Back to Basics: Diaper Fabrics

Modern cloth diapers have moved beyond the days of cotton prefolds pinned and then covered with rubber pants. These days, you have plenty of options ranging from disposable-like All-In-Ones all the way to fitted diapers with wool covers. While there are many factors to consider when choosing your type of cloth diaper (or one to add to your stash of an already plentiful assortment) one of them is fiber type. What IS the absorbent layer(s) made of? What touches my baby’s bottom? Why does it matter?

These fabrics are most often sorted into one of two categories: natural or non-natural fibers.

Natural Fibers

·         Cotton
o   Cotton is one of the most prevalent fibers in diaper making. Birdseye cotton is a type of cotton that is used in diaper making. Another common type is an Organic Cotton.  This cleans easily and can hold up to a lot of wear and tear. Diaper Service Quality prefolds are often a cotton prefold.

·         Bamboo
o   Bamboo is super absorbent and is from a quick-growing sustainable resource.

·         Hemp
o   Hemp is often seen in prefolds and doublers/inserts. This is a very absorbent material but can take a long time to dry. Many use hemp for nighttime diapering solutions.

·         Flannel
o   Flannel is not a very absorbent material. You will more likely see cotton flannel used in cloth wipes.

·         Wool
o   Wool is often associated with the term ‘bulletproof’. Not absorbent in itself, when properly lanolized and paired with an absorbent diaper (such as a fitted) a wool cover (or shorties or longies) provide a natural, breatheable,  waterproof cover for your baby.

·         Velour
o   This material feels luxurious next to a baby’s skin. It’s not absorbent, so it’s often used as a topping material to the absorbent part of a diaper. Cotton Velour and Bamboo Velour are common velour types in diaper making.

·         Sherpa
o   A super cuddly fabric, Sherpa is used for diaper inserts and diaper linings. It may go next to a baby’s skin and retains its softness (though, It  may need to be fluffed in a drier).


·         MicroFiber
o   Perhaps one of the most common non-natural diaper materials out there, microfiber is an absorbent material that is also inexpensive.  It contains hollow fibers that can hold a tremendous amount of liquid while remaining trim and not bulky. This fiber CANNOT be next to the baby’s skin.

·         MicroFleece /MicroSuede
o   These stay dry materials are non-absorbent and are used as a top layer in diapers- either sewn in or a separate piece that is put on top of the diaper. This goes next to the baby’s skin and whisks away moisture leaving the baby feeling dry, similar to disposable diapers. Microsuede (or suedecloth) is a bit thinner than microfleece and also does not pill like microfleece does.

·         Zorb
o   Relatively new to the diaper market, this material is highly absorbent (abZORBent). It is also a quick absorbing fiber, which can make it ideal for those who urinate a lot at one time, as opposed to little bits over a time span.

With so many options, the right answer for one person may be different for you. Some babies can only tolerate natural fibers next to their delicate skin, while others cannot tolerate the wetness and need a stay dry material next to their tush. Some fabrics stain easier than others and others may be stiff if you exclusively line dry. Just know that there are options out there for you to choose from.

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