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Every year, Americans throw away around 20 billion (yes, billion!) disposable diapers, equivalent to 3.5 tons of waste. Each of these diapers will take at least 500 years to degrade, much longer than you, I or our children will be on the planet.
While these figures might be hard to comprehend, they do make it easy to understand just why so many people are looking for eco-friendly options alternatives when it comes to buying diapers such as reusable cloth diapers.
Until your child is potty trained, you have no choice but to buy them. This doesn’t mean, however, that you don’t have a choice when it comes to which ones you buy. You could, for example, choose bamboo fiber cloth diapers because they are super soft. With these, you throw away the contents then throw the diapers in the wash so you can use them again.
Not all parents are comfortable with this however or find it’s not an option because of their childcare situation, which is where non-toxic, biodegradable diapers come in because they provide all the convenience of a disposable diaper at the same as reducing any potential harm to your baby or the environment.
We’re going to look at five of the best biodegradable diapers here, what we like about them, what we don’t and whether they’re a good buy. First, though, we’ll look at the differences between biodegradable and standard diapers and what you should look for if you’re thinking of making the switch.
- 1 Why choose non-toxic, biodegradable diapers?
- 2 What to look for when buying a non-toxic, biodegradable diaper
- 3 The best non-toxic, biodegradable diapers – Our top 5 picks
- 4 1. Bambo Nature Eco-Friendly Diapers Classic
- 5 2. Eco by Naty Disposable Diaper
- 6 3. Seventh Generation Diapers
- 7 4. Babyganics Ultra Absorbent Diaper
- 8 5. Andy Pandy Diapers
- 9 Facts About the Mentioned Diaper Brands
- 10 FAQ’s About Non-Disposable Diapers
- 11 Final Thoughts
Why choose non-toxic, biodegradable diapers?
As well being better for the environment because they biodegrade in a lot less than 500 years, non-toxic, biodegradable cloth diapers are also supposed to better for your baby because they contain fewer (if any) harmful ingredients and don’t make your little one’s skin dry and likewise prevent skin irritations because they are hypoallergenic.
Unfortunately, because companies that make diapers are required to list just what goes into their products on the packaging, comparing them, and understanding whether they could be harmful to your baby is hard to gauge. All we can do is go on the best information we have when making decisions as to which diapers to choose.
Based on this information, what we know is that disposable diapers, including biodegradable ones, are made up of three main parts – a top sheet, back sheet, and center sheet and also contain sodium polyacrylate (the absorbing gel you see). In a standard disposable diaper, these could each contain toxic materials.
The top sheet, which is closest to your baby’s skin and is also known as the inner lining, is generally made of polypropylene. Polypropylene is a non-biodegradable plastic that’s petroleum-based.
While it has low toxin levels and found in a wide range of products, it still contains chemicals that some studies have found might be harmful to humans in high doses. Top sheets may also include lotions designed to protect your baby’s skin, but which can contain perfumes that are irritants for sensitive and dry skin.
The center of standard disposable diapers, which absorb and hold your baby’s pee, is made up of super-absorbent polymers, or SAP. While locked in place by the lining, it can leak out of the diaper – you’ll recognize it by the small beads of gel that you see on your baby’s bottom when you change the diaper.
The super-absorbent polymers are non-toxic and won’t do your baby any harm if you find it on their bottom. However, it can act as an irritant if it makes it into their eyes, so you still need to be careful.
Non-toxic, biodegradable diapers offer alternatives to these potentially harmful chemicals. For example, many use PLA, a plant-based alternative to polypropylene or materials such as wood pulp instead of SAP and most are fragrance-free. Non-toxic diapers also use safe dyes, ones that aren’t petroleum-based (and known to cause skin rashes and allergic reactions in babies with sensitive skin) or are dye-free.
What to look for when buying a non-toxic, biodegradable diaper
When it comes to picking a non-toxic, biodegradable diaper, while there aren’t a million and one choices on the market yet, it is getting more crowded, which makes your decision more difficult because, as with all things baby-related, not every product is created equally. There are, however, certain things to look out for when picking a more eco-friendly diaper:
- Chemicals (or lack of them): The best, and least toxic, biodegradable diapers are ones that are free from potentially harmful chemicals as well as SAP, perfumes, metal or petroleum-based dyes and latex, all of which can lead to allergic reactions in your newborn.
- The substances you’re looking to avoid are often classed as volatile organic compounds or VOCs and include dipentene, ethylbenzene, toluene, and xylene. Rather than list all of them separately, non-toxic diapers may merely say they are VOC-free.
- Affordability: No eco-friendly diaper will be as cheap as those that take 500 years to breakdown. However, not all of them have to cost the earth. To find the best price, you might need to shop around, looking online or buying in bulk (if you’re stuck for where to search online, we’ve listed seven of our favorite website here).
- Whether they do their job: This one is a bit harder to know until you try them, but you can generally tell by talking to other parents, asking questions in parenting forums, and reading reviews – find out how comfortable people say their babies seem to be and if the diapers leak, especially overnight.
- How biodegradable they are: Just because a diaper says it’s biodegradable on the pack, doesn’t mean it’s a 100% biodegradable. Some are, but others contain less biodegradable material and are often called ‘natural disposables.’
The best non-toxic, biodegradable diapers – Our top 5 picks
1. Bambo Nature Eco-Friendly Diapers Classic
Bambo Nature diapers are one of the most highly rated of all the non-toxic, biodegradable, diapers available in the States. They are incredibly soft and very absorbent, meaning they work just as well overnight as during the day.
The diapers are free from harmful chemicals and don’t contain perfumes, making them ideal for babies who have sensitive skin and reducing the chance of allergic reactions or skin rashes. Produced in Denmark, they are FSC-certified and are dermatologically tested, holding both a Danish Asthma/Allergy certification and the Nordic Swan Ecolabel.
Available in three sizes, there is a diaper to fit even the smallest baby. Plus, the Bambo Nature range includes baby wipes, training pants, lotions, and bath oils, meaning you can protect every part of your baby’s skin.
- Three sizes (plus a training pants range)
- Soft, super-absorbent design meaning they are ideal for day or night use
- Chemical and perfume free, reducing the risk of allergic reactions or skin rashes
- Dermatologically tested, FSC certified
- Made with renewable raw materials, making them sustainable
- 100% biodegradable
- Doesn’t contain harmful chemicals, perfumes or dyes
- Works well during the day and night
- Highly absorbent
- Has received environmental certification
- The sizes run large, so you may need to buy a smaller diaper than you would with other brands
- Expensive compared to other brands
2. Eco by Naty Disposable Diaper
Naty (short for Nature Babycare) are chlorine-free and doesn’t contain perfumes, plastics, or GMO ingredients. A Swedish company, creates diapers from all-natural, renewable, materials including corn (which has been shown to reduce the risk of diaper rash).
Their diapers come in five different sizes and are suitable for babies from 4lb to 60lbs; all are highly absorbent thanks to a chlorine-free pulp. Like Bambo Nature diapers, Naty has a range of environmental certifications including from the Swedish Asthma and Allergy Association, and a variety of products including training pants, feminine hygiene, and baby wipes.
- Made from natural materials from renewable sources (including all packaging)
- Certified by the AB Vincotte, the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation
- Made with FSC certified pulp (as opposed to SAP)
- Does not contain GMO materials
- Uses plant-based ingredients
- All materials are designed to reduce the risk of allergic reactions (the diapers are Asthma and Allergy Association of Sweden certified)
- Does not contain potentially harmful chemicals or ingredients
- Made with natural fibers/fabrics
- Absorbent using wood pulp rather than SAP
- Multiple sizes
- Part of a broader product range
- Diapers don’t feel as soft as others on the market
- Don’t work as well overnight
3. Seventh Generation Diapers
Seventh Generation is perhaps the most well-known of all the eco-friendly diapers on the market and one of the only ones that you can buy in the grocery store (most of the others we’ve featured you can only buy online). They are also one of the most affordable and part of a wider range of products that include baby wipes, diaper cream, training pants as well as paper towels and dish soap.
Seventh Generation has some great eco-friendly credentials in that they are latex, perfume, and petroleum-free. They also don’t use chlorine in their products, replacing it with brown corn fiber (which means their diapers are slightly off-white in color).
However, they do use ingredients that you won’t find in a lot of other non-toxic diapers including SAP, polypropylene, and polyurethane. While it should be said, there is no evidence these are harmful, they aren’t ingredients many parents looking for environmentally friendly products want to see in their diapers.
- Available in seven sizes as well as potty training pants
- Designed for a baby’s sensitive skin
- Highly absorbent
- Chlorine, perfume, and lotion free
- Available in a range of sizes for children weighing 2lb to 55lbs
- Chlorine, fragrance, and lotion-free
- Uses the sustainable wood pulp
- Affordable compared to other brands
- Can be bought at the grocery store
- Not entirely free of potentially non-toxic ingredients
- Can leak, especially if used overnight
- Not as soft as other diapers on the market
4. Babyganics Ultra Absorbent Diaper
Along with Seventh Generation, Babyganics are another affordable biodegradable diaper, although you can’t buy them at the grocery store. Unlike Seventh Generation, they are softer and include a higher level of plant-based ingredients.
Babyganics are chlorine, fragrance, and latex-free and don’t contain any petroleum-based lotions. They also don’t lighten their diapers (meaning they can look off white if put side-by-side with other brands).
The diapers themselves were designed for comfort, with side panels that stretch to fit your baby and feel soft to the touch. They were also intended to be worn for more extended periods, meaning they should be highly absorbent (though reviews suggest this might not be the case for children who are heavy wetters).
- Multiple sizes
- Chlorine, latex, lotion, and fragrance-free
- Includes a seed-based oil designed to keep the newborn skin soft
- Made from plant-based materials
- Comfort fit
- High absorbency (with a wetness indicator on some sizes)
- Premium fit, premium absorbency, soft-stretch sides, leak control
- Designed to fit your baby with soft, stretch, sides
- Free of harmful chemicals such as chlorine, latex, lotions, and fragrances
- Made from plant-based materials
- Available in multiple sizes
- Very affordable (possibly the cheapest on the market)
- Reviews suggest they are not as absorbent as the company suggests
- Hard to find out a lot about all the ingredients used
5. Andy Pandy Diapers
Andy Pandy diapers are very clear about the products they use, which means parents can be confident in what they are buying. This includes diapers made from bamboo, making them 100% biodegradable. They contain no chlorine, latex, lotions, or fragrances like a lot of the other diapers we’ve featured. In addition, they are PVC, phthalates, and preservative-free.
The diapers themselves are highly absorbent and come with a handy indicator line that lets you know when they are wet, and your baby needs changing. Strength and absorbency are two of the benefits of bamboo, as is the way it can keep your baby cool, even on the hottest of days because it naturally regulates temperatures.
- Available in multiple sizes (up to size 6)
- Made from bamboo, making them 100% biodegradable
- Highly absorbent
- Chlorine, latex, PVC, preservative, lotion, and fragrance-free
- Highly absorbent
- Designed for comfort
- Naturally, keep your baby cool thanks to the bamboo
- Free of harmful chemicals and additives
- Come in multiple sizes
- Very expensive when compared to other brands
- Not as attractive as some other brands
- As a newcomer to the market, they don’t have as wide a product range
Facts About the Mentioned Diaper Brands
More and more parents want to use diapers that are not only better for their baby but better for the environment (recognizing that their children will need to grow up in the world we create for them). This means that, in the last few years, there has been a real increase in the number of eco-friendly diapers on the market such as Earth’s Best diapers.
Not all eco-friendly diapers are created equally; however, the ones we’ve reviewed have also shown. The Seventh Generation diapers, Luvs Ultra Leak Guards and Pampers Swaddlers for example are affordably priced and available in most grocery stores, which in many ways, makes them a great choice. However, they don’t have the best credentials when compared to other diapers. They aren’t, for example, completely free of non-toxic ingredients.
Neither are the Babyganics diapers which, while popular and – again – very affordable, are somewhat cagey about the materials they use. This means parents can’t be sure exactly what they are buying and whether there are any potentially harmful chemicals making up parts of the diaper.
Bambo Nature has fewer potentially harmful chemicals but, again, does contain some which might raise concerns for some parents, SAP for example, which they use for absorbency.
Saying that Bambo Nature does have a lot going for it. Their diapers are dermatologically tested, for example, and made from FSC certified wood pulp. They also have some great eco-credentials, including a Danish Asthma/Allergy certification and the Nordic Swan Ecolabel.
As well as being dermatologically tested, their products are free from chlorine, latex, perfumes, and lotions and have been made from renewable raw materials.
This makes them sustainable, as is the Naty diaper range, which is made from renewable materials (right down to the packaging). Not only are Naty diapers made from FSC-certified wood pulp and other plant-based materials, but all of their ingredients are also non-GMO, and they’ve been certified by the Swedish Asthma and Allergy Association as well as the AB Vincotte, the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation.
Unfortunately, for all this, their diapers (according to reviews) aren’t quite as soft and gentle as the others we’ve looked at (probably because of the materials they use). They also aren’t as absorbent because they use wood pulp instead of SAP.
Andy Pandy doesn’t use SAP or wood pulp. They use bamboo, which is highly absorbent, reducing the risk of overnight leaks you get with Naty. The bamboo also means they are hypoallergenic and 100% biodegradable. They don’t use any harmful chemicals and are Chlorine, latex, PVC, preservative, lotion, and fragrance-free.
FAQ’s About Non-Disposable Diapers
Yes, if you do the math, you will realize that cloth diapers are very economical for families, especially if you count on using them since your little one is born and you can save up thousands of dollars in comparison to disposable diapers.
When you first think about cloth diapers, you might think that cleaning would be bothersome and gross, but once you get a diaper sprayer that goes attached to the toilet, this will no more be an issue for you. After dumping or the contents in the toilet, you will have to add the cloth diapers in the washer and add the only detergent to them, and NO softeners, as they can stretch the diaper or build up.
Usually, this depends on the number of diapers you have stocked and the recommending amount is 24 diapers so you can use 10-12 a day, but don’t wash them immediately, and still have remaining ones to use for the next day.
For parents looking for an eco-friendly diaper option, Andy Pandy are definitely a great option and our first choice, if you can afford them; the downside of the Andy Pandy diaper is their price – they are probably the most expensive of all we’ve reviewed. Outside of this, however, they have so much going for them, they would make a great choice.
If the price is a barrier, then we’d go with the Naty eco diapers. They, like Andy Pandy, are the most natural and they’ve been certified by some of the leading environmental names in the world, meaning you know you’re getting a good product. They are still pricey, but nowhere near as much as Andy Pandy, meaning they will fit with more people’s pockets.