Most families that cloth diaper choose to cloth diaper because of economic reasons: let’s face it, cloth diapers are definitely much more economical than disposable diapers. As, we’ve blogged previously about in the Ultimate Guide to Cloth Diapering Fabrics it’s super important that cloth diapering fabrics be absorbent, and be very strong because they will be washed hundreds of times.
In our years of cloth diapering, we’ve started to realize that it’s also important that we buy the most eco-friendly option that we can afford for our baby. Sorting through all of the different cloth diapering options is overwhelming for many families, and we hope that this blog post will simplify things for you and help you find the best option for your family.
Synthetic, or materials made in a factory are generally made from nonrenewable resources like petrochemicals or require an incredible amount of processing such as Bamboo from Rayon.
Polyesters / Microfibre
In general, most of the inserts made from synthetic materials are made from microfibre which is actually a polyester. Sometimes, the inserts are called by other names like minky, or zorb. Polyesters aren’t very eco-friendly because they are actually made from chemicals and petroleum (oil) byproducts. There are a few upsides though: micorfibre is known for it’s quick absorption, durability, is very economical and very light.
Most cloth pocket diapers come with a pair of microfibre inserts which to most families will be more than absorbent enough. Read on about some of the different options.
Bamboo From Rayon
Bamboo is increasingly becoming very popular with cloth diaper inserts because of how soft, and how light it is in textile form. Bamboo really would be the perfect fabric if we were completely able to ignore the environmental consequences. Unfortunately, bamboo goes through a very rigorous and fairly unfriendly process to become a useful textile. In our blog article called “How Is Bamboo from Rayon Made” we discuss the process in detail.
Interestingly enough though, before the processing happens bamboo is the ideal plant for fabric. Bamboo grows so quickly that it is not actually considered a tree. Instead it’s considered a grass!
Bamboo requires roughly one third of the amount of water to grow cotton and doesn’t require the use of pesticides because it has very few natural pests and grows so quickly. Our top selling cloth diaper inserts are actually the Bamboo From Rayon Inserts by AppleCheeks which we find to be incredibly soft and absorb quickly.
Natural Cloth Diapering Materials
Over the last few years, the cloth diapering community has come to really embrace natural fabrics and show tremendous interest in products made from hemp. Many different companies have changed their focus completely and started offering more natural diapers such as cotton or hemp.
Traditionally, cotton is used most often for fabrics in clothing and cloth diapers. Most of the clothing you own is probably made from some sort of cotton blend. Cotton is most often used for flat diapers, prefolds, and fitted diapers.
Cotton requires a growing period of at least 160 frost free days which eliminates many areas of the world. Major cotton producing countries are the United States, China, India and Pakistan.
Weather, insects and moisture can affect the growth of cotton: many farmers opt to use pesticides and other methods to better optimize the growth. In many countries, such as India and Pakistan the use of pesticides is not very well monitored and may be over applied.
Cotton is actually not a very eco-friendly choice, because it requires a lot of water to grow and generally there are a lot of pesticides that are applied while it grows to keep it pest free. Bummis, is our favourite manufacturer of prefold diapers because they have opted to only sell certified organic prefolds.
Hemp is a very eco-friendly plant and incredibly versatile because it can be grown from either seed or fiber. Hemp is a very eco-friendly cloth diapering choice.
In the past, hemp hasn’t been used much for cloth diapers because it is illegal to grow hemp in the USA and difficult to get a license to grow in Canada. In the USA, Hemp is known as a Schedule 1 controlled substance which means special permission is needed to grow it. From a few different google searches and sources, I’ve found it is very difficult to get permission and then just it’s just as difficult to find someone able to make hemp into a fabric. In Canada and many European countries, farmers can grow it but may require special license.
Hemp materials are very absorbent, quite thin, but don’t absorb as quickly as cotton or polyesters which means they are usually paired with another material like cotton. For example, AMP Hemp inserts are a 45% Hemp and Cotton blend.
Hemp is a very popular choice for cloth diaper inserts designed for use at night. Our favourite hemp diaper inserts are the Punkin Butt Patch Inserts or the AMP Hemp Inserts.
There are some brands of fitted diapers that use hemp like the AMP Hemp Fitted diaper.
Wool is created by sheep and very sustainable. In cloth diapering, wool is pretty much the gold standard for absorbency, breathability, and is most commonly used for wool diaper covers.
The only problem for many families considering wool is that it does require a little bit of special care, but it’s actually really easy once you have the hang of it. If you are considering wool diaper covers, we recommend taking a look into Sustainablebabyish diaper covers.
Are the environmental benefits of cloth diapers important to you? What material did you decide to use for cloth diapering your little one?