Welcome to Part 2 in our Mini Series covering Cloth Diapering Basics! If you’ve read Part 1 you now know what is needed to make a functional cloth diaper. With an understanding of these two simple parts we can move on to learning about different ways that these two parts can work together to make up many different types and styles of cloth diapers. This is where some of the funny terminology starts to creep in so I’ve decided to create for you an alphabetical list covering the various types of cloth diapers as well as the materials that most mainstream cloth diapers are made of as well.
Types of Cloth Diapers & Commonly Used Materials
AIO: All-In-One. This style of cloth diaper is a one piece product. It consists of an outer waterproof layer or shell and is lined with absorbent material on the inside. Because the absorbent material is attached to the waterproof shell these diapers typically take longer to dry. This style of cloth diaper is considered the easiest to use because there is no stuffing required. Because the diaper is all in one piece you simply lay it under baby and snap it on as you would a disposable diaper. These diapers are especially user friend for daycares and people who may be slightly, “afraid,” of using cloth.
AI2: All-In-Two. This style of cloth diaper consists of two separate pieces- an outer waterproof shell or cover and a separate inner absorbent material that is placed on inside of the diaper shell. The inner layer of absorbent material is often attached to the shell with snaps. When the inner material becomes soiled it can be taken out and replaced with a clean absorbent material while still using the same shell. This type of diaper is more cost effective as you can use the same shell for more than one change as long as the shell remains clean.
Aplix: A style of diaper closure that is made from Velcro (brand name). More commonly referred to as Hook & Loop closure.
Bamboo: Bamboo is a very absorbent natural fibre often used in the absorbent inners of cloth diapers. Some AIO diaper feature a bamboo core while it can also be found in the form of an insert, prefold or fitted diaper. Bamboo is known for its high absorbency and is sometimes referred to as a thirsty material meaning that it can absorb a lot of liquid (aka pee.)
Diaper Cover: Usually made from vinyl, plastic, waterproof polyester, fleece or wool. A diaper cover is placed over an absorbent inner such as a fitted diaper or prefold so that clothing etc. does not get wet. A cover is designed to keep wetness in.
Doubler (Booster): A doubler or booster is a smaller piece of absorbent material that you can add to your diaper to help make it more absorbent. Doublers or boosters are often used for naps or nighttime when baby needs to go longer without a diaper change. It is said to boost or double your absorbency hence the names!
Fitted: A fitted diaper is a made solely from absorbent material. It allows the baby's bottom to be completely swaddled by absorbent material such as organic cotton or bamboo. Because of the high absorbency factor of these diapers they are a common choice for nighttime use. Fitted diapers must be covered with a diaper cover or shell to prevent wetness from getting on clothing, bedding etc.
Flat: Flats are likely similar to what your Grandma used to cloth diaper! Just as it sounds this is a flat piece of material usually made from natural fibers (organic cotton, bamboo, hemp) that must be folded and used as an insert then placed inside a diaper cover, shell or plastic pant. Flats are another very cost effective way to cloth diaper.
Fleece: Fleece is used in many modern day cloth diapers as is has stay dry qualities that help to wick the moisture and wet feeling away from baby’s skin. Wetness is able to pass through the fleece to the absorbent material but remains dry to the touch keeping your baby’s bottom feeling nice. If you choose to use flats, prefolds or diapers with organic materials that feel wet, you can purchase fleece liners (small sheets of fleece) that can be laid over the organic materials to help give baby the stay dry feeling.
Hook & Loop: A type of diaper closure made from Velcro (brand name). Hook and loop is a popular choice especially for newborn diapers because it is very user friendly and also allows for the most accurate fit around your baby’s waist.
Hemp: Hemp is another popular choice for cloth diaper inserts as it is a natural fiber with a high absorbency.
Hybrid: This type of cloth diaper is similar to an AI2 as it involves an outer diaper shell and separate inner absorbent material. These diapers are called hybrids because they can be used with traditional absorbent inners like microfiber, bamboo or organic cotton but they are also commonly used with biodegradable disposable inserts.
Insert: This refers to the absorbent part of a cloth diaper. Inserts are commonly made from microfiber but can also be made from bamboo, hemp and organic cotton. Inserts are generally rectangular in shape. Some inserts need to be folded to fit inside of a diaper while others are sized correctly to fit the diaper. Inserts are commonly used in pocket style diapers as well as AI2 and hybrid systems as mentioned above.
Lanolin: A natural wax like product from sheep that is used to treat wool diaper covers to make them waterproof.
Microfiber/Microterry: A synthetic material that is commonly used to create cloth diaper inserts. Microfiber is a popular choice for diapers as it is the cheapest type of insert. Microfiber should never be placed against a child’s skin as it will leave a rash, it must be stuffed into a pocket diaper and covered by a microfleece or microsuede liner. Despite being a cost effective insert it is not as absorbent as natural fibers and can frequently lead to leaking.
Pocket: A very popular style of cloth diaper that contains a pocket opening. The outer part of the diaper cover is made from a waterproof material while the inside is lined with a stay dry fabric such as microfleece or microsuede. There is an opening between the inner and outer layers of the cover that can be stuffed with an absorbent diaper insert.
Prefold: One of the original diaper styles (from your Grandma’s day!) before the time of modern day cloth diapers. Prefolds are a flat rectangular piece of absorbent material with a thick layer in the wet zone. Prefolds can either be folded like an inserts or folded into a diaper and must be secured to your baby using pins or snappis. You must place a diaper cover or plastic pant over a prefold to contain the wetness
PUL: PUL is the short form for polyurethane laminate. This is a type of fabric that many diaper covers and shells are made from today. A chemical bond is required to make this material securing the plastic to the fabric which results in it being waterproof. It is usually shiny and sometimes smooth.
TPU: TPU is the short form for thermoplastic polyurethane. This is another type of fabric used for making diaper covers and shells. Instead of a chemical bond like that required to make PUL this material requires a heat bond. It is usually smoother and softer to the touch than PUL.
Wool: Wool is another common choice of material in the cloth diaper world because of its natural properties. When treated with Lanolin wool becomes waterproof and can be used as a cover for fitteds, flats and prefolds. Many types of wool covers can be found including covers, shorties (shorts) and pants (longies.) Wool is a popular choice for naps, nighttime and heavy wetters as is is highly breathable.
And there you have it a list of the various styles of diapers along with the material most commonly used in the production of cloth diapers. Hopefully this post makes you a little the wiser as you read up on cloth diapers and continue your search to find the perfect cloth diaper for your little one!
Happy Cloth Diapering!