The 5 Best Absorbent Pads for Cloth Diapers

NancyBaby Care, Baby first equipment, Cloth diapers, Living sustainably, Säuglingspflege, StoffwindelnLeave a Comment

Die besten Saugeinlagen

This page is also available in: Deutsch (German)

You have opted for cloth diapers, but are so unsure which are the best absorbent pads for your situation? Do you want to know what the difference is between all the materials? You feel a bit helpless with the huge amount of different shapes and sizes of the absorbent pads?

The market for absorbent pads for cloth diapers has amazingly increased in recent years. There are so many different materials, sizes and combinations of fabrics, you can easily get lost here.

I want you to feel safe and confident when buying absorbent pads, so I would like to give you an overview of the properties of the most important materials of in this blog post.

Because despite the now large selection of insoles, the materials can be reduced to a few types.

1 Selection of the best absorbent pads in general

The absorbent pads for cloth diapers differ in the combination of materials used. This has an influence on absorbency strength and speed, two very important properties of inserts.

In addition, the absorbent pads differ in size and of course shape.

As an introduction, I would like to give you a brief overview of these three topics.

1.1 Size

The size of the insert depends on the type of cloth diaper. It is important for your to know whether you use a newborn diaper, which is very small, a cloth diaper in one size or a multi-size system (e.g. gDiapers, Windelmanufaktur).

If you are unsure, you can always measure the size of the inner diaper, inner tub or simply the cloth diaper. Cloth diapers are stretchy, so you measure in the slightly stretched state.

1.2 Suction strength and suction speed

When choosing the right absorbent pad, it is also crucial whether you swaddle your baby for the night or for the day . The age of the baby and its peeing behavior also plays a role.

At night you want to choose a highly absorbent and memory-rich insert. At night it is not important to swaddle you baby with a thin layer of cloth diapers to have a small baby diaper bottom.

During the day you will rather wrap more often and choose a slimmer insert with possibly less suction power than at night.

Newborns pull quite often, but little at once. Here you need rather a thin insert, which you change more often. Often in the first few weeks a washcloth is sufficient as a suction pad (e.g. Ikea).

Older children especially need insoles that can absorb a lot of fluid at once. Here you need absorbent insoles, which in the best case apply little and make a small diaper bottom .

Suction strength and suction speed result from the material and shape of the suction insert.

1.3 Form

In addition to the different materials of the insoles, which I will enter in the next chapters, there are insoles in different forms.

Due to the shape of the suction pad, the suction volume can be increased or decreased again. The insoles are therefore available, for example, in single-layer, two-layer, three-layer.

The three-layer insoles include the prefolds and also, for example, the three-layer terry cloth insert of the “Windelmanufaktur”. These are well suited for the night or for if you baby pees very often.

Some insoles also make it possible that by a suitable folding (gauze diaper, washcloth, prefold), the main pee area (in boys rather in the front and in girls rather in the middle) can be strengthened again selectively.

Enough theory 🙂 Now lets come to the 5 best materials for absorbent pads.

2 The best absorbent pads

2.1 Cotton

I would like to start with the ultimate material for absorbent pads par excellence, cotton. Cotton is so versatile that it plays an important role for cloth diapers both as an absorbent pad and as a material for the cloth diaper itself.

Long before today's chic cloth diapers became “en Vogue” here in Germany, i.e. until the 80s, many children in Western countries were still wrapped with the good old gauze diaper . This was and is still made of 100% cotton. Especially the gauze diaper is very popular with many parents as a cloth-for-everything (sun protection, burp cloth, headscarf, etc.) in addition to its use as an absorbent pad. Therefore, the recycling idea also plays a role in the use of cotton gauze diapers.

Absorbent pads in cotton are available in pure white (bleached) and natural (unbleached). Experience has shown that the unbleached version has a better suction behavior. However, this has not yet been proven.

Cotton absorbent pads are available in all conceivable shapes, sizes and weaves. It is available smooth knitted (gauze) and roughened as molton. Roughened, it is even thicker and therefore more absorbent.

Depending on the processing, it can be thicker, e.g. for the night, or thinner, during the day for a slim diaper bottom.

Cotton is also available as terry cloth (e.g.: for the night as a three-layer terry cloth insert of the “Windelmanufaktur” or as a washcloth), this is the high-pile form. This shape is again particularly absorbent and very well suited for the milk stool, as this shape catches the liquid stool particularly well.

  • Suction behaviour
    • Cotton is well absorbent and retains moisture well.
  • Suction speed
    • Cotton is quickly absorbent.
  • Production
    • Cotton is a tropical plant and is grown in dry areas for the production of wool. Due to cultivation in alien areas, water consumption and pesticide contamination are very high. Cotton is grown in monocultures and cannot be obtained regionally in Germany.
  • Life cycle assessment
    • Cotton is actually ecologically rather questionable due to its cultivation.
    • Cotton is also available in controlled organic cultivation and is then identified by the abbreviation “kbA”. You should therefore always use cotton with the organic label.
    • Cotton is a natural sustainable fabric.
  • Care
    • Cotton inserts must be washed to achieve their complete absorbency. They shrink about 5% to 20% when washed. As a result, cotton shrinks and increases the volume per area. The fabric can thus absorb more moisture.
    • Cotton can be washed at 60°C or 90°C.
  • Skin compatibility
    • Cotton should always be used as organic, as it is only free of pesticides in this form. Cotton itself is very well tolerated by the skin and offers a very low allergy potential.

2.2 Hemp

In addition to cotton, hemp is a great material for absorbent pads of cloth diapers. The big advantage of hemp is the absorbency and production. Here, hemp beats cotton, especially in terms of ecology.

Hemp inserts are usually available as a mixture, e.g. 55% hemp and 45% cotton (e.g. “Windelmanufaktur” hemp fleece Hercules insert). Hemp is usually natural white, not pure white, so unbleached.

The inserts with hemp content look rather rough or roughened, especially after repeated washing and without dryer noticeable.

Hemp can absorb a lot of water, but is slow to suck. Therefore, hemp pads are mostly used as a booster and for the night along with a fast-absorbing material such as bamboo or cotton.

Since hemp sucks a lot, but is still thin, it keeps the diaper bottom of your baby thin during the day as a booster.

As an insert, hemp is usually woven flat or available as fleece .

  • Suction behaviour
    • Hemp is very absorbent and stores a lot of moisture.
  • Suction speed
    • Hemp is slow to absorb
  • Production
    • Hemp is undemanding and can in principle be grown anywhere.
  • Life cycle assessment
    • The ecological balance in production is much better for hemp than for cotton, as generally less pesticides and water are needed.
    • Due to its rapid growth, hemp also scores points in sustainability.
  • Care
    • Hemp is very robust and very easy to care for. Washable at 60°C. Like cotton, hemp must also be washed.
  • Skin compatibility
    • Hemp has great properties as a absorbent pad. It has an antibacterial effect and prevents odors. Hemp is generally very well tolerated by babies' bottoms.

2.3 Bamboo viscose

Bamboo viscose is a material of natural origin. The viscose is obtained from the rapidly renewable bamboo wood. Similar to hemp, bamboo viscose is usually sold as a mixture with cotton or polyester .

Bamboo viscose is very suitable as an insert for cloth diapers, as it is very absorbent and also stores moisture very well.

Characteristic is the silky shine, where you can easily recognize the bamboo viscose in inserts. Bamboo is also used in diaper fleece.

Bamboo is available like hemp smooth or as terry cloth (Little Lamb).

Relatively new on the market is the blend with polyester, which became known as ZORB 2 . This version was invented especially for absorbent pads for cloth diapers. ZORB must also be washed before use and shrinks strongly during the first wash.

  • Suction behaviour
    • Bamboo viscose is very absorbent and moisture-retaining.
  • Suction speed
    • Bamboo viscose sucks quickly.
  • Production
    • Bamboo viscose is made from bamboo wood, but is no longer a natural substance due to the manufacturing process. The bamboo wood is chopped and split. Then it is processed with chemicals to a honey-like mass, the viscose. The resulting (artificial) fibre is woven as yarn.
  • Life cycle assessment
    • The cultivation is sustainable and harmless, as bamboo is a rapidly renewable raw material. Due to the processing, bamboo is no longer a natural substance.
  • Care
    • Bamboo viscose inserts must also be washed before use.
    • Bamboo viscose consists of cellulose and is therefore somewhat sensitive to washing and not as tear-resistant as cotton. Therefore, only washable up to 60°C, spinning with low spin rates and drying gently.
  • Skin compatibility
    • Bamboo viscose remains soft for a long time and is generally well tolerated by baby's skin.

2.4 Wool

Now we come to a real all-rounder: wool. Wool has many great properties, which makes it versatile not only in the cloth diaper sector. The following properties help us in particular when using cloth diapers:


  • warms and cools.
  • is breathable.
  • is self-cleaning.
  • stores approx. 30% of its own weight in moisture.

Wool is usually obtained from merino sheep from virgin wool. Wool contains lanolin (wool grease), which is a fat that makes the wool weatherproof and protects the sheep from moisture and hypothermia.

Shorn merino sheep in a pasture. Source

If we use wool in cloth diapers, lanolin helps to saponify the urine. This neutralizes the smell and the wool diaper only has to be aired out and thereby loses the urine odor.

The properties of wool are particularly evident in wool diapers, e.g. overpants or outer and inner tubs of AI3s. But our topic is absorbent pads.

Wollwalk Liners (kbT) as diaper fleece replacement (unfortunately no longer available at Windelmanufaktur Dresden)

In principle, there are three possible applications as inserts:

  1. Liner: Wool is great as an alternative to diaper fleece or if the baby has sensitive skin and quickly turns red on contact with urine. Here we make use of another property of wool. When wool is not greased, it lets liquids through, much like microfleece, and feels superficially dry. However, it does not dry out baby's skin additionally. Therefore, it can be used very well as a (dry) liner.
  2. Leak protection: Greased, liners can be inserted into the diaper as first insert as additional leakage protection. Wool does not allow liquid to pass through when greased.
  3. Suction pad: Since wool can absorb 1/3 of its own weight as moisture, it is also suitable as a natural skin-friendly absorbent pad.

Wool or wool grease also has healing properties, which are particularly noticeable directly on the skin. Therefore, wool on baby's skin is often a good choice if the child is prone to sore bottom.


  • Suction behaviour
    • Less than cotton or bamboo viscose.
  • Suction speed
    • Wool sucks reasonably quickly if it has not been greased.
  • Production
    • Wool is obtained by shearing from sheep and is a natural raw material.
    • Wool should only ever be purchased with the organic seal (kbT in Germany). Only then was wool obtained in an animal-friendly manner.
  • Life cycle assessment
    • The ecological balance is very good. Wool is a completely natural, sustainable raw material and biodegradable.
  • Care
    • Wool is actually easy to care for, as it rarely needs to be washed. Heavy soiling can be washed out selectively, e.g. with wool soap.
    • Wool may only be washed at cold temperatures, otherwise it will shrink heavily, preferably by hand or in the wool washing program of the washing machine.
    • Wool is not allowed in the dryer.
    • It must be greased every 4 to 8 weeks to protect against moisture. This is not necessary when used as a moisture-permeable liner insert.
    • Wool should be stored airy to prevent insect infestation.
  • Skin compatibility
    • In principle, wool is super skin-friendly. But there are individual people who do not tolerate wool.

2.5 Microfibre

The last material I would like to introduce is a completely artificial material. I am a big fan of natural fabrics, especially wool and cotton, but microfibre also has its advantages and raison d'être, so I would like to mention it here.

Microfibre is a synthetic yarn that is spun very finely. In summary, this leads to the following properties:

  • Stores a lot of moisture
  • Is nevertheless permeable to moisture
  • Lets go of moisture quickly under pressure

Microfiber can absorb moisture quickly and is permeable at the same time, so that the moisture is directed inside the insert, away from baby's bottom. Depending on the processing or the weave, these different properties of the microfibre can be used more intensively.

Since it wicks away moisture so well, it can be used, for example, as a moisture-permeable material, in the form of a thin liner with a roughened surface. This type of microfiber allows moisture to pass through and still feels dry.

When processed into a two-layer fluffy fleece, the material is relatively impermeable to water and still breathable.

By processing as terry cloth or loop-shaped, the strong absorbent power of the microfiber is used and the material can absorb a lot of moisture.

However, the strongly absorbent microfiber is very fine and should therefore not be directly attached to baby's bottom, as it dries it out too much. Usually, therefore, in this form, a protective layer is often sewn over it from another material or the microfiber is used as just an insert of a pocket diaper.

It is important to know that microfibre releases moisture very quickly under pressure, e.g. in a baby wrap or generally when sitting / playing.

I always recommend using the microfiber in combination with other materials, such as hemp. This makes it possible to compensate for the disadvantages of the microfibre (skin compatibility, moisture retention under pressure).

  • Microfleece at gCloth, pocket diapers
  • Also available with high pile (little lamb) or as a minki cuddle surface only for the design
  • Suction behaviour
    • Microfibre is very absorbent, but retains moisture poorly under pressure.
  • Suction speed
    • Microfiber sucks very quickly.
  • Production
    • Microfibre is extracted from petroleum and processed by chemicals into a very fine and thin plastic fibre.
  • Life cycle assessment
    • Due to the complex manufacturing process including oil extraction and transport, the life cycle assessment here is the worst of all 5 materials presented.
    • Microfiber is a completely artificial material, not compostable and microparticles of the material can enter the environment.
  • Care
    • Microfibre is a chemical fibre and therefore somewhat sensitive to washing. It can come with microfiber to saponification of the insert, so you have to pay particular attention to the dosage and composition of the detergent. Microfibre inserts are washable at 60°C.
  • Skin compatibility
    • Microfiber tends to dry out the skin. If it has been processed with a strong absorbent effect, it can be used as a lower layer. If it is processed as a liner, however, it must go directly to the skin to break the surface tension.

3 Combinations

Many of the mentioned materials are combined according to their properties to take advantage of the positive features and compensate for the negatives.

This allows a very individual and situation-dependent use of the different absorbent pads.

Very popular combinations are e.g. hemp bamboo, but also hemp microfiber. This combination perfectly combines the fast absorbency of bamboo and microfiber with the large absorbency but relatively slow suction speed of hemp.

Cotton is also often combined, e.g. with microfibre or hemp. Triple combinations such as hemp-bamboo-cotton or microfiber-cotton-hemp also make sense, as they combine the positive characteristics of the three materials. These are, for example, the absorbency of cotton, the absorbency of bamboo and the suction speed of microfiber.

Clever combinations can be used to create more special absorbent pads for special situations, such as at night or for older children or even for sensitivities or allergies to individual materials.

4 Conclusion

In this blog post I have introduced you to 5 of the most popular absorbent pads. Which materials are the “right” ones always depends on the situation. Depending on the requirements your baby places on the cloth diaper, you can choose the appropriate material, either individually or in combination.

Make sure that you buy organic , if possible, e.g. by paying attention to the license plate, e.g. kbA and kbT that we have here in Germany.. Since the absorbent pads of the cloth diapers spend a lot of time a day directly on your baby and thus directly on the skin, it is important that the pollutant content is as low as possible. The easiest way to achieve this is with organically grown or produced products. An advantage that you usually look for in vain with disposable diapers, because even on supposed eco-diapers usually a part of oil or plastic is processed (keyword: superabsorbent).

Another small tip at the end: You can also use absorbent pads wonderfully as postpartum pads . I did this myself with the second child and saved a lot of waste.

I hope I was able to bring you a little added value with this post and you could learn more about the properties of the different absorbent pads.

If you don't want to miss any more posts, feel free to subscribe to my blog. And if you want to learn more about cloth diapers, have a look here: Which cloth diaper system is the right one? Part 1 – Complete diaper systems.


Subscribe to Blog via E-Mail

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and to receive notifications about new posts via email.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.