabric this is absorbent but intentionally non-wicking, it can catch leaks, while still letting your toddler feel when they are wet. The pull-up style undies come in a variety of fun colors and patterns. They are more absorbent than the average training pants, so they are ideal for toddlers in the early stages of potting training. We recommend these mostly for daytime use in the early stages; however, many parents also reported using these as nighttime backups during the last days of potty training. If an accident were to happen, Blueberry Trainers can mean the difference between midnight pajama changes and midnight sheet changes.
Along with that extra absorbency comes extra bulk, and you may have some trouble getting them to fit under regular-sized clothing. The thicker fabric gives toddlers more of a "diaper" feel, and it may make it seem like it's ok to go. This feeling is not very conducive to the training process and will mean a big cleanup as these are not intended to absorb that much urine. Many users report that there is a lot of pilling on the fabric over time. However, ideally you won't be using these for very long, so durability should not be a big problem. We like that Blueberry makes a training pant that adds one more intermediate step to bridge the gap between diapers and grown-up undies. We think that these would be great for any child who needs a little extra back up.
If you've got a water baby that loves to be in the pool, Beau & Belle Littles Nageuret has got you covered. This cloth swim diaper has a PUL waterproof cover lined only with mesh on the inside. It takes the place of swim bottoms and comes in a variety of adorable patterns. Similar to a disposable swim diaper, the Nageuret is not meant to keep liquids from entering the pool but does a fantastic job of containing solids. It is easy to clean, and with three snaps for waist adjustability and 3 for the rise, it is easy to get a snug fit for baby.
While these are not meant to be absorbent, the mesh lining is the only sort of padding you can expect from this diaper. The snaps are exposed on the inside and may cause some skin irritation if baby wears the diaper for an extended period. It is sized to fit toddlers up to 3 years old, but many users report that the leg openings are a bit small, especially for thunder thigh babies. Luckily, Beau & Belle makes a a larger version sized for two to five-year-old kids, with a weight range of 20 to 55 Lbs. Overall, we think that the Nageuret swim diaper is a great product. Even if you don't choose to exclusively cloth diaper, we believe this one is worth making the switch.
Didn't Make The Cut
We initially tested and researched 18 different diapers and chose not to include all of them for various reasons. We also took a look at the Rumparooz OBV, Best Bottom Heavy Wetter, EcoAble AIO Pocket, Thirsties Natural One Size Fitted, and the Smart Bottoms Dream 2.0. Although they went through all the same test as the other products, these diapers didn't make it into our review because their performance was not up to par. Generally, we found there was a similar item that we liked better, was less expensive, and in some cases, both.
Why You Should Trust Us
Here are BabyGearLab, we know diapers. Dr. Juliet Spurrier, MD and Alison Buck led the charge for this review back in 2014, and we have been building on their knowledge ever since. Juliet Spurrier is a board-certified pediatrician, mother of two, and founder of BabyGearLab. Alison Buck is a preschool teacher and avid cloth diaper user and has personally used nearly every major brand of cloth diaper out there. Follow up absorbency testing and research was done by Abriah Wofford, who has been working with BabyGearLab to scientifically test and evaluate baby products for over four years. Our hands-on tester for this review was nanny MaryAnn Wofford and her 8-month-old charge Annie. MaryAnn has nearly ten years of professional nannying experience and is a mother to 6 children, totaling 24+ years of diapering experience, and hundreds of diapers changed.
With our technical knowledge of cloth and disposables combined, we have more than five years of in lab testing and research; not to mention all those really hands-on years with kids of our own. If we had to put a number on it, we'd say we've got more than 200,000 diapers under our collective belts. We scoured the market for the top cloth diapers worthy of inclusion, researching tried and true products, new flashy items, and everything in between. We put our diapers through multiple rounds of in-lab absorbency testing and followed up with hands-on testing with an 8-month-old Annie.
How We Tested
To rank the diapers included in this review, we relied heavily on absorbency testing, as we believe that is the most important job of a diaper as a whole. To measure this, we performed an in-lab absorbency test on the diapers to quantitatively measure how well they absorbed and locked away moisture. This test was less about maxing out the diaper's capacity, and more about how quickly and efficiently the diaper takes in an average amount of liquid and then keeps that moisture away from the skin.
We concocted a mock urine solution and used an above-average amount of liquid in order to stress test the diapers. Repeated compression and decompression helped mimick the movement that would occur if the diaper was on a real baby. Each diaper was tested multiple times in the same way, with the same amount of liquid to make it as close to a real-life situation as possible while still giving apple-to-apple results. We then supplemented with a lot of research and hands-on testing with an 8-month-old baby.
We used the same lab test in our disposable diaper review which enabled us to compare results not only between competing products but also across categories, measuring the relative performance of cloth vs. disposable diapers. We think this is a helpful comparison to have when you are first diving into the world of diapers, and making your first big decision: cloth or disposable?.
Analysis and Test Results
Absorbency is likely the most important aspect of any diaper. Let's face it, if a diaper leaks, then you're not going to use it, no matter how easy/eco-friendly/soft/cozy/cute it is. Having good absorbency and wicking properties is also very important in preventing diaper rash. We put each diaper in this review through multiple rounds of absorbency testing, during which we took note of things such as absorption rate, runoff, pooling, and overall distribution. The best diapers absorbed the mock urine instantly, preventing any runoff or leakage, and kept everything locked away in the insert, keeping the outer liner much dryer.
The photos below show the outcome of our absorbency tests, arranged by rank. The green on each filter paper shows the amount of mock urine left on the surface of the diaper next to baby's skin. The more green you see, the worse the diaper performed.Rumparooz Pocket (left), Thirsties Duo Wrap w/ Stay Dry Insert (right)
Imagine Baby Pocket Snap (left), Flip with Stay Dry Insert (right)
OsoCozy Premium Bamboo-Organic Cotton Prefolds (left), GroVia O.N.E (right)
bumGenius Freetime (left), Thirsties Newborn All In One (right)
Happy Endings Kid's (left), Sustainablebabyish Snapless Multi Fitted (right)
Blueberry Trainers (left), Beau & Belle Littles Nageuret (right)
We found that overall, diapers with synthetic fibers were better at wicking away moisture and keeping it contained within the insert. The Rumparooz Pocket and the Thirsties Duo Wrap with Stay Dry Insert were the two top-performing diapers in this metric, and not coincidentally, they both have a synthetic microfleece lining across the interior of the diaper. They sometimes even felt dry to the touch after testing.
Diapers with natural fibers, such as the OsoCozy Premium Bamboo-Organic Cotton Prefolds or the Sustainablebabyish Snapless Multi Fitted, which both use cotton or hemp inserts, didn't lock away moisture quite as well and left baby feeling damp or soggy. If you do decide to go with natural fibers, we highly recommend getting a microfiber liner at the very least to keep baby happy and prevent diaper rash.
Our worst performing diapers in terms of absorbency were the Blueberry Trainers and the Beau & Belle Littles Nageuret, training underwear and swim diaper respectively. Specialty diapers like these are not meant to be absorbent, hence the mediocre filter paper result. Just because they didn't do well in this metric, does not mean that they are bad products. We highly recommend each for their own purpose.
A Note Concerning Natural Fibers
As a parent, and as a human on this planet, you may find it very important to use natural fibers for your baby's diapers exclusively. Plant-based fabrics are often more absorbent, are better for babies with sensitive skin, and are better for the environment when it is time to throw them out. However, as mentioned above, they somewhat lack in the wicking department, so we recommend using a reusable microfiber liner.
To show how much of a difference it makes, we did a few additional tests with some of our natural fiber options. The photos below illustrate how the use of a microfiber liner can dramatically improve wicking ability. There is a stark difference in filter papers that came into direct contact with natural fibers vs. papers with a wicking layer in between.Sustainablebabyish Snapless Multi Fitted — (without liner on the left, with liner on the right)
OsoCozy Premium Bamboo-Organic Cotton Prefolds — (without liner on the left, with liner on the right)
Fit and Leakage
Leakage has a lot to do with how well a diaper fits on your baby. Figuring out how to prevent leaks can be a bit of trial and error. Every baby is different, and it can be tricky to know how to adjust a cloth diaper in the beginning. However, some diapers have features that make it easier. Prefolds and fitteds without snaps are usually the ones that fit the best, as the adjustments are infinite so baby will never be in between sizes. Also worth considering is the number of snaps on the diaper. The more, the better as you have more size options available to you.
The Rumparooz Pocket was one of the best fitting diapers and has a unique double gusset system that helps to keep both solids and liquids away from the edges. In diapers that have snaps, the more, the better. These allow you to customize leg and waist sizes so that you can get a snug, but not too tight fit. We also preferred diapers with a double row of snaps up top rather than just one. It made the diaper lay closer to baby's belly and feel more secure. We found that the Flip with Stay Dry Insert fits exceptionally well thanks to the stretchy material used in the snap tabs. It allows you to get a more snug, but still comfortable fit, closing all gaps and blocking leaks.
One annoying thing we noticed on some diapers is that rather than the outer waterproof lining wrapping around the gusset, the inner lining goes out to meet it. This material may be softer for baby's legs, but it also allows moisture to travel through the fabric to the outer edge of the diaper, creating a sneaky little leak.
The last factor in leakage has more to do with absorbency. If a diaper gets too saturated, it will leak, no matter how well it fits. Which is why we think it is good to have a diaper that can accept more or fewer absorbent inserts. Most diaper styles have this feature, except for AIO's, but manufacturers are catching onto this issue and getting creative with their diapers. For example, the bumGenius Freetime is an easy-to-use AIO with inserts sewn into place and can be a standalone diaper. However, it also has a pocket, giving you the option to stuff an extra layer or two as needed. Grovia's O.N.E diaper is also an AIO but comes with two additional snap-on inserts for extra absorption. Both of these systems give you the power to balance bulk and absorbency as you see fit.
Tips for Choosing Cloth Diapers
Cloth diapering can be unfamiliar to many new parents. If you have looked into it at all, you probably feel bombarded with a wide range of opinions on the right way to go about it. There are many different options, and many things to consider before you can decide which diapering routine will be right for your lifestyle. In this section of our review, we will try to address certain features or considerations that may not have crossed your mind otherwise.
Why Use Cloth?
Many parents think cloth diaper, and immediately a list of cons come to mind: too much work, too complicated, too gross! However, there are some significant upsides we think you should consider before laying down the verdict.
The average child goes through approximately 6,000 diapers in the 2-3 years before they are potty trained. Per year, an estimated 28 billion disposable diapers (and the toxic solid waste inside them) go straight into a landfill, creating a dramatic impact on the environment. Using cloth does two things to lessen your contribution to this. It forces you to flush solid waste, dealing with it in a more environmentally friendly, and it keeps the plastics and chemicals of disposables out of the landfill.
As a parent, you want to keep your baby as happy and healthy as possible, and you may have second thoughts about the possibility of chemicals in disposables. Maybe your child has skin that is prone to rashes and sensitive to the dyes and perfumes often found in disposable diapers. Whatever the case, cloth diapers do not contain the fragrances, lotions, or latex that may cause issues for some children. They are a good option for parents looking to reduce their baby's exposure to chemicals in all areas.
A large part of why many parents choose cloth over disposable is the cost-effectiveness of being able to reuse your diapers. It saves you money. This fact is true, despite the high initial cost of building your stash. The way we figure, you will spend approximately $1,700 for a lifetime supply of disposable diapers such as Pampers Swaddlers, while a premium green diaper may cost up to $2,100. Meanwhile, a lifetime supply of our best value cloth diaper, the Flip with Stay Dry Insert, will run you $300. Our Editors' Choice, the Rumparooz Pocket is a bit more at $624, but still comes nowhere close to the cost of similar performing disposables.
Remember to tack on $200 to $600 to accommodate the diapering routine you decide to follow. Flushable liners (which, by the way, we highly recommend) can add on $400. Electricity for machine washing and drying adds $50, and for detergent, you can count on another $150. Despite these extra costs, cloth diapering is a choice that will save you money in the long run, especially for families who plan to reuse their diapers for multiple children.
Selecting the Right Diaper System
There are so many ways to use cloth today. Here we list different styles along with the pros and cons of each below. We strongly recommend test driving a few different kinds before fully committing and building your stash from a single style.
All-in-One Diapers (AIO)
All-in-one systems are precisely how they sound. It is a complete product in and of itself that requires no stuffing, folding or layering. These diapers function as a disposable would and are ideal for families looking for a low maintenance cloth option. Many parents who are already deep down the rabbit hole of cloth diapering choose to purchase a few of these for grandparents or babysitters to use. However, you will end up paying slightly more per diaper for this convenience. AIO's tend to take longer to dry, and you can't customize absorbency as you might be able to in a pocket or hybrid style. Our Top Pick bumGenius Freetime solves this problem by adding a pocket that allows for additional inserts to be placed inside, but still works as a standalone all-in-one diaper.
Hybrid or All-in-Two Diapers (AI2)
The all-in-2 system is the classic, old school set up that is composed of two pieces: a waterproof outer cover and an absorbent cloth insert. Prefolds, fitteds, and custom made inserts are the three main options for your inner layers. They can vary in their ease of use and absorbency depending on which one you choose. However, they are almost always the most cost-effective option for cloth diapering. One of the main advantages of using a two-piece system is if the cover isn't soiled, you can throw the liner in the wash and reuse the cover. This perk can be super convenient for cloth diapering on-the-go. This feature cuts back on laundry and the ability to separate each piece allows for faster dry time.
A prefold is a square cloth, usually cotton or hemp, that has been folded and sewn to create more absorbency in the center. These are the most basic, cost-effective option and what most people think of when imagining cloth. Despite the name prefold, there is still some folding involved in this system. Usually, the cover is enough to hold the fabric in place, but you may or may not choose to further secure the material with an item like the Snappi or a safety pin. Using prefolds does require some practice, but there are so many ways to wrap up your baby that you are sure to find a favorite. The OsoCozy Premium Bamboo/Organic Cotton Prefolds is the only prefold we chose to include in this review, and we were pleased with their performance.
Fitteds are like prefolds without all the work. They are pre-shaped, sewn, and ready to be secured with snaps or velcro and look very similar to a regular diaper. They usually have elastic leg gussets that help keep the insert in place and prevent leaks. Fitteds can be useful for extra wiggly babies, or if you are having a hard time getting a prefold to stay in place throughout the day. Because of the way they are shaped, they may be better for heavy wetters or even overnight use, offering more absorbency than a prefold. The Sustainablebabyish Snapless Multi Fitted and the Thirsties Natural One Size Fitted are two of our favorites.
Hybrid style diapers also use a cover/liner combo, but rather than mixing and matching, companies that make hybrids tailor their liners to fit specific covers. Usually, this results in a better and more user-friendly product. Most manufacturers use a combination of natural and synthetic fibers that increase absorbency and also wick away moisture from baby's bottom. Some brands even offer disposable inserts if you're not 100% ready to dive into cloth yet. Thirsties Duo Wrap with Stay Dry Duo Insert is our Top Pick for a hybrid system.
In terms of performance, pocket diapers are arguably the top contenders. Our first place diaper and Editors' Choice award winner, the Rumparooz Pocket falls into this category. This system is composed of two parts, a cover, and an insert. The cover may have a moisture-wicking liner such as micro-fleece, and there is an opening on one end that gives you access to the stuffable pocket. We like that this system allows you to customize the level of absorbency, ensures that the liner stays in place, and helps keep moisture away from baby's skin.
There are a few drawbacks to pocket style diapers, and one is that it does require more prep. The stuffing process adds an extra step before each diaper change, and the need to stuff implies the subsequent need to un-stuff the dirty diaper, which is not always pleasant. Similar to AIO's, the entire diaper, both cover, and liner, needs to be washed after each use. Thankfully they will not take as long to dry as an AIO because the insert is removable.
Ease of Use
The ease with which you can use a diaper will greatly influence how much you want to use that diaper. It sounds obvious, but if a diaper is a pain in the butt, it is going to end up untouched in the darkest back corner of the drawer. There is a wide variety, and each diaper will come with its pros and cons. You have to figure out exactly what you're willing to put up with in terms of cost vs. convenience, eco-health vs. convenience, and baby health vs…. well… convenience.
In the world of cloth diapers, prep can mean two different things. There are the steps you must take before each changing to get the diaper ready for baby. Then there are multiple trips through the wash each diaper must undergo before it can reach maximum absorbency. This process should take place before the first use and can be anywhere from one to six wash cycles depending on the material. Each manufacturer will have different recommendations for their diapers, so it is best to double-check for the correct instructions, and when in doubt, wash more. GroVia states that their O.N.E. diaper is ready to go after just three washes, but in our experience, it will not reach maximum absorbency until 8-10 cycles later. Moral of the story: if it seems like your diaper isn't performing up to par, have no fear. Give it a little time and a few more washes before making your final judgment.
Daily prep is not so complicated or labor-intensive but is something you will be dealing with over the long run, so should be given more consideration. Diapers that require the most work per change are prefolds, with pocket diapers coming in second. The easiest to use are your AIO's, which function the same as a disposable, no prep required, and no separating or un-stuffing pieces after it is soiled. Hybrid styles fall somewhere in the middle because there is some assembly required, but you can lay the tailored liner in place without much fuss.
One thing you can do to streamline your cloth routine is to use flushable liners. These are biodegradable liners that you lay down on top of whichever cloth system you use before each change. When the diaper is soiled, it allows you to pick up solids and conveniently drop them in the toilet without having to scrape, spray, or smear everything off. If the diaper is just wet, the liner can go in the garbage pail. It adds one more step to each diaper change, but we believe these handy little sheets are well worth the trade-off for the trouble they save you later.
Laundering cloth can be a bit of a learning process, and most brands have specific washing instructions included in the packaging or online. In a nutshell, you should wash your cloth diapers every 2-3 days, and you must use a cloth specific, or a manufacturer recommended detergent to prevent build-up and residue. Although it is ok to tumble dry most diapers on low, we don't recommend it. Line drying will cause less wear and tear, as well as cut down on your energy usage. If you want the nitty-gritty details, there are many informative articles on how to launder your cloth diapers that go much further in-depth on washing recommendations.
The drying time of various systems differs significantly, and this is one of the more considerable downfalls of AIO's. Because the multiple wicking, absorbing, and waterproofing layers are all sewn together, these diapers take forever to dry and there is no practical way to speed it up. We like hybrid styles the best for this, as the cover and liner come apart for washing and can be hung to dry separately.
In the end, your lifestyle is unique, and finding the best cloth diaper to fit that lifestyle is up to you. We highly recommend purchasing a few different styles of cloth diapers, as well as a package of disposable to fall back on until you have figured out a routine that works. After doing a little reading and a lot of experimenting, you may choose to build your stash from a single brand or keep a few different styles for different situations. We hope that the information we have supplied you with is enough to get you off to a good start on your cloth diapering journey.
— Abriah Wofford, Juliet Spurrier, MD