cotton branch

Cloth Diaper Newbie: Different Types of Material

cloth-diaper-newbie

As if the types of diapers and closures weren’t enough! But now there are different fabrics that require different care! It can be overwhelming when you are trying to learn how to use cloth diapers. If you are just starting out and some of these terms are unfamiliar to you, then please check out my other Cloth Diaper Newbie Series posts so you can learn about the different types of diapers and the different closures.
Please keep in mind that there are several different fabric names made from these materials. For example; There is polar fleece or micro-fleece, which are made from polyester and there are absorbent fleeces made out of cotton, bamboo and/or hemp. Some fabrics are made from blends of several different material. So, always look to see what material a fabric is made of. Fabric names sometimes refer to the type of weave that is used to create it. For example; flannel, which is usually cotton.

Here are the main materials used:

  1. Polyester
  2. Cotton
  3. Bamboo
  4. Hemp
  5. Wool

1. Polyester

One of the most common materials used to make cloth diapers, mainly because some types will give your baby a stay-dry feeling but it is also pretty cheap. It’s downfall is that it is highly toxic to make because it is made from plastic, PET (recycle symbol 1) to be exact. There are many variations of it. Different fabrics made of polyester include; polar fleece, micro-fleece, micro-suede, suede cloth and microfiber.
You will find fleece is used as a cover or a stay-dry liner depending on the thickness. Polar fleece is used as a cover, sometimes called a soaker. Micro-fleece, micro-suede and suede cloth are used as a stay-dry liner. Microfiber is used to make inserts to pocket diapers and all-in-ones and is absorbent. Most waterproof covers coated with PUL are made of polyester. So, most pocket, all-in-ones and covers are comprised entirely of synthetic material.
PREP & CARE: It just needs to be washed once before use. Then it is washed and dried after each use.

PROs: affordable, versatile (can repel or absorb liquid depending on the type of polyester)
CONs: can trap bacteria and get stinky (hence the term “microfiber stinkies”), can have compression leaks, is toxic to make because it’s made from plastic.

2. Cotton

Probably one of my favorite fabrics. Obviously it is natural and comes from a cotton plant. It is breathable and absorbent. It is used mostly for prefolds and flats. The processing of cotton consumes a lot of energy including;water and electricity and can require a lot of chemicals. Some fabrics made of cotton are; flannel, birdseye, sherpa, knit terry, terry cloth. Organic cotton is the best because it is made of cotton grown without pesticides and is not genetically modified (GM). Cotton is added to bamboo and hemp to create blends, which makes them softer.

cotton branch
PREP & CARE: Usually needs 5-6 washes to remove natural oils and reach maximum absorbency. Then it is washed and dried after each use.

PROs: soft, natural, affordable
CONs: conventional cotton is grown with lots of pesticides and is genetically modified, processing consumes a lot of energy and can require toxic chemicals (including bleaching). BUY ORGANIC to avoid this!

3. Bamboo

Another natural fiber. It is said that it is more absorbent than cotton. It is naturally antibacterial so it wont hold stinkies! It stays soft wash after wash. Bamboo is a renewable resource. It is fast-growing and does not need pesticides or chemical fertilizers. The downside is that chemicals are required for processing but it is still more environmentally friendly than cotton.

bamboo
PREP & CARE: Usually needs 5-6 washes to remove natural oils to reach maximum absorbency. Then it is washed and dried after each use.

PROs: natural, absorbent, bamboo is a fast growing renewable resource
CONs: expensive, also requires toxic chemicals to process (but isn’t as bad as conventional cotton)

4. Hemp

Also a natural fiber and it is very durable. Usually hemp diaper inserts are comprised of 55% hemp and 45% cotton. The cotton is added to keep the material soft. It is even more absorbent than cotton and bamboo. It is also naturally antibacterial! Like bamboo, hemp is fast growing and requires very little pesticides and no herbicides. Another interesting thing about hemp is that it improves and adds nutrients to the soil it grows in, unlike cotton.
PREP & CARE: Usually needs 5-6 washes to remove natural oils to reach maximum absorbency. Then it is washed and dried after each use.

PROs: natural, durable, antibacterial, absorbent, hypo-allergenic, hemp is also is a fast growing renewable resource,
CONs: expensive, stiff so it needs to be blended

5. Wool

Just amazing! It comes from a sheep or goat, so it’s natural and breathable. It’s great for babies with sensitive skin. It can absorb up to 30% of its weight in liquid, without feeling wet, but is also waterproof and serves as a breathable cover…perfect for overnight. It needs to be hand washed and re-lanolized periodically (lanolin is a natural oil that is on sheep’s wool). It is naturally antibacterial though, so it can be used several times before washing (unless some poo gets on it).

sheep wool
PREP & CARE: Usually there is no prep. The care depends on how often you use it. Wool doesn’t need to be washed after each use. Always wash it when poop gets on it though. It needs to be hand washed and re-lanolized from time to time.

PROs: natural, breathable (as a cover), antibacterial, can be used many times before washing.
CONs:┬ábulky, expensive, takes awhile to dry, needs to be hand washed, comes from an animal (even though it doesn’t hurt them, some people don’t like that) it can be itchy to some, toxic chemicals may be used to process.

About Angela Vullo

I am a mother to three wonderful children. I love to read and write. I created this blog to share my experience and tips on trying to live a green lifestyle.

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