What nappy fabrics can I choose from? Eco-friendly, absorbent, skin friendly…what is important to you?
This comprehensive list of cloth nappy fabrics is not meant to overwhelm, but to guide your journey into cloth. We hope you find it useful.
Did you miss last week’s glossary of common terms used in cloth nappying?
The ANA is deeply grateful to Jannine Barron of Nature’s Child for her time in compiling this series.
Super absorbent depending on the weave. Bamboo is considered a renewable resource produced mainly in China. Can take a little longer to dry than other fabrics but that’s’ because its highly absorbent.
A traditional nappy fabric from last century made from 100% cotton. It is a densely woven and brushed cotton. Light, non-bulky, easy to dry. The least absorbent nappy you can get but popular last century. If you ask your grandmother, she may say she used them. Rarely used now, hard to find.
This term can refer to natural fabrics or synthetic materials. Some Fleece is made from recycled product. ( See Microfleece below) Fleece can made from Cotton, Hemp or Organic Cotton., in this case, it refers to the brushed nature of the fabric creating a softer fabric to go against the skin. Check with manufacturer for breathability and fabric content.
Feels like linen so is usually combined with other fabrics like cotton for softness. Highly absorbent but can take a little longer to dry. A sustainable fibre that is absorbent and has more longevity than most natural fabrics. Not necessarily chemical-free but likely. Check with your manufacturer for certification on Hemp Fabrics. Very little water is needed to grow and harvest hemp.
Literally means “water fearing”, used in cloth nappying terminology to define fabrics that repel water.
Usually 100% polyester, or a blend of polyester and polyamide (nylon)
The fabric is soft, hardy, absorbs well, dry’s fast. Is usually found sandwiched in between other fabrics to help with absorbency.
A synthetic fabric often, but not always, made from recycled PET (Polyethylene terephthalate). It’s very soft, often coloured or printed. Sometimes sits on the part of the nappy that touches baby’s skin but also used as a stay dry outer or nappy cover. It is hydrophobic, making it wick water away from baby’s sensitive bottom and into the absorbent part of the nappy. Micro fleece is a finer fabric than polar fleece making it popular for the lack of bulkiness. A lighter weight or micro fleece used as liners or inners to keep moisture away from baby’s skin. (Also See Fleece Above )
A super soft modern fabric that feels like plush velour. A short fur texture. A man made 100%polyester fibre. Also spelled Minky.
No chemicals used in growing or manufacturing. Always check the company can provide certification from a recognised international body for authenticity. Ideal for allergy prone babies with sensitive skin. Highly absorbent. Holds moisture and does not wick it away from skin.
A type of rayon often made from beech trees. Modal is used alone or with other fibres (often cotton or spandex). Manufacturers claim the fabric is about 50% more hygroscopic (water-absorbent) per unit volume than cotton, colour-fast when washed in warm water, resistant to shrinkage and fading, but prone to stretching and pilling.
Nappy change mist
A handy spray; you can make your own or buy one. Can be water only or have essential oils added to make cleaning baby’s bottom easier when using a fabric baby wipe.
Nappy hose or sprayer
A handy hose that can be attached to the toilet cistern to wash poo off cloth nappies easily. Reduces the need for liners. The only Australian brand is Little Squirt but there are other brands from overseas. Check they will fit your cistern before buying.
Nappy wipe solutions
You can make your own natural solution with essential oils or most parents just use water. If you want something else, look for nappy sanitiser as they are sometimes called.
A fluffy soft fabric that is 100% polyester. Sometimes made from recycled plastic. Used as nappy cover or liner. Also commonly seen in jackets and blanket manufacturing.
Polyurethane Laminate – applied to fabric to make a moisture proof yet breathable layer. See Glossary of Common Terms for further explanation.
Sherpa refers to any ‘brushed’ fabric. It is an absorbent terry knit fabric that has been brushed to raise the fibres and give a fluffy soft feel. Most sherpa used for nappies has a high cotton content. Some sherpa contains a small polyester content. You can also get Bamboo Sherpa, Organic Cotton Sherpa, Cotton Sherpa. The ‘sherpa’ refers to the brushed nature of the fabric.
Soybean protein has the lustre of silk making this a popular fibre for extreme softness, smoothness and lightness. Often combines with other fibres to increase absorbency. Depending on the weave, it is easy to wash, fast to dry and hard to crease.
Soft absorbent cotton fabric covered in tiny loops for good absorbency and quick drying.
TPU (thermo polyurethane) is very similar to PUL (see above). TPU is bonded to cotton or polyester using a heat bonding lamination process which is said to be more environmentally friendly. During the lamination process, solvents are not used, and thus TPU is said to be exposed to fewer harmful chemicals. Whether this is true or not remains to be proven. It may be marketing talk? Fiona Ward from the ANA says “The terminology of PUL v TPU is not standardised, some brands who use a heat bonding process on their laminated fabrics still refer to it as PUL as that is the more recognisable term.”
A 100% polyester fabric that is very soft to the touch. It is used as the lining in nappies and wicks wetness away from babies skin. It is highly stain resistant.
Velour is a velvety fabric made from a mix of cotton and polyester for cotton velour, or bamboo and polyester for bamboo velour. It is used as a liner for nappies, or as boosters and in fitted nappies. Check with your retailer for fabric composition.
Wool refers to fabric woven or knitted from the shorn hairs of sheep (merino, lamb’s wool, etc.), goats (cashmere), or llamas/alpacas. Nappy covers or longies made from wool are naturally durable, breathable and water resistant. They are excellent for night time due to wicking ability.
There are nappies made from wool now, but it is commonly known as a great nappy cover. Also called a Soaker (a Wool Cover) or Longies (a Cover with extended pant legs). Can be loose knit or felted. Some need hand washing, some are pre shrunk and can go straight in the wash. Always check with your retailer. Wool allows you to go for days without being washed if felted as it just doesn’t seem to get wet (think sheep standing in the rain!).