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Huckleberry Baby Shop:  Demystifying Diaper Fabrics

For the absorbent part of a diaper: 

Bamboo is one of the newest diaper fabrics available.  It is made from the bamboo plant.  It is very absorbent for its weight (considered more absorbent than cotton, but less than hemp) and has natural anti-bacterial properties that also make it less likely to retain odours.  Bamboo is considered a more environmentally friendly alternative to regular cotton.  Its texture is silky soft and it remains soft after many washings.

Cotton remains the most readily available diaper fabric.  Many people feel strongly about using organic cotton diaper fabrics to avoid the pesticides used to grow cotton.  Cotton is available in many forms, including flannel, sherpa, terry, velour, fleece, and birdseye.  Cotton is the least absorbent diaper fabric, so more layers are needed.

Hemp is a course fibre made from the inner bark of the hemp plant.  It is very popular for diapers because it is extremely absorbent, durable, naturally ant-microbial, and is considered more environmentally friendly than regular cotton.  Hemp diaper fabric is usually an approximate 55/45 mix with cotton.  It is not as soft as bamboo. 

Microfiber, unlike cotton, hemp, or bamboo, is a synthetic fibre made of polyester and polyamide.  It is extremely absorbent and can absorb up to eight times its weight in liquid.  Microfiber should not be used directly against baby’s skin as it can cause rashes and dryness.  Microfiber works well in pocket diapers. Some parents complain that microfiber starts to lose some of its absorbency with repeated washing.

For the stay-dry layer in pocket and AIO diapers: 

Microfleece is made from 100% polyester and is great at wicking moisture away from baby’s skin.  Microfleece is also used for liners as it resists staining and solid wastes fall off it relatively easily. 

Suedecloth is thinner than microfleece but has many of the same qualities.  Although it does not seem as soft as microfleece, it does not pill and stays new looking longer than microfleece.

For the waterproof or water-resistant part of the diaper or cover:

PUL stands for Polyurethane Laminate and is a fabric backed with a soft, flexible laminate.  In general, solid coloured PUL is made from polyester and printed PUL is made from cotton.  Most PUL has a bit of stretch.  It can be breathable or non-breathable.  PUL is extremely durable through many washings.

Nylon has a kind of durable water resistance (DWR) treatment done to it in order to be waterproof.  How waterproof and breathable nylon is depends on the type and amount of water resistance treatment it has been given,

Polyester Fleece is very soft, water-resistant, and breathable keeping wetness in, but allowing baby’s tender skin to breathe.  It is a great choice as a cover for babies prone to diaper rash.  Windpro fleece is a popular, high quality fleece used for this purpose, manufactured by Malden Mills.

Wool is a traditional diaper cover fabric.  Wool is amazing because unlike any other fabric, it is water repellent, water absorbent, and breathable.  Wool is antibacterial and does not retain smells.  The lanolin in wool is antibacterial, neutralizes smells, and makes the wool water-repellent.  Wool covers or soakers require special care, but need to be washed far less frequently than any other type of cover.  

A note on VINYL diaper covers:   Vinyl is also known as PVC and covers made of this material will harden and crack over time.  PVC can leech and off-gas harmful chemicals.  Vinyl diaper covers are typical of what you might find in a department store.