Non-Toxic Diapers. It goes without saying that diapers will play a big role in your life once your baby is born. During the newborn stage alone, you’ll probably change 8-10 diapers a day! Thankfully, that slows down as your baby gets older, but you’ll still become an expert at changing diapers right out of the gate.
Have you started thinking about what diapers you’ll use? Unfortunately, not all diapers are made the same and it’s important to look into the materials used in diapers, since diapers come in direct contact with your baby for prolonged periods of time.
It’s sad to say, but many mainstream disposable diapers contain toxic chemicals and fragrances which have been linked to asthma, hormonal problems, developmental delays, and even cancer. Thankfully there are a number of safer alternatives, including organic cloth diapers and eco-friendly or non-toxic diapers. Maybe you plan on using cloth diapers at home, and using disposables when you’re out. Or maybe you’ll switch to cloth diapers after the first couple of months. It’s up to you, and I realize that cloth diapering may not be practical or realistic for every family. (We personally chose to use disposable diapers with both our boys, though I do have regrets over this decision.)
While disposable diapers are far from perfect, I am happy to report that there are several safer brands for you to choose from.
What Chemicals Should You Avoid in Diapers?
Diaper manufacturers are not required to disclose all of their ingredients, and some companies won’t even tell you what is in their diapers. That’s a red flag that tells me that some diaper brands may contain even more harmful ingredients than we realize.
Chlorine and its Derivatives
Disposable diapers were traditionally made using wood pulp that was bleached with elemental chlorine gas. This process is toxic and results in a byproduct called dioxins. Dioxins are a class of highly toxic chemicals that accumulate in your body and can wreak havoc on the immune system. The World Health Organization lists dioxins as highly carcinogenic, and they are also known to cause allergic skin reactions and irritations. 
Thanks growing concerns over the byproducts of chlorine bleaching, government regulations in the 1990s eliminated wood pulp bleached with chlorine gas.  As a result, two safer bleaching methods have become the standard in wood pulp bleaching used in disposable diapers:
- ECF: elemental chlorine free pulp. [Not recommended] You’ll now find diapers that are marketed using ECF pulp, which means that elemental chlorine is not used. However, the pulp is bleached with chlorine dioxide, which is a chlorine derivative and itself is a hazardous substance. This process reduces dioxins, but it believed that it does not fully eliminate them and simply that some testing mechanisms may not be able to detect their presence.  Since the data is inconclusive, and chlorine dioxide is still a derivative of chlorine, I prefer to avoid ECF when possible. This process is safer than bleaching with elemental chlorine, but I do not recommend elemental chlorine-free diapers if and when there are better alternatives available.
- TCF: total chlorine free pulp. TCF is a bleaching process that does not use chlorine or chlorine derivatives. It is a much safer process because it uses oxygen, peroxide, or ozone-based bleaching systems. These methods are safer than using chlorine because they do not generate dioxins. This is the safest bleaching method you’ll find being used in diapers at this time. Always look for TCF (total chlorine-free) pulp.
NOTE: Don’t fall for technicalities or greenwashing. It is NOT enough for a company to call their diapers “chlorine-free” because they may be claiming that it does not contain elemental chlorine while it does contain chlorine dioxide. Always look for pulp that is TCF total chlorine-free.
Can You Avoid Sodium Polyacrylate?
As far as I can tell, all disposable diapers contain sodium polyacrylate (SAP) because this is the material that makes diapers absorbent. If you have ever had a diaper break apart after a leak, you may have noticed sodium polyacrylate as small gel-like crystals on your baby’s skin. (By the way, you should discontinue using any diapers that leak gels/crystals onto your baby’s skin — and ask the company for a refund.)
Sodium polyacrylate is believed to cause skin irritations, and may or may not be a health hazard. It is the same chemical found in tampons that was linked to Toxic Shock Syndrome in women in the 1980s, though this may have been because women left the tampons in too long and created a breeding ground for bacteria.
Sadly, however, I have found that all disposable diapers contain some form of SAP, including eco-friendly and non-toxic diapers. Many also contain layers made with plastic that will also come in contact with your baby’s skin. If you are able to use cloth diapers, this is the best way to avoid SAP and plastic-based ingredients.
Other Chemicals to Avoid
Here’s a short list of other chemicals of concern commonly found in diapers:
- Tributyltin. Another chemical found in many disposable diapers is tributyltin or TBT. This chemical is known to be extremely harmful to water life and may also cause skin problems in humans.
- VOCs. Disposable diapers commonly contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are chemicals that have a high vapor pressure at room temperature.  The VOCs commonly found in disposable diapers include such chemicals as toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene. These chemicals can evaporate and cause impaired immune function and damage to the liver, kidneys, respiratory system, and lungs.
- Fragrances. Besides the chemicals mentioned above, fragrances, dyes, and plastics are all used in many disposable diaper brands. Anytime a company lists “fragrance” in their list of ingredients, it means they are not disclosing the full list of ingredients in their fragrance due to a loophole in the law that allows for the protection of trade secrets. This may contain phthalates, which are known endocrine disruptors. Using products that contain a nondescript “fragrance” puts your baby’s skin in direct contact with these chemicals and puts them at risk of rashes, allergic reactions, and other health hazards.
What Are The Best Non-Toxic Disposable Diapers?
To avoid these harmful ingredients (with the exception of SAP because it is in all disposables), choose disposable diapers that are made with safer materials. These diapers are safer than mainstream diaper brands because they use less harmful chemicals and materials, and provide:
- Reduced risk of irritation and diaper rash
- Reduced risk of allergic reaction
- Reduced exposure to harsh chemicals and fragrances
While there is no perfect disposable diaper on the market, this list should provide enough reasons to forgo using mainstream diapers! And the best thing is that non-toxic diapers can be just as effective and absorbent as mainstream diapers. So, here is my list of the best non-toxic diapers.
Andy Pandy disposable diapers are chlorine-free, biodegradable, and eco-friendly. They contain no phthalates, BPA, PVC, alcohol, TBT, or preservatives. Andy Pandy diapers use an aloe liner to moisturize baby’s skin, and are breathable to help circulate air and keep baby’s bottom dry. You’ll also notice a wetness indicator like you’ll find in many mainstream brands. A yellow line on the front will turn green when it’s time for a diaper change. (This is a very helpful feature for the newborn stage, when you will need to count wet diapers right after your baby is born.)
Because of the materials used, Andy Pandy diapers are naturally hypoallergenic and antibacterial, meaning they’re another great choice for babies with sensitive skin. The company has also confirmed that they do not use any GMO materials and their diapers have been tested to not contain heavy metals. Andy Pandy diapers are a great option for non-toxic disposable diapers.
I have tried Andy Pandy diapers myself and was impressed with how soft and absorbent they are. And a lot of moms in my Facebook Group have also switched to these diapers and love them. They definitely get my recommendation!
Andy Pandy Diapers Ingredients: 100% Non-woven bamboo fiber for our top sheet and back sheets. This is going to be directly in contact with your baby’s skin and we assure you that there has been no use of harmful chemical pesticides to treat the bamboo. TCF (Totally Chlorine Free) Fluff Pulp Sumitomo SAP Pure aloe essence (just a light mist on inner layer to provide nourishment to baby’s skin) Elastic in the waistband and around the legs Velcro tape Adhesive PH Strip (Wetness Indicator).
Though I don’t use many Honest Company baby products, I believe their diapers are among some of the best disposables available. They are well made, use mostly good materials, and very absorbent. Their super-absorbent core is made from ECF fluff pulp that was harvested from sustainably managed forests. Their diapers are made without fragrances and lotions, but they do use citrus extract and liquid chlorophyll as odor inhibitors.
Honest Company diapers were reformulated in 2018, and now the inner layer is made from polyethylene and polypropylene, which is unfortunate since they previously used a plant-based PLA inner layer. So, please note that your baby will come in direct contact with these plastic-based materials. However, some sellers on Amazon are reportedly still selling Honest Company’s old formulation diapers, though it is not guaranteed that you will receive the old diapers when you order.
There have been a number of reviews that claim the diapers tend to leak, but Honest Diapers have a huge following and I know many families that are very happy with them. We personally use their toddler training pants and have had a great experience with them. Honest Company diapers are manufactured in Mexico.
Honest Company Diaper Ingredients (NEW FORMULATION): Absorbent Bio-Core [Totally Chlorine-Free (TCF) Wood Pulp From Sustainably Managed Forests, Sodium Polyacrylate Containing Renewable Materials & Odor Inhibitors Including Citrus Extract & Liquid Chlorophyll], Outer Layer (Plant-Based PLA), Inner Layer (Polyethylene & Polypropylene), Leg/Waist System (Polymer Spandex & Polypropylene), Polyolefin Adhesives in the Seams & Joints, Super-Cute Design on Backsheet (Inks)
Honest Company Diaper Ingredients (OLD FORMULATION): Totally Chlorine-Free (TCF) Wood Pulp (From Sustainably Managed Forests), Absorbent Bio-Core (Wheat Polymer Blended With Sodium Polyacrylate), Plant-Based PLA (Inner & Outer Layer), Adhesives (In Seams & Joints), Polymer Spandex & Polypropylene (In Leg/Waist System), Ink, Citrus Extract & Liquid Chlorophyll (Natural-Derived Odor Blockers In Bio-Core)
Overall, Honest Diapers are still a great and reliable choice. You can shop Honest diapers on Amazon or subscribe via the Honest website. They also offer a free trial of their diapers and wipes subscription service. (Their wipes are great too – I prefer to use them for wiping hands when we are out, and instead use Water Wipes for cleaning bottoms after dirty diapers.) Just be sure to cancel your subscription within seven days or you will be automatically subscribed to their $79.95/month plan, which includes six packs of diapers and four packs of wipes. (Check their website for complete terms and the latest pricing.)
Naty by Nature Babycare Diapers are also a great pick when you’re looking for natural diapers because they contain no phthalates, organotins (MBT, DBT, TBT), allergens, carcinogens, heavy metals, chlorine, formaldehyde, colophonium, dyes, PVC, GMOs, dioxins, or any substances known to be harmful. Naty diapers also don’t have any fragrances or perfumes so you don’t need to worry about skin reactions caused by questionable fragrance ingredients.
Naty Diapers are certified by the Swedish Society for Nature Conservancy, and are made from more than 60% natural biodegradable materials. Please note that they are made using cornstarch, which can be a potential allergen to the most sensitive of babies.
Developed in Sweden and made in Turkey, Naty Diapers are known for being absorbent and having a great fit, but there have been recent reports of defective diapers and leaking after a redesign. The reviews have been mixed, but I myself didn’t experience any of the issues that some parents have reported when I tested out these diapers.
4. ABBY & FINN Diapers
A relatively new brand, ABBY & FINN diapers look very promising! They are made with TCF pulp, and contain no chlorine or its derivatives, heavy metals, latex, fragrances, lotions or moisturizers, known allergens, or dyes. When ordering, you have the option to choose multiple sizes and patterns, which is a nice convenience.
However, these diapers are made using polypropylene, polyethylene film, and polyester. If you are trying to avoid synthetic materials altogether, you’ll want to stick with a brand like Andy Pandy. If you are considering ordering Abby & Finn diapers, please do not order their wipes bundle because the ingredients are not recommended, mainly because polysorbate 20 is the second ingredient listed.)
ABBY & FINN Diaper Ingredients: TCF (totally chlorine free) Wood Pulp from sustainably managed forests, SAP (super absorbent polymer) – Sodium Polyacrylate, Topsheet – extra soft, 100% pp nonwoven, Core wrap, leg cuffs – 100% pp nonwoven, Acquisition Layer – Polyester Fibers, Backsheet – pp fibers and pe film for softness and liquid containment, Leg, Waist and Crotch elastics – polyurethane.
Parasol is a relatively new company and their diapers are free of heavy metals, latex, and chlorine (they are TCF). The company uses fluff pulp harvested from sustainably managed forests for absorbency. Parasol diapers have received certifications from several environmental organizations which show its commitment to providing environmentally safe products. Parasol also does not test on animals so you can feel good about that when you’re buying its products.
Parasol diapers are manufactured in the Czech Republic. Their diapers are cute and feature designs from emerging artists in the United States.
Parasol Diaper Ingredients: Polypropylene non-woven, Super-absorbent Polymer (Sodium Polyacrylate), Wood Pulp (total chlorine-free), Polyethylene Film, Latex-free Hygiene-grade Elastic, Hook and Loop Closing Tabs.
6. Runner Up: Bambo Nature Diapers
Bambo diapers are a favorite not only because they are super absorbent but because they contain no allergens, perfumes, or harsh chemicals. That means you won’t find any elemental chlorine, formaldehyde, phthalates, PVC, heavy metals, carcinogens, latex, odor inhibitors, lotions, or any other substances that are known to be harmful. Bambo’s breathability is noteworthy, and your baby will still feel dry with a full diaper, which keeps them free of those pesky diaper rashes. Bambo Nature diapers are made in Denmark.
We have used Bambo’s classic (green bag) diapers since my oldest was just a couple of weeks old. I tried a few other brands of total chlorine-free diapers, but none even came close to Bambo in absorbency, comfort, fit, and ingredients. Even with a full overnight diaper, my boys are still dry thanks to the absorbency and breathability. This is also one of the reasons we hardly ever get redness or diaper rashes – your baby’s bottom will stay dry with these diapers.
Bambo also recently rebranded their diapers and launched the new (white bag) diapers. These have a wetness indicator, which is perfect for the newborn stage when you need to count wet diapers to make sure your baby is getting enough milk. The new diapers also feature a new design and seem a little thinner and softer than the classic version. However, other than that I couldn’t identify much of a difference except that maybe they are slightly flimsier than the classic Bambo diapers. (We are still mostly using the classic diapers.)
NOTE: Although they market themselves as chlorine-free, and this claim is technically not inaccurate, Bambo Nature diapers are not TCF. They are made with ECF wood pulp, which is disappointing considering the high price of these diapers. They are among the priciest disposable diapers available, so it is difficult to justify the cost when there are TCF diapers available at better price points. On the other hand, I can say with confidence that they are still high quality diapers and my kids have not had any issues with them, despite my second baby having eczema and sensitive skin and the top sheet being made from polypropylene.
Bambo Nature Ingredients: Non-woven backsheet (outer side) of polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene (PE). Absorbent of polyacrylate (SAP) and cellulose (ECF fluff). Topsheet of non-woven (PP). Acquisition layer of non-woven (PET/Co-PET). Hook tab fastening system of non-woven (PP/PE). Adhesive made of synthetic rubber—no optical brightener added. Wetness indicator. Elastication made from elastane.
7. Runner Up: Thrive Market Diapers
Thrive is an online market that sells products made with renewable and sustainable raw materials. Their diapers are no different, given the company’s commitment to using natural materials and avoid petroleum-based materials whenever possible. Besides being better for the environment and safer for your baby, these diapers are also known to be super absorbent so it’s a win-win all around!
The best thing about these diapers? Their price. They come in at around 19 cents per diaper, which is pretty amazing for any brand on this list of non-toxic diapers. A few things to know before choosing this brand: the newborn size can run pretty small (so I wouldn’t stock up in advance), and these diapers aren’t as soft as some of the other diapers on this list. They also contain a “plant-based” absorbent core made from GMO corn that I’m not 100% crazy about. Otherwise, they are a great pick for a safer diaper on a budget.
Thrive Market Baby Diapers Ingredients: Totally Chlorine-Free Wood Pulp (From Sustainably Managed Forests. No Optical Brighteners), Absorbent Core (Sodium Polyacrylate Blended With Plant-Based & Plant-Derived Material), Plant-Based PLA (Inner & Outer Layer), Safe Adhesives (In Seams & Joints), Polymer Spandex & Polypropylene (In Leg/Waist System), Ink (Made Without Lead & Heavy Metals In Printed Backsheet), Citrus Extract & Liquid Chlorophyll (Natural Acting Odor Blockers In Absorbent-Core)
How to Save Money on Non-Toxic Diapers
Buying non-toxic disposable diapers is definitely an investment in your baby’s health. They can run from 20-50 cents or more per diaper, depending on which brand you buy and where you shop. At the same time, diaper deals on mainstream brands like Huggies and Pampers are nearly everywhere, making it really tempting to forgo your commitment to only using eco-friendly diapers.
The great news is that Amazon offers a 20% discount on diapers to Amazon Prime members with its Subscribe & Save program. All you have to do is sign up to be a member of Amazon Prime, join Amazon Family for free, and sign up to receive diapers on a regularly schedule. You can choose delivery dates ranging from 1-6 months, according to your own needs and preferences.
We have a 6-pack box of diapers delivered to us each month, and it means that I never run out of diapers! (Or have to keep track of how many I have.) The nice thing is that even as your baby grows in size, you’ll be able to easily change your diaper subscription because Amazon will email you a reminder before sending each shipment.
Having your diapers and wipes on auto-ship is one of my favorite tips for new moms. If you aren’t already a member of Amazon Family, sign up for a free 30-day trial today.
Investing in non-toxic diapers is one of the most important decisions you can make for your baby. Because of such prolonged use, the risk of exposure to toxic substances from traditional diapers is high and simply not worth the cost savings that you’d get from using mainstream brands.
Natural diapers like the ones listed above can run you anywhere from 30 to 60 cents per diaper, but your baby’s health is worth it. Isn’t it better to have peace of mind to know you’re using safer, chlorine-free diapers for your little one?
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Sources:  World Health Organization  Common Diaper Ingredient Questions: Modern Disposable Diaper Materials Are Safe and Extensively Tested  Conservatree: Chlorine Free Processing  Wikipedia  The Chemicals in Disposable Diapers