Can We Swap Our Pampers?

Can We Swap Our Pampers? By WILLA PLANK Cloth diapers -- touted as kinder to the environment than disposables -- have come a long way since the days when they were held together with safety pins. The latest models are promoting organic ingredients and more-effective leak-resistant designs.

We recruited four tester babies (and their parents) ranging in age from newborn to 2 years old to try some of the newest products. The parents who already use cloth diapers were impressed with the models' quality, though they were a little turned off by high prices. But the new products didn't persuade any regular disposable users to switch to cloth: The diapers still took a lot of time -- and water -- to wash, these testers said.

The jury is still out as to whether cloth diapers are truly the greener option. While they don't pile up in landfills like disposables do, cloth models use a lot of energy and water to launder.

A study updated last year by three U.K. groups -- the Environment Agency of England and Wales, Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) and WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) -- said the environmental impact of using reusable diapers can be either higher or lower than for disposables, depending on how they are laundered. The agencies recommend washing diapers in cold water, line drying them and reusing diapers for other children.

Econappi by Swaddlebees (pictured)

Price/Availability: $28.95 for one diaper; Econappi Organic Diapers

Comment: This one-size diaper was one of the testers' favorite. It's made out organic-cotton velour and has a cotton and hemp pad, which can be placed inside the diaper's pocket or on top of the velour. Testers said the diaper was snug, easy to use, had good wicking qualities, and caused little or no leakage. It also comes in fun colors and designs.

Tiny Tush Trim Organic-Cotton One-Size Fitted Cloth Diapers and Tiny Tush Diaper Covers

Price/Availability: $16.95 for one diaper; $11.95 for diaper cover; www.tinytush.com

Comment: This diaper comes in two parts: the diaper and a cover (sold separately). The biggest complaint was that this product was bulky, especially with the cover. The diaper was also almost too absorbent: One tester called it "a big wet rag."

bumGenius Organic One-Size Cloth Diaper

Price/Availability: $24.95 per diaper; www.cottonbabies.com

Comment: This all-in-one diaper seems the most convenient, since there's no fussing with separate parts. But it took a long time to dry after washing. Two testers also noted that there was some leakage at the leg.

Tots Bots Bamboozle; Bummis Super Whisper Wrap cover; Bummis Super Brite cover

Price/Availability: $18.50 for one Bamboozle, $11-$12.25 per cover; www.bummis.com

Comment: The Bamboozle is made out of soft bamboo fabric, which the manufacturer claims is more absorbent than cotton and is naturally antibacterial. Again, since this diaper needs a separate cover, testers complained that it was bulky. The two-step process is also more of a hassle with wriggling babies.

Side NoteThe article in general did not exactly shed a good light on cloth diapers. The testers basically took a bunch of samples of different diapers and tested them over the weekend and arrived at that conclusion. The writer was particular about reviewing only diapers made with organic fibers. So obviously, all the diapers they reviewed had to be pre-washed a few times. And if they had to wash them after just 1 day's use so they can test them again the next day, that doesn't necessarily mean using cloth will take a lot of washing since we all know most cloth diaper users don't really wash every single day.

Consumer Reports:The type of cloth diaper you choose (as well as whether you go with cloth at all) is a matter of personal preference. If you choose cloth diapers, you will need two to three dozen to begin with, plus six to ten waterproof outer pants. If you go the all-in-one-or diapering-system route, having eight to 10 on hand should be adequate. Buy two or three dozen diaper inserts for the system.

Write to Willa Plank at willa.plank@dowjones.com