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Natalie Clauss

Small material science - cloth diapers [6 materials]

With cloth diapers, there are different materials that can be used. There are different options here for wetness protection and absorbent pads. The materials have all kinds of properties, so that a diaper can be individually composed or selected. In this article, I would like to briefly introduce you to the materials. Who can not do much with the different systems: Soon the systems will be presented in a weitteren article.


Cotton is the natural material that is used the most. It fulfills an absorbent function. It can be used in all cloth diaper systems, for example gauze diapers, AIO's or prefolds. It can be used plain knit or roughened. An example here would be Mollton, which is thicker than gauze and therefore more absorbent.

Cotton fiber is a natural fiber and is derived from the seed hairs of the cotton plant. The plant requires high water consumption in cultivation. It is actually a tropical plant and grows in hot, dry areas and is therefore not a regional material. If it is not certified organic (organic), pesticides are used because it is very susceptible.

As an absorbent material, cotton is very robust and durable. It is both absorbent, quick to absorb and retains wetness. This makes it well suited as a top layer. In addition, cotton has a very low allergy potential and is considered very skin-friendly. This makes it the perfect all-rounder for cloth diapers.


Hemp is also used as an absorbent material and is especially popular for night diapers or children who pee a lot. It is used, for example, in liners or pant diapers. Hemp can also be smooth or roughened. It often appears as a blend with cotton. Hemp is extremely durable and easy to care for.

In cultivation, hemp requires hardly any pesticides because the plant is very pest-resistant. It also requires little water, which is why it has a good ecological balance. It can be grown almost anywhere. It is a bast fiber, of which the stems are used. These are broken and rolled, which causes the hemp fibers to separate from the rest of the plant. This process is called fiber pulping.

Hemp as an absorbent material is very insensitive, but also quickly appears "stiff", especially if a dryer is not used. It is very absorbent and retains a lot of wetness, which is why this material is ideal as an absorbent material for the night. However, hemp is very slow in the speed of suction. Therefore, it is emfpommended not to use it as the top layer.


Microfiber is also mostly used as an absorbent material and can be used in different systems. Thus, it is used as an absorbent pad, but also in AIO's or pocket diapers. It has, depending on the processing form, a wetness absorbing, wetness protecting or wetness permeable function.

Microfiber is a synthetic fiber made from petroleum and chemicals. This fiber is spun into a very fine yarn and is even finer than silk. There are different forms of processing such as loops or fleece. Microfiber is usually uncomfortable on the skin because it draws moisture from the skin.

Fleece has a moisture-protecting function, but is not completely waterproof. On the other hand, it is much more breathable than polyurethane laminate(PUL).

Microfiber is generally sensitive to washing, soap must be washed out well. However, it is highly absorbent and very fast to absorb. However, it hardly retains moisture and releases some of it as soon as pressure is applied to it. Microfiber appears dry on the surface and transfers moisture well.

Bamboo viscose

Bamboo viscose is also used as an absorbent material in cloth diapers. It often appears as a material blend with polyester or cotton. Bamboo viscose can also be smooth or roughened. It can be recognized by a slight sheen (shines more compared to cotton). Bamboo viscose can also be processed as terry cloth and is then particularly absorbent. If the bamboo viscose has a polyester core, it is called Zorb. Zorb shrinks a lot when washed, but has a very high absorbency. Bamboo viscose is used in liners, prefolds, AIO's or panty diapers.

In the manufacturing process, the wood, bamboo, is crocheted and chemicals are used to break it down into a sticky mass, viscose. It is injected through a nozzle to form a fiber. As a result, although the starting material is a natural material, the end product is no longer a natural fabric. It is a synthetic fiber.

Since bamboo viscose, like microfiber, is a synthetic fiber, it is somewhat sensitive to cellulase washing. However, it is both absorbent, fast absorbent and moisture retentive. This makes bamboo viscose, like cotton, a universal material.


Wool has a wetness-protecting function and represents the only possibility of natural wetness protection, related to the material. It is used as an overtrousers or as a wetness protection in SIO's. Usually it is double knitted and must be greased in any case. Greasing must be done every two weeks at the most, except in case of soiling or wetness. As a rule, washing every four weeks is enough. Wool can be knitted smooth (fine or coarse) or milled.

In the production mostly virgin wool from (merino) sheep is used. Here I would pay attention to controlled organic animal husbandry.

Wool is somewhat in need of care. Thus, it requires a special wool wash with wool detergent and must be greased after washing, as the natural lanolin content is lost during washing. It warms and cools depending on the outside temperature, so it is temperature balancing. It is breathable and to a large extent self-cleaning. It also neutralizes odor, which is why it is popular as an overpant for nights. As a rule, it appears dry on the surface, but can retain up to 30% of its own weight in wetness.

Polyurethane laminate (PUL)

PUL is used as wetness protection in various systems such as AIO's, SIO's, pocket diapers or overpants. Polyurethane (PU) is laminated to a fabric, usually polyester, with adhesive. The adhesive is applied with small dots, which are also visible. Thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) looks the same as PUL and also has the same function, namely it is breathable and waterproof at the same time.

The material is available in very different qualities, which is noticeable in the application and the strength of the adhesive. PUL is easily stretchable. When washing is recommended at 30 degrees to 50 degrees, depending on the manufacturer. This is important for the warranty case. Normally, with good quality even washing at 95 degrees should not be a problem. However, I recommend following the washing instructions of the manufacturer.

I hope I was able to give you an understanding of the different materials used in cloth diapers. You could see that each material has its advantages, but there are often disadvantages. Therefore, it is valid that you find a suitable solution for you.

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