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Cloth Diapers | Why I Love Natural Fibers

Why Natural Fibers RockI’m always talking about how much I prefer natural fiber diapers and inserts over microfiber.  It’s not just because I like natural fibers best as principal, but more that they work better in my opinion.  Here are just a few of my thoughts and experiences.

Natural fibers wash well.
I find that natural fibers are much more forgiving in the wash when compared to microfiber.  Microfiber’s shape (think of a snowflake, that’s sort of what a cross-section of microfiber looks like) allows it to get buildup easier, which can cause it stink, not to absorb as it should or even repel.  Natural fibers have a smoother fiber which makes them easier to clean. While they do tend to stain more, that’s related more to their ability to absorb and retain colors – and easy to fix with some sun!

Natural fibers absorb faster.
I’m always surprised when I read that microfiber absorbs faster.  That is quite the opposite of my experiences.  Let me show you what I mean.  The video below is a comparison of a hemp insert and a microfiber insert.  You’ll also see the hemp when compared to bamboo, bamboo with zorb and cotton – all of which absorb very quickly.

Based on my experience, and the video, I recommend that if you use both microfiber and natural fiber inserts at night, you should put the natural fiber closest to baby.  It will pull moisture in quickly and the microfiber can work as backup!

It’s natural and breathable.
Natural fibers allow more air to make it to your baby’s bottom.  Consider the difference if you were to wear a cotton t-shirt or a polyester t-shirt.  Which would keep you coolest?  The cotton, of course.  The same holds true with baby.  Natural fibers offer pleasant conditions in diaper land.

What about volume?!
Like numbers?  Let’s see how they compare:
I gathered up some inserts and prefolds (for the cotton) and got to playing with my scale and a bowl of water.

Here’s what I did:
First I weighed each insert for a dry starting weight.  Then I fully wet the insert in a bowl of water.  To get a wet weight, I pulled out each insert (one at a time to weigh), held it over the bowl until it came to a slow drip – not squeezing out any water, then placed it on the scale.  Below is how they measured up.

Cotton Insert Microfiber Insert Hemp Insert Bamboo Insert
Dry Weight 2.4 ounces 2.5 ounces 2.5 ounces 2.5 ounces
Wet Weight 12.9 ounces 13.3 ounces 10.75 ounces 10.6 ounces
% of Water Absorbed
Based on Dry Weight
538% 532% 430% 424%
While the percentages between the cotton/microfiber and hemp/bamboo look like there is a big difference, keep in mind that we’re talking about a small bit of fabric.  Based on inserts that are the same approx. size and thickness (not same weight), the difference in what they absorb amounts to approximately a tablespoon of liquid.

What’s all of this mean?
When using quality materials, they all seem to absorb virtually the same (keep in mind that we’re talking about diaper inserts, so the amount of fabric being used is small).

I would buy an insert based on it’s other qualities (do you like the shape? thickness? washability? other feature?)  If you want to use cotton, stick with a dense fabric (not airy birdseye for example) to get more absorbency in a thinner insert.


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