In this era of environmental awareness, the diaper industry has had to reinvent itself.
When today’s parents were tots, many of them signed up for cloth diaper delivery services in order to avoid sending mountains of disposable diapers to the landfill. Soon, though, reports surfaced that these diaper services—with their gas-guzzling delivery trucks and high-volume washing machines and dryers—were as destructive, or more destructive, to the environment than disposables.
Aghast, some parents returned to the age-old chore of scrubbing traditional cloth diapers by hand in a washtub or toilet. In the meantime, compostable disposable diapers came on the market.
However, many parents who believe in living lightly on the earth or who distrust some of the materials used in making disposable diapers have returned to the practice of washing and reusing cloth diapers.
Toddlers and cloth diapers
Mobile toddlers who eat a varied diet of solid foods present a unique challenge.
For parents of toddlers to manage cloth diapers without going insane, the diapers need to move with the child, stand up to near-daily washing, and accommodate large amounts of you-know-what.
Parents of younger toddlers will want a product that secures in place well enough to prevent the child from un-diapering himself at odd moments; later on, they will want a diaper compatible with the logistics of potty training.
In general, the pocket diapers reviewed in this article are sold as kits, including a set number of covers, inserts, and, in some cases, a waterproof bag to use to carry diapers to the laundry. They are all machine washable with detailed washing instructions; in most cases, the covers cannot be dried in the dryer with the inserts, but they do air-dry quickly.
They are also advertised as one-size-fits-all and are therefore much more economical than either disposables or the delivery services of the past. We tested these products for durability, ease of use and washing, and suitability to the unique needs of toddlers
Let's take a quick look at our favorites.
Quick comparison: Best cloth diapers for toddlers
Characteristics we love
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Nora’s Nursery Baby
- Adjustable snaps, so it
- One-size-fits-all, thanks to
QTPIE Cloth Pocket Diapers
- Very absorbent,
LBB Fitted Adjustable
- Very easy to use
- Very durable
- Little to no leakage
For more on these reusable diapers, keep reading!
Nora’s Nursery Baby Cloth Pocket Diapers
Overall we found this to be a great product. These diapers leak only minimally, especially when used with two liners. We did find mixed results with the liners, however. On the one hand, the manufacturer’s claim that they resist stains and odor is quite true. On the other hand, these inserts started fraying in the wash after only a few months, unlike other products that held up for a year or more.
We also found ourselves constantly adjusting the fit of the diaper in order to prevent the inserts from slipping around and bunching up, and eventually we determined that the problem wasn’t with the fit of the cover but with the inserts and the design of the pocket. This problem diminished somewhat when we used two liners. For those who are put off by the “bubble-butt” look (which we find pretty adorable!), these were the least bulky cloth diapers we tested.
- One-size-fits-all claim holds up well for newborns through toddlers weighing up to 33 pounds
- Very little leakage during the day
- Less bulky than other cloth diapers
- Distinct chemical smell on these diapers when we first took them out of the package, but it faded after a few washes
- Inserts tend to bunch up and shift around inside the cover, even when the cover is adjusted to the correct size
- Not quite absorbent enough for overnight use
Our favorite feature
These inserts resist stains and odor better than any we tested.
AngelicWare Cloth Diapers Set
This diaper has double leg gussets to help hold wetness in, and the charcoal bamboo inserts consist of five layers of absorbent material. The double gussets are perfect for smaller toddlers, but we found them a little too tight on chunkier children. We found these to be not only absorbent but also cool and breathable—perfect for hot weather.
These diapers are durable and hold up over time, and we even noticed that their absorbency increased with each wash!
We also love the fact that the wet bag that comes with this product can snap onto a stroller for use during outings.
- Cool and breathable; perfect for use in hot weather
- Very absorbent; we found almost no incidence of diaper rash
- Dries faster than any other product we tested, both in the dryer and on the line
- Prints are not always as advertised
- Double-gusseted leg openings may be too snug on larger toddlers
Our favorite feature
The bamboo-charcoal inserts are extremely absorbent and resist odor.
QTPIE Cloth Pocket Diapers with Inserts and Wet Bag
This is an adorable and absorbent product, especially for babies and small toddlers. We love the prints on both the diapers and the wet bag, and we found these diapers appropriate for toddlers of 22-30 pounds.
When the stitching around the elastic bands started to unravel after only a few months of use, we contacted the company and were satisfied to find that they cheerfully replaced the worn-out items. We felt that these diapers are a great investment, as long as your toddler is on the small side.
- Waterproof bag that comes with this product is the best one we tested
- Diapers are extremely absorbent, even overnight
- We love the adorable prints on these covers
- Stitching holding in the elastic wears out well before the rest of the diaper, leaving the elastic exposed
- Inserts tend to slip around because the pocket is open at both ends
- More leakage than other products on larger toddlers
Our favorite feature
Hands down, these covers are the cutest!
LBB Fitted Adjustable Cloth Diaper
These covers are made of a soft fabric—inside and out—yet the diaper is still generally absorbent, especially on babies and more petite toddlers. However, this inside material is made of polyester, so parents who wish to avoid synthetic fibers should not choose this product.
About half of the covers held up perfectly for as long as one year, even with daily washing, and we found that if we followed the washing instructions to the letter—adding salt to each load when washing the inserts, for example—we experienced little to no staining.
Overall, we recommend this product for petite toddlers who will not need the very largest sizes of this adjustable diaper, especially for children with sensitive skin.
- Covers are soft and attractive in both prints and solid colors
- Very little incidence of diaper rash; excellent for children with sensitive skin
- Detailed washing instructions help cut down on staining and smell retention
- On larger toddlers of 30 pounds or more, this product leaks and leaves elastic marks on the child’s skin
- Inside of cover is made of polyester
- Cloth interior makes it difficult to wipe the covers clean between washes
Our favorite feature
Its three different sets of closures—hip, rise, and crossover snaps—make this the most adjustable product we tested.
Babygoal Reuseable Cloth Diaper
We found this to be a fantastic product. While its one-size-fits-all claim did not always hold up on the smaller end (i.e. with newborns), this product is perfect for older babies and toddlers, even those on the chunkier side. While no diaper is entirely leak-proof, we found that this one leaks less than most.
The covers and inserts durable to the extreme; in one case, they stood up to 16 months of continuous use by an active, growing child, even with daily washing. It’s true that this product is bulky, and parents who use it should get in the habit of buying their child’s pants one size larger than normal.
These diapers are compatible with toilet training if you snap them shut more loosely than normal—otherwise toddlers cannot pull them down by themselves. For this reason, parents of larger toddlers who are already using these diapers at their largest size may want to switch to disposables when toilet training begins.
We found the soft, “minky” texture absolutely luscious, but it was a bit too warm for the hottest summer days, so if you live in a hot climate you might want to plan on an alternative.
- Very good price for quality
- Durable; we found that these diapers last as long as 16 months, even with daily washing
- Fits children up to 30 lbs with minimal leaking
- Tend to shrink upon first washing
- Prints are distributed at random in each kit; the prints you see when you order this product online are not necessarily the ones you will receive
- Inserts not absorbent enough for heavy wetters; however, you can use the covers with multiple inserts or with inserts made by another company (or check out this article for an alternative)
Our favorite feature
The outer surface of the cover, described as “minky,” is extremely soft and appealing.
Once you find a cloth diaper that works for your child’s age and size, develop a laundering routine, and master the sometimes-confusing process of adjusting the diaper covers as your child grows, there is no question that cloth diapers are an excellent investment that is gentle on both the environment and the wallet.
If you have multiple children in diapers, cloth diapers mean that you may not have to purchase diapers in two or more different sizes—and you won’t be stuck with piles of leftover disposables after a growth spurt.
It’s true that we found some leakage with every product we reviewed here, but all diapers leak, even disposables. And while an adjustment to cloth diapers requires some trial and error, what part of parenting doesn’t?