The performance of cloth diapers depends on the materials used. Knowing the properties of each material can help to select cloth diaper covers and inserts. Following are the commonly used cloth diaper materials.
Fabrics for waterproof cover
Almost all modern cloth diapers come with waterproof cover. There are two common materials used as a diaper cover: TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane laminated) and PUL (polyurethane laminate).
TPU fabrics are made using a (slightly more expensive) heating process that ‘bakes in’ the laminated waterproofing properties.
PUl fabrics are laminated with a chemical process.
I have diapers made with both TPU and PUL materials. TPU feels softer and less plasticky as compared to PUL. Caution should be used when washing TPU; it is recommended to wash/dry on med/low heat instead of hot. TPU is a good choice for hybrid diapers that without fabric lining.
Most of my diaper covers are PUL. The performances of my PUL diapers depend on the manufacturing quality. I washed cloth diapers mainly with the hottest water my washing machine could tolerate. The trend Lab brand started to peel off after 1 or 2 washes, while the Flip and Charlie Banana stayed unaffected.
Wool is an old-fashioned premium diaper cover fabric. Wool diaper covers do need special care during laundry time, like hand-washing to maintain its shape and lanolizing treatments to maintain its waterproof properties, but families that choose wool diapering often find the breathability and comfort of wool to be worth the extra trouble. Properly lanolized wool cover may be a solution for rash-prone baby. However, some babies may be sensitive to lanolin. It is necessary to test lanolin on your baby before deciding wool diapering.
Materials of absorbency inserts can be polyester, bamboo fiber, hemp, or cotton. They need to be able to absorb lots of liquid quickly and be comfortable. Here are some popular options:
Bamboo rayon is a very absorbent material. Bamboo fiber, a semi-synthetic fiber, production is made barely based on chemical processes. It’s not real natural bamboo fiber, but bamboo developed fiber.
Cotton is the most-used plant fiber on the market. It’s the most popular diaper material for traditional cloth diapers. The modern diaper does not use cotton a lot, as it is not as absorbent as other materials such as bamboo rayon, polyester fleece, hemp, and may get weared easily after washes.
Hemp is a natural fiber that resists bacteria growth. It can hold more water than cotton. Sometimes hemp fabric can be stiff and does not absorb water as quickly as cotton, bamboo rayon or polyester fleece. Because of this fact, hemp is usually combined with other materials to be used as a blend, e.g., hemp/cotton, or hemp/bamboo rayon.
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Modal fabric is produced similarly to bamboo rayon. It is also another highly absorbent fabric, holding up to 50% more water than a comparable amount of cotton. Over time, modal fabrics tend to be resistant to mineral build-up, making them a potential solution for cloth diaper users who must laundry in hard water. Modal is often not as sturdy and more prone to pilling than other popular diapering materials, so it is not popular for cloth diapering.
Polyester is well known to be the most popular absorbent material used in cloth diapers. It is a man-made material that is produced from petroleum materials. Most polyester fabrics start out as quite absorbent, and they have a reputation for durability.
However, polyester inserts need to be washed more carefully. Otherwise, they may lose their ability to absorb and hold as much water as new. Most absorbent polyester fleece shouldn’t be worn directly against the baby’s skin because they may irritate baby’s skin easily after soaked with urine. Moms should always include a stay-dry liner or use a stay-dry insert when decide to use a polyester absorbent material.
“Stay Dry” Fabrics for cloth diaper
Microfleece, one form of polyester material is often used to create a ‘stay-dry’ layer inside of diapers. This layer is designed to wick moisture away from a baby’s skin and can hold only a little amount of water. The moisture will be absorbed by the more absorbent layer underneath, such as hemp blend, fleece, bamboo rayon. You will often see the term ‘stay-dry’ when microfleece is used in cloth diapers.