I see questions about this a lot. People ask what IS the difference between microfiber, hemp and bamboo? Is there a certain way that they have to be used? There is, let me explain!
Microfiber inserts are made from synthetic materials (i.e. man made). Super fast at absorbing wetness and just plain super absorbent. Used in many pocket and overnight diapers. They are the most inexpensive inserts there are. Microfiber dries fast in the dryer or clothes line.
But beware, microfiber inserts have a shorter lifespan than inserts from other material. Most people agree microfiber has a lifespan of about a year. At that point you may notice that it is not absorbing the same as it did and you may start to have leaks from around the legs. If stripping doesn’t work, you may need to replace them. Due to the nature of the material these are made of they tend to hold on to stink and ammonia easier than inserts made of natural fibers. I have heard claims that people have to strip these more often than other inserts. I’m not a MF fan so I donated all of mine, so I can’t attest to long term use of them. These are also not the trimmest inserts, I would say they are about a medium range of bulky.
How to prep: Microfiber inserts don’t need to be prepped. They arrive at their full absorbency and have no oil to wash off. You may just want to wash once to get the manufacturing yuckies off but that is up to you.
How to use: Microfiber inserts should NEVER be placed directly against baby’s skin. This is because these inserts are SO absorbent that when placed directly against baby, they will actually pull moisture out of the skin causing redness and possibly a rash. You may have noticed a dry feeling on your hands after touching them. Imagine that on your bottom! Ouch!
As long as there is some sort of fabric between inserts and baby you are safe.
Hemp is a natural fiber that when used in an insert is incredibly absorbent, trim and naturally antimicrobial. Hemp inserts hold about 2.5x more fluid than microfiber! Great nighttime solution when used behind microfiber inserts. Hemp will get softer and more absorbent the more it is washed. It is also extremely durable. You will often see hemp/cotton blends in inserts. Thirsties Hemp Inserts and Geffen Baby Super Absorbers Plus are my favorite to double up with. If you are wondering how different brands of hemp stand up in absorbency check this out!
How to prep: Inserts that are made from natural fibers such as hemp and bamboo contain natural oils. Because of this it is recommend that be washed at least 3x separately with a small amount of detergent and hot water as to not deposit oils on other cloth diapers possibly causing repelling. **I personally only do this once and often just toss in with my clothes laundry and wash once (no synthetic fabric softeners). They I just throw in the wet bag and wash with next load of cloth. Then I use them. Just be aware that most hemp inserts require 8 hot washes with drying to reach full absorbency and adjust accordingly with more frequent changes or by adding additional absorbency until the insert is fully prepped.
How to use: Hemp is a slow, stable absorber. Some hemp works better if placed under (furthest away from baby’s skin) another insert such as cotton or microfiber. Not all though, as brands such as Geffen Baby do just fine against little one.
Bamboo is a highly absorbent natural fiber. Bamboo inserts remain soft wash after wash. Kawaii Baby and Applecheeks both have great 100% bamboo inserts/doublers. Rayon from bamboo which is the actual material used in cloth diapers, while still super absorbent, does not retain the antimicrobial properties of the actual bamboo. You will often see bamboo/rayon and polyester mixes. My favorite bamboo inserts are from Ragababe, 2 layers of unbleached organic cotton sherpa with 2 layers of bamboo rayon on the inside! Sweet Pea also makes a very affordable bamboo all in one that I also really like. You can find them here.
How to prep: Please see how to prep hemp. It is the same procedure.
How to use: Bamboo inserts can be placed anywhere you like! ;) No danger of harming babies skin or not absorbing fast enough and getting leaks.
Check out Autumn’s post for suggestions on inserts she loves!
Do you have a favorite material that you like to use for inserts and cloth diapers? Any ones you avoid?