While you’re thrilled to start cloth diapering your baby, you’re also less than enthused trying to decode the cloth diaper lingo. What is microfiber? Is it worth it having in your diapers?
Microfiber is a synthetic material that is made up of many tiny strands. It is the quickest absorbing fabric for cloth diapers. It is 40x more absorbent than cotton. Microfiber is used as a part of many inserts, pockets, all-in-twos, and all-in-ones. This is a cloth diaper staple.
Microfiber is the bread and butter in the cloth diapering world. This fabric speedily soaks up liquids to keep your baby dry.
What is Microfiber?
Microfiber is made of polyester and nylon. It is then split to produce smaller fibers that are thinner than silk. The tiny fibers allow it to soak up to 7 times its own weight. In addition to holding a lot of moisture, it absorbs quickly.
Microfiber is a popular choice for the absorbent filling of cloth diapers. It takes the place of the Super Absorbent Polymer or SAP in disposable diapers. Microfiber is generally used for loose inserts in diaper covers or pocket diapers. Microfiber inserts are also sewn into all-in-ones.
One thing to note is that microfiber should never be placed next to your baby’s skin. Since it absorbs moisture efficiently, it will suck the moisture from your baby’s skin. Place a fleece liner on top of your microfiber if it doesn’t have a stay-dry liner.
Unlike other natural materials, microfiber doesn’t have to be prepped. Prepping natural fiber diapers involves washing them 8- 12 times before they reach their maximum absorbency. Microfiber is easy, to begin with, because it requires zero prepping before use. If you’re new to cloth diapering, this might be an easy way to start.
Microfiber is beloved by many cloth diapering parents because it is relatively cheaper. You can build up your cloth diaper stash for a relatively low cost. Microfiber is a man-made material that doesn’t require growing and harvesting.
Microfiber Compared to Other Fabrics
Microfleece is also a synthetic material like microfiber. The main difference is that microfleece wicks moisture away from the skin. It doesn’t absorb and store moisture. Microfleece is usually used as the top layer in pocket diapers and all-in-ones. Loose microfleece liners are also used to top microfiber inserts that are used with covers. Many parents make their own microfleece stay-dry liners because they will keep their shape without sewing.
Microfleece is used for outdoor sweaters for its insulating qualities and moisture-wicking abilities. Microfleece is made from Polyethylene terephthalate or PET. It is the lightest weight of all the fleeces and breathable.
Microsuede has a similar use to microfleece. You’ll find these sewn into pocket diapers as the top stay dry layer. It also wicks moisture away from your baby’s skin. It is made out of polyester and mimics suede leather. It doesn’t stain easily and will keep your baby dry. It keeps baby cool and breathes.
Microfiber is different from natural fabrics used in cloth diapering because it is completely man-made. Natural fibers that are typically used in cloth diapers are cotton, hemp, and bamboo. Natural fibers are also popular because they are environmentally friendly and can last longer than microfiber. They do come with a higher price point.
These natural fibers are used for the absorbent part of the diaper in prefolds and inserts. Since these are plant fibers, they come with plant oils fully intact. To enjoy the full absorbency of your prefolds and inserts, you may need up to 8 hot washes where they are completely dried in between. Unlike microfiber, they do require a large amount of prepping. Although, they don’t hold onto smells and ammonia, like microfiber. Their fibers are considerably larger.
Cotton can actually absorb more liquids than microfiber. Once it absorbs them, it also contains the liquids better. Microfiber is prone to compression leaks. This is when a full microfiber insert receives pressure from the baby’s bottom, and the liquids are squeezed out. On the other hand, microfiber rapidly absorbs moisture where cotton may take longer to absorb. Cotton is primarily used in prefolds and in inserts as a cotton blend.
Hemp is an all-star absorber. It holds 2.5 times more liquids than microfiber. The caveat is that it absorbs slowly. For this reason, parents pair it with microfiber on top to quickly absorb the baby’s pee, while the hemp slowly absorbs and stores over time. This is also a great nighttime solution. Did I mention it’s also antimicrobial?
Bamboo is another absorbent choice. You can find inserts that are made from 100% bamboo. It stays ultra-soft over time and isn’t prone to detergent build-up like microfiber. It also requires the least amount of prepping compared to the other natural fibers. You can also find bamboo insert blends with rayon and polyester.
Popular Microfiber Inserts/ Diapers
If you’re looking for some tried and true cloth diaper inserts, here are a few popular ones:
- Rumparooz 10 Pack Microfiber 6R Soaker – This pack comes with smaller, contoured newborn inserts and larger one-size inserts.
- Babygoal Reusable Cloth Diaper Inserts Pack of 12
- Best Bottom Diapers Microfiber Doubler Inserts
While microfiber is a staple in everyone’s cloth diaper collection, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
If your baby takes a few shaky steps over and it smells like she just cleaned some windows, it is an ammonia build-up. Ammonia build-up can be tricky to get rid of. In addition to moisture, the tiny fibers trap ammonia. Ammonia is more of a problem for older babies. Younger babies are usually changed more frequently. Older babies who wear one diaper overnight and who are eating solids tend to produce these stinky diapers.
Ammonia is a big issue because ammonia fumes are toxic to inhale. If there is leftover ammonia in the microfiber inserts after they are clean, when your baby wets their diaper, the ammonia will come in direct contact with their skin. The ammonia against your baby’s skin will cause an ammonia burn. Ouch! These burns look like red, flat rashes.
To get rid of the ammonia, you will need to treat your microfiber with bleach. Add ¼ cup of bleach to your wash. You can do this once a month to keep the ammonia away. This may become trickier if the microfiber is in an all-in-one. Bleaching diapers with waterproof PUL may void their warranty.
You may also need to strip your diapers before adding the bleach. Aside from ammonia, microfiber traps detergent. Stripping your diapers will allow the detergent to completely come out of your microfiber. This will stop it from holding stinky smells.
Even if you prefer using natural fibers, you should always keep a few microfiber inserts on hand. They always pair nicely with hemp or bamboo at nighttime to rapidly soak up moisture while the natural fiber insert takes its time to absorb and store. Microfiber is also relatively cheap to buy, so you won’t have to skimp on inserts.