When you first enter the world of Cloth Diapers, you may well be a bit overwhelmed.
Unlike disposables, where you pick a price range and a size and go, there is a bit more to think about with Cloth Diapers as they have been made and tested by parents and babies. And unlike fancy corporations who believe one-size-fits-all, parents know that not all babies are the same – and not all parents are the same!
We will give you a quick rundown on the different styles of Modern Cloth Diapers you will find in the market.
Almost all Cloth Diapers (except for Prefolds) have the same basic outer shapes and one of three fastening systems.
They either front fasten with snaps or velcro. Or they have side snap fasteners.
These are the most common styles you will find;
- Pre-Fold Cloth Diapers
- Fitted Cloth Diapers
- Snap-In (AIO) /All In Two (AI2)/ Pop In Cloth Diapers
- Pocket Cloth Diapers
- All in One Cloth Diapers
Most cloth diapering families use a combination of these different types of cloth diapers.
The method you decide to use will depend on how convenient you would like diaper changes to be, how much money you have to spend, and how laundering works in your home.
Different Types of Cloth Diapers
- Flats or Prefolds: The most inexpensive and most basic. These require you to use a diaper cover to keep leaks contained.
A rectangular-shaped cotton cloth diaper has been sewn in three parts. It will have multiple layers (4,6,4 commonly).
You can use a prefold on its own, with a cloth diaper pin or snappy. Still, you will have to have a waterproof cover over these as the liquid will go straight through the cotton, much like the old-fashioned cloth diapers our parents used, although the covers now are much fancier than the old school plastic pants.
- Fitted Diapers: More expensive than flats or prefolds, but easier to use. These also require a diaper cover.
A cloth diaper that looks somewhat like any other cloth diaper but has no waterproof layer. It will have leg and waist elastics, but with no PUL layer, you will have to make sure that, like a Prefold, you will have to pop a waterproof cover overtop to protect from wetness. These can have velcro or snap fasteners.
- Pocket Diapers: One of the most user-friendly diapers out there and what we use the most in our home. More expensive, but worth it!
A cloth diaper with a soft outer cover, a waterproof layer, a stay-dry inner layer, and then a special ‘pocket’ in between the stay-dry layer and PUL layer into which you place your soakers. Quick-drying and absorbency are flexible as you adjust the absorbency by the number, fabric type, and thickness of the soakers you put into the pocket. These can have velcro or snap fasteners.
- All In Ones or All In Twos: These are probably the easiest to use but the hardest to clean because they take a lot longer to dry.
An All In One looks much like a Snap-In or Pocket cloth diaper, but instead of the soakers being put into the cloth diaper, the soaker is permanently attached to the cloth diaper. This makes them work much like a disposable, but they take a lot longer to dry.
A downside is that they are often not able to be boosted. However, they are frequent favorites of Dad’s and daycare centers because of the ease of use. These can have velcro or snap fasteners.
- One Size Diapers: These are great because they go the distance as your child grows.
They can be more expensive but can save you money in the end.
- Diaper Covers: From synthetic materials to all natural wool, there are as many different types of covers as there are types of diapers.
Cloth Diaper Fabrics
There are quite a few fabric types that you will want to understand both what they are and their function when it comes to cloth diapers.
Knowing what the different fabrics are, how they work, their advantages and disadvantages will help you to choose the right cloth diaper and soaker combination for you!
These are the fabrics commonly found on or in the waterproof ‘cover’ part of the cloth diaper.
Polyurethane laminate (PUL)
PUL fabric is man-made fabric made by laminating a polyester fabric to a thin film of polyurethane using a solvent lamination process or a hot-melt lamination process.
This is the most important part of your cloth diaper cover, as it’s the PUL that stops the wet, getting out! It’s the primary waterproof layer.
Some cloth diapers have a ‘hidden’ layer of PUL sandwiched between the minky and microfleece/microsuede layers. In contrast, others have a specially made minky with a fluffy minky on one side and PUL on the other.
There are also specialized PUL fabrics that are printed or brightly colored on one side and suitable for cloth diaper outers on their own which are quicker drying than minky covers.
Microfleece is man-made fabric and is 100% Polyethylene Terephthalate and Microfleece shares qualities with wool but at a fraction of the weight and thickness. It’s very soft, light, and warm but is also hydrophobic and retains less than 1% of the water that passes through it. It’s machine washable and super-fast drying. Low-quality fleece is prone to pilling.
Microfleece is usually used as the ‘inner’ or ‘liner’ to your cloth diaper. It wicks the moisture away from babies skin and keeps it in the soaker, keeping baby dry and happy. You will also find that washable liner is made from Microfleece as it doesn’t fray when cut and dries so fast!
Microsuede is man-made fabric and is a knit blend of microfibre. It has a beautifully soft finish, and a feature of microsuede is its stretch. It’s also machine washable and super-fast drying.
Microsuede is sometimes used as the ‘inner’ or ‘liner’ to your cloth diaper. It wicks the moisture away from babies skin and keeps it in the soaker, keeping baby dry and happy. It is more often used for washable liners than inners.
Minky is a man-made fabric made from a microfibre with a thick, plush feel and is fade-resistant, pill-resistant, and dries extremely quickly.
Minky is usually used as the ‘outer’ pretty layer of your cloth diaper and is well known for its lovely soft fluffy feel.
These are the fabrics commonly found in the ‘soaker’ or the cloth diaper’s absorbent part. Many brands offer mixes of the commonly used soaker fabrics, and some offer more absorbent fabrics for heavier night absorbency.
It pays to do your research here, as some fabrics are far more absorbent than others, but the flip side of that is that they may take a lot longer to dry. So if you have trouble getting things dry, then you may want to avoid the likes of hemp.
Synthetic man-made fiber has a lot of handy features for cloth diapers.
It is super-fast drying and can hold a tremendous amount of liquid. Microfibre is commonly used as one side’ of a soaker; however, it needs a stronger holding fabric (such as cotton/hemp) to keep the liquid contained while it can take a lot of fluid.
It is also incredibly soft. So it makes a very cushy top layer, but it’s not recommended to have microfibre touching babies’ skin as it can cause their sensitive wee bottoms to dry out too much.
Synthetic man-made fiber but has cellulose which makes it another super soft cushy fabric. It’s beautifully soft, much like cashmere or silk, but is full of natural antibacterial properties – fantastic news for cloth diaper makers.
Soakers made from bamboo are very thin but still super absorbent, although they can take quite some time to dry.
Natural fiber is very hard-wearing but also incredibly absorbent. Much like bamboo, it has built-in antibacterial properties, but hemp goes one better and throws in some antifungal properties too! While it absorbs a lot, like bamboo can take a very long time to dry – and if you find it hardens over time, pop it into a warm dryer for 20-30 minutes, which will soften it back up and help loosen the fibers again as they tighten and shrink up with washing.
Natural fiber has been used forever. It’s very absorbent but not as soft as some of the other options. It’s a good workhorse, however. Reliable and hardwearing, it’s easy to launder and dries faster than hemp or bamboo but not as quickly as microfibre.