Absorbent Fabrics In Cloth Nappies

Absorbent Fabrics In Cloth Nappies

The absorbency (or lack of absorbency) of a cloth nappy can make or break your cloth nappy journey. This might sound a bit dramatic, but how many leaks do you want to put up with in a day before you get over the extra washing and dealing with multiple clothes changes every day?

Not all cloth nappy inserts are created equal as there are a few different fabrics that are used. You may notice that cloth nappies that worked perfectly fine during the newborn period or early days, don’t work as your little one gets older – the reason for this could be the material that your inserts are made of.

Synthetic Absorbent Fabrics

Synthetic inserts for cloth nappies are cheap but aren’t always reliable. Which cloth nappy inserts are made from synthetic materials?

  1. Microfibre

    Microfibre is a synthetic material that comes in many cheaper cloth nappies. It is great at absorbing liquid quickly, but it also can’t go directly against skin as it also draws the moisture out of skin. It is also prone to ‘compression’ leaks as it acts just like a sponge, although it absorbs liquid quickly, if it is squeezed slightly that liquid is released again.
    Not to be confused with microfleece – microfleece has no absorbency and is used as a stay dry layer against baby’s skin.

  2. Bamboo Charcoal/Charcoal Bamboo

    This is another synthetic material. Although the name suggests otherwise, bamboo charcoal is actually just microfibre covered in a layer of fleece. Which means it behaves just like microfibre, draws in liquid quickly but doesn’t hold on to it so well.
    It’s made by burning bamboo fabric scraps until they turn into charcoal, which is then crushed. Nanoparticles of this is impregnated into the fleece that covers the inserts, so it really has no benefits at all.

Natural Absorbent Fabrics

We love natural fibres at Bubblebubs! They’re what we prefer and recommend as they are much more absorbent and hold on to liquid better. So what are the options?

  1. Cotton

    Cotton has a medium absorbency (the lowest of the natural fibres) and is also middle of the range for speed of absorbing. It dries fairly quickly and is the most durable of the natural fibres. Cotton can also take a lot of environmental resources to grow.

  2. Bamboo

    Bamboo is highly absorbent and the softest of all the natural fibres. It is slow to dry though and can be delicate so can be damaged with poor washing, which is why it is often blended with cotton or hemp.

  3. Hemp

    Hemp is the most absorbent of the natural fibres. It tends to absorb liquid more slowly and due to its high absorbency, it is also slow to dry. Hemp does tend to be rough and stiff, as it is less processed than the other natural fibres. Often blended with cotton or bamboo.


Natural fibres are often blended in the absorbent inserts of cloth nappies, which means the pros and cons of each are balanced out. As an example, at Bubblebubs our Candies inserts are made from a custom milled 450gsm bamboo fleece which is mixed with cotton to ensure the fabric is durable. We make our booster sets with a higher bamboo content and it is thicker fabric than other brands on the market use, which makes it more absorbent.

If you’re looking at buying cloth nappies, make sure you know what you’re getting with the absorbent part of the nappy so you can have a great cloth nappy experience from the start. And if you are getting leaks with your current cloth nappies, the first place to look is the absorbency and capacity of your current inserts. A few swaps and tweaks to the capacity of your current set up will likely get your leaks sorted in no time.

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