Are you left scratching your head at the world of diapers? After testing 52 different diapers, we selected the top 22 disposable diapers for this review. After 8 years of diaper testing, we have a unique insight that helps us determine the best diapers based on metrics such as absorption, leakage, health, the environment, and durability. We put these diapers through the wringer, performing side-by-side tests to find the best options. We are sure you'll find the diaper to suit your needs and priorities with award winners for the eco-minded, those on a budget, and sometimes even both!
The Best Disposable Diapers Review
Best Overall Disposable Diaper
Nature Babycare is an excellent green diaper that is probably the closest thing to cloth diapering you'll find in a disposable with advanced Earth-friendly features. This company and diaper are trying hard to set new environmental standards for diapers while keeping a baby's health in mind. The best part? Not only is it green, but it earned 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 some of the competition (though not the highest). However, if your wallet allows, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better, eco-friendly disposable diaper anywhere.
Read review: Nature Babycare
Comfy, Durable, and High-Performing
Babyganics is a soft green diaper that lasts as long as you need it to between diaper changes with few complaints online about durability. This diaper impresses in its performance for absorption, and it offers some features for eco-friendliness and baby's health.
This diaper is harder to find in stores, so you'll likely need to purchase them online. It is somewhat cheaper than Nature Babycare and might be the right choice for parents who favor comfort and durability over being as green as 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 somewhat economical green diaper for parents that wish to be kind to the Earth and want more features with baby's health in mind. Seventh Generation is attractively priced when compared to our top Editors' Choice option. It has the highest score for health in this review, tying with the Bambo Nature diaper (see below). Combining this with above-average absorption, we think this diaper 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 others in our tests for leaks, making it a poor choice for parents who hate leaks or wait until the last minute to make diaper changes. 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 won a Top Pick for health.
Read review: Seventh Generation
Comfy and Affordable
Kirkland Signature Supreme
While this diaper is not a top-performing option when it comes to absorption or preventing leaks, and some testers don't think it is a good looking option, it will get the job done at a lower price than much of the competition with a similar price. We believe this diaper is a potential choice for families on a budget who want better performance and a comfortable fit and feel.
Read review: Kirkland
Green and Healthy
While Bambo is not the diaper for everyone thanks to a lower price and online-only accessibility, it does fit the bill for those looking for a healthy option with Earth-friendly manufacturing and impressive performance where it counts. Plus, they're cute too!
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 usage of these products.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 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 testing 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 out there.
Related: How We Tested Disposable Diapers
Analysis and Test Results
If you're an expecting parent, let us level with you, your baby is going to make a lot of poo. A lot. Way more than you realize. This vast amount of poo will need immediate and continuous management to avoid turning your life into a bio-hazard zone. Sure, you can try to distinguish your new baby's facial expression for signs of impending explosions, and then rush them to a nearby toilet. Still, we think it is 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 looking for help choosing a 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). 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. Your little one is going to use a diaper, and it will be in the trash within hours of opening. The price range of disposable diapers is around 0.14 to 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 in their lifetime; those pennies add up quickly when multiplied by a couple thousand. Depending on your budget, the overall cost may be the predominant factor you consider when choosing the right diaper for your family. However, we urge you to consider that quality and absorbency can impact the overall amount of diapers you will use, and by extension, how much money you'll spend. In reality, a slightly more expensive diaper can be cheaper in the long run, because you can potentially use fewer of them over time.
The top three performers in this review are 0.43, 0.34, and 0.30 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. 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 0.20. This price is sure to save you 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 deserves its own dedicated space. But, we are going to tackle the other nine questions right here and now. Here we go!
Related: The Best Cloth Diapers Review
Putting Top Diapers to the Test
We tested more than 22 diapers allowing each to vie for awards. We used a combination of hands-on testing (day-to-day diaper use on real baby bottoms, lab testing, and research to compile facts and observations that allowed us to rate each diaper fairly relative to their competition on performance metrics.
We made our diaper selections carefully to ensure a complete picture of diaper options across the spectrum of types 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 the big name brands.
Wait! How many diapers am I going to need?
In the first year, 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, your child will probably still use one overnight diaper per day for another year or two.
Add it all up, and your precious bundle of joy is going to amass a mountain of roughly 6,000 dirty diapers in total (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 Moms are considering green-diapers or choose cloth diapers.
So, what is all that going to cost me?
If the price is the most critical factor when you are buying diapers, we've done the math for you. Let's assume our estimate of using approximately 6,000 diapers over your baby's lifetime is correct. 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 may 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 $0.43.What does that come to for the four years you will be using diapers?
- Kirkland will cost approximately $1,200 for 4 years and $25 a month
- Seventh Generation will cost roughly $1,800 for 4 years and $37.50 a month
- Nature Babycare will cost approximately $2,580 for 4 years and $53.75 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 $16 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 $29. 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 $0.23 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 ending up in landfills is huge.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, most likely 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 away (and creating a biohazard risk in landfills). But you can, and should, 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 easy. Many people tend to think that a green diaper cannot perform up to par with traditional. However, in our analysis of green vs. traditional diapers, we found this assumption to be mostly 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 delivered top scores for absorbency; this year was no exception. 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 perform better than traditional choices overall.
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. For the most part, the scores and prices of both brands were very 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 their increased Leakage and Health scores. However, Pure diapers come with a slightly 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 price tag. Both brands have similar scores for absorbency and are comparably priced, but Pampers offers a little more for baby health, which makes it the winner in our book. However, we advise that you look outside both of these well-known 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 private brand diapers from the three major big-box retailers: Target, Walmart, and Costco. In the end, we concluded that each was different from other name-brand diapers (Pampers and Huggies) as well as each other in both features and performance. In general, all varieties placed relatively low in the group, with only Kirkland the top 10. Most Pampers and Huggies varieties scored in the lower half. These results mean the store brand diapers performed better than the popular brands overall and will likely cost you less as well.
Gone are the days of one or two disposable options that were as simple as choosing between Huggies or Pampers. With the addition of green diapers and options found only on the internet, the variety and the sheer number of brands has expanded considerably in the last decade. Add to this the potential for cloth diapering, and it is no wonder your head is spinning. You may feel compelled to grab a pack randomly or buy the cheapest thing you can find. Thanks to our in-house testing and tiny hands-on testers, you can now make a more informed choice to ensure you find the right diaper for you and your little one. Even if you step outside the award winners, you'll be making an informed purchase based on your goals and unbiased reporting.
— Juliet Spurrier, MD & BabyGearLab Team