cloth diaper definitions
Cloth DiapersFlats - Flat diapers are the classic diapers that are exactly what the name implies, a flat cloth with stitched up ends. Each flat diaper has one or sometimes two layers of cotton. They are versatile since you can fold them in however fashion you like and can be also used as doublers, inserts, changing table covers, wipes, burp cloths, or dish towels. They wash easily and dry fast and fit all babies. You can even make your own from old-t-shirts or flannel pajamas. They are the least expensive choice in cloth diapering. Flats will need pins or Snappi to hold them in tact and will need diaper covers.
Prefolds - Prefolded diapers are an advanced version of flats. Each prefold is made up of several layers of cotton to make it more absorbent. It is stitched into 3 sections where the middle section has the most layers to make it extra absorbent. For example, a Standard Infant Prefold is 4x6x4. This means that the left section has 4 layers, middle section has 6 layers, and the right section has 4 layers of cotton. Once it’s folded up, it can get quite bulky, but it will absorb very well. Larger versions for bigger babies come even thicker in the middle, but there are lots of size options available if you prefer trimmer versions.
Prefolds are available in Bleached or Unbleached cotton. Bleached versions are white whereas unbleached are natural light beige in color. There are many types of prefolds made by many different companies, but the 2 Diaper Service Quality (DSQ) (they use the highest quality materials) diapers that will last a long time are Chinese Prefold Diapers (CPF) and Indian Prefold Diapers.
The differences between Chinese and Indian prefolds are that the Chinese prefolds have heavier stitching and are made of twill which is thicker so it will last longer. Indian prefolds are made with softer cotton such as gauze cotton so while it’s softer and more absorbent, it uses lighter weight thread so the threading may wear out faster than the fabric itself. Unbleached Chinese prefolds will need 7-10 hot washes and dries before they become absorbent since when they are unbleached there is oil that’s left on the cloth that will need to be washed away, but unbleached Indian prefolds will require only 3 washes and dries.
The following are some of the sizes that are available for prefolds:
Standard Infant 4x6x4, 12”x16”
Infant 4x8x4, 12”x16”
Regular 4x6x4, 14.5”x20.5”
Premium 4x8x4, 14.5”x21”
Prefolds are absorbent, economical, easy to wash, and quick to dry. They can also be used as doublers, inserts, dust rags, burp rags, or changing pads.
Prefolds will need pins or Snappi to hold them in tact and will need diaper covers.
Contours - Contoured diapers are advanced versions of prefolds. Instead of it being a rectangle, it’s shaped like an hour glass so that it’s more form fitting and less bulky. It may also come with a doubler – an extra piece of padding in the center to make the diaper more absorbent.
Contours will need pins or Snappi to hold them in tact and will need diaper covers.
Fitteds - Fitted diapers are similar to Contour diapers, but has elastic around the waist and leg area and has Velcro or snaps for closure so it eliminates the need for diaper pins or Snappi. These are very similar to disposable diapers except that it’s made of cotton and can be washed and re-used. Fitted diapers will require diaper covers.
All-In-Ones (AIO’s) - All-In-One is diaper that has it all in a one compact system. It is a fitted diaper with waterproof cover built in and has snaps or Velcro closure. The outer layer usually is made of polyurethane (PUL) and inside is usually made of fleece. This style of cloth diaper is the most convenient and great for going out or traveling, but are pricy compared to other types of diapers. It also takes a longer time drying. These diapers do not require a separate cover or any other accessories.
All-In-Twos (AI2’s) - All-in-Twos are an All-In-One that comes apart into 2 pieces. It allows for the removal of the inner soaker material which is the part that absorbs. AI2s are easier to clean and faster to dry than the AIOs. These diapers do not require a separate cover or any other accessories.
Pockets - Pocket diapers are like AIOs or AI2s, and have an outer layer of waterproof material most commonly PUL, an inner layer of microfleece or sudedecloth which keeps baby feeling dry, but it also has a pocket that allows for an insert or doubler to make it more absorbent. Pockets are convenient for evening time since they are thicker and can absorb more wetness. Prefolds can also be used as an insert to make it even more absorbent.
Cloth Diaper MaterialsWaterproof covers are used over Flat, Pre-Folded, Contoured, or Fitted diapers. They are usually made with snaps, Velcro or Aplix fasteners that keep the diaper closed. The cloth diapers are available in the following materials:
Bamboo – Bamboo is a very eco-friendly fabric and its fiber is super soft and very absorbent. It is naturally antibacterial and won’t hold odors and has a very silky and luxurious feel. This is one of the newer fabrics that has entered the cotton diaper market so expect to see lots more diapers available in bamboo!
Hemp – Hemp is a very eco-friendly fabric since it can be grown with little to no pesticides. Hemp fibers are longer, stronger and more absorbent and more mildew resistant than cotton. It has inherent antifungal and antibacterial properties. Most hemp fabric is 55% hemp and 45% cotton and the hemp/cotton combination makes the fabric stronger, durable and more absorbent.
Microfiber – Microfiber is a synthetic fiber most commonly made from polyester and polyamide (nylon) that is extremely soft, lightweight, breathable and durable. It wicks moisture away from the body keeping the body cool and dry.
Microfleece – Microfleece is made of 100% polyester and is very soft and keeps moisture away from the skin and does not hold poo.
PUL- PUL stands for Polyurethane Laminate and it is a fabric that has been laminated with polyurethane on one side to make it waterproof. It is a popular cloth used in diaper covers and training pants.
Sherpa - Sherpa is a very soft fabric that is popular for lining in wipes, changing covers, baby blankets as well as the inside of diaper covers.
Suedecloth – Suedecloth is a synthetic material that resembles suede leather and is thinner than microfleece, but has many of the same qualities that make it perfect for the lining of diapers. It wicks moisture away from the skin, resists staining, and does not hold poo. It also does not pill and stays newer looking longer than microfleece.
Velour - Velour is similar to velvet and is very soft. Velour is often used in wipes.
Wool – Wool covers are the most breathable fabric, comfortable and also water resistant. It can absorb up to 30% of its weight in liquid without feeling wet which makes it a perfect fabric for diaper covers. Wool needs special care and will need to be hand washed for long lasting wear, but it also doesn’t require as many washings as other covers. You will also need to make them water proof by lanolizing them every few weeks by soaking it in water with lanolin for 15 minutes. The following Wool diapers are available:
Wool Covers – They look like other diaper covers except that it is made in wool. Many have snap closure.
Wool Soakers – Soakers are commonly hand knit and have a pull up style.
Wool Shorties - Shorties are just like Soakers except a little bit longer. They look like shorts made of wool.
Wool Longies - Longies are longer than Shorties and look like pants made of wool.
Doublers - Doublers are thick pads that add extra protection to stop the leaks. It’s great for heavy wetters, overnight or for long trips. You can use these on top of a prefold, contoured, fitted or inside of an AIO, AI2, or Pocket diapers.
The term doubler and insert can be used interchangeably. A doubler traditionally goes on top of the diaper against the child’s skin whereas an insert is inside the pocket rather than directly touching the baby’s skin.
Inserts – Inserts are pads that add the absorbency of the diaper and typically “inserted” inside a pocket diaper. They are useful for overnight or longer periods between diaper changes. A prefold can be used as an insert when stuffed inside a pocket diaper.
Liners – Liner is a thin layer of cloth or paper that is placed between the diaper and baby’s skin to keep moisture away from the skin. It also helps keep solid waste from sticking to the diaper or when rash cream is used so as not to ruin the diaper. Liners can be disposable such as the flushable/biodegradable liners or made of materials like microfleece. It’s a nice to have item, but not necessary.
Soaker - Soakers have two meanings. It refers to the absorbent middle part of the diaper such as in AIOs, AI2, or Pockets and it can also refer to wool diaper covers.
Snappi - Snappi is made of plastic and has three ends with claws that can fasten onto a cloth diaper such as a flat, prefold, or contour. It’s a great way to hold the diaper together without worrying about the pins poking the baby! They come in various sizes.