Cloth Diaper Fabric Glossary
Cloth diapers can be made with many different fabrics. Here is a cloth diaper fabric glossary to help you sort them out.
Anti-Pill Fleece A lower-quality polar fleece commonly available at fabric stores. Some kinds of anti-pill fleece are thick enough to use for Cloth Diaper Covers. Some types are thin enough to use for an inner wicking layer. The only way to be sure is to wash it and then use an eyedropper to squirt water on it. You can then check to see if the moisture goes through the fabric.
Aplix A Velcro-like hook and loop tape used to fasten cloth diapers. Aplix is softer than the similar Touchtape but does not fasten as securely.
Bamboo One of the hottest fabrics in cloth diapering, bamboo is a natural fiber made from bamboo. Bamboo is fast-growing and does not need pesticides or chemical fertilizers to grow. Like most natural fibers it is biodegradable. Bamboo does require chemicals for processing, but most still consider it to be more environmentally friendly than conventionally grown cotton. Bamboo fabrics are often made in a closed loop system that recycles water and chemicals to protect the environment. Bamboo is more absorbent than cotton and is naturally somewhat antibacterial.
Birdseye A textured woven cotton fabric traditionally used for Flat diapers. It is sometimes also used for Fitted Diapers or All in One diapers.
Cotton One of the most common diaper fibers. Used in making all types of diapers. Organic cotton is also used alone in blends with Bamboo or Hemp.
Flannel You can find high-quality flannel locally. You want a soft, 100% cotton flannel that has a tight weave. Even in one store you'll find a variety of flannels, some better quality than others. Joann's often has sales on flannel for as low as $2 a yard. A few small fabric stores I have been in carry "diaper flannel" which is not as wide as standard flannel. It holds up well to washing, but be sure to figure out the price per useable yard compared to other flannel. Flannel will shrink so be sure to prewash. Flannel also pills a bit and fades, so avoid bright colors such as red that will potentially bleed onto other diapers in the wash.
Fleece Another sometimes confusing term. There are two main kinds of fleece. One is made from synthetic fibers and is known as polar fleece (water resistant) or Microfleece (thin enough to be used as a diaper lining). The other kind of fleece is made from cotton, bamboo, hemp or a combination of these. This natural fiber fleece is the same fabric that is commonly used for making sweatshirts. Natural fiber fleece can be used for a diaper inner, soaker or outer layer. If you are buying absorbent fleece make sure it is at least 85% natural fiber such as cotton so it will absorb well.
FOE, Fold Over Elastic A wide elastic often used for binding and elasticizing diapers in one step. One inch wide matte (not shiny) elastic is most commonly used.
Hemp Hemp is a very popular cloth diaper fabric. Hemp is fast-growing and is grown without pesticides or chemicals. Unlike cotton, hemp actually improves the soil it grows in. Hemp is more absorbent than cotton, very durable and naturally somewhat antibacterial. Hemp is typically blended with cotton for softness.
Hook and Loop Tape Velcro is the most common type of hook and loop tape. Aplix and Touchtape are sturdy enough for diaper making. Velcro brand hook and loop does not hold up and should not be used for diapers.
Lastin A super soft clear elastic. It holds up well to diaper washing. It can be tricky to sew with, but makes a very soft diaper.
Malden Mills Fleece A synthetic polar fleece most often used for the outer layer of a pocket or All in One diaper. Malden Mills fleece is made in many different thicknesses and styles. 100 series fleece is a Microfleece used for an inner wicking layer. 200 series fleece is thicker and will make a decent daytime cover with one layer but should be two layers thick for night time. Windpro, Windbloc and 300 weight fleece are thick enough to use for an outer layer or diaper cover. Fleece is prone to "compression leaks" when a really wet diaper is in contact with compressed fleece for long periods such as when a baby is in a car seat.
Microfiber A super absorbent fabric used for an absorbent Soaker layer. Also used in making Inserts for Pocket diapers. Microfiber can be very drying so most people recommend against using it directly against baby skin. Microfiber can be prone to compression leaks when it is wet and squished. Pairing it with Hemp can prevent leaks.
Microfleece A thin synthetic Fleece used to provide a stay-dry lining for diapers.
Procare A durable waterproof fabric used for wet bags, diaper pail liners and diaper covers.
PUL A polyurethane laminate used in making diapers. PUL is a waterproof barrier that can be laminated to polyester or cotton fabrics. Polyester PUL is much less likely to leak, cotton PUL is often really cute but requires more frequent diaper changes to prevent leaks.
Sherpa A soft, brushed terry fabric used in making diapers. Look for natural fibers, most of the sherpa you'll find in fabric stores is actually polyester. Most sherpa is made from cotton and has a small percentage of polyester to make it sturdier. Sherpa can be used as an inner, outer or soaker in a diaper.
SSM, Super Soaker Material A coarsely woven cotton fabric that fluffs when washed. Used as a soaker layer in diapers.
Snaps, Snap Press Polyacetyl snaps (like plastic) are commonly used in making diapers. They can come in many colors and must be set with a professional snap press. Professional snap presses are readily available for $100 or so. Some WAHMS (Work at Home Moms) offer snap-setting services if you just plan to make enough diapers for your own baby. Metal snaps may rust so they are not recommended for diaper making.
Suedecloth A popular inner layer for diapers. Used in Pocket, All in One, and Fitted diapers. Allows moisture through and provides a stay-dry lining. Alova and Butter Suede are commonly available in fabric stores.
Touchtape A Hook and Loop Tape commonly used in diaper making. Not as soft as Aplix, but has a stronger hold.
Velcro The most common form of Hook and Loop Tape. Does not hold up to diaper washing and should not be used in making diapers.
Wool A natural fiber used in making diaper covers or water-resistant soakers. Breathable and soft, quality wool diaper covers are great for overnights or for sensitive skin as they allow moisture to be released. Lanolin (a natural substance produced by sheep) is necessary to make wool water-resistant. Lanolin interacts with urine to neutralize odors so it needs to be reapplied every few weeks. You can use 100% cool flannel or other wool fabrics for diaper covers. If you are using suiting material, be sure to preshrink it to make it a little thicker and more water-resistant.