Are you considering cloth diapers? We have purchased and tested more than 30 cloth systems since 2012 and present 11 of the best available today. We put each diaper through extensive comparison testing to evaluate absorbency, ease of use, comfort, fit, leakage, and more. Cloth diapering can be an attractive alternative to traditional disposables because it can be better for the environment, healthier for your baby, and possibly easier on your wallet. But, the different systems and styles can be confusing for newbies. We evaluated each product based on absorbency, fit and leakage, comfort, and ease of use. We're here to help with recommendations and advice to help you find the best system for your family.
The Rumparooz Pocket is a top-scoring diaper in our absorbency tests, impressing us with its overall ease of use. The Rumparooz absorbs liquid quickly and does an excellent job trapping moisture away from the skin. Almost all moisture is wicked away from the baby, and the inserts feel dry. The two microfiber soakers can work together or separately to achieve the preferred level of absorbency. The inner surface of the cover has a soft microfleece liner throughout. We love the double gusset that helps prevent leaks and blowouts. With four rise adjustments and five for the waist, you can adjust the sizing to fit almost any baby.
Although there is much to admire about the Rumparooz, it is a pocket diaper. Pocket diapers require extra steps to deal with the inserts before and after every change. Also, this diaper can seem excessively bulky, making it difficult to fit under regular-sized clothes. Users frequently note that this diaper runs a bit small, reducing its usage range. However, this may mean it could be a better diaper for smaller or younger babies, possibly replacing newborn-sized products sooner. Despite minor flaws, we believe this diaper has more positives and will keep caregivers and babies happy.
Style: Hybrid/All-in-Two | Weight Range: 8 to 35 lbs
REASONS TO BUY
Easy to adjust
Fast dry time
REASONS TO AVOID
Nothing keeps liner in place
Multiple steps to assemble
We tested the Flip with the matching Flip Stay Dry Insert, and we think they are an award-winning combo. Most hybrid systems fit a little trimmer than other types, and the Flip is no exception. It is small enough to almost look like a disposable diaper under regular baby clothes. It is simple to lay the single microfiber insert in the cover and adjust it to fit, while a double row of waist snaps helps with fit and comfort. It is easy to get a proper fit, and despite only having a single gusset, we didn't experience any leaks during testing. With an above-average score for absorbency, it is on the upper end, and we are 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 do not fasten the snaps securely, it may move around as the baby moves, causing more of a mess. Blowouts are possible with any single gusset diaper as there is less protection than with a second gusset design. Because the insert and cover are two parts, this system requires extra prep before each change, but the post-change clean-up is more straightforward. We like this one size fits all hybrid and find that it works well on most babies. This perk can save you a chunk of change and prevent the need to purchase different sizes as your baby grows. It is an economical hybrid system that measures up to the competition.
The Imagine Baby Pocket Snap is one of the top-performing diapers in our tests and one of the lower-priced products. This pocket diaper has a four-layer microfiber insert that soaks up liquid and locks it away from the baby's skin and earned a relatively high score in our absorbency tests. The soft micro-fleece fabric lines the entire diaper and does a great job of keeping the baby comfortable and dry. The pocket opening is more expansive than some competition, making it easier to stuff and prepare. It is large enough to allow more than one insert to accommodate a heavy wetter or overnight use. We appreciate the double row of waist snaps that keep the diaper in place. This feature also helps to relieve single points of pressure around the tummy. Although it only has a single-leg gusset, we had no problems with leakage.
The Imagine Baby can be bulky, and we wish it came with a smaller insert for younger infants. However, for older babies, this extra bulk means extra absorbency. Without it, the diaper wouldn't be nearly as absorbent, and we feel this is a small price to pay for better absorbency. As with any pocket diaper, you'll need to do a little more work before a change. You must take the time to stuff the insert, which is the price you pay for performance. The combination of above-average performance and a budget-friendly price tag of the Imagine Baby make it tough to beat.
The simplicity of the bumGenius Freetime makes it a favorite among parents. It is an AIO diaper that requires no snapping, stuffing, or folding. This diaper has two inserts sewn into the diaper on one end only. They then layer over each other for a double absorbency that can be adjusted and customized. We like that this system keeps the diaper in one piece yet allows the inserts to separate for quicker drying. The top side of the polyester inserts has a lining of stay-dry fabric that keeps the baby from feeling soggy. A handy pocket is sewn into each insert's underside if your little one requires more inserts for extra absorbency.
A downside of being an AIO system is that you must wash the Freetime diaper entirely after every diaper change. It also cannot be machine dried, so it will take longer to dry, so you may need to purchase more diapers than other systems. This diaper gets a bit bulky, and if your baby doesn't need both inserts, you can't remove them. This diaper only has a single gusset, resulting in increased leakage, though we didn't experience any leaks during testing. Despite these drawbacks, this is a great and versatile diaper. We would recommend it for first-time cloth users or those looking for simplicity.
Here at BabyGearLab, we know diapers. With our knowledge of cloth and disposables, we have more than 15 years of testing and research and many hands-on years with our babies. Across our expert testing team, we've got more than 200,000 diapers under our collective belts. Dr. Juliet Spurrier, MD and Alison Buck led the charge for this review, developing our core protocol for testing cloth diapers. Dr. Spurrier is a board-certified pediatrician, mother of two, and founder of BabyGearLab. A committed cloth diaper user, Dr. Spurrier scoured the market for the top cloth diapers, researching tried and true products, new flashy items, and everything in between. Follow-up absorbency testing and research were done by Abriah Wofford, who has been testing diapers and other baby products as Senior Editor for BabyGearLab for over six years. Our hands-on tester is nanny MaryAnn Wofford. MaryAnn has over 12 years of professional nannying experience and is a mother to 7 children, totaling 26+ years of diapering and hundreds (if not thousands) of changed diapers.
Cloth diaper testing is divided into four rating metrics:
Absorption tests (35% of overall score weighting)
Fit/Leakage tests (30% weighting)
Comfort tests (20% weighting)
Ease of Use tests (15% weighting)
Since 2012, we've tested more than 30 cloth diapers across styles. Our assessments put each diaper/diapering system through a multi-point analysis for everything from absorption to ease of use (Yes! there is a difference between products). We were lucky enough to have various little ones from different homes help us test for absorption, leaks, fit, and ease of use.
Cloth diapers go through more than 22 individual tests to compare and analyze performance overall and in each metric. We focus on the day-to-day usability of cloth diapering systems and pay special attention to absorbency test results, as this metric is key to avoiding diaper rash issues. Absorption is the most vital test metric, accounting for 35% of the overall weighted score. This metric is influenced by 3 mock urine tests, including five in-lab assessments averaged over 3 test runs. We perform in-lab absorbency tests to measure how well each product receives and locks away moisture. We concoct fake urine and use an above-average amount to stress the products; repeated compression and decompression mimic baby movement. We observe absorption rate, runoff, pooling, squishing, and pooling. We test each diaper with the same amount of liquid multiple times and then supplement it with research and hands-on testing with real babies.
Cloth Diapers that Didn't Make the List
We initially tested 30 different cloth diapers, but many did not make our final list of top contenders because their performance wasn't up to par. Many of these diapers are adequate; however, we do not feel they are the best. Diapers we didn't include are the Rumparooz OBV, Best Bottom Heavy Wetter, EcoAble AIO Pocket, Thirsties Natural One Size Fitted, and the Smart Bottoms Dream 2.0. Although they all underwent the same testing, these diapers didn't make it to our list. Generally, we found a similar item that we liked better, was less expensive, and both in some cases.
Diapers make great baby gifts, so don't forget them on your registry. You can explore your options with various brands before choosing what works best.
A large part of why many parents choose cloth over disposable is the cost-effectiveness of reusing your diapers. It saves you money. This fact is accurate, 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. In contrast, a premium green diaper may cost up to $2,100.
Meanwhile, a lifetime supply of a cheaper cloth diaper, like the Flip with Stay Dry Insert, will run you $450. Although the Imagine Baby Pocket Snap has the lowest cost-per-item, it is a bit more expensive, with a lifetime cost of at least $504. A top-performing diaper like the Rumparooz Pocket will cost at least $624, but it still comes nowhere close to the cost of similar performing disposables.
Remember to tack on two to six hundred dollars to accommodate the diapering routine you decide to follow. Flushable liners (which we highly recommend) can add on four hundred over your diapering days. Electricity for machine washing and drying adds around fifty dollars; for detergent, you can count on another one hundred and fifty. 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.
Absorbency is arguably the most critical aspect of any diaper. If a diaper leaks because it can't absorb fluid, you're not going to use it, no matter how easy, eco-friendly, soft, cozy, or cute. Good absorbency and wicking properties are also crucial in preventing a 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 fake urine instantly, preventing all runoff or leakage, and kept everything locked away in the insert, resulting in a drier outer liner. The Rumparooz Pocket earned the high score in this metric.
The photos below display the outcome of our absorbency tests. The green on each filter paper shows the amount of fake urine left on the diaper's surface next to the baby's skin—the more green you see, the worse the diaper's performance.
Overall, we find that diapers with synthetic fibers wick away moisture better and keep it contained within the insert. The Rumparooz Pocket and the Thirsties Duo Wrap with Stay Dry Insert are top-performing diapers in this metric. 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, like the OsoCozy Premium Bamboo-Organic Cotton Prefolds or the Gerber Prefold Birdseye, use cotton or hemp inserts that do not lock away moisture quite as well, leaving the baby feeling damp or soggy. If you decide to go with natural fibers, we highly recommend getting a microfleece liner at the very least to keep your baby happy and prevent diaper rash.
The lowest-performing diapers for absorbency are the Blueberry Trainers training underwear and the Beau & Belle Littles Nageuret swim diaper. However, you cannot expect specialty diapers like these to be absorbent. Hence, the mediocre filter paper result. Just because they didn't do well in this metric does not mean they are faulty products. We highly recommend each for its intended purpose.
A Note Concerning Natural Fibers
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 dispose of them. However, as mentioned above, they lack in the wicking department, so we recommend using a reusable microfleece liner.
We did a few additional tests with some natural fiber options to show the difference. The photos below illustrate how using a microfleece liner can dramatically improve wicking ability. There is a stark difference between filter papers directly contacting natural fibers and those with a wicking layer.
Diaper fit also influences the leak risk of any diaper. Every baby is different, and it can be initially tricky to adjust a cloth diaper, and it might require some trial and error.
However, some diapers have features that make finding a good fit easier. With no snaps, prefolds and fitteds provide the overall best fit with infinite adjustments, and your baby will never be in-between sizes - a helpful perk. However, if you prefer a diapering system with snaps, look at how many it has—the more snaps, the better, as they will have more size variation.
The Rumparooz Pocket was one of the best-fitting diapers. It has a unique double gusset system that helps keep solids and liquids away from the edges and leaking out. Lots of snaps allow you to customize leg and waist sizes to get a snug but comfortable fit. We also prefer diapers with a double row of buttons at the top instead of one. It allows the diaper to lay closer to the baby's belly and feels more secure. We find that the Flip with Stay Dry Insert fits exceptionally well, and it earned a 7 in this metric thanks to the snap tabs' stretchy material. It allows you to get a snug but comfortable fit, closing all gaps and blocking leaks. The lowest scoring product is the Blueberry Trainers. These training pants do not have a waterproof lining to block leaks completely, but they will help reduce the mess.
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 the baby's legs, but it also allows moisture to wick through the fabric to the diaper's outer edge, creating a sneaky little leak.
The last factor in leakage is related to absorbency. If a diaper gets too saturated, it will leak, no matter how well it fits. That is why we think having a diaper that accepts greater or fewer absorbent inserts is good. Most diaper styles have this feature, except for AIOs, 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, allowing you to stuff an extra layer or two as needed. Grovia's ONE diaper is also an AIO but comes with two additional snap-on inserts for extra absorption. Both systems allow you to balance bulk and absorbency as you see fit.
Baby comfort is essential if you want your baby to be happy and content. We looked closely at the softness of each diaper's inner and outer fabrics. Products with hidden seams and less abrasive materials scored higher, while products with exposed snaps, raw edges, or more abrasive material earned lower scores. The Rumparooz Pocket is the most comfortable diaper, thanks to an inner lining of soft fleece and silky smooth material on the outside. The pocket-style diaper is slightly bulkier than some other options but not so much as to interfere with regular clothing. The low scorer of the group is the Beau & Belle Littles Nageuret. The swim diaper has elastic gussets that are somewhat abrasive, and the inner side of the diaper has exposed snaps that left red marks around our tester's belly.
Most disposable diapers have a much slimmer fit and lay close to the body thanks to the chemical crystals that expand when wet. Cloth diapers depend on fabric inserts for absorbency, which is why they have so much added bulk. Bulkiness can cause little ones some discomfort and may require more oversized clothing to accommodate the larger-sized diapers. While it has very soft materials, the GroVia O.N.E. is one of the bulkiest options in the group, making it a less comfortable option for babies.
Ease of Use
A diaper's ease of use determines which one you will reach for first when your baby is on the changing table. Perhaps this sounds obvious, but if a diaper takes a long time to assemble or does not stay adequately aligned during a change, you won't want to use it. There are many styles on the market, and each diaper has pros and cons. When it comes down to it, you have to decide what you're willing to put up with in terms of cost vs. convenience, eco-health vs. convenience, and baby health vs. convenience.
The easiest diaper to use and the one we recommend for newcomers to the cloth diapering world is the bumGenius Freetime. This diaper requires no prep, and it is impossible to lose or incorrectly use the inserts. The Blueberry Trainers earned a high score overall because these training pants are so easy to use that your toddler can pull them on themselves. Prefold diapers are the most difficult to use, like the Gerber Prefold Birdseye and the OsoCozy Premium Bamboo-Organic Cotton Prefolds.
Cloth diapering prep can mean two different things. The first step is to prepare the diaper for a baby before a diaper change. The second is the multiple washes each diaper must undergo before reaching maximum absorbency. The washes should occur before the diaper's first use and can be anywhere from 1 to 6 wash cycles, depending on the material. Each manufacturer has different recommendations for their diapers, so it is best to double-check for the correct prep method. When in doubt, wash more. GroVia states that their ONE diaper is ready to go after just three washes, but we found that it does not reach maximum absorbency until 8-10 cycles in our testing. The moral of the story is that if it seems like your diaper isn't performing well, have no fear! Wash it a few more times before making your final judgment.
Daily prep is not labor-intensive or complicated but a daily process. Diapers that require the most work per change are prefolds, with pocket diapers coming in next. The easiest to use are AIOs, which function the same as a disposable, with no prep required and no separating or removing inserts after it is soiled. Hybrid styles fall somewhere in the middle because some assembly is required, but you can lay the tailored liner in place without a fuss.
You can streamline your cloth routine using flushable liners. These thin sheets lay down as the last layer on top of whichever cloth system you use. Because they are biodegradable, when the diaper is soiled, you can pick up the liner filled with solids and conveniently drop it 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. Even though it adds a step to each diaper change, we believe these sheets are worth the trade-off for the mess they save you later.
Laundering cloth diapers can have a steep learning curve. Luckily, most brands have specific washing instructions on the packaging or online. However, as a general rule, you should wash your cloth diapers every 2-3 days. You must use a cloth-specific or a manufacturer-recommended baby detergent to prevent build-up and residue in the fabric. Although many manufacturers state tumble drying on low heat is acceptable, we don't recommend it. Line drying will reduce unnecessary wear and tear over time and reduce your energy usage. Line dry cloth diapers outside in the sun if possible, as the UV ray can help fight stains. We recommend getting to know your specific brand and following manufacturer instructions to a tee to get the most out of your diapers.
The drying time differs significantly between systems. A downfall of AIOs is that you cannot separate the multiple wicking, absorbing, and waterproofing layers. Because air can't circulate between layers, these diapers take forever to dry, and there is no practical way to speed it up. We like hybrid styles because they typically dry the fastest. You can take the cover and liner apart for washing and hang them to dry separately.
Tips for Choosing Cloth Diapers
The world of cloth diapers is unfamiliar territory for most parents, and with a range of opinions on the right way to go about it, it is hard not to feel bombarded. Several cloth options are available with different features to consider before selecting the best diaper routine for you.
Why Use Cloth?
For many, the thought of cloth diapering immediately brings up a handful of concerns: 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 2-3 years before moving on to underwear. Every year, an estimated 28 billion disposable diapers (and the toxic solid waste inside them) go straight into a landfill, dramatically impacting the environment. Using cloth does two things to lessen your contribution to this. It forces you to flush solid waste, which is 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, so you may have second thoughts about the possibility of chemicals in disposables. Maybe your child has skin prone to rashes and is sensitive to the dyes and perfumes often found in disposable diapers. Whatever the case, cloth diapers do not contain fragrances, lotions, or latex that may cause issues. They are a good option for parents looking to reduce their baby's exposure to chemicals in all areas.
Selecting the Right Diaper System
There are so many cloth diapering methods to choose from that it can quickly get confusing. To help clarify things, we have listed different cloth styles, a short introduction, and some pros and cons. We strongly suggest experimenting with a few different types before fully committing to a single brand. This way, you'll know what works best for you and how much work you'll need to put into the process.
All-in-One Diapers (AIO)
An all-in-one diaper is just what it sounds like: a complete product in one part that requires no stuffing, folding, or layering. Aside from laundering, these diapers function the same as disposables and are ideal for parents who want a low-maintenance solution. Alternatively, many cloth-savvy parents purchase a few AIOs to have around the house for grandparents or babysitters. However, you are paying a higher price per diaper for this convenience. AIOs tend to take longer to dry because the fabric does not separate from the cover. It also prevents you from customizing absorbency as you can with other styles. The bumGenius Freetime solves this problem by adding a pocket with room for extra inserts, but it still works as a standalone AOI diaper.
REASONS TO BUY
Easy to use
No need for accessories
REASONS TO AVOID
Longer dry time
You cannot reuse the cover
Hybrid or All-in-Two Diapers (AI2)
The all-in-two diaper is a classic, old-school setup composed of two parts: a waterproof outer cover and an inner fabric insert, with prefolds, fitteds, and custom-made inserts being the three main options for your absorbent layers. Each option varies in its ease of use and absorbency level. However, all-in-twos are typically very cost-effective. One perk of using a two-piece system is tossing the liner in the wash and reusing the outer layer a few times if the cover isn't soiled. This process is super convenient when cloth diapering on the go. It also cuts back on laundry and allows you to separate each piece for the fastest drying time.
A prefold starts as a plain square cloth, typically cotton or hemp. It is then folded and sewn to create more absorbency. A prefold is the most basic and affordable option. It is what most people picture when imagining old-school cloth diapers. Despite the name prefold, some folding is still involved when prepping this system to fit your baby's contours. The cover is often snug enough to hold the prefold in place, but some parents fasten the material with an item like the Snappi or a safety pin for more security. Using prefolds requires some practice, but there are so many ways to wrap up your baby that you are sure to find one that works for you. The OsoCozy Premium is the only prefold we included in this review. With the help of a microfleece liner, OsoCozy performed on par with other top scorers.
Modern conveniences of cloth diapering
The Snappi is an alternative cloth fastener that many parents consider indispensable for use with fitted and prefold diapers. It takes the place of hazardous safety pins and removes the risk of accidentally poking the baby. The three-pronged elastic band has small plastic teeth on each tab that grab onto the fabric, securing the diaper around the baby. If properly stretched, these things don't budge. Many parents think Snappi is even more secure than a safety pin.
Fitteds are like prefolds without the work. They are pre-shaped, sewn, and ready to be secured with snaps or velcro and look very similar to a regular diaper; the only thing missing is the cover. Elastic leg gussets help keep the insert secure and prevent leaks. Fitteds can be helpful for extra wiggly babies or if you have a hard time getting a prefold to stay put. Because of how they are shaped, they may be better for heavy wetters or overnight use, offering more absorbency than a prefold. The Thirsties Natural One Size Fitted is one of our favorite fitteds.
Hybrid-style diapers also use a cover/liner combo. However, hybrid companies tailor their liners to fit their brand's covers instead of mixing and matching components. Usually, this results in a better functioning and user-friendly product. Most manufacturers use a combination of natural and synthetic materials that increase absorbency and wick away moisture. Some brands even offer disposable inserts if you aren't 100% ready to dive into cloth yet. Thirsties Duo Wrap with Stay Dry Duo Insert is one of our favorite hybrid systems.
REASONS TO BUY
Highly customizable absorbency
Can reuse covers
Good for on-the-go situations
REASONS TO AVOID
Requires multiple steps to assemble
Changes can be messy
May require accessories
Pocket diapers are arguably the top performers. One of the most absorbent (and one of our favorite) diapers, the Rumparooz Pocket, falls into this category. This style has two main components - a cover and an insert. The former may have a moisture-wicking liner, such as a micro-fleece, in which an opening gives you access to the stuffable pocket. We like that this system provides an option for customizable absorbency while ensuring that the liner stays in place and keeps moisture away from the baby's skin.
There are drawbacks to pocket-style diapers, including more prep than some other methods. The stuffing process is an extra step before each diaper change. Conversely, the need to stuff means you also need to un-stuff the dirty diaper, which can be unpleasant. Like AIOs, the entire diaper, cover, and liner require washing after each use. Fortunately, they will not take as long to dry as an AIO because the insert is removable and can dry separately from the cover.
REASONS TO BUY
Great absorbency performance
Easy to use
No accessories needed
REASONS TO AVOID
You cannot reuse the cover
Selecting the best cloth diapering system for your lifestyle isn't always easy. Before you jump into cloth diapering headfirst, we recommend trying out a few styles and using backup disposables until you find your favorites. You might build your stash from a single brand or keep a few different fashions. Also, we think it is wise to have a package of disposable diapers just in case you need a fresh diaper and discover yours are dirty or drying. We gathered as much information as possible and are confident our test results will give you a great start in cloth diapering.
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Honest, objective reviews. Led by a Pediatrician.
BabyGearLab was founded by a Pediatrician Mom with a mission to provide a reliable, independent, source of information to new parents. Our experts have tested thousands of baby and kids products to share key performance, health, and safety findings. We spend tens of thousands of dollars crash testing car seats to inform our ratings. And, we combine our review work with gobs of expert parenting advice. To assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing by people who care.