Diapers Review: Seventh Generation, WF 365, gDiapers

gdiaper.jpg sevgen_diaper.jpg

For those of you who want to be less polluting with the diapers, but don’t want to go “all the way” to cloth diapers, here’s a comparison of the diapers we have experience with.

  1. We used Seventh Generation diapers for a long time (about 16 months)
  2. Four months ago we switched over to the Whole Foods Private Label 365 Everyday Value Diapers.
  3. Three weeks ago we switched over to gDiapers.

Amie in gDiapers (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

  • Comfort, leaks and diaper rash

The comfort of a particular brand, its propensity to cause diaper rash, and the occurence of leaks for a large part depends on the baby: their physical build, their way of moving, the sensitivity of their skin…

  1. We started using Seventh Generation Diapers the moment Amie was born and were perfectly happy with them. There are some issues with the sizes – Amie always needed a size larger than was specified as per the weight limits on the packages. But there were rarely any leaks (even though Amie was an early and vigorous roller/crawler/walker/runner/tumbler), and blessedly no diaper rash. I guess you could say we were loyal to Seventh Generation (and still are: we use many of their cleaning products), but for some reason they became considerably more pricey a couple of months ago.
  2. At that time Whole Foods just happened (?) to put their own WF 365 brand on their shelves. These are cheaper by a couple of dollars, and also chlorine-free (and bright white, though the brownness of the Seventh Generation diapers never bothered us). Also these never gave us leaks or diaper rash.
  3. As we got to read more about trash and landfills, we decided to give the flushable gDiapers a go. You can get them from their online store, and they are also sold at some of the larger Whole Foods stores. I’ll go into detail about these later in this review.
  • Chlorine Free

What attracted us to each of these three brands was that they are ECF or elemental chlorine-free and thus better for baby and better for the environment than your average disposable diaper. Totally chlorine-free means dioxin-free (dioxin is a carcinogenic byproduct created by whitening with chlorine).

  • Latex, TBT, polyurethane

Seventh Generation is clear about the other health and ecological advantages of their diapers. They are also:

  1. latex-free
  2. fragrance-free
  3. TBT-free (tributyl tin is a biocide/fungicide -i.e., a poison – used in paper mills, and extremely toxic to wildlife)
  4. under the “full disclosure of ingredients”, they list “poly backing” and “soft poly outer cover”. I assume that by “poly” they mean polyurethane. It is actually polypropolene (see my other review)

gDiapers mentions neither latex nor TBT on their website. But they too disclose all their ingredients:

  • the flushables are made of all natural fiber and is 100% biodegradable.
  • Snap-in liners are made of breathable polyurethane coated nylon, not pvc like many diaper covers.
  • ‘little g’ pants are made of a soft, breathable outer cotton/elastene fabric.

Whole Foods doesn’t disclose the ingredients of their 365 diapers on either their packaging or on the WF website (aside from the fact that they are chlorine-free). I’ve written to them but haven’t heard from them yet (will update you as soon as I do). {UPDATE} I received a very helpful email from The Whole Food Private Label and incorporate it in the next diaper review update, but in short: they are fragrance, TBT and latex-free.

  • “Biodegradable” vs. flushable

Most disposable diapers – ecological or no – end up in a landfill. To the tune of at least 18-20 billion disposable diapers so far… and counting.

We’ve met the word “biodegradable” several times: doesn’t that count towards something? Well, that they are “biodegradable” doesn’t mean that they actually do biodegrade.

To biodegrade, a biodegradable substance needs to be processed by microbes, fungii, soil animals, etc., who break it down, eat and digest it, and excrete it in the form of organic material as food for plants and other organisms. This will happen if you put them into a compost heap or bin (wet diapers only?). But if you throw them into the trash bin, they go into a landfill. Landfills, toxic, infertile and lifeless as they are, are hardly amenable places to that kind of process. And what little does “break down.” doesn’t make its way back to the soil…

That is the great advantage of gDiapers: they are flushable! Poop goes where it belongs: in the toilet (though, sure, that too is debatable). It is processed by the sewage system and at least doesn’t take up space, as in a landfill.

This is what attracted us to them. But it’s a good thing that we are committed…

  • gDiaper problems: yuckiness, clogs, leaks

We don’t mind schlepping urine-soaked and poopy diapers from the changing table to the bathroom. When guests are around, it can be done discretely.

We’ve also solved some of the flushing-issues. The instructions state that, as long as you separate the inner core from the outside liner (be sure to do this separating over the toilet!), flushing shouldn’t be a problem. We have pretty good water pressure (we’re in the basement) but also low-flow toilets. Result: clogged toilet (some effort with the stopper took care of it). It works fine if we flush the liner separately in a second flush, but that’s not desirable: we have those lo-flows for a reason! Solution: separate core from liner, make sure we “swish” it with the stick, and flush. As for the liner: if it is just pee, we put it in a small, closed bin next to the toilet and flush it after we’ve peed (you can compost them too). As for poopie, we flush it in a second flush.

Our main problem with gDiapers is that, in our experience, they leak. They do with large quantities of pee, but then you can easily rinse off or wash the liner. And, without exception, some poop escapes the flushable inner core and gets onto the liner and often even onto the cotton pants. In my opinion, this is why. The absorbable cores of disposables are attached to their liners, which are stiffer and keep a broader shape, creating a better seal. gDiaper cores and their (separate) liners are softer and will not keep this shape and thus seal. As soon as the core gets wet, its shape conforms to the space between the baby’s legs: it rolls up into a tube. Poopie nearly always escapes.

{UPDATE} It all depends on what you call “a leak”. gDiapers accepts that poop will mostly get onto the snap-in liner: “the inner liner will get dirty with most poops. It is why
we made it ‘snap-in/out’ and give a spare. This way you only have to wash
the liner and not the entire pair of little g pants when your child poops.”

In any case, it easily rinses off the liner, but still, it’s a challenge. So far we’re living with it.

  • Price

At our local (Massachusetts) Whole Foods,

  1. Seventh Generation diapers: $13.99 for 30 diapers (size 5) = 47 cents
  2. 365 diapers: $9.99 for 30 disposables (size 5) = 33 cents
  3. gDiapers: $21.99 for the starter kit (2 pants, 4 liners, swish stick and 10 flushables (size L) / $11.99 for 32 flushables (size L) = 37 cents
  • So far

So these are the things to consider when you choose among these diapers:

  1. chlorine/dioxins
  2. plastic
  3. will biodegrade (compost)
  4. flush into sewage
  5. baby’s comfort
  6. I can live with handling poop some more than I already do
  7. I can live with some leaks
  8. price
  9. SAP…
  • Sodium polyacrylate

Sodium acrylate polymer or sodium polyacrylate, SAP for short, is a super absorbent polymer. Once you’ve weighed all the other factors and set your mind at ease about the lack of chlorine and/or latex and plastic in your diapers (as the case may be), their biodegradability, etc., SAP may be your last and most tricky consideration. Read the following and, if you hate the thought of it, then you’ll just have to go cloth…

Again I can’t write about WF 365, but the absorbancy of the chlorine free wood pulp in the Seventh Generation diapers as well as in the gDiapers is enhanced by SAP. For Seventh Generation diapers, to be precise, the ratio is 30-50 grams of wood pulp and 5-15 grams of the super absorbent polymer (gel).

SAP is the same gel that is used in all other (non-ecological) disposable diapers. It is also the same substance that was banned from tampons in the 1985, because of its presumed link to Toxic Shock Syndrome (no clear causal link has been established).

I don’t know how important this is, but to be honest, most websites condemning SAP in diapers aren’t very clear about where they got the “many studies” showing their harm (and most of them are are maintained by cloth-diaper services).

The argument on the other side (e.g., here) goes that, even after so many babies have worn diapers with SAP for over decades, there has never been a reported case of Toxic Shock Syndrome. The reason would be that diapers are used externally and changed more often.

Seventh Generation writes:

Our exhaustive research on this gel has shown that it is non-toxic and safe for babies while helping keep them dry and comfortable. Independent scientific research on this chemically inert gel, sodium polyacrylate, has shown that it is non-toxic, not carcinogenic, and non-irritating to the skin. (“A Note About Gel”)

gDiapers writes:

SAP is proven to be safe and effective by over 400 studies, and most recently was given the “two thumbs up” from MBDC, the leading US based design chemistry firm. MBDC gave the SAP in our gDiaper flushables the chemical rating “green”, which is the safest assessment a chemical or material can receive. It is found in most disposable diapers and feminine hygiene products, safe for humans and harmless to the environment.

(Don’t get me started – yet – on the “Contemporary Pediatrics” document that lies behind the “400 studies” link…)

One comment: Seventh Generation doesn’t use SAP in their Chlorine Free Maxi Pads. The absorbant materials of their Maxi Pads consist of TCF (totally chlorine free) wood pulp, and Lysorb, derived from wheat. Lysorb, they point out, is a SNAP or super absorbent Natural polymer, more specifically a polysaccharide (a complex sugar) that is found in many natural substances, like the fibers of cotton, wood, and wheat. Why can’t they put that in the diapers? Too much, too expensive? Why use it at all in their Maxi Pads, if SAP of the non-natural kind isn’t harmful if used externally? {UPDATE} Seventh Generation responded to this question, read here.

  • Cloth?

I worry about SAP, especially since we’ve had two occurences when the wrapper around the gDiapers flushable core broke and released the wet wood pulp and SAP. So I’m looking into cloth diapers: another world altogether!

{UPDATE} Want even more detailed information, about where the woodpulp comes from, what the difference is between Elemental Chlorine-Free and Totally Chlorine-Free, and about the biodegradability of (even) these “green diapers?” Read my new and updated, complementary review of “Green Diapers“.

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Join the Conversation


  1. I am a mother of a 1-month old. For the last 4 weeks we have been using cloth dipaers in the gdiaper covers (plus the plastic liner) instead of using the disposable inserts. It has not been much extra work and has been a very cheap option compared to buying the gdiaper inserts, disposable dipaers, or diaper service. It also has been great for the environment.We bought non-bleached cloth dipaers and cut 4 inches off the end to make them fit the small size gdipaers (they might fit the medium or large size fine without cutting them). The ends should be stiched or they will begin to look frayed after a couple of washes. Just fold the cloth diaper by having the thick layer in the middle and the two sides folded on top of that. It should fit well into the plastic liner just like the gdiaper disposable inserts. There is no pining needed and you don’t need to put the cloth diaper on the baby first. Just pre-load up a few gdiaper covers with cloth diaper inserts and diaper changes are as fast as disposables.When we change our baby, we dump the cloth part into a small tight-lid diaper pail or directly into the washing machine. We also use reuseable cloth wipes (we just have 4-5 at a time moisened with water in an old wipes container). The cloth dipaers, cloth wipes, and the occational soiled gdiaper plastic liner or cover, all can be put into the diaper pail and washed together. We have found that with our breast-fed only baby, that we do not need to soak the dipaers first (it might be different once we give our baby solid food). The normal wash (warm/cool water, 7th Generation soap, extra rinse) gets most stains out. There is no diaper smell in our house, but the downside is that we do a load of laundry once a day. We have a front-loading washing machine so water use is minimal.Also, our baby so far has never had a diaper rash. We use a little Bag Balm (in a green tin container and sold at the Target pharmacy or cosmetics aisle of Walgreens) each time we change our baby. It costs about $8 and lasts about 3 months. We like using the gdipaers as diaper covers instead of the other options out there because they don’t seem to leak like other ones we tried, the removeable cloth diaper is easier to clean than most diaper covers, and we can use the gdipaers as they were intended to be with the disposable/flushable inserts when we leave the house or travel.

  2. I too started with 7th generation diapers when my daughter was born. When Honest Diapers came out, I switched, ever since I switched my daughter struggled with a diaper rash every day. I am a chronic diaper changer as well. Which at 14 months old, my daughter has never had a diaper rash before. I never thought in a million years it was the Honest Diapers. I tried everything to get rid of the rash. Oatmeal baths, blanding out her diet, creams, EVERYTHING. Finally,,, my husband says get rid of those diapers and go back to the brown ones, it’s the diapers! So, I ordered her a bundle from Amazon and within 2 days her rash went away and has not come back since!

  3. As someone who works in the water/wastewater industry, I’m extremely disappointed that anyone would flush any kind of diaper down the toilet. I promise you, these diapers still end up in a landfill with all other solids that don’t disintegrate in the pipe. There is not a diaper in this world that will break down in that short period of time. Flushing diapers down the toilet increases the chance for clogs and sanitary sewer overflows, another environmental hazard.

    Please think twice before flushing ANYTHING down the toilet. Flushable diapers create more problems than they solve.

  4. Great info! Thanks for spelling it all out. I’m not even a mother yet, but found this when searching about toxins in other products and thought it was extremely informative for the future decision I will need to make.

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