Best Disposable Diapers
Best Overall Disposable Diaper
Nature Babycare is an excellent green diaper that impressed us in the lab and on babies. With advanced Earth-friendly features, it is arguably the closest option to cloth diapering while maintaining the ease of a disposable. This company and diaper are trying hard to set new environmental standards for diapers while also prioritizing your baby's health. The best part? Not only is it green, but it earns the highest score for absorption in our tests, making it a top-performing option as well.
This diaper may not be the best choice for parents on a tight budget as it has a higher price than much of the competition (although not the highest). It is also somewhat fragile with a less durable outer covering than much of the competition. However, if your wallet allows, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better performing, more eco-friendly disposable diaper anywhere else.
Read review: Nature Babycare
Comfy, Durable, and High-Performing
Babyganics is another green diaper with a soft-to-touch material that lasts as long as you need it to between changes. Very few users complain about durability and this diaper impresses in its performance for absorption. Eco-friendliness and features that are better for baby's health are other added bonuses.
It may be challenging to find this diaper in stores, so you'll likely need to purchase a package online. The overall cost is lower than Nature Babycare and might be the right choice for parents who favor comfort and durability over being as green as humanly possible. Overall, it is a good option that can save you some cash.
Read review: Babyganics
Favorite for Health
Seventh Generation Free & Clear
Seventh Generation is a marginally more economical green diaper for parents that wish to be kind to the Earth and want more design features that cater to baby's health. Seventh Generation is attractively priced when compared to other top scorers and it has one of the highest scores for baby health in this review. Combining these features with above-average absorption results in a diaper that is an excellent choice for families who want a healthy disposable diaper that will get the job done without breaking the bank.
This diaper didn't perform as well as some of the competition in our tests for leaks, making it a poor choice for heavy wetters or parents who like to wait until the last minute to change diapers. However, if you are looking for the best choice for a baby's health and skin, you don't need to look further than Seventh Generation, which is why it is one of our favorite healthier disposable diapers.
Read review: Seventh Generation
Comfy and Affordable
Kirkland Signature Supreme
Kirkland diapers are a Costco brand traditional diaper with a nod to health and an impressively high score for comfort. This inexpensive choice earns high marks for durability as well, with super soft fabric and few complaints about faulty tabs or falling apart.
While this diaper is not the best looking option, and is not one of the top-performers when it comes to absorption or preventing leaks, it will get the job done at a lower price than much of the similarly performing competition. We believe this diaper is a potential choice for families on a budget who want better performance and a comfortable fit.
Read review: Kirkland
Green and Healthy
With online-only accessibility, Bambo may not be the diaper for everyone, but it has a lower price and it does fit the bill for those looking for a healthy option with Earth-friendly manufacturing. Lastly, it delivers impressive performance where it counts. Plus, all the cute prints are irresistable!
Read review: Bambo Nature
Honest Company Diapers
Read the Review: Honest Company Diapers
Why You Should Trust Us
Our BabyGearLab team has been professionally testing disposable diapers for over eight years. Combine that with years of parenting and childcare experience outside the 'Lab, and we are confident in our knowledge and use of all things diaper and diapering related.Dr. Juliet Spurrier, a mother of two, leads the team in BabyGearLab safety standards and product selection. She is a board-certified pediatrician and Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). She uses her knowledge of infant and early childhood wellbeing to guide our testing. On the research end of the review, are Senior Review Editor, Wendy Schmitz, a mother of 2, and Senior Review Analyst, Bob Wofford, a father of 7. With hundreds of hours of in-depth research under their belts, their knowledge of the ins and outs of the disposable diapers world is vast. Bob helped develop the first intensive side-by-side absorption and leakage review process ever completed. In charge of in-house tests, this time is Senior Review Editor, Abriah Wofford, who has been conducting testing with BabyGearLab since 2015.
For our review and testing, we use a combination of hands-on (real world) and in-lab tests to measure qualities such as absorbency, leakage, and durability. Our in-house tests involved pouring 100 ml of a mock urine solution over each diaper with a series of weighted and unweighted periods to mimic the movement of an active baby with a wet diaper. When using the diapers on real babies, our findings typically paralleled what we learned in the lab, and online research. Diapers that did poorly in our leak test also leaked in real life, and vice versa. Overall, we poured hundreds of hours into pushing these diapers to their limits and also seeking out the opinions and experiences of real users. This comprehensive analysis gives us a well-rounded view of the best disposable diapers on the market.
Related: How We Tested Disposable Diapers
Analysis and Test Results
Let us level with you. If you're an expecting first-time parent, your baby is going to make a lot of poo. So much more than you realize. This vast amount of poo will need immediate and continuous management to avoid turning your life into a bio-hazard area. Sure, you can try to distinguish your new baby's facial expression for signs of impending doom, before rushing them to a nearby toilet. However, we think it is far easier to employ a diaper to do the dirty work (literally) for you.
The Disposable Diaper Review was completed using size 1 diapers (or equivalent) during testing and is primarily for finding the best diaper options for newborns or younger infants. The information and test results from this review generally apply for any size diaper. However, we did find a disparity in absorption test results for the smaller sized diapers compared to the larger size 3-4 diapers we tested in the Overnight Diaper Review, which is largely for older babies with increased overnight urine output. Therefore, any discrepancy between absorption ratings between reviews for the same diaper is a result of a size difference. Specifically, the Luvs Ultra Leaks and Pampers Baby Dry options performed significantly better in the larger size than they did in this review.
If you are reading this, then we will assume that you're here looking for help finding the right disposable diaper. (Before you flog yourself too much with your green-guilt whip, be aware that even the Sierra Club which takes a position on cloth vs. disposable, still admits that the decision is a tough one when trying to be more environmentally responsible). You've come to the right place. We're here to help by giving you the straight poop on all things diaper.
Related: Buying Advice for Disposable Diapers
Finding value in a single-use product is tricky. Babies wear a diaper for a few hours, and it inevitably ends up in the trash that same day. The price range of disposable diapers is usually between 0.14 and 0.67 per diaper. Fifty-three cents is a rather large gap when you stop to consider the number of diapers your baby will go through every day and throughout their diapering years. Pennies quickly add up to dollars when multiplied by the thousands. Depending on your diapering budget, your overall cost may be the overriding consideration when choosing the right product for your family. However, we urge you to consider that quality and absorbency can impact the overall number of diapers you end up using. Which then, influences how much money you spend. In reality, a slightly more expensive diaper can potentially be had for a lower overall cost in the long run, because you can potentially use fewer of them throughout the day.
The top three performers in this review are 0.43, 0.34, and 0.39 each. Given that several lower-ranking competitors are more expensive, you can be confident that you are getting a quality green option at a reasonable price. However, if this is beyond your budget, you can consider a more traditional disposable that performs well but isn't as green by looking at the Kirkland brand diaper for around 0.20 to 0.24. This price and product are sure to save you both money and diapers over time.
The 10 Great Diaper Questions
Deciding which diaper to buy is a decision that many parents agonize over. We know. We've struggled through it, and we wish we knew then, what we know now. In this review, we're going to take on our own Top 10 List of Great Diaper Questions and wrestle them to the ground:
- How many diapers does a baby go through in total?
- How much $ will I spend on diapers over time?
- What is the environmental impact of diapers?
- How do green diapers perform compared to traditional brands?
- What is inside diapers (and why should I care)?
- Which is better: Pampers or Huggies?
- Are big-box private-label diapers just as good as brand name diapers?
- What's the best green diaper?
- Which is best: Cloth vs. Disposable diapers?
- Which diaper should I buy?
OK, in full disclosure, we're not going to take on #2, Cloth versus Disposable, not here anyway. That is a topic so broad that it demands its own dedicated article. But, we are going to tackle the other nine questions right here and now. Here we go!
Related: Best Cloth Diaper of 2020
Putting Top Diapers to the Test
We tested more than 22 diapers this time around, allowing each to vie for awards. We used a combination of day-to-day diaper use on real baby bottoms, lab testing, and research to compile facts and observations that allowed us to fairly rate each diaper relative to their competition.
When making our diaper selections, we carefully considered many different options. We wanted to be sure to provide a complete picture of diaper options across the spectrum of all styles and brands. We include a variety of green diapers pitted head-to-head against traditional options. We include Pampers and Huggies brands, but we also included private label brands from Costco, Target, and Walmart to see how they fare when compared side-by-side with bigger name brands.
Wait! How many diapers am I going to need?
In the first year alone, your tiny mini-me is going to go through about 2,500 diapers. If that number is daunting and hard to grasp, it breaks down to something like 10-12 diapers a day on average for the first few months, then about 6 per day for the rest of the first year. In year two, you can expect that pace to slow to about 3-4 per day, and that pace may continue into year three when potty training starts to be interesting. Even after potty training, most children still use one overnight diaper per day for about another year.
Add it all up, and your precious bundle of joy is going to amass a mountain of roughly 6,000 dirty diapers in total (but up to 9,000 in some report estimations). That's a lot of diapers to put in the landfill, which is why a growing number (although still the minority) of parents are considering green-disposables or choose to diaper with cloth.
So, what is all that going to cost me?
If you are a budget savvy shopper and the price of a diaper is the most critical factor for you, let us walk you through the math of lifetime diapering cost. Let's assume our estimate of using approximately 6,000 diapers over your baby's lifetime is correct. The price per diaper varies depending on the size of the diaper; the larger the diaper, the higher the price. Also, when considering lifetime cost, keep in mind that they'll use a lot more size 3 & 4 diapers than the smaller sizes. We recommend doing your price-comparison using size 3 as a standard because it will give you a more realistic cost average. Some manufacturers deeply discount newborn sizes to get you hooked, only to charge more later.
If you buy a name brand diaper like Pampers Swaddlers, you'll be spending approximately $0.33/diaper on average. If you buy the Kirkland brand, you will pay about $0.20/diaper. If you buy a quality green diaper like Seventh Generation, you will be spending about $0.30/diaper, or for the Nature Babycare, it's about $0.50.
What does that come to for the four years you will be using diapers?
- Kirkland will cost approximately $1,200 for 4 years, or $25 a month
- Seventh Generation will cost roughly $1,800 for 4 years, or $37.50 a month
- Nature Babycare will cost approximately $3,000 for 4 years, or $62.50 a month
Keep in mind that these prices are high; if you sign up for a subscription program like Amazon offers, you will get 20% lower prices on most of the brands.
Is It Worth Paying a Premium for the Best Diaper?
The step-up from a high performing green diaper like Seventh Generation, to the best performing Nature BabyCare diaper, is about $25 more per month over the four years your baby will wear diapers. But the price jump from a cheaper diaper like the Kirkland is closer to $37. You might be wondering if it is worth the extra money to buy the better diaper.
While we feel strongly that Nature Babycare is the best diaper we tested, it costs about $0.13 more per diaper than Seventh Generation. It costs $0.30 per diaper more than Kirkland. That is more than double the cost to buy Nature Babycare over Kirkland. The numbers decrease somewhat if you consider Seventh Generation. So is it worth it? Let's compare the scores.
- Kirkland (below left): 6 absorption, 3 health, 1 eco, 58 overall
- Seventh Generation (below right): 8 absorption, 8 health, 6 eco, 70 overall
- Nature Babycare: 10 absorption, 7 health, 8 eco, 76 overall
The difference between Kirkland and Seventh Generation is significant. Seventh Generation offers the right balance between cost and performance for most families. This diaper scored well in most metrics, better than Kirkland, with the bonus of providing some Health and Eco-friendly advantages. For $12 more per month, we feel the benefits are great if your budget can afford it. But, if you want the best, even if it means spending a bit more, then Nature Babycare is our pick. However, we understand that despite wanting the best for your baby, sometimes it comes down to what you can afford. It's hard to argue when the Kirkland brand offers a better than average performing diaper at a lower than average price point.
Disposable diapers have a significant environmental impact. When you consider that an estimated 90% of US babies use disposables, and there are 4 million babies born each year, each going through 6,000+ diapers, the environmental impact of the diapers finding their ways to landfills is ginormous.
Here's some information we believe to be factual:
- The Environmental Protection Agency reports that about 20 billion disposable baby diapers end up in landfills every year, a shockingly large amount. Yet, we feel that might be low (our estimate is nearly 22 billion). This amount creates approximately 3 billion pounds of US landfill waste each year.
- Traditional disposable diapers do not degrade well in landfills due to plastic materials used and lack of exposure to air (which hampers biodegradation)
- Some % of disposed of diapers contain feces (the right thing to do is flush solids before throwing away the diaper — who knew?) which present a bio-hazard risk to landfills and may seep into groundwater.
Who Knew? Now YOU Do!
It is this last bullet that may be the deciding factor in the "which is greener" debate between cloth diapers and disposables. If you use modern cloth diapers, with a flushable liner, you are most likely flushing your baby's poo. Flushing poo is far less damaging to the environment than throwing it in the landfill (and creating a biohazard risk). But you can, and should, also flush poo from disposable diapers to prevent this environmental impact.
How do green diapers perform compared to traditional?
Choosing between a conventional or green diaper hasn't always been a clear and easy decision. Many people still think that a green diaper cannot perform on par with a traditional disposable. However, in our analysis of green vs. traditional diapers, we found this assumption to be almost entirely false: green diapers outperformed traditional diapers on absorbency and most other metrics. Hooray!
What's in My Baby's Diaper?
All of the disposable diapers in our tests look a lot alike. They each contain an absorbent core, an inner layer designed to keep baby dry, and a waterproof outer layer. Each diaper may include vastly different materials than another, and some of these ingredients may be considered risky or potentially toxic. Parents may (rightly) be concerned about the contents of their diapers, and what risk they may or may not pose to a baby. We recommend taking a look at the ingredients of the diapers you are considering to check for potentially hazardous material that may be in some diapers. After all, it's your baby.
Absorbency is The Performance Standard for Diapers
We believe that absorbency is the most critical performance criteria for diapers, and we emphasized this metric in our testing. Given how often manufacturers claim top absorbency for their brand, we think they must feel the same way. We performed a combination of hands-on testing and in-house lab tests to wring out the real-world absorbency performance of each diaper. What we found was a huge difference in absorbency, even more so than in previous years.
Every year we've tested diapers, we've been impressed with the fact that green diapers have consistently delivered top scores for absorbency. The top 3 diapers in absorbency were all green diapers, and all had scores of 8 or higher! The top traditional diapers, Kirkland and Cuties, both scored 6s. These results indicate to us that the green diapers generally perform better than traditional choices.
Which Is Better: Pampers or Huggies?
We tested Pampers Swaddlers, Pampers Swaddlers Sensitive, Pampers Baby Dry, Pampers Pure, Huggies Little Snugglers, and Huggies Snug & Dry. Generally speaking, the performance and prices of both brands were similar. Both Pampers Swaddler varieties earned an overall score of 46, and the Baby Dry style earned a 45. Huggies Little Snugglers earned a 46 and Snug & Dry a 48. Pampers Pure beat out all the above with an overall score of 64, largely due to its increased Leakage and Health scores. However, Pure diapers come with a higher price tag.
If you are trying to decide between Pampers and Huggies, we recommend you go with Pampers, especially the Pure line, despite the higher price. Both brands have similar scores for absorbency and are comparably priced, but Pampers offer a little more for baby health, which bumps it up in our book. However, overall, we recommend looking outside both of these popular brands at the award winners or the notable Bambo Nature.
Are Big-box Diapers the Same as Pampers and Huggies
In short, no.
We tested diapers from the three major big-box retailers: Target, Walmart, and Costco. In our tests, we concluded that each diaper is different from other name-brand diapers (Pampers and Huggies) as well as each other in both features and performance. In general, all of the options placed relatively low in the group, with only Kirkland breaking in the top 10. Most of the Pampers and Huggies diaper varieties were disappointing. Most of our results show that the store brand options perform better than the popular brands overall and will generally cost you less.
With online retailers and store shelves burgeoning with a variety of new, green, and tried and true diaper brands, it can be hard to decide which one is best for you and your baby. Add to this conundrum the option of cloth diapering, and your head could easily start spinning. This plethora of potential diapers might have you selecting something at random or choosing the cheapest option, but thanks to our detailed testing and tiny hands-on testers, you can now make a more informed choice to ensure you find the right diaper for your needs and budget. Even if you choose a non-award winner, with our insights, you'll be making an informed selection based on your goals and unbiased test results.
— Juliet Spurrier, MD & BabyGearLab Team