Do Swim Diapers Hold Pee? Understanding Swim Diapers

Headed to the pool or splash pad with your little one? Are you wondering what options you have for swim diapers or how swim diapers even work? Wonder no more! Here’s a look at the world of disposable and reusable swim diapers with all the answers you may need. Do swim diapers hold pee? How do you use them? What are they made of? Do they cause rashes? We will cover it all!

I can assure you that you are in good company with countless other parents who aren’t sure of the differences between regular diapers and swim diapers. Nothing is worse than putting your pre-potty-trained child in a swim diaper and seeing pee stream down their legs before they even get their toes wet!

Do swim diapers hold pee? Understanding swim diapers pin

Do swim diapers hold pee?

Reusable and disposable swim diapers do not hold pee. Swim diapers are designed to absorb as little liquid as possible and instead let liquids pass through the diaper while preventing any solids from escaping. It’s important to use a swim diaper rather than re-purpose a cloth diaper or a regular disposable diaper. They work entirely differently – and here’s how.

RELATED: Trying cloth diapers and not sure how many you need? The answer is more nuanced than many make it seem!

How do swim diapers work?

Swim diapers are specially designed diapers to be worn by babies or toddlers during swimming or water activities. They are not absorbent as you would expect a diaper to be. Instead, they allow liquid to pass through but do not allow solid waste to escape. Because of this, they do not weigh your baby down in the water and keep the water poop-free.

Swim diapers protect your children from bacteria while swimming and prevent embarrassing accidents (which are totally normal) when your child is not potty trained yet.

Toddler wearing swim diaper splashing in water

Reusable swim diaper vs disposable: which is best?

There are two types of swim diapers: disposable and reusable. Reusable swim diapers can be used multiple times while disposable swim diapers are used only once, but that’s not the only benefit reusable swim diapers have over disposables.

Reusable swim diapers

A swim diaper that is reusable (also referred to as a swim cloth diaper) can be worn multiple times, even in one day! They can be washed and reused and can be used under a swimsuit or paired with any rash guard or swimming top. There are many styles, materials, and patterns to choose from when it comes to reusable swim diapers along with different closures like snaps or velcro. Some even offer features like double-leg openings for added hold.

Reusable swim diapers are:

  • Cheaper in the long run than disposables
  • More environmentally friendly
  • Travel-friendly (pack 1-2 instead of many)
  • More comfortable
  • Less prone to rashes
  • Highly adjustable
  • Available in many prints, materials, and closure styles (snaps, velcro, etc)
  • Easier to put on
  • Retains its shape well in water
  • Lacks the convenience of a disposable diaper, primarily when dealing with poop
  • Require a wet bag to carry soiled wet diapers

Disposable swim diapers

Disposable swim diapers are used once and thrown away, even if your baby doesn’t poop in them. They look similar to regular disposable diapers but are often thinner and more durable.

Disposables are: 

  • More affordable upfront
  • Quickest cleanup
  • Single-use
  • Need to be purchased more often
  • Easy to remove by tearing the sides
  • May stretch and sag in the water
  • Cause rashes or chaffing for some children

A third option: the great duo

If you’re still undecided, know that you can use reusable and disposables together! It gives you that added protection against poop slippage. In fact, many public pools require that a reusable or rubber cover is used if a child is using disposables since they’re not as reliable, so, if you’re still going with reusables, it’s a good idea to also invest in a reusable one as well.  

A disposable swim diaper is placed on your child first with the reusable swim diaper on over the disposable diaper. Tuck the disposable diaper into their reusable one around their waist and legs to ensure a better seal. Now you have double the protection!

If you’re a cloth diapering mama like I am, you likely already knew that reusable was going to be far superior!

Baby swimming in public pool

Can I use a cloth diaper as a swim diaper?

Though you can use a cloth diaper as a swim diaper in a pinch, it’s not recommended for regular use. A cloth diaper cover is made to keep wetness in, while a swim diaper allows liquids to flow through. When submerged in water, a cloth diaper cover will fill up with water and weigh your baby down. If that’s not enough, when your baby is taken out of the pool, all of that collected water will drain out of the leg openings, taking any poop along with it! 

Also, chlorine found in pools will ruin most waterproof liners found on diaper covers over time, ruining them for future cloth diapering use, whereas swim diapers stand strong against chlorine.

Swim diapers are the safer and best choice for swimming, but if needed, keep these in mind when using a cloth diaper as a swim diaper:

  1. Remove all inserts, pre-folds, flats, etc from the diaper.
  2. Readjust the rise and waist snap settings on the diaper to fit having no inserts.
  3. Ensure the diaper is tight and snug around your baby’s waist and legs to prevent any solids from escaping the diaper.

Swim diaper vs regular diaper: no, they’re not the same!

Regular disposable diapers will work nothing like a swim diaper when submerged in water. Submersing a regular disposable diaper causes it to balloon and become very heavy, acting much like an anchor. Once soaked, they’ll lose their ability to contain any solids and start to deteriorate or simply fall off. 

Baby using reusable swim diaper in the water

How does a reusable swim diaper work?

All swim diapers work by containing solids only and allowing liquids to pass through. 

To use a reusable swim diaper, simply fasten an appropriate-sized diaper snuggly around your child’s bottom using its available closures (snaps, velcro, etc). Be sure to fasten tightly (but not too tight) to prevent any accidents during swimming. 

That’s it! Your child is now ready to hit the water. Check the swim diaper for messes or take your child to the bathroom every 30-60 minutes.

You may be thinking “What about when my child is out of the water?” You’ll have to change your baby into a regular diaper right after swimming since there is no absorbency, or, you can insert a diaper insert while they shuffle around on land.

​​After changing your child out of a reusable, you have to flush any solids down the toilet, rinse it then package the dirty reusable diaper in a wet bag to take home.

Washing & drying reusable swim diapers

Different swim diaper brands will offer different wash instructions. Generally, a swim diaper can be machine washed with warm water and detergent along with other laundry, with no soaking necessary.

Simply remove as much solid matter as possible from the diaper, rinse it to remove any residual then place the soiled diaper in a dry diaper pail. Wash on warm with detergent as needed. Hang them to dry or put them in the dryer on low heat. Do not use bleach or fabric softeners! It’s always best to follow your swim diapers care instructions.

If you are unfortunate enough to experience a paste/peanut buttery consistency poop, use a piece of toilet paper (not a baby wipe!) to wipe as much as you can off and into the toilet. Rinse the diaper off by swishing it into the toilet water.

Run it on a short, hot cycle with detergent by itself before running a normal cycle with other clothing. It’s not recommended to use hot water on swim diapers and might even void your warranty or shorten the life of the materials, but if you’ve got a serious mess, this is the easiest way to handle it!

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What you need to successfully use reusable swim diapers

  • A reusable swim diaper of your choice, my two faves are the Best Bottom one-size reusable swim diaper and the wegreeco one-size reusable swim diaper
  • A swimsuit or rash guard to wear over the swim diaper or a swimming top to pair with swim diaper bottoms (optional – wearing just the diaper is fine too!)
  • A way to transport wet soiled diapers home without contaminating or soaking other items, like a wet bag
  • A towel for the little one

The best online source I’ve found to purchase swim diapers and/or cloth diapers is hands down Nicki’s Diapers. If you’re looking for the best source in Canada, Lagoon Baby is an excellent option, too! 

Selecting a reusable swim diaper – what to look for

There are 4 key things to consider when picking a reusable swim diaper: materials & care, style of the diaper, and size.

Materials & care instructions

Reusable swim diapers are most often made with a soft cotton or mesh inner lining with a polyester TPU outer lining. Always be sure to review the care instructions for a swim diaper and find one that best fits your existing laundering routines. 


The fun part! Swim diaper styles are available with snaps, velcro, or as pull-ups with a ton of variety in prints/colors. Pull-ups are not the greatest option when you consider having to pull down a diaper with poo down a child’s legs. Snap closures on the other hand offer easy removal and the most adjustability for a custom fit. Many swim diapers also offer double-leg gussets to help contain solids more effectively. 


There are two ways to go about sizing in swim diapers: one size and sized. One-size swim diapers can be adjustable to 6-35+ lbs depending on the diaper. Sized diapers offer 2-3 sizes that fit within certain weight ranges. One-size diapers are most affordable since you will not need to purchase new ones as your child grows, but sized diapers offer a more comfortable and snug fit since they’re more catered to specific weight ranges. 

Do swim diapers hold pee? This child is playing in water using a swim diaper that allows all liquids to pass through it

How to use disposable swim diapers?

To use disposable swim diapers, put a swim diaper on your child as you would a regular disposable diaper. Add a swimsuit over the top if you’d like and check the diaper for messes every 30-60 minutes. Once soiled, change the diaper for a new one and dispose of the soiled one.

When outside of the water, remember that disposable swim diapers do not absorb urine as regular diapers do. It’s best to change into a swim diaper just before hitting the water or use a cloth diaper insert inside the swim diaper to absorb any liquids and remove it right before a swim.

RELATED: See our article comparing cloth diaper inserts by material, how many oz they hold, and more!

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Do swim diapers need covers?

No, they don’t! Swim diapers, whether disposable or reusable, can be used on their own and/or matched to a swimming shirt, swimsuit, or rash guard. However, some public swimming pools will require a reusable swim diaper over top of disposable ones to provide extra protection from any accidents.

How to use swim diapers outside of the water?

When outside of the water, you should replace a swim diaper with a regular diaper since swim diapers do not absorb any liquid. If you use reusable swim diapers, you can alternatively place cloth diaper inserts into the diaper and remove them just before water play.

Do I use a swim diaper over a regular diaper?

No, both reusable and disposable swim diapers do not require anything under them to work. Simply wearing a swim diaper will provide the protection needed to contain accidents in the water. Keep in mind that a swim diaper will not absorb liquids so when outside of the water, changing your child into a normal diaper or inserting a cloth diaper insert to the swim diaper is recommended until it’s time to hit the water.

Do I need to prep my swim diapers before use?

Some brands require 1-2 washes before use, while others do not.

Do you wear a swim diaper under a swimsuit?

Yes for pre-potty-trained children you should use a reusable or disposable swim diaper underneath their swimsuit, rashguard, or swim shorts. Do not substitute them with a cloth diaper cover or regular diaper.

Can my child swim using a swim diaper if they have diarrhea?

If your child is experiencing diarrhea, it’s best to keep them out of the water as they can make others sick. It also may further irritate their bottoms. If they do go into the water, it’s critical to frequently check their diapers to remove any contaminating poo as quickly as possible.

Can swim diapers cause rashes?

If a swim diaper is too tight, wetness will stay too close to the baby’s skin and cause rubbing and irritation which are all factors that lead to diaper rash. Applying an ointment or cream that will act as a barrier to protect the skin against prolonged wetness helps prevent rashes, as well as frequent changing while swimming. If using a reusable swim diaper, be sure to use an ointment that will not damage the diaper.


  • Super article and very informative, a great read! As an advocate of reusable products to save landfill, I was delighted to read the benefits of choosing reusable diapers. Lisa Southcott, author of

  • Very informative on a topic that poses some real questions:). The swim diaper was always a bit of a mystery to me. I always wanted my little ones to have fun in the water and never wanted to cause others to get out of the water. However, just so many questions. Helpful post for so many in that special stage!

  • This answers everything I wanted to know about reusable swim diapers! They are definitely what I’ll be using for my baby.

  • I guess you learn something everyday huh? I had absolutely no idea that swim diapers don’t hold pee and I use them all summer long🙈🙈

  • This is so informative! i used to think you can use swim diapers in place of regular diapers, but now I realize they have different functions

  • Your tips on choosing the right size and fit for swim diapers were very practical. It’s essential information for parents who want to ensure a comfortable and secure swimming experience for their little ones!

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