Cotton Diapers – Do You Choose Organic or Not?

Organic cotton prefold cloth diapers

We were surprised when we asked customers about organic cotton diapers because their reasons for choosing organic don’t always match what we know about the benefits of organic. We recommend organic over non-organic, but our reasons might not be what you expect.

We’re stepping back slightly from our laundry series this week in celebration of the Great Cloth Diaper Change coming up this weekend. There will be events around the world Saturday, April 20th at 11:00AM local time, when babies will have their cloth diapers changed for a Guinness World Records global event. If you haven’t registered yet for an event local to you, you might still be able to squeak in.

What makes it organic?
Organic isn’t just a matter of avoiding use of pesticides and other chemical inputs then calling a product organic. “Organic” is a label that is given following certification to detailed standards. Without the certification, a product can’t be labelled “organic” even if it is grown or processed exactly as certified products are. The certification doesn’t make the product clean; the process makes the product clean. But, the certification is your assurance about the process.

In the field. In the U.S., the Department of Agriculture runs the National Organic Program (NOP). For textile fibers, this program sets standards only up to harvest. Short of organic, there are other efforts to reduce the worst toxic pesticides, like the Sustainable Cotton Project’s Cleaner Cotton.

In processing. For post-harvest processing, you will often see a GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certification. A whole product can be certified organic by GOTS.

Fiber content. Globally, the Textile Exchange certifies the Organic Content Standard (used to be Organic Exchange [OE] Standard).

Looking for NOP, GOTS, or OE/OCS certifications is your assurance that products are certified to organic standards.

Is Organic Better for the Environment?
Absolutely. The most important reason to buy organic is the reduction of toxins, even known carcinogens, in the environment. It takes a lot of chemicals to grow conventional cotton. When it takes 1/3 lb of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers to produce one cotton T-shirt, you can begin to see how the impact of three dozen prefolds builds. To give you some idea of scale, every year 6.9 million pounds of chemicals are sprayed on conventional cotton in California alone. Organic food and fiber both avoid most of the agricultural and industrial chemicals of conventional food and fiber. Most. Is organic the only answer? Not at all. There are issues with some organic standards, but that shouldn’t keep you from looking for the cleanest solution to your needs. When you buy cotton diapers, whether certified organic as a whole product or just made with organic cotton, you reduce the chemical burden on the environment. You reduce the pollution of air, water, and soil that will get back around to you.

Is Organic Better for the Skin?
No. This is one of the reasons our customer claim for choosing organic, but no studies show that organic cotton is better for your skin or for your health than conventional cotton. Organically grown cotton is not inherently softer than conventional cotton, though the quality of organic cotton can sometimes be better as it grows without exposure to toxins. There are no pesticide residues in conventional cotton. Certainly, organic is better for your health in the global view, as it reduces environmental pollution, but that benefit is indirect. When either conventional cotton or organic cotton has been treated with other chemicals in the processing, that is another matter. When you are told that organic feels cleaner on your skin, though, you are hearing a marketing pitch not scientific fact.

Is Organic Expensive?
Sometimes. Organic food and fibers do cost more than conventional, but that is really only expensive if you are not counting the external costs of the toxin burden of conventional cotton. As long as the production is more expensive, the organic products you buy will be more expensive. But, organic isn’t that much more expensive when compared with equivalent products made with conventional cotton. When you look at a one-time expense like organic cotton prefolds, the difference in cost isn’t so great that it would keep most families from using organic. When cost of the initial investment in diapers is an issue, simple prefold diapers are the affordable option we recommend.

Is Organic Worth It?
Yes. Despite the fact that your baby isn’t exposed to pesticides through conventional cotton diapers and the sometimes higher price tag on organic diapers, it is worth it to choose organic because you reduce the overall toxic burden in our world. You reduce toxins in the field; for the workers; downstream in the air, water, and soil; for yourself; and for your baby.

As one follower wrote, organic “feels better. . . on my conscience.” For a lot of our customers, this is the key. We recommend organic cotton diapers primarily because it lowers the chemical burden on world—the whole, interconnected world that leads right back to us and our babies. We are concerned with the big picture, and we feel better about organic.

Do you want to read more about organic cotton?

Read the story of Patagonia’s switch to organic cotton over the past 20 years. It wasn’t easy, but it was the obvious choice for them once they understood the real impacts of conventional cotton. Their quest for better choices doesn’t end with organic cotton, though. They continue to push boundaries.

If you aren’t already convinced that it’s important to choose organic fabric, especially for your baby, read this article on getting rid of chemicals in fabrics from O Ecotextiles. When it comes to direct chemical exposure, the issue isn’t about organic in the field; it’s all about the processing.


Ditching Synthetics in Diapering

MotherEase one size fitted cloth diaperAre you thinking of ditching synthetics in diapering? Some of our customers are only familiar with polyester diapering options. If you are considering cool wool options for summer, you may be ready to use all natural cloth diapers.

Natural fiber diapers don’t hold on to smells like synthetics can, and you don’t need to be as careful in washing and drying since a cotton or hemp diaper is tough enough to handle most any wash routine.

All-natural Diaper Options

Most all-natural diapering options include a separate diaper (the moisture absorbent part) and cover (the moisture resistant part).

We have several natural diaper choices available: hemp, organic cotton, or a blend; prefold, fitted, or fitted with snaps; and smooth woven prefolds, slightly stretchy fitted diapers, or super stretchy fitted diapers.

Hemp fitted cloth diapers
Fitted diapers made from a hemp / organic cotton knit with no closure. Just wrap around baby or add a Snappi.

Hemp cotton flat cloth diapers
Flat diapers made from a hemp/organic cotton French terry. Fold like a prefold.

Unbleached Indian Prefold cloth diapers
Unbleached cotton prefold diapers for the classic cloth diaper fit.

MotherEase one-size organic cotton cloth diapers
MotherEase organic cotton diapers made with brushed terry knit stretches for a snug fit. Snap closures.

Did you notice that I haven’t included bamboo diapers? Yes, bamboo is grown in a field and it makes a soft, absorbent diapering material. I have stubbornly left it off the list, though, because all bamboo other than that processed in a way similar to linen is classified as man-made fiber (rayon or viscose made from bamboo) because of the chemical processing—it is broken down into good and extruded into those super-soft fibers. If you love bamboo, don’t ditch it. Every family looking for their perfect diapering system will find their own best options.

Natural Diaper Covers Means Wool

Wool is breathable, absorbent, and easier to care for than you might expect. We offer three wool diaper cover options.

Stacinator Wool Diaper Cover
Stacinator is a lightweight wool diaper cover for summer.

Lovey Bums Wool Covers
Lovey Bums wool diaper cover is a very trim cover that works very well under clothes.

Aristocrats Wool Diaper Cover

Aristocrats is the classic nighttime wool soaker make from 100% untreated soft virgin wool.

Natural Liners

A lot of parents want a liner between their baby’s skin and the wetness of a diaper. Especially when a baby has a rash or other skin sensitivities, arguments in favor of a synthetic liner can be compelling. If you are looking for that all-natural liner, you have a natural option that is also naturally soothing.

Natural parent, please let me introduce you to the raw silk diaper liner. Raw silk retains sericin, a creamy wax given off by silkworms, which is both soothing and antibacterial. These liners are thin, so they won’t add to the bulk of a diaper. You can wash the liners with your wool diaper covers in woolwash, and they will continue to soothe your baby’s skin for a long time.

Silk Diaper Liners

Natural Laundry

Natural diapering goes well with natural laundering, and we have a new cloth diapering detergent made with natural ingredients.

The key to successful diaper washing is in the your water. Rockin Green Cloth Diaper Detergent comes in three formulations: Hard Rock for hard water, Soft Rock for soft water, or Classic Rock for those in between.

Rocking Green is made from sodium carbonate , sodium percarbonate, natural chelating agents, sodium sulfate, and biodegradable surfactants.

Rockin Green Cloth Diaper Detergent

Whether you are looking for diapers that are easier to care for, you are ready for diapers that won’t hold on to smells, or you just want to know that you are using renewable resources in diapering, you have a full range of natural diapering options to fit your needs.

When you Know Better, you Choose Better

Recently we made the switch to only carry Organic Cotton Prefolds in our natural baby store, and are no longer carrying conventionally-grown cotton prefolds. We’ve had many questions about this choice, and ultimately our customers seem pleased with the change. So far the consensus is that the value is much greater for the very slight difference in cost (only about $1.00 more per diaper!). Overall you are getting a much better product, a chemical and pesticide-free diaper, and one that is less taxing on our environment (both ecologically and for humanity). If you’re still unsure as to whether or not organic cotton is the way to go, read on!

Cotton that was grown many years ago generally involved techniques that allowed for the sustainable harvesting of the material. It did not permanently deplete resources or create unhealthy living conditions that threaten workers, wildlife and the environment, as it does today. There are many pesticides used in the growing of ‘conventional’ cotton that create a health hazard we are only beginning to understand the effects of. Some of these pesticides are considered to be the most toxic chemicals in the world!

Still not convinced? Here is our Top 10 Reasons to Choose Organic Cotton:

    1. Organic cotton reduces toxins that pollute the Earth.

    2. Organic cotton is chemical and formaldehyde FREE.

    3. Organic cotton materials are softer, stronger (and safer!).

    4. Safer dyes and inks are used during the printing process of organic cotton products.

    5. Organic cotton production supports sustainable agricultural practises.

    6. Organic cotton production protects our quality of water.

    7. Improved health of agricultural workers when producing organic cotton vs. conventional cotton.

    8. Improved heath for our children (no bleaches, toxic dyes, chemicals, pesticides against delicate skin!).

    9. No hidden costs in the production of organic cotton. Conventional cotton may seem less expensive, but their are hidden costs that show up in the way of taxes, health care (of workers), environmental clean up, cost of our children’s health etc.

    10. Choosing organic cotton helps protect future generations of children and their families.

Conventional cotton farming is one of the most environmentally destructive agricultural practises – harming the air, water, soil, and farmers’ health and safety as well as the surrounding environments. At the moment we may end up paying more for organic products, however this can change as demand for organic cotton increases. By spending on organic products, you are using your consumer power wisely and adding your voice to the environmental movement. The pay-back is tremendous: better health for our children, our families, the planet and all her creatures. We feel organic cotton is an important consideration, not only for cloth diapers, but for all our “cotton” requirements.