A frequent topic of discussion in many cloth diapering groups is “Why can’t microfiber touch baby’s skin?” This leads to some confusion, because microfleece, another common diapering fiber, is totally safe against baby’s bottom. Both synthetic and 100% polyester, these two fibers serve totally different purposes in cloth diapers.
The purpose of microfiber is to absorb. You will have used microfiber in other areas of your life: many cleaning cloths are made of microfiber, as are Swiffer (and similar) floor sweeping pads.
When you touch microfiber, you might notice that it feels like the fabric is grabbing at your skin. I notice this particularly on my finger tips when I touch microfiber. Microfiber is a super fast-absorbing textile, plus, it is inexpensive. That’s why it is so ubiquitous in cloth diapering. It’s so good at absorbing quickly that it will suck moisture out of baby’s skin if left in contact with it. Plus, it’s super abrasive, which is what you are noticing when you feel an insert “grabbing” at your fingertips when you touch it. That’s why microfiber shouldn’t be used directly against baby’s bum. Microfiber inserts go inside the pocket of a diaper. The pocket of the diaper will be made of a material that can touch baby’s skin (cotton, microfleece, microsuede, bamboo or hemp blends). You will also find microfiber sewn into the core of all-in-one diapers.
If you want to use microfiber inserts directly in a diaper cover, as an “all-in-two” system, you need to choose a brand with inserts that have a “stay dry” side. This just means that one side of the insert is covered with a material like microsuede, so it can safely touch baby’s skin. Flip and Funky Fluff (versions 1.0 and 2.0) are examples of these types of inserts.You can also wrap a microfiber insert in a flour sack towel to make your own “all-in-two” inserts.
The two main disadvantages of microfiber in cloth diapers are that they are harder to launder (due to the composition of this synthetic fiber), and they do not hold liquid as reliably as their natural fiber counterparts. When a microfiber insert is quite saturated, the pressure of baby’s body can cause urine to seep out, which is commonly called a “compression leak.”
Microfleece, sometimes just called fleece is used as a stay dry layer in cloth diapers. If you pour water on fleece, you’ll notice it sits on top until you apply pressure. Once the liquid has been pushed through, the fleece feels dry to the touch, so baby’s bum is protected from wetness. You’ll see that it looks like the fleece on a thin jacket or blanket.In fact, you can purchase a fleece blanket from the dollar store (or a piece of fleece from a fabric store), cut it into rectangles, and use it as a liner in your diapers. The purpose of a fleece liner is to catch poop (plop the poop into the toilet before laundering), to protect your diapers from diaper cream, or to create a stay dry layer in a cotton diaper, for example.
As you can see above, water poured on the microfiber insert (left) is immediately absorbed. Water on the fleece pools on top until some pressure (typically, baby’s body) pushes it through.
Another synthetic stay-dry lining you will commonly find in cloth diapers is microsuede or suede cloth. Just as it sounds, this fabric is smooth to the touch like suede. BumGenius and Funky Fluff use suede cloth in their pocket diapers.
Hopefully, this post has helped you understand the difference between microfiber and microfleece and saved a few baby bums from being irritated by the microfiber!