The fabric you use to make your baby’s diaper is so important. Not only does the material need to be waterproof, but also comfortable and non-irritating.
Waterproof fabrics are not what you would usually be sewing with, but you really cannot substitute them for anything else when making diapers. There is a wonderful selection of specialty fabrics you could use to make diapers, but which should you choose?
What is the best waterproof fabric for diapers? Wool is the best waterproof fabric for diapers. It does not irritate skin and is water-repellent, although it needs to lanolized to remain waterproof. Other good waterproof fabrics include TPU or PUL synthetic fabrics, polar fleece, and softshell.
There is a wide range of waterproof fabrics as well as other great fabrics for absorption to use, but possibly the best option for that water-proof outer layer would be wool. It is a popular choice and is great to use for overnight as well.
You can break down diaper fabrics into waterproof, absorbent, and stay-dry. Understanding the different fabrics will help you create useful, layered diapers for your little one, or better help you understand which diapers are the best to purchase. So keep reading for the ultimate guide to diaper fabrics!
Waterproof Material For Diapers
Waterproof fabrics are usually used on the outside of a diaper, in order to keep the moisture locked inside to prevent leaking and pills. These waterproof fabrics can be sewn into a diaper to become one solid piece, or they can be sewn as a separate cover to be worn over a fully absorbent diaper.
Wool is a fairly popular choice for diapers. It is very effective used as an overnight diaper, as it is very breathable and very comfortable.
Wool is naturally water-repellent but does need to be lanolized to keep these water repelling abilities. Wool naturally contains lanolin, a protein which helps keep it (and sheep!) dry.
But a lot of that lanolin is lost as it is processed into yarn and more can be lost with repeated washing. Lanolization replenishes much of what’s lost, keeping your wool garments waterproof. You can buy special soaps for wool which help you do this easily.
Wool is the more natural and the most breathable material available to be used for diaper covers. It is resistant to bacterial growth, which is another huge bonus. Wool diaper covers, paired with an absorbent fitted diaper is popular for children with sensitive skin.
TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) and PUL (polyurethane laminate) fabrics are breathable, waterproof fabrics that are commonly used in modern cloth diapers. These fabrics usually consist of a synthetic or polyester base fabric.
A waterproof polyurethane membrane is set and bonded to the base of the fabric using a heat bonding method (TPU) or by using a chemical bonding method (PUL). These fabrics do work well for waterproofing, but you do need to be cautious when using these fabrics as they do damage easily or delaminate.
Polar fleece is 100% water-repellent, and will effectively keep water in the diaper while keeping the outside of the diaper dry.
Polar fleece is more breathable than PUL/TPU, but more moisture can leak through the fabric. So your diaper can still get a little wet with polar fleece, though less so than with non-waterproof materials.
Softshell is the name used for a variety of fleeces which are usually used for outdoor clothing. It is denser than polar fleece and offers more moisture protection than normal polar fleece as well.
Some softshell fabrics can have a hidden polyurethane layer inside, which is breathable but also makes the fabric more waterproof.
There are different levels of breathability and waterproof properties between the different makes of softshell fabrics. It is not so commonly used for cloth diapers but is a good option for a more heavy-duty cloth diaper.
Best Fabric For Added Absorbency Layers
Any good waterproof diaper cover needs a good absorbency layer as well. Once again, there is a wide variety of fabrics to choose from to use as an absorbency layer, and it will also depend on what you use as your cover fabric.
Here are some of the absorbency fabrics you could pair with the waterproof cover:
Bamboo is wonderfully absorbent. It also happens to be naturally resistant to bacterial growth, making it a great option for a cloth diaper material. Bamboo also stays soft after many washes.
However, you need to be careful of the bamboo material you purchase. Not all of it is as organic as it might claim. Bamboo grows quickly, and this leads to aggressive farming which can harm the surrounding environment.
The other downside is that the processing of the bamboo wood into the soft fiber often calls for harsh chemicals. While bamboo is a great option, you need to be very careful with the brand or product you choose.
Cotton is the most commonly used plant fiber around the earth and it’s popular for many good reasons. It’s natural, lightweight, breathable, and very absorbent.
The recommended cotton fabrics to use in cloth diapers include flannel, cotton fleece, and toweling. Cotton is a wonderful choice as it is usually inexpensive, durable, and fairly easy to sew with.
It is important to remember that not all cotton is created equally and once again you must do your research to ensure you are purchasing good quality cotton.
Hemp has a great ability to hold a whole lot of moisture while still staying slim; it is the ultimate absorbent fabric. Very often, hemp is blended with cotton to give it a softer feel and texture, and this means it is a great option for night time diapers or for children who are heavy wetters.
Microfiber is a man-made fiber and is not natural like the previous absorbent fabrics.
Microfiber is a very fast absorber, but it tends to act more like a sponge. That means when it is full, it can result in compression leaks.
For diapers, it is best used when paired with another natural fiber which is absorbent, such as cotton.
Stay Dry Fabrics
Stay dry fabrics are a great final addition to the waterproof material for the cloth diapers. These are used on the inside of the diapers to ensure that your baby feels dry, even when the absorbent fabric is wet.
Stay dry fabrics are needed for babies who are prone to rashes – and can minimize discomfort during overnight use – and are used as a lining or as a separate liner.
Microfleece is super soft and has a very luxurious feel. It is commonly used for washable diaper liners and is possibly the most popular fabric used for diapers.
Suedecloth is one of the more affordable choices of a stay-dry fabric, and it is great for beginners as well, as it is easy to sew. The one side is brushed, and the other is smooth. The brushed side is placed against the skin for that dry feeling.
Suedecloth is commonly used in pocket style diapers.
Athletic Wicking Jersey
Athletic Wicking Jersey fabric is 100% polyester that is often used in sports clothing. It wicks moisture away rapidly and helps skin remain cool, dry, and comfortable.
It is a lightweight material that is ideal for hotter climates, as it allows for a cooler feel than microfleece and suede cloth.
What Are the Best Absorbent Cloth Diaper Inserts?
The best absorbent cloth diaper inserts are organic cotton and hemp. They are more absorbent than bamboo or microfiber.
Both organic cotton and hemp will retain the moisture under pressure better than bamboo and microfiber. Hemp inserts are more absorbent than cotton inserts of the same size, but then again cotton has a softer feel, so it will depend on how much wetness there is.
For these reasons cotton and hemp are also good choices to be used in overnight diapers.
How Many Inserts Do You Need For Cloth Diapers?
The number of inserts you need for cloth diapers will depend on how often, and how much, your child wets their diapers. Usually, you will need 1 insert for day time pocket diapers, and between 2-3 inserts for night time diapers.
Related – Do Cloth Diapers Leak More Than Disposable Diapers?
Cloth diapers actually leak less than disposable diapers. Modern cloth diapers are really great at preventing leaking and often do so better than disposable diapers.
It is important to remember that cloth diapers have come a long way, and older cloth diapers won’t be as effective as modern ones. Less leaking is only one of the many benefits cloth diapers have over disposable diapers, and they are definitely worth the initial investment, you will definitely save in the long run!
The Layers Of A Diaper
You might have chosen a great stay-dry material and a super-absorbent fabric, but none of it will matter if you do not have a reliable waterproof cover – which leads us back to our waterproof fabric list above.
Choosing the right waterproof cover is so important to ensure that your child will remain dry and that there won’t be endless leaks and spill all over. You can choose to use the waterproof fabric to make a removable diaper cover, or use it with the other two layers to make one sturdy, leak-proof cloth diaper.
There are some wonderful choices when it comes to the best fabric for waterproof diapers, but one of the better options is wool. It is natural, breathable, soft, and is naturally anti-bacterial. It is even better suited for those who have sensitive skin, and it will keep your baby leak-free and comfortable at all times!
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