A Complete Guide to Swim Diapers: Everything You Need to Know


A day at a pool, a beach vacation, or an afternoon at the splash pad. There are so many ways to introduce children to water – and have fun!
While older kids don’t need much besides their swimwear and SPF to be swim-ready, babies and younger children also need some reliable protection against “accidents” in the water (no vacation has ever been enhanced by “code brown” on the beach!).

Disposable and reusable swim diapers help ensure safe and pleasant swimming experience for everyone and are often required by water parks, swim schools, and other facilities. They are different from regular diapers and vary in design, type of closure, and price. While choosing the right swim diaper might require a bit of research, picking an option that suits your family’s needs can help you save money and take one more thing off your list of worries.

In this guide, we will cover different types of swim diapers, explain how swim diapers work, and provide tips for picking a great diaper for swimming. Let’s dive in.

What are swim diapers?

Swim diapers are specially designed diapers that are meant to be worn in the water. Unlike regular diapers, which are designed to absorb liquids and prevent leaks, swim diapers are made to contain solid waste, while allowing water to flow through freely. This means that they won't swell and become heavy, the way regular diapers would.

Why are swim diapers necessary?

One of the main reasons to use swim diapers is to prevent accidents (and the spread of the associated bacteria) in the water. "Code brown" accidents are known to happen when you least expect them. Using swim diapers helps contain messes and keep the water clean for everyone else to enjoy.

Many public pools, swim schools, and water parks require swim diapers for children who aren't fully potty trained. Policies vary per facility, and while some have no preference for either disposable or reusable swim diapers, others explicitly require wearing a swim diaper of a specific kind.

How does a swim diaper work?

Reusable swim diapers typically consist of a waterproof outer layer and a soft fabric lining (like the plant-derived Tencel™ Lyocell lining in Charlie Banana swim diapers). They also feature waist and leg elastics to contain solid waste. Swim diapers typically do not contain an absorbent layer, which otherwise could cause them swell in the water.

Disposable swim diapers also have a stretchy waistband and leg elastics. Some slide on like underwear, while others have re-closable sides for a customizable fit. Disposable swim diapers are typically made with different materials, than regular diapers, to reduce swelling in water.

So how do you use reusable swim diapers?

Here are three easy steps to use a washable swim diaper:

  1. Secure the diaper on the baby.
  2. Go swim and have fun!
  3. Remove the wet diaper and place it in a waterproof bag until ready to wash

Note: If there are any solids involved, we recommend shaking those off into the toilet and rinsing off the residue first

What about disposable swim diapers?

The process for using a disposable swim diaper is very similar, except for the last step:

  1. Secure the diaper on the baby.
  2. Go swim and have fun!
  3. Remove and discard the wet diaper (do not flush).

What are the pros and cons of Reusable and disposable swim diapers?

Swim diapers come in two main varieties: disposable and reusable. True to their names, disposable swim diapers are meant to be worn once and then thrown away, while reusable swim diapers can be washed and used multiple times. Both types have their own advantages and disadvantages, so it's important to consider your needs and preferences when choosing which one to use. Let’s take a closer look.

Disposable Swim Diapers: Pros

  • Convenient: No need to wash. Simply discard after use.
  • Easy to size: If you are used to disposable diaper sizing, picking the right size of a disposable swim diaper becomes easy.
  • Widely accessible: Disposable swim diapers are commonly sold in the stores, just like regular disposable diapers.
  • Easy to remove: Since disposable swim diapers are intended for single use, you can usually tear their sides for quick removal. (Some reusable diapers feature side snaps to allow for easy changes.)

Disposable Swim Diapers: Cons

  • Waste: Disposable swim diapers cannot be reused or recycled, which means they need to go in the trash.
  • The cost adds up over time: While the initial cost of disposable is lower than the price of reusable swim diapers, it adds up over time, especially if you are planning to be in the water a lot.

Reusable Swim Diapers: Pros

  • Cost-effective: Although reusable swim diapers have a higher upfront cost, they can save you money in the long run since you can wash and reuse them multiple times.
  • Reusable: Washable swim diapers help reduce waste since they can be washed and reused.
  • Customizable fit: Reusable swim diapers often have adjustable snaps or waist drawstring that allow you to customize the fit for your child. This can help prevent leaks and provide a more comfortable fit.
  • Stylish look: Reusable swim diapers often resemble a real swim bottom and come in a wide variety of colors, patterns, and designs, making them a fun and stylish option for your little one's swim attire.

Reusable Swim Diapers: Cons

  • Need to be washed: just like any article of clothing, swim diapers need to be washed after use.
  • Require a higher upfront investment: Just like cloth diapers, reusable swim diapers typically cost more than their disposable counterparts.

Tips for Using Swim Diapers:

Now that you know a bit more about disposable and reusable swim diapers, let’s look at a few tips on how to optimize their use:
1. Ensure the right fit: Making sure that the swim diaper fits properly is key to preventing leaks in the water and keeping your LO comfortable. Just like regular diapers, most swim diapers come in different sizes to fit babies and toddlers of all ages. Make sure to choose the right size for your child to ensure a snug and secure fit. Note that sizing might vary per brand. For example, Charlie Banana offers four different sizes, with the XS designed for babies under 14lbs, while the L fitting kids from 22-34 lbs.
2. Check for leaks: Before you head into the water, make sure to check the swim diaper for any leaks or signs of wear and tear. If you notice any issues, it's best to replace the diaper to prevent any accidents. Pro tip: avoid tumble drying your reusable swim diapers on high temperatures to avoid damaging the waterproof outer layer.
3. Change regularly: Even though swim diapers don't absorb liquids like regular diapers, they can still become saturated over time. Make sure to change your child's swim diaper regularly to prevent leaks and discomfort. (Having two Waterproof Tote Bags on hand to carry clean and wet swim diaper helps a lot.)
4. Dispose of – or maintain – properly: If you're using disposable swim diapers, make sure to dispose of them properly after use. Most swim diapers are not flushable or biodegradable, so it's important to throw them away in the trash. For reusable diapers, it is important to check the manufacturer’s care label, to prolong the life-span of the product.

How to choose the right swim diaper

Choosing the right swim diaper for your little one can make a huge difference when it comes to their comfort and your peace of mind. With so many options on the market, it can be overwhelming to know which one to choose. Here are some things to consider when selecting the perfect swim diaper for your child:

  • 1. Fit: The most important factor to consider when choosing a swim diaper is the fit. A swim diaper should fit snugly around your child's waist and legs to prevent any leaks. Make sure to check the sizing chart provided by the manufacturer to ensure you are selecting the correct size for your child.
  • 2. Safety: Just like with any other baby products, you want to stay away from any harmful chemicals. Looking for swim diapers with third-party safety certifications, such as OEKO-TEX®, is a good idea if ingredients quality and safety are important to you.
  • 3. Reusability: Reusable swim diapers generate less waste and are typically more cost-effective in the long run, while disposable swim diapers can be more convenient for travel. Consider your lifestyle and budget when choosing between reusable and disposable swim diapers.
  • 4. Design: If you like styling baby outfits, the cuteness factor is not to be overlooked! Vibrant prints and colors make beach outings even more fun. Spoiler alert: reusable swim diapers usually look more like real swimwear, if it’s a cute Insta shot you’re after.
  • 5. Material: Swim diapers can be made from different materials, including polyester, nylon, cotton, or, in case of Charlie Banana, Lyocell. Consider the material of the swim diaper to ensure it is gentle on your child's sensitive skin.
  • 6. Reviews: Before making a final decision, read reviews of the swim diaper to see what other parents have to say about its performance and durability.

Selecting the right swim diaper for your child involves considering factors such as fit, reusability, design, material, safety, and reviews. By taking these factors into account, you can find a reliable swim diaper that will keep your little one comfortable and protected in the water.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you wash reusable swim diapers?

Wash on warm (40°C/104°F max) with a full dose of good-quality detergent and plenty of agitation. Avoid fabric softener and chlorine bleach. Hang to dry, or tumble dry on low. The fabrics used in Charlie Banana swim diapers do not require high temperatures to get thoroughly clean (in fact, high heat can damage the waterproof layer and the elastics and affect the performance of a swim diaper). When in doubt, always check the manufacturer’s label.

Do you need to use both disposable and reusable swim diapers?

If you are using a quality reusable swim diaper, you won't typically need to put a disposable diaper underneath. However, if you are attending a public pool, water park, or swim school, we recommend checking the facility’s policies, as those vary widely.

What kind of swim diapers do swim schools require?

Swim schools typically require a swim diaper for all children who are not fully potty-trained. Specific requirements will depend on the school. Some only accept reusable swim diapers, while others insist on using a disposable one, either on its own or underneath a reusable one. Policies vary per facility, so make sure to check with your school first.

Do swim diapers hold pee?

Most swim diapers contain little to no absorbent padding, as absorbent layers would cause the swim diaper to swell in the water and feel heavy. So a swim diaper will typically not absorb liquids, but it will contain solids, preventing “code brown” accidents – which is exactly they are designed for.

Let’s sum it all up

Swim diapers are an essential accessory for babies and young children who love to play in the water. Both disposable and reusable swim diapers offer a convenient and effective way to contain messes and keep the water clean.

While disposable swim diapers require less maintenance, reusable swim diapers save money when used regularly, help you reduce waste, and look more like real swimwear. To decide which swim diaper is right for your family, consider your lifestyle, budget, and the intended frequency of use.

By following the tips in this guide, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable swimming experience for your child–and everyone around. So next time you head to the pool or beach, don't forget to pack your swim diapers, and have fun!