Deciphering Cloth Diaper Fabrics

Guest Contributor: Anne Sweden

The modern mama has a lot of choices when it comes to cloth diapering, and  the fabrics we get to pick from are no exception. Here’s a quick rundown of the most common diapering fabrics:

Cotton: Breathable, budget-friendly, quick to absorb and not prone to odors, cotton comes in different varieties like bleached, unbleached, organic, birdseye (a gauze-like weave) and even fleece.

Flannel: Typically woven from cotton or wool, flannel is not as absorbent as other fabrics, so it’s most often used for cloth baby wipes, burp cloths, bibs and sometimes fitteds.

Bamboo: Naturally anti-microbial and more absorbent than cotton, bamboo is a soft, smooth fabric that’s growing in popularity. It doesn’t require pesticides and chemical fertilizers to grow, so many feel it’s more environmentally-friendly. Bamboo absorbs liquid more slowly than other fibers, so it works even better when paired with fabrics like cotton or microfiber. AppleCheeks is a well-known brand that utilizes bamboo in its products.

Hemp: This is a stiff and very dense fiber which comes from the inner bark of hemp plants. It’s highly absorbent and is naturally anti-microbial. Hemp has become a favorite fabric for overnight diapering because it can lock in so much moisture. However, it does take a longer time to dry. BabyKicks is a leader in creating quality diapering products in which hemp plays a starring role.

Microfiber: Made from tiny little strands of polyester fiber that are woven together, microfiber is quick to absorb, quick to dry and resistant to staining. It’s also very affordable making it the most popular fiber on the market for diaper inserts. However, because it can have a drying effect it should never be placed right up against baby’s skin. Other polyester fabrics like microfleece and microsuede are softer and can be safely used against the skin.

Wool: Wool is possibly the oldest woven fiber of record. When lanolized, wool repels water like a champ. Even better, wool can go for days without laundering because it holds so much moisture and is naturally anti-microbial. It’s a very popular choice for diaper covers and the softer varieties (like merino) are sometimes even used for the diaper itself. Kissaluvs makes a very popular pull-on wool diaper cover.

Polyester Fleece: Fleece was synthetically created to mimic some of the qualities of wool, but in a much cheaper, easily washable and lightweight form. However, unlike wool, fleece is not technically waterproof since it wicks moisture away rather than locking it in. For a really effective fleece cover (called a soaker) you’ll want to choose the heavier “Malden Mills” grade fleece for true wetness protection.

PUL and TPU: These are both synthetic fabrics with a waterproof laminate backing. They provide durable, effective barriers against wetness and are very affordable which is why they are used so widely for covers and diaper outers. Both fabrics are also trim and quick to dry.

Velour: Velour is a closely-woven fabric that resembles velvet giving it the look and feel of luxury. It can be woven from any number of fabrics such as cotton, hemp or polyester.

That’s all for “Diaper Fabrics 101” and I hope that you might be inspired to try something new in your stash!

Anne is a cloth diapering, home schooling, hobby farming and just all-around busy mother of 5 wonderful children and is expecting another in January! She is the creator of the Zephyr Hill Blog and works from home as a professional naming consultant through her business Discovery Naming Service.

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