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TCF Diapers Guide: Why Totally Chlorine Free Matters

TCF Diapers Guide: Why Totally Chlorine Free Matters

Totally chlorine free (TCF) diapers can give new and expecting parents the peace of mind they need that their baby’s skin is free from the dioxins traditionally found in the diapers our parents put us in. 

If you’ve been curious about the best TCF diapers on the market, you’ve landed in the right place.

Today, I’m answering the most commonly asked questions about TCF diapers, including which diapers are TCF and how they differ from ECF.

Without further adieu, here’s a list of TCF diapers, and what I think may be the best TCF diapers out there. 

But First! Some Personal Thoughts About Chlorine Bleaching Products

I had no idea so many of the products that touch the most sensitive parts of our body contain some sort of chlorine or chlorine byproduct. I’m sure I’m not alone!

Through my research, I’ve learned that introducing chlorine was designed to help products, like diapers, become more absorbent and look pretty. 

Though it’s been largely phased out as our society has become more health-conscious about the products we use, it’s still a concern.

baby wearing a diaper

According to the World Health Organization, dioxins can lead to “…reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones, and cause cancer.” 

Not to get overly personal, but I lost two parents to cancer. That has not only made me concerned about the types of products I use but also what I want to expose my future baby to. 

My husband and I are in the process of starting a family, and the types of diapers we plan on using have been a huge topic of discussion. 

We want to treat our baby’s skin with plant-based materials as often as possible to avoid exposure to harmful chemicals. 

Doing the best for our babies starts with being as informed as possible. Let’s learn about these products together. 

Totally Chlorine Free Diapers: What Are They?

Simply put, TCF diapers refer to those that are totally chlorine-free. This means the diapers were bleached white without the use of chlorine, typically with peroxide and oxygen. 

chlorine free coterie

Bleaching is used not just to make the diapers look clean, but so that the pulp used is fluffy and comfortable for the baby to wear. 

Chlorine is just one of the many toxic chemicals surprisingly found in baby diapers, such as fragrances, dyes, phthalates, and volatile organic compounds.

These are used to:

  • Mask odors
  • Soften plastic
  • Serve as a wetness indicator
  • Sometimes, they’re simply released as a natural part of the manufacturing process

While this is unsettling to read, many TCF diaper brands are also making diapers without these chemicals or at least reducing them to become more green. 

But for now, I’m just focusing on those totally chlorine-free diaper brands. 

That takes me to my next question – what diaper brands are TCF? 

What Diapers Are TCF? 

Surprisingly, there aren’t too many TCF brands out there anymore, as a lot of them are making a switch over to ECF diapers (more on that shortly). 

At the time of this publication, here is a list of diaper brands that are TCF:

  • Coterie
  • Pura
  • Freestyle
  • Seventh Generation
  • HealthyBaby
  • Kudos
  • Attitude
  • Thrive Market
  • Happy Little Camper
  • PurePail
  • Terra
  • EcoPeaCo
  • Bambo Nature

Since a lot of companies are making the switch to ECF diapers to become more environmentally friendly, any remaining TCF brands are becoming increasingly more expensive. 

For example, a monthly subscription to Coterie is just under $80 for a month’s supply of diapers. The amount of diapers you get is on a sliding tier based on age – newborns get a lot more diapers (7 per day) for a month’s supply than kids in size 6 (4 per day).

coterie subscription delivery
One of my mom friends sent me this photo of her first Coterie subscription delivery. They sent her a sample pack of the next size up and said if that fits better, they’d ship her a box of that size at no charge. You pay more for Coterie, but it’s higher quality, and their customer service is next level.

From what I’ve been told from friends who are subscribed to Coterie, the amount of diapers they receive is perfect for what they need.

Related: How Many Baby Wipes Do I Need per Day, Month, & Year?

For example, the Size 5 box comes with a total of 132 diapers a month. Friends confirm that they receive their next month’s supply while they’re on the last pack. 

Here’s an overview of Coterie’s size and pack breakdown: 

coterie size and pack detail

If you’re like me and looking to use a TCF brand for your baby, I think these are a great option – and close mom friends of mine agree.

Plus, they’re free of over 200 chemicals, including parabens, fragrances, and phthalates. 

coterie diapers

TCF Diaper Brands Price Comparison

I’ve found that TCF diaper brands are generally better in other areas, as well.

They’re typically free from all kinds of harmful chemicals, and they often have amazing absorbing technology in them that helps them perform better.

Here’s a quick look at how these diaper brands compare:

BrandPrice per Diaper*
Thrive Market (requires membership)$0.28
Happy Little Camper$0.38
Seventh Generation$0.54
Bambo Nature$0.55
Based on a Size 2 pack

Non-TCF brands are a lot cheaper – Luv’s cost $0.15 per diaper, Rascal & Friends are just $0.21 per diaper, and Amazon’s Mama Bear brand is $0.16 per diaper.

So, what exactly is the difference between these diapers?

What is the Difference Between TCF and ECF Diapers? 

As briefly mentioned above, TCF refers to diapers that are considered to be totally chlorine-free. 

ECF diapers, on the other hand, stand for Elemental Chlorine-Free Pulp. The main difference between the two is the use of chlorine in some form. 

Whereas TCF’s bleaching process eliminates the use of chlorine products and any of its derivatives, the pulp used in ECF products, like diapers, is bleached with a chemical called chlorine dioxide

Since this is still a chlorine derivative, it may still contain dioxins. These toxins are not present with TCF diapers because the bleaching process is done using peroxide and oxygen, neither of which produces dioxins. 

Related: How Long Does It Take for a Diaper to Decompose?

Why Choose TCF Diapers? 

You may want to choose TCF diapers for peace of mind that the diaper your baby is wearing is totally free of chlorine – byproducts and all. 

As the WHO points out, traces of dioxins can lead to serious issues to your young one’s immune system. It can lead to diaper rash and even allergic reactions, which will cause your baby discomfort. 

As of right now, since TCF does not use chlorine, it’s considered the safest bleaching process. 

The only downside, in my opinion, is the staggering cost.

Childcare costs are already astronomical, and as Coterie diapers proved earlier, paying for quality by this definition will cost around $100 per month. And they’re not even the most expensive TCF diaper brand.

chlorine free diapers

It’s like buying from the organic section at your local grocery store. Better quality = more money. 

Is TCF Actually Better? 

Is TCF better? Personally, I believe so, but there are some opinions out there that may argue otherwise, so it’s worth presenting both sides.

Nest Baby Diapers, for example, hired scientist Dr. Michael Hopkins to contact the top “green” diaper companies to find out if their products contained things like chlorine, phthalates, and latex to create a list of the best diaper brands ranked from Best to Sneaky Stuff. It’s a great blog with some excellent research in it. 

In his research, and subsequently, in the blog that Nest Diapers put together, they stated that “…the distinction between TCF and ECF is totally not important.” 

If your next question is why, the answer, according to them, is this bleaching process has more to do with environmental impact than it does anything else. This is because of the large amount of energy TCF products use while producing less to show for it.

Despite this statement, the Nest Diapers blog acknowledges that ECF brands may still have traces of dioxins, but in “…levels that are several orders of magnitude lower than the levels of dioxins we are exposed to by simply eating food.”

A recent University of Buffalo study confirmed traces of lead, arsenic, and other toxic metals in popular baby food products. The argument could very validly be made that the effort to reduce exposure to dioxins is more important than the elimination of it because these toxins are unavoidable. 

If we’re not getting it from one thing, we will surely get it from another. But that’s not good enough for me. 

Peace of Mind

With all of that said, if using TCF diapers gives you peace of mind – and you like the benefits for your baby’s skin – buy TCF diapers!

While the above argument is certainly valid, I also think any effort to remove exposure to harmful chemicals is the right move. Yes, they will be in other items your child will consume or be around, but any effort is worth it. 

healthynest tcf diapers
HealthyBaby diapers, which are Totally Chlorine-Free

It’s like drinking filtered water. It’s not 100% foolproof, but it’s better than drinking straight from the tap – at least in my opinion. 

Here’s my bottom line: if you’re concerned about ECF, try to avoid products with it. As my mom always used to say, “If you have to think about it, the answer is no.” 

TCF Diapers FAQ

Are you considering using eco-friendly diapers? Are you curious how your favorite diaper brands stand up against one another? 

Here’s a helpful FAQ that answers the most commonly asked questions about non-toxic disposable diapers so you can make the best choice for your baby’s bottom.

Are Dyper Diapers TCF? 

Dyper’s diapers are chlorine-free, but not TCF. A representative for the company explains:

“We currently use an elemental chlorine-free (ECF) bleached, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood fluff pulp in our absorbent core. ECF bleaching is a chlorine-free process in that no elemental (molecular) chlorine is used in the bleaching sequences, and has been shown to result in an end product that is free of dioxins and toxic chemicals. In addition to this, ECF fluff pulp has been found to produce more fluff pulp using fewer resources, making it a more sustainable option when compared to totally chlorine-free (TCF) bleached fluff pulp.”

Related: Do Diapers Expire? 5 Diaper Brands Spill the Tea

Are Pura Diapers TCF?

Yes, Pura diapers are TCF. They’re relatively cheap, too, as you can buy a pack for less than $10 at Walmart. They even have an umbilical cord cut-out, which is a nice touch. 

Are Kirkland Diapers TCF?

No, Kirkland diapers are not TCF, as they use ECF pulp in their baby products. While these are usually sold at Costco, you can buy them straight from the manufacturer’s website with a membership. 

Are Honest Diapers Still TCF? 

Honest diapers are no longer TCF and have made the switch to ECF pulp. This change at the Honest Company took effect on November 6, 2023. Before this change, their pulp was sourced in Scandinavia; it’s now being sourced in North America to cut back on emissions. 

Are Freestyle Diapers TCF? 

Yes, Freestyle diapers are TCF. This diaper brand was founded by parents for parents. These diapers use bamboo fiber, which is less likely to lead to skin irritation for your little one. Plus, since it uses bamboo pulp, like the Andy Pandy brand of diapers, it’s one of the more environmentally friendly diapers available.   

Are Seventh Generation Diapers TCF? 

Yes, Seventh Generation brand diapers are TCF. Per their website, they use wood pulp for all their diapers. They utilize a process called oxygen bleaching which removes bacteria from the pulp, making it a safer diaper for your baby to use. You can read more about their process here

Is Rascal and Friends TCF? 

No, Rascal and Friends is not TCF. Rascal and Friends uses ECF pulp. 

Is Huggies TCF or ECF? 

In general, Huggies are ECF. However, Huggies Special Delivery is free from elemental chlorine. Their fluff pulp has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. 

When compared to Pampers, one of their main competitors, they are much more absorbent due to having more sodium polyacrylate. This is a compound that makes it easy to absorb more urine.

Is Millie Moon TCF or ECF?

Millie Moon diapers are ECF. They’re developed in New Zealand and manufactured in China. 

Per Millie Moon’s website, their diapers are made with elemental chlorine-free pulp, polyethylene film, and polypropylene nonwoven fabrics. In their FAQ, they state that their diapers are dioxin and phthalates-free and Dermatest and Allergy certified. 

Is Hello Bello TCF?

No, Hello Bello no longer makes TCF diapers. As of late 2023, due to supply chain issues, they switched from TCF diapers to ECF diapers. 

ECF vs TCF Diapers: Why I’m Personally Choosing TCF Diapers For My Baby in the Future

Despite not having entered motherhood yet, I believe babies deserve the highest standards regarding both care and products, which is why some of these brands bother me with the way they go about justifying their switch from TCF to ECF diapers. 

I have to go back to the World Health Organization again. The WHO confirms dioxins are present during the “chlorine bleaching of paper pulp.” These unwanted byproducts are found in many of these diaper brands, regardless of how small of a trace they may be. 

During my research, I checked out the FAQs these brands have published and most of them address the parental concern, signifying to me that the transition from TCF to ECF has been a big deal for parents the world over. 

healthybaby ewg verified tcf diapers
The back of HealthyBaby’s EWG Verified, TCF diapers

Companies like Rascal + Friends say, “…chlorine dioxide is a compound that is completely different to chlorine and is quickly converted to harmless salts and water” before suggesting the consumer learn more about the ECF process by clicking on a link to a white paper from The American Forest & Paper Association

In the same vein, brands like Hello Bello published a FAQ stating that there is “…a lot of misinformation online about ECF, but it’s safe (no one’s adding chlorine to diapers).

The problem with this kind of language, in my opinion, is it doesn’t explain what is misleading about ECF diapers. I don’t think parents believe these companies are pouring chlorine into their diapers. They just want to know if they will expose their child to any trace or byproducts of chlorine bleaching, and if you’re using ECF diapers, then that answer is yes, they will.

That point seems to get overlooked by many of these brands touting elemental chlorine-free diapers, and truthfully, I find that concerning. I

think many of these brands are going to continue making the switch to a lower environmental impact diaper moving forward, and I kind of hate that because it makes me feel like by the time I do reach motherhood, my diaper options will become even more limited or unattainable. 

While I know so many of the products we use every day contain toxins, it’s tough for me to make a conscious decision to use a product, like ECF diapers, when I know what it contains.

My personal experience with losing two parents to cancer has only reinforced this decision until research comes out stating otherwise. 

In Conclusion

I hope this list of TCF diapers, including how they differ from their ECF counterparts, can help you make an informed decision about the organic cotton diapers you want to use that are free (or at least mostly free) of heavy metals.

Though I complained about their price earlier, I’m personally leaning toward using either Coterie or Freestyle brands when the time comes. It may be painful to my wallet, but it’s a priority for me and my husband.

Don’t get me wrong, I hate how pricy TCF diapers are. I think it’s crazy! However, it’s worth it to me for the peace of mind that I get in exchange.

Also, in terms of the Freestyle brand, I just love bamboo – it has so many benefits in reducing skin irritation! That’s not just coming from my own experience, but my doctor, too, who recommended bamboo underwear to me a few years ago. The breathability difference is remarkable!

Do you use any of these brands? Do you prefer TCF diapers over ECF? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear your personal experiences! 

Further Reading: Diaper Raffle Baby Showers: Free Printables + Ideas