Disposable Nappies: A Hello Charlie Cheat Sheet

safer disposable nappy cheat sheet

safer disposable nappy cheat sheet

My eldest son was in cloth nappies full time. We had a great routine going, but we couldn’t work out why our darling baby wouldn’t sleep at night until we realized that the feel of a wet nappy woke him up. We persevered, but eventually, zombie-eyed, we gave in and put him in a disposable at night.

Many of us use disposable nappies, even fully committed cloth nappy users. Sometimes, it’s just easier to use a disposable nappy – when you’re ill, if you’re travelling, or when your baby goes to childcare.

Whatever your reason for using disposables is, it makes sense to choose a nappy that’s better for your baby, and better for the environment. Eco nappies used to have a reputation for having the feel and absorbency of a cardboard box, but that’s definitely not true any more. Our top pick, Bambo Nature, not only scores well on the ethical, ingredients and environmental scores, but was also the best performing nappy amongst our testers, and in a recent review by Baby Gear Lab.

Unfortunately, it’s not as easy to compare disposable nappies as it is to compare baby lotions. Manufacturers don’t have to disclose all their ingredients, and many won’t tell you even if you ask very nicely.

Disposable Nappy Top Picks:

1. Bambo Nature
2. Muumi

These are the only brands with independent eco certifications and good performance.

3. Moltex
4. Naty

Moltex doesn’t have independent eco credentials, but have won many reputable eco awards, and their performance is good. Naty has good eco credentials, but their performance doesn’t match up.

Better than the supermarket brands:

5. Ecoriginals
6. Tooshies by TOM
7. Thank You Nappies
8. Seventh Generation

Thanks, but no thanks:

Huggies
Snugglers
Pampers
Aldi (who I didn’t include below because I couldn’t get any information at all about them)

Ingredients in Disposable Nappies

Because so many manufacturers refuse to disclose what is in their nappies, it’s almost impossible to find out all the different chemicals in some nappies so you can make an informed choice. For this reason, I’d encourage you to choose a nappy where the manufacturer discloses all their ingredients.

I also have a rule of thumb on buying personal products – unless the manufacturer specifically tells you that their product does not contain a harmful ingredient, assume it’s there. Sometimes you’ll have to ask the question, because there’s only so much space on a pack. However, if you want to avoid a particular ingredient, go and check out the manufacturer’s website, and ask questions. If they don’t answer you, assume the worst!

What to look for in a disposable nappy

  • Chlorine free
  • Fragrance free
  • Lotion free
  • Phthalate free
  • Full disclosure of ingredients
  • cradle to grave eco certification for a lower eco footprint

Why is ‘Cradle to Grave’ impact so important?

The cradle to grave, or life cycle analysis, looks at the environmental impact of a nappy though all stages of manufacture. It starts at how the raw materials are grown or made, through to how they’re processed. It looks at the manufacturing processes, and the emissions produced during manufacture. It looks at what happens to the waste produced during manufacture, and how it’s disposed of. And finally, it looks at how the end product is going to be disposed of.

Many ‘eco’ nappies are focused only on disposal. Yet as the Nordic Swan Eco Label points out, up to 80% of a nappy’s environmental impact is all about the raw materials and processing. I recently wrote about why biodegradability is not what makes a nappy eco, so I won’t go into it again here.

But if you’re serious about reducing your eco footprint, you need to consider a nappy’s cradle to grave impact.

bambo nature eco nappies1

What’s in Bambo Nature nappies?

Full disclosure of ingredients: YES
Independent Eco Label: YES
FSC Certified Woodpulp: YES
Perfumes: NO
Lotions: NO
Chlorine: NO (Elemental Chlorine Free)
Latex: NO
Odour Blockers: NO
Optical Brightners: NO
Dyes: NO
Heavy metals or lead in ink: NO
Phthalates: NO
Parabens: NO
Dioxins: NO

Made in Denmark.

What are Bambo Nature nappies made from?

  • Topsheet: non woven polypropylene, made without solvents.
  • Absorbent core: peroxide bleached (chlorine free) wood pulp from FSC Certified sources. SAPs are biodegradable wheat starch and sodium polyacrylates.
  • Backsheet: polypropylene and polyethylene
  • Elastics: lycra
  • Glue: resin and wax (no formaldehyde)
  • Tabs: paper, polyethylene and foil made from polyethylene

Comments:

shop bambo natureAbena are so helpful when it comes to questions about their nappies. Each time I’ve asked about ingredients, I’ve been sent a full list. I’ve also been sent lists of what’s NOT in their nappies, which is very helpful (and very comprehensive).

Here’s the list of what’s not in Bambo Nature nappies. The list includes AZO dyes, phthalates, dyes, heavy metals, formaldehyde, DBT, TBT and MBT, to name a few!

Bambo Nature nappies are certified by the Nordic Swan Eco Label, which has a long list of chemicals that cannot be in the product. It’s an independently certified eco label, run by five Nordic governments, so it’s a trustworthy one. This is an eco label that is concerned with reducing cradle to grave impact. So when you choose Bambo Nature, you’re definitely making a better environmental choice.

Bambo Nature scored top marks in the Ethical Consumer Guide to Disposable Nappies, Baby Gear Lab tests, Choice Magazine tests, Gimme The Good Stuff tests, and Mama Natural’s Green Diaper Showdown.

Eco Verdict: Excellent

Performance: Excellent

Our testers found that Bambo Nature nappies were very absorbent (even for 12 hours on one big sleeper!); they don’t leak; they’re slim and fit well and they’re very soft. Far and away the most popular nappy with our testers.

ecoriginals eco nappies

What’s in Ecoriginals nappies?

Full disclosure of ingredients: NO
Independent Eco Label: NO
FSC Certified Woodpulp: YES
Perfumes: NO
Lotions: NO
Chlorine: NO (Elemental Chlorine Free)
Latex: NO
Odour Blockers: NO
Optical Brightners: NO
Dyes: NO
Heavy metals or lead in ink: NO
Phthalates: NO
Parabens: NO
Dioxins: NO

Made in China, in an ISO certified factory.

  • Topsheet: cellulose spunlace with minor amounts of polypropylene for performance reasons
  • Absorbent core: woodpulp from FSC certified sources, no information on SAPs available
  • Backsheet: cellulose spunlace from woodpulp, Cardia Compostable leak guard film
  • Elastics: information not available
  • Glue: information not available
  • Tabs: information not available

What are Ecoriginals nappies made from?

Comments:shop ecoriginals disposable nappies here

Ecoriginals wouldn’t disclose a full ingredients list, for “commercial in confidence” reasons. They did reply promptly, and with answers to all my other questions, though.

The Cardia Compostable layer is the only part of the nappy that has independent certifications.

Ecoriginals also have compostable packaging. They do have a high percentage of renewable materials, but as I discussed recently, biodegradability is one of the least important measures of whether a nappy is eco friendly or not. What’s important is the cradle to grave impact. When there are no independent certifications, you can’t assume that the raw materials, processing and manufacturing is environmentally friendly. In fact, you have to assume not, otherwise we’d be hearing about it.

Eco Verdict: Above average

Performance: Good

Our testers found that Ecoriginals nappies were okay during the day, but tended to leak at night if the baby slept through the night. Great nappy for day, though. They’re quite bulky on baby’s bum. They’re very soft, and they’re a reasonable fit.

huggies disposable nappies

What’s in Huggies nappies?

Full disclosure of ingredients: NO
Independent Eco Label: NO
FSC Certified Woodpulp: information not available
Perfumes: NO
Lotions: YES
Chlorine: information not available
Latex: NO
Odour Blockers: YES
Optical Brightners: information not available
Dyes: information not available
Heavy metals or lead in ink: information not available
Phthalates: information not available
Parabens: information not available
Dioxins: information not available

Made in Australia.

What’s are Huggies Nappies made from?

  • Topsheet: polypropylene and polyethylene
  • Absorbent core: woodpulp and SAPs
  • Backsheet: information not available
  • Elastics: information not available
  • Glue: information not available
  • Tabs: information not available

Comments:

When I asked Huggies about the ingredients in their nappies, I was directed to their website, where they answer the question ‘What are Huggies nappies made from?’ It’s not exactly comprehensive.

I was less than impressed when I phoned the Huggies Helpline. My three phone calls to the Helpline got different answers each time. I was told there had never been perfumes in their nappies, which isn’t true (or at least isn’t what I was told three years ago).

I was told that the ‘DryTouch’ layer had a lotion, ‘like Vaseline’, but couldn’t get any more information out of them.

The waterproof outer layer, according to the Huggies website, is a ‘cloth like outer cover’. No mention of what it was made of, and the helpline couldn’t tell me.

Although the question of chlorine bleaching used to be on the website, I couldn’t find any information this time, and again, the helpline couldn’t help me. It used to say that they were bleached with hydrogen peroxide, not with chlorine. But I can’t find any information on this at all.

I couldn’t find any information about whether the woodpulp was FSC certified, only that it was from ‘sustainable and renewable plantations’.

The website does say that there’s no triclosan in Huggies. It’s not an ingredient that is usually added to nappies, but it must be a question that Huggies gets asked regularly.

I emailed again with more specific questions, but didn’t get any answers. When I phoned the helpline again, I were told that the information I was after was commercially sensitive, and that they declared everything they had to.

Huggies and Snugglers are made by Kimberly-Clark Australia, and as their website information was identical, I’ve assumed that Snugglers nappies have the same ingredients as Huggies.

Eco Verdict: who knows?

Performance: we didn’t test these, we only tested the eco nappies.

moltex eco disposable nappies

What’s in Moltex nappies?

Full disclosure of ingredients: YES
Independent Eco Label: NO
FSC Certified Woodpulp: YES
Perfumes: NO
Lotions: NO
Chlorine: NO (Elemental Chlorine Free)
Latex: NO
Odour Blockers: YES (tea leaf extract)
Optical Brightners: NO
Dyes: NO
Heavy metals or lead in ink: NO
Phthalates: NO
Parabens: NO
Dioxins: NO

Made in Germany.

What are Moltex Nappies made from?

  • Topsheet: 40% biodegradable PLA (polylactic acid) and 60% polypropylene
  • Absorbent core: woodpulp from FSC certified sources, and sodium polyacrylate super absorbers
  • Backsheet: biodegradable film made from copolyester and PLA
  • Elastics: polyurethane elastomer
  • Glue: thermoplastic adhesive
  • Tabs: polypropylene, polyethylene, polyurethane and thermoplastic adhesive

Comments:

shop moltex disposable nappies hereMoltex was a another manufacturer who replied commendably quickly to my request for information on ingredients. They did this time, and they did when I approached them three years ago.

Although they don’t have any independent eco credentials like the Nordic Swan Eco Label, Moltex nappies were awarded the German ‘Green Brand’ award for 2015/2016. They also won the EcoCare award for sustainability in 2014.

The nappies are also produced with 100% clean energy, certified by Clean Energy Sourcing AG.

Moltex nappies also scored very well in the Ethical Consumer Guide to Disposable Nappies.

Eco Verdict: Great

Performance: Great

Our testers liked these. Overall, the consensus was that they were great on absorbency and didn’t leak overnight. They fitted well, and they were nice and soft. Some of our testers thought they were a little bulky, and the general verdict was that they were great, but not quite as good as Bambo Nature.

Muumi eco nappies

What’s in Muumi Eco Nappies?

Full disclosure of ingredients: NO (still waiting on information)
Independent Eco Label: YES
FSC Certified Woodpulp: YES
Perfumes: NO
Lotions: NO
Chlorine: NO (Totally Chlorine Free)
Latex: NO
Odour Blockers: NO
Optical Brightners: NO
Dyes: NO
Heavy metals or lead in ink: NO
Phthalates: NO
Parabens: NO
Dioxins: NO

Made in Finland.

What are Muumi nappies made from?

  • Topsheet: waiting on information (see comments below)
  • Absorbent core: waiting on information
  • Backsheet: waiting on information
  • Elastics: waiting on information
  • Glue: waiting on information
  • Tabs: waiting on information

Comments:

shop muumi disposable nappies hereI have to admit, it’s a relief when you’re dealing with nappies that have independent eco credentials. It’s so easy to find out the information that you need! Muumi eco nappies have the Nordic Swan Eco Label, the same as Bambo Nature. Which means we know exactly where we’re at.

I was so busy checking out Nordic Swan information that I forgot to email Muumi for their list of ingredients. I did a couple of days ago, so I’m waiting to hear back from them. I’ll update as soon as I hear.

One of the reasons I forgot is that the Nordic Swan Label is such a reliable measure of good quality and excellent eco standards. This is why an eco label is so important – you know exactly what you’re getting.

A couple of extra points on Muumi nappies. They’re packed in biodegradable packaging. And they’re produced with hydroelectric power, which has no carbon dioxide emissions. Their website also mentions that waste is recycled or safely burned so that nothing goes back into landfill, which is a Nordic Swan requirement.

Eco Verdict: Excellent

Performance: Excellent

Our testers loved these nappies. They were absorbent and didn’t leak overnight. They were a little bit stretchier than Bambo Nature, which is great for babies with fat tummies! They’re reasonably thin, but not as thin as Bambo Nature, which were also softer. Overall, these came a very close second to Bambo Nature as the favourites.

pampers disposable nappies

What’s in Pampers nappies?

Full disclosure of ingredients: NO
Independent Eco Label: NO
FSC Certified Woodpulp: NO
Perfumes: YES
Lotions: YES (petroleum based)
Chlorine: no information available
Latex: no information available
Odour Blockers: no information available
Optical Brightners: no information available
Dyes: NO (but there are colourants)
Heavy metals or lead in ink: no information available
Phthalates: no information available
Parabens: no information available
Dioxins: no information available

Made in 25 different countries.

What are Pampers nappies made from?

  • Topsheet: no information available.
  • Absorbent core: fluff pulp and SAPs
  • Backsheet: polypropylene and polyethylene
  • Elastics: no information available
  • Glue: no information available
  • Tabs: no information available

Pampers were probably the least helpful of any of the manufacturers I approached (aside from Aldi, who didn’t bother to reply).

After being asked why I required the information, the response I received was:

“The particular information you are requesting is either confidential or unavailable from our end. Because of this, we regret to inform you that we cannot send the information that you have requested.

May we suggest visiting our global website www.pg.com for the available information?”

Funnily enough, when I searched the Pampers website, I couldn’t find any information on their ingredients at all. Promising looking links found on google were all rerouted back to the generic Pampers homepage.

To be fair, the people at Pampers are probably a little sensitive to questions about their ingredients, after Proctor & Gambles settled a class action against them alleging that Pampers DryMax nappies caused chemical burns.

The best I could find on the Pampers website was a thread saying that Pampers that nappies contain pulp, cotton, a small amount of glue and SAPs. The link for further information, posted by Mike at Pampers, led straight back to the Pampers homepage. Further requests for information on the same thread weren’t answered.

Lots more research and digging around revealed that Pampers also use polypropylene and polyethylene in their waterproof sheets, as well as fragrance (hello, phthalate alert!) and lotion which contains petrolatum.

In other words, nothing that we didn’t already know, and nothing to assuage any of our concerns that they’re using toxic ingredients.

Perhaps when you sell $10 billion worth of them a year, you don’t feel that you have to answer your customer’s queries?

Eco Verdict: who knows?

Performance: We don’t know, as we only tested eco nappies.
naty eco nappies

What’s in Naty nappies?

Full disclosure of ingredients: NO
Independent Eco Label: YES (SSNC Good Environmental Choice)
FSC Certified Woodpulp: YES
Perfumes: NO
Lotions: no information available
Chlorine: NO (Totally Chlorine Free)
Latex: NO
Odour Blockers: no information available
Optical Brightners: no information available
Dyes: NO
Heavy metals or lead in ink: NO
Phthalates: NO
Parabens: no information available
Dioxins: NO

Made in Denmark.

What are Naty nappies made from?

  • Topsheet: Mater-Bi bioplastic film made from
  • Absorbent core: wood pulp from FSC certified forests, and SAPs
  • Backsheet: paper from FSC certified forestry, GM free cornstarch based biodegradable leakproof film
  • Elastics: no information available
  • Glue: no information available
  • Tabs: no information available

Comments:

In response to our request for a full list of ingredients, we were given a link that directed us to the Naty website.

Last time I reviewed these I was annoyed by some of the claims that Naty made, like ‘we are the only nappy brand that declares it’s eco ingredients’ (which is not true). They’re still saying this, but they’re still not disclosing full ingredients. I found more information here, but still not full ingredients.

There’s an FAQ page. That tells us that Naty nappies ‘use cornstarch and other natural ingredients wherever possible’, and that they ‘consist of chlorine free pulp to help with absorption, a backsheet and distribution center based on corn, as well as chlorine free cellulose in the nappy. To further improve the absorption of our nappies we use a small amount of SAP’.

I’m frustrated by the lack of information, but I am reassured by the SSNC Good Environmental Choice eco label. It’s a cradle to grave eco label, and it’s a reputable one. So for all that there’s no information on ingredients, I’m still happy that these are a good environmental choice.

Eco Verdict: Great

Performance: Not so great

Our testers didn’t like these at all. They weren’t bulky, which was good, but they weren’t a good fit. They weren’t absorbent and they leaked overnight. The tabs didn’t seem very strong (we had a few breakages). The nappy itself isn’t very soft, and our testers didn’t like that. So although the eco credentials are good, the nappies don’t seem to work very well.

seventh generation eco nappies

What’s in Seventh Generation nappies?

Full disclosure of ingredients: NO
Independent Eco Label: NO
FSC Certified Woodpulp: YES (PEFC and FSC certified)
Perfumes: NO
Lotions: YES (petroleum free but no further information available)
Chlorine: NO
Latex: NO
Odour Blockers: no information available
Optical Brightners: no information available
Dyes: YES (brown pigments)
Heavy metals or lead in ink: NO
Phthalates: NO
Parabens: NO
Dioxins: no information available

Made in USA.

What are Seventh Generation nappies made from?

  • Topsheet: polypropylene
  • Absorbent core: wood fluff pulp, sodium polyacrylates (SAPs)
  • Backsheet: polypropylene
  • Elastics: polymer spandex (fastening system and leg elastics), polyurethane (waist elastic)
  • Glue: no information available (commercially senstive)
  • Tabs: polypropylene

Comments:

shop seventh generation disposable nappies hereWhen I first emailed three years ago, Seventh Generation replied quite promptly to my email requesting ingredients. They emailed me the list of ingredients, which was the same on their website. Further digging didn’t get me much further.

We asked about the brownish colour (the ‘pigments’ in the ingredients listing), and were told that these were a dye, and in answer to our questions about they dye, Seventh Generation says: “The blend is proprietary to the supplier of the pigment. To the best of our knowledge, there are no known toxicity issues associated with the use of these pigments.”

Interestingly, their website also states: “Seventh Generation diapers are not biodegradable, nor can they be composted. Many of the materials used are synthetic, and do not biodegrade.” It’s actually quite refreshing to come across this lack of greenwash! Like all disposable nappies, even Huggies, the inner core is made from wood pulp, and this part as least is biodegradable, making up around 30 to 35% of the volume. It’s certainly not as good as Bambo Nature, Muumi, or Moltex, all of which have biodegradability (and thus are made of renewable materials) up at around 75 to 80%.

This time round, I haven’t had any replies to my emails. To be fair, I did only email earlier this week. I’ll update the Seventh Generation information as soon as I hear back.

Eco Verdict: Average

Performance: Average

Our testers thought the nappy felt a little rough. It’s a thin and stretchy nappy, so the fit is slim and quite good. But it wasn’t particularly absorbent, and although it didn’t leak, it felt wet.

thank you eco nappies

What’s in Thank You Nappies?

Full disclosure of ingredients: NO
Independent Eco Label: NO
FSC Certified Woodpulp: YES
Perfumes: NO
Lotions: YES (aloe vera & vitamin e extracts)
Chlorine: NO (Elemental Chlorine Free)
Latex: NO
Odour Blockers: NO
Optical Brightners: NO
Dyes: no information available
Heavy metals or lead in ink: NO
Phthalates: NO
Parabens: NO
Dioxins: NO

Made in China in a SEDEX (ethical certification) factory.

What are Thank You nappies made from?

  • Topsheet: polypropylene
  • Absorbent core: FSC certified wood pulp, SAPs
  • Backsheet: polypropylene
  • Elastics: spandex
  • Glue: no information available
  • Tabs: Velcro, but no other information available

Comments:

The people at Thank You were commendably prompt and helpful in replying to my emails. I didn’t get a full list of ingredients, but all of my other questions were answered. It seems to me that companies who manufacture their own eco nappies give out ingredients lists, because they understand how important it is to consumers.

However, Thank You don’t manufacture their own products, so they’re dependent on the manufacturer to give them ingredients lists. And the manufacturers aren’t as forthcoming. Compare this to Abena (who make Bambo Nature) and Moltex, who simply emailed me the list.

Thank You nappies look okay. They don’t have perfumes, chlorine, latex, odour blockers, optical brighteners, etc. But aside from the FSC certified woodpulp, there’s a not a lot of eco going on. But they are still a better choice for your baby than Huggies or Pampers.

And I love the fact that 100% of their profits go to child and maternal health programs for families in need around the world. So on this alone, if you’re making a choice in the supermarket, go with Thank You nappies rather than the multi-national brands. Of course, Coles and Woolworths aren’t donating any of their profits, but that’s a choice you make when you shop there.

Eco Verdict: Average

Performance: We haven’t had a chance to test these out yet.

tooshies by TOM eco nappies

What’s in Tooshies Nappies?

Full disclosure of ingredients: NO
Independent Eco Label: NO
FSC Certified Woodpulp: NO
Perfumes: NO
Lotions: NO
Chlorine: NO (Elemental Chlorine Free)
Latex: NO
Odour Blockers: YES (citrus extract and liquid chlorophyll)
Optical Brightners: NO
Dyes: NO
Heavy metals or lead in ink: NO
Phthalates: NO
Parabens: NO
Dioxins: NO

Made in Mexico.

What are Tooshies nappies made from?

  • Topsheet: biodegradable PLA (plant based plastic)
  • Absorbent core: wood pulp from sustainably managed forests (not FSC certified), super absorbers made from biodegradable corn polymer and sodium polyacrylates
  • Backsheet: biodegradable PLA (plant based plastic)
  • Elastics: polypropylene, polymer spandex, polyolefin
  • Glue: no information except that they are phthalate free
  • Tabs: polypropylene

Comments:

shop tooshies nappiesTooshies were very helpful in giving me information about their nappies. But in the same way that the manufacturers haven’t given Thank You a full ingredients list, neither have Tooshies’ manufacturers.

They’re certainly trying to do the right thing. With no independent eco credentials or cradle to grave measurements, they’re not as eco friendly as Bambo Nature or Muumi, or even Naty. But they’re certainly a much better choice than the multi-national brands.

Eco Verdict: Above average

Performance Verdict: Average

Our testers loved the cute patterns, and thought that the fit was good and that they were nice and stretchy. They were thin, and not bulky under clothing, which is good. Unfortunately, they tended to leak overnight on a big sleeper.

Links to other disposable nappy comparisons

Our investigations and testing seems to be replicated in tests and comparisons around the world. If you’re interested, go have a look at some of these disposable nappy comparisons, too.

Ethical Consumer (UK)

Although this is a paid report, there’s plenty of information available free. There’s a really interesting interactive score table that you can manipulate to see which nappy scores best on different scores. Although Seventh Generation and Beaming Baby nappies weren’t reviewed, it’s very clear that Bambo Nature comes out on top, closely followed by Moltex and Nature Babycare (Naty). Huggies are about halfway down, and Pampers is at the very bottom of the ethical score.

CHOICE magazine (Australia)

Baby Gear Lab (US)

Gimme the Good Stuff (US)

Mama Natural’s Green Diaper Showdown (US)

The usual disclaimer and copyrights apply.

If you’d like to share this information with other parents, please feel free to do so. However, please bear in mind the time that it takes for me to do this research, and do the right thing by attributing this article back to me here at Hello Charlie. Thanks!

© Copyright Vanessa Layton 2016