FABRIC FACTS

FABRIC FACTS
I get asked all the time - which is the best nappy? Which are the best inserts? But there is no correct answer to that question because different properties are important to different people.
It depends on what is the most important thing to you.

- Being made from a renewable or ethically sourced base?
- Fast drying?
- Most eco friendly production process?
- Antibacterial?
- Gentle on babies skin?
- Absorbency?
- Natural fibre?

So, this is just a rundown on the physical properties of fabrics commonly used in MCNs to help you choose what will be YOUR best.

One important factor in choosing nappy fabrics is absorbency. For some parts of the nappy you want it and for other parts you don’t, so it is one of the main features taken into consideration below.

HYDROPHILIC - fabrics are absorbent. They attract and hold water. Due either to a fibres natural tendencies or by slicing and nicking otherwise non absorbent fibres to increase their surface area to allow water to cling.

HYDROPHOBIC - fabrics do not absorb water and tend to repel it. This also tends to make them less likely to harbour bacteria and easier to clean and faster to dry.

COTTON
- Is hydrophilic so a great (& fast) absorber.
- is a natural fibre (but keep in mind that does not always mean more eco friendly. While cotton is renewable, its growing and production into fabric uses massive amounts of water, pesticides and chemicals to bleach and soften.
- It is relatively slow drying when thick or in multi layers. Single layers such as flats don’t take long to dry.

Babies have worn cotton nappies for last few hundred years, and while it is safe to have against the skin, that is not to say we can’t take advantage of new technology to make things better 😁. One option when using a cotton nappy is to use a stay dry liner, to protect the delicate skin from the wet fabric (as you have in most MCNs.)You can make your own from any hydrophobic fabric, or buy them.

POLYESTER FEECE OR SUEDE OR WICKING JERSEY (AKA AWJ, SUPERLIGHT, COOL DRY)
- Is a hydrophobic fibre so repels rather than absorbing, acting as a wick to carry wetness to the absorbent layer.
- because of this, it creates an effective barrier between skin and wet layer
- it is easy clean and fast drying and less likely to harbour bacteria than natural fibres.

CHARCOAL POLYESTER (AKA BAMBOO CHARCOAL) fleece
- Same as above, but with nano sized Charcoal particles added to the poly solution before it is spun to fibre.

There is a lot of confusion and miss information about this fabric due to its technical name being “Bamboo Charcoal Polyester” so to be perfectly clear, the Bamboo part of the name is because the charcoal is made from bamboo. (The makers include this in the name because bamboo is more renewable source than other woods so showing that they are not burning down forests to make their charcoal)
The reason for adding charcoal are its natural antibacterial / filtering, odour reducing and cleaning properties There is no bamboo fibre in this fabric.
- It is a hydrophobic fibre so repels rather than absorbing.
- because of this, it creates an effective barrier between skin and the wet layer
- it is gentle on sensitive skin.
- it is easy clean and fast drying and less likely to harbour bacteria than natural fibres (and, due to the charcoals natural properties, purportedly even more so than regular poly fleece)

BAMBOO (& this is the one that gets everyone)
- Bamboo can be made into fabric in 2 ways.
- One is to pulp the wood into fibres and spin them, similar to how linen is made and this is what we all think of when we hear “bamboo” BUT The reality is that bamboo line fabric is 1) ridiculously expensive and 2) hard & crunchy and not the sort of thing you want against bubs skin.
- The 2nd is to melt it down chemically and use the cellulose from it to make viscose. This fabric is super soft & absorbent.
- Viscose from bamboo or bamboo viscose is made from a renewable, natural cellulose but is technically note “natural fibre” It is a man made fabric (but NOT synthetic)
- The same properties that make it so absorbent also mean it is very slow drying.
- In nappies and inserts, Bamboo Vicose is often mixed with either polyester or cotton. Polyester mixed with it creates “dry space” between the bamboo viscose to make it faster drying. Cotton is added to make it faster absorbing. (So more absorbent than when mixed with poly, but slower drying so depends what is important to you)

HEMP

- Is hydrophilic so a great absorber. (The literature says 3 to 4 times more absorbent than cotton)
- is a renewable, natural fibre (while bamboo uses less water and pesticides for growing than cotton its production into fabric still uses chemicals to bleach and soften.
- The same properties that make it so absorbent also mean it is very slow drying.
- On its own it is quite a hard stiff fabric, more so after repeated washing, so is regularly mixed with cotton to soften it and keep it flexible. It also helps to make it faster absorbing.

MICROFIBRE (the exception to the rule)

- Microfibre is polyester & is the same fabric as many cleaning cloths are made of. It is fully synthetic and while the polyester itself is not absorbent, the fibres are sliced and nicked all the way through to increase the surface area of the fibres which encourages water to cling. While this makes microfibre extremely good at catching water, it does not actually soak it up, so like a dish cloth, when squeezed hard, the water is easily forced back out.
- it is these very features that make it fast absorbing and fast drying, but can also sometimes lead to compression leaks.
- I would like to add a note here that while there is a lot of “poo pooing” of microfibre inserts on social media etc, many people successfully cloth nappy using only microfibre, and if you can, why not? It is the cheapest, fastest drying, hardest to stain, and in my opinion should be at least a part of any cloth nappy stash. Keep in mind however, as with any product, not all are created equal. There are varying thickness of microfibre fabric pile, various qualities of microfibre and inserts with different numbers of layers, so if buying microfibre, go for the thickest you can find. A really good quality microfibre should feel like it sticks or catches on your skin when you rub your hand across is.

POLYESTER PU

- This is the most common outer layer for pocket nappies, covers & AOIs. One side (the pretty side) is a fine polyester jersey, which has a layer of polyurethane bonded onto the back of it.
- It is much softer and more flexible than the traditional plastics that were used previously. While relatively hard wearing, the bonding does not cope well with high temperatures (over 70 degrees) and you do need to take care not to snag or scratch the Pu layer.
- It is super fast drying and easy clean fabric.