The 8 Best Cloth Diapers of 2021

These cute diapers keep your baby's bum and the planet happy

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When we learn that baby is on the way, one of the earliest considerations for parents is whether to use cloth or disposable diapers. You may have heard that when it comes to diapering your baby, cloth diapers are better for the planet than any single-use product. That’s definitely true when we think about the sheer volume of disposable diapers heading for the landfill. The U.S. EPA estimates that a child diapered exclusively in disposables will send an estimated half-ton of disposable diapers to the landfill each year. That’s not all: The plastic in those diapers could take up to 500 years to degrade. That’s why more and more parents these days are looking for ways to reduce their baby’s contribution.

But the cloth versus disposable debate is about more than the landfill. There are other factors to consider. There are many situations where cloth diapers are just not practical or reasonable for everyone. We take a more detailed look at the disposable vs. cloth debate below.

To help you choose among wide variety of cloth diapering options, we’ve researched the best cloth diapers to give you and your family quality performance and peace of mind.

The Rundown
A versatile, customizable diaper with proven reliability and durability.
A cloth diaper with comparable quality at half the price.
This diaper has a certified organic inner, with covers made from recycled plastic bottles.
Best Overnight/Heavy Wetter:
Ecoable Fitted Cloth Diaper at Walmart
A hemp/cotton combo that combines the best of both fabrics in a diaper that grows with your baby.
Leak-proof double-leg gussets paired with hemp, bamboo or microfiber inserts offer flexibility and reliable performance.
This diaper has a soft inner layer made from sustainably-source wood, and is produced by a company that gives back with every purchase.
Tired parents may want the ease of this All-in-One diaper that’s both soft and comfortable.
This cover is handmade in the United States by a mom and can be used with any inner diaper.

Best Overall: GroVia Hybrid Cloth Diapers

GroVia Hybrid Cloth Diapers

To earn the Best Overall spot on our list, the cloth diaper had to offer parents flexibility in their choice of absorbent material to adapt to a variety of situations, while also being simple to use and capable of top quality leak-resistant performance. GroVia Hybrid Cloth Diapers hit all of these marks while also being designed and manufactured ethically by a parent-owned company.

The Hybrid or All-in-Two waterproof shells come in a range of soft, adorable fabrics that come in either snap or hook and loop options, allowing you to customize the fit on your baby as they grow. Made from a solvent-free baked-in waterproof layer, the outer shell fits babies from 8 to 30 pounds and can be worn two or three times before you have to wash them giving them a longer lifetime than All-In-Ones. The inside of each cover is lined with a wicking mesh stay-dry material that dries quickly.  

You can choose from a range of absorbent layers called “soakers” that snap in to the cover. Options include certified organic cotton or microfiber terry that have a waterproof backing to keep the shell dry. You can also use soft prefold cloth diapers and biodegradable disposable inserts. GroVia’s prefolds are made from 55 percent bamboo, which is is incredibly absorbent and naturally resistant to bacterial growth, and 45 percent organic cotton.

For situations where you need more absorbance, GroVia offers "Boosters" made of organic cotton or a combination of organic cotton and polyester fleece and a disposable, compostable BioSoaker. The Boosters can be used at night time or during travel and are certified organic by EcoCert. The BioSoaker fits inside the shell with adhesive strips, much like a typical disposable diaper, and is made of a natural polymer by NatureWorks.

GroVia’s All-in-One, soft Buttah Velour, Trainer, and Swim diapers also earn get top marks for quality and environmental friendliness.

Best Budget: Coqui Baby Hero Pocket Cloth Diaper

Coqui Baby Hero Pocket Cloth Diaper

Higher upfront costs are often the reason parents opt to stick with disposables. Thankfully, there are many affordable cloth diaper brands on the market. Hero Pocket Cloth Diapers by Coquí Baby are a well-rated choice for about half as much as other brands. Parents find these pocket diapers comparable to more expensive counterparts.

Because it’s a pocket diaper, you can also shop around for the most affordable absorbent inserts. This brand usually comes with at least one or two inserts in a variety of types depending on where you buy them. You’ll also save because this diaper has adjustable snaps that enable them to fit your baby from 7 to 40+ pounds.

The inner lining is made of soft polar fleece polyester for comfort and wicking. It also has a waterproof outer lining and all materials are certified with the Standard 100 by OEKO-TEX, meaning they were tested and determined to be harmless to human health. An elastic leg and back gussets help prevent leaks. They come in a wide range of solid and print colors, so you can save a few bucks without having to sacrifice on style.

Best Organic: Esembly Cloth Diapers

Esembly Cloth Diapers

Choosing organic materials not only protects your baby, it also protects workers, maintains healthier soils, and reduces the use of persistent pesticides and fertilizers in the environment.

Esembly Organic Cloth Diapers have two separate pieces, an “inner” and an “outer” waterproof cover. The inner is made from Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)-certified organic cotton grown responsibly in South Asia. The cover is made from waterproof fabric that is made of 100 percent recycled yarn derived from post-consumer plastic bottles. Each cover uses between 2-10 bottles to produce! 

Parents love the ease of using the Esembly website that guides you through the size and number of each piece in addition to optional reusable baby wipes, overnight inserts, washing powder, pail deodorant, and a range of skin products.

You’ll feel good about supporting Esembly, a women-owned business committed to sustainably grown, low-impact, high-quality ingredients and responsible manufacturing. They also take their values to the next level. All of their paper packaging and shipping envelopes are made from 100 percent recycled material and are fully recyclable.

Not ready to commit? Esembly offers a Try-It Kit for under $100 so you can test it out.

Best Overnight/Heavy Wetter: Ecoable Fitted Cloth Diaper

Ecoable Fitted Cloth Diaper

At night and/or with a heavy wetter, you need a fitted, leak-proof diaper that can hold a large volume of liquid but with breathability that also protects your baby’s skin from diaper rash. The Ecoable Hemp Night Fitted Cloth Diaper is a great choice. The snap button design means one adjustable diaper can be customized to fit your baby from 10 to 30 pounds.

Like bamboo, hemp grows more quickly (and more sustainably) than cotton. It is also incredibly absorbent and naturally antibacterial. Its main challenge is that it is slower to absorb than cotton or bamboo. This diaper combines the best of both worlds by using two inserts made from 55 percent hemp for maximum absorbance and 45 percent cotton to prevent flooding leaks.

One caveat to note is that Ecoable recommends that you store dirty diapers in a dry pail only (no pre-soak), and that you avoid boiling the fabric and tumble dry on low to medium heat to avoid shrinkage. This cloth diaper must be used with a waterproof cover of your choice. You can try Ecoable’s Baby Heavy Duty Diaper Cover with Leg Gussets (view on Ecoable) made from polyurethane laminate or any other brand of you like best.

For both Ecoable’s cloth diapers and fair trade apparel line, the company preferentially selects sustainable, zero-waste fabrics that reduce the greenhouse gasses produced during traditional fabric production.

Best Pocket: Kanga Care Rumparooz One Size Reusable Cloth Diaper

Kanga Care Rumparooz One Size Reusable Cloth Diaper

Parents like pocket style diapers, where a variety of absorbent inserts can be placed in the pocket between the inner stay-dry fabric that touches your baby’s skin and the outer waterproof layer. Because one can decide which insert to use in which situation, they’re very customizable. The main drawback of the pocket style compared to other types is that, unlike separate waterproof covers, they must be laundered after each use. However, some tired parents may not want to decide which insert to use or the extra step of stuffing them for each use.

Rumparooz’s One Size Pocket Cloth Diaper by Kanga Care is another awesome one-size-fits-all choice that adjusts to fit as your baby grows. They come in two sizes, Newborn (4 to 15 pounds) and One Size (6 to 35+ pounds). The snaps system allows for easy size modification.

Parents love this pocket diaper cover because it has soft double inner-leg gussets that prevent leaks without causing rash or irritation. The inner layer is a soft, wicking micro-chamois and the outer waterproof cover layer is biodegradable, and comes in more than 50 colors and prints.

Rumparooz come with your choice of hemp, bamboo, or microfiber "6r soakers," which are two cloth inserts of different sizes and thicknesses that you can use separately or combine to obtain a wide variety of absorbance levels. You can buy more than one type of 6r soaker separately and combine them in different ways. Rumparooz’s pocket design means they can also be used with inserts from other manufacturers.

Best Swim: Charlie Banana Reusable and Washable Swim Diaper

Charlie Banana Baby Reusable and Washable Swim Diaper

The best swim diapers fit snugly around the legs and waste without being too tight or scratchy. That’s so they can hold in leaks at the beach or the pool. Charlie Banana Reusable Swim Diapers fit the bill. They’re an All-in-One style diaper made with a waterproof outer layer. Inside the diaper is a super soft, highly absorbent Tencel Lyocell and polyester blend fabric. Tencel is produced from sustainably sourced wood, through environmentally responsible processes.

Parents love the wide back elastics and adjustable waist draw strings that deliver a snug yet comfortable fit for your baby. They’re available in four sizes (S, M, L, XL) fitting kids from 10 to 55 pounds. Perhaps the hardest choice you’ll need to make is which of the more than 70 adorable colors and prints to choose from.

A big bonus is that all Charlie Banana products are Climate Neutral Certified. Charlie Banana also participates in 1% For The Planet, so some of every purchase is invested in nonprofits working to protect our planet for you and your baby.

Best for Newborns: Thirsties Natural Newborn All in One

Thirsties Natural Newborn All in One

Tired parents may appreciate the ease of an All-in-One diaper that’s both soft and comfortable. Thirsties Natural Newborn All-in-One’s combine the best of all options to keep your new baby dry and content from 5 to 14 pounds. The snap closure diaper design offers an umbilical cord snap-down feature that can be used when the cord is present or the belly button is healing. Or you can opt for the hook and loop closure.

The absorbent interior includes eight layers of natural fibers — two layers of GOTS-Certified organic cotton and six layers of a hemp/organic cotton blend offering reliable absorbance without leaks. The waterproof layer is waterproof laminate over polyester with an inner liner of organic cotton. The diaper has a trim fit and gentle leg and waste elastic.

These diapers that are made by Colorado moms, from fabrics that are 90 percent sourced in the United States. Choose from 20 cute colors.

Best Wool: MamaBear BabyWear One Size Wool Diaper Covers

MamaBear BabyWear One Size Wool Diaper Covers

Wool garments have been used for centuries because they are naturally breathable so it keeps you dry and prevents overheating. It’s also considered a renewable fiber because it’s biodegradable, while also being naturally antibacterial. So it makes sense to use it for diaper covers, although it's not vegan.

MamaBear BabyWear One Size Wool Diaper Covers are one of the most popular and well-rated wool covers on Etsy. They’re handmade from soft merino, cashmere, alpaca, or mohair wool and come in three closure options: snap, hook and loop, or none.

You’ll get three different wool covers: one lightweight, one medium weight, and one thick. Although you can’t select exact colors, you can choose boy, girl, or neutral gender and include your preferred colors when you order.   

MamaBear BabyWear was created by a widowed mother of two, Amy Washington of Murray, Kentucky. She hand knits and sews the covers herself to support her family. Amy notes that the covers fit over any cloth diaper you choose for babies from about 8 to 40 pounds. They arrive pre-washed, lanolized, and ready to use.

Final Verdict

With so many options to choose from on the market these days, it’s hard to beat the reliable versatility of the Best Overall GroVia Hybrid Cloth Diapers (view at Amazon) when paired with organic cotton and hemp inserts. Esembly Organic Cloth Diapers (view at Esembly) are also appealing because of the many environmentally-positive choices the company has made, including the use of post-consumer recycled plastic covers.

Cloth vs. Disposable Diapers

In most situations, cloth is the more sustainable diaper choice. However, they may not be the best choice for every situation. Upfront costs of $300 to $400 for each size are beyond some family budgets. Cloth diapers aren’t accepted at some child care centers and many don’t have easy or affordable access to regular laundry facilities. Tired working parents will also be the first to admit that cloth diapers require more parent time to process and launder compared to disposables. Let’s also not forget that there are many situations when you don’t want to carry a dirty diaper around, like when you’re traveling.

When comparing the impact of cloth versus disposable, we also need to consider factors like energy and water consumption needed to manufacture the diapers as well as the landfill and factory air and water emissions. According to a UK life cycle assessment, using cloth diapers can have more or less environmental impact than disposables depending on how they are laundered. Like your other clothing, if you do things like line dry them outside, wash fuller loads in newer, energy-efficient appliances at lower temperatures without harsh detergents and other chemicals, and reuse them on multiple children then cloth are better than disposable diapers.

There is no clear cut answer and the pros and cons must be weighed with each families’ unique circumstances in mind. For many, a combination of cloth and disposable may make the most sense. When choosing disposable diapers, there are a number of more eco-friendly brands on the market that will help you decrease your impact on the planet.

Understanding Cloth Diaper Styles

When trying to choose a cloth diaper, the variety of choices might feel overwhelming. You can choose from All-in-One, pocket, All-in-Two, or prefold styles. Then of course, there are also trainer and swim diapers.   

All-in-One Diapers

One of the most popular choices are All-in-One diapers that are a single unit made of a combination of materials. They’re easy to manage but they don’t allow as much flexibility (like changing the absorbent layer), so be sure they are the right fit for your baby and family before buying a full set. Because you wash the whole unit each time, they can wear out as quickly as the less expensive prefolds or inner absorbent layers of other diaper systems. Worn out diapers leak more often and lose their waterproof nature over time.

Pocket Diapers

Pocket diapers are similar to All-in-One styles except the waterproof outer layer is connected to an inner “stay-dry” layer with a pocket separating them that allows you to insert a disposable (sometimes compostable) or reusable absorbent layer. The layer you choose can come from different manufacturers and depend on the situation. More absorbent inserts can be used for travel and more breathable inserts can be used for around the house for less chance of diaper rash.

Some use the term pocket and hybrid diapers interchangeably. But beware, some companies also use the term “hybrid fitted diaper” that is really closer to an All-in-One where disposable inserts are not an option. So be sure you are clear about what you’re buying before you make the purchase.

All-in-Twos

You’ll also see “All-in-Twos” where the absorbent insert and the waterproof cover are two separate pieces that need to be snapped together to create a complete cloth diaper.

Waterproof shells also come in a wide variety of materials but are often made from polyurethane laminate (PUL) or thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU). It’s important to verify that solvents aren’t used in the production of these materials and that any spray-on water repellants used in their production don’t contain formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen.

Prefold Diapers

Perhaps the most flexible option is to use prefold cloth diapers like our grandmothers used (simple rectangles made from a variety of fabrics) that you cover with a separate waterproof diaper shell. Each is sold separately or can be purchased from the same company. Instead of prefolds, some families choose more expensive fitted cloth diapers with leg and back elastic because they may fit better, leak less and fasten with Velcro for easier use.

FAQs

What’s the best fabric for cloth diapers?

To answer this question, we first have to consider the anatomy of a cloth diaper. Most are made with an inner absorbent layer that pulls liquids away from your baby’s skin. This layer may be of one or a combination of types of fabric, such as cotton, hemp, bamboo, or polyester. Another “stay dry” fabric separates the inner absorbent layer from your baby’s skin to prevent irritation and diaper rash. Then there is an outer waterproof layer that protects clothing and bedding. This outer layer may be made of several different fabric layers and/or be sprayed with a synthetic outer coating. The manufacture of waterproof fabric and its coating can employ the use of organic solvents and/or formaldehyde. Most cloth diapers are made from at least three or more different fabric types.

There are a great number of factors to consider when choosing the best fabric for each of the parts of a cloth diaper. We must consider the ability to absorb liquids and prevent leaks, plus breathability, cost, availability, connection to diaper rash, and the environmental impact associated with fabric production and global shipping. As you might guess, the real answer to “What is the best fabric?” is, it depends.

Each of the fabric has its own pros and cons. For example, cotton is non-synthetic, absorbent, and affordable but grows more slowly than hemp and bamboo. Hemp holds a lot of liquid but because it absorbs more slowly than cotton, you may observe more leaks when your baby is older and produces a larger volume of liquid. Bamboo grows very quickly and more sustainably, but requires chemicals to make it soft.

When making our list above and choosing from among the many fabric options for cloth diapers, we balanced a combination of these pros and cons as well as best-available technology, manufacturing processes, and environmental and human health factors.

How many cloth diapers do I need?

If you have access to laundry at least every other day, most manufacturers and parents recommend a minimum of 24 diapers so there is no chance you run out before the laundry is dry.

Newborns usually go through about twice as many diapers in a day than toddlers who have larger bladders. If you’re using a system where inserts and covers are separate, plan to use three times as many inserts as covers (a minimum of 8 covers and 24 inserts). You’ll need more than this average if you have a heavy wetter or need more time between laundry days.

What is the best way to wash cloth diapers?

Wash diapers separate from other laundry. Waiting more than a couple of days can result in mildew stains, residual smells, or more washes to get the diapers clean. Remove and flush any solids from the diaper immediately. Some parents swish the diaper in the toilet or use a sprayer attached to the toilet water supply to spray off the mess. Diapers that are just wet can get tossed into a waterproof bag, bucket, or cloth diaper pail immediately. You’ll want a system that can be opened easily with one hand or a foot pedal that also contains odor.

Many parents store dirty diapers waiting to be laundered at room temperature in a pre-soak solution. Keep in mind that a bucket of liquid can be a drowning hazard to small children so keep it properly secured or out of reach. What the solution contains depends on who you ask, but many use baking soda in a ratio of about a half a cup per gallon of water. You can add a few drops of essential oil to help with odor and/or distilled cleaning vinegar. Avoid warm or hot water that can set in stains. Pre-soaking isn’t required, but without it, you are more likely to end up with permanent stains and stronger odors.

When you’re ready to wash, drain the pre-soak liquid by hand or use the rinse cycle of your washer. Then use an eco-friendly detergent and hot water for the wash cycle. If your machine is capable, add a cup of vinegar to your rinse cycle using the fabric softener dispenser. This will help remove any remaining residues from the fabric.

Avoid the use of fabric softener because many are full of chemicals and they’re designed to stick to fabric, resulting in a less absorbent surface.  

You might see recommendations to use old-fashioned borax and bleach as part of your wash cycle. However, borax has been banned in the European Union based on animal studies that show it has reproductive health consequences in high concentrations. Chlorine bleach is toxic to both you and the environment. You can effectively skip the borax by using baking soda to boost the effectiveness of your detergent in the wash cycle. Avoid bleach by adding a quarter cup of vinegar, lemon juice or peroxide (choose one, do not combine them) to the pre-soak step for whitening and brightening then try vinegar in the rinse cycle to strip away remaining residues.

When it comes to drying diapers, line-dry in the sun whenever possible. Sunshine lightens stains, kills germs and helps eliminate odors naturally while also reducing your energy use.

When you use a dryer, use the heat setting recommended by the manufacturer to avoid heat damage and shrinkage. Many covers aren’t meant to be dried on high heat. Unless otherwise noted, use the hottest available temperature in combination with the “more dry” setting to ensure that any bacteria that survived the wash cycle won’t make it out of the dryer. But skip the dryer sheet which includes chemicals that reduce absorbency and might irritate your baby’s skin.

What’s the best detergent for cloth diapers?

There are many eco-conscious laundry detergents on the market, with several that have been designed specifically for cloth diapers. You want to look for something that has simple, natural ingredients that wash out cleanly to protect your baby’s delicate skin. Many parents like Rockin’ Green Dirty Diaper Detergent (view on Amazon) that can be used in the pre-soak and in place of other detergents because it’s simple, vegan, and removes diaper stains and odors better than many other eco-friendly detergents. 

Why Trust Treehugger?

Lorraine Wilde changed so many of her twins’ diapers that she could do a double change in the dark by the time they grew out of them. She has only the highest of standards for what goes on her children’s skin. Lorraine also holds a Master’s degree in environmental science and is a firm believer that consumers can make healthy, informed and environmentally-conscious choices to protect their families and our planet.