Modern cloth nappy insert types

The quality and price of cloth nappy inserts varies widely. It's therefore essential to understand the pros and cons of different fabrics and how they can impact your cloth nappy performance before you buy.

In this short buyers guide, you'll learn which fabrics are most prone to compression leaks, degradation and shrinkage, and which will set you up for success. 


If you're in the market to buy cloth nappy inserts, it's likely you've tried cloth nappies and realised that some inserts work better than others. 

Truth is, not all cloth nappy inserts are created equal.

Understanding what the pros and cons of each fabric can help you decide what's worth buying and what's worth passing on.

As you probably know, modern cloth nappies comprise of a water-resistant outer layer and absorbent inners - these are the inserts.

There are 5 main types of fabrics used to make nappy inserts:

  • Microfibre
  • Cotton
  • Bamboo Terry
  • Bamboo Cotton
  • Hemp

All of these fabric types come with pros and cons, so let's delve a little deeper into this.


Microfibre is a common fabric because it's cheap and absorbs quickly. Unfortunately, it is the least weakest of all the insert types. It holds the least amount of liquid, so is the most likely insert type to cause you leaks.

Many microfibre inserts are actually a combination of microfibre along with another material such as bamboo, but don't be fooled, it's still mainly microfibre.

If this is the insert type you use, you'll either need to change your baby's nappy more frequently up to every hour, or use a lot more inserts which creates bulk and can make your baby's clothing difficult to fit over the top.

Another reason that microfibre often leaks is because it's highly prone to compression leaks. Picture a sponge quickly absorbing liquid, but when pressed, pushes the liquid out again. This means that leaks can happen when your baby is strapped into a pram or car seat and the nappy is compressed. 

Another con for microfibre is that it causes irritation and nappy rash for baby if it sits directly against their skin. Many pocket nappy manufacturers use microfibre as their insert of choice, as it is then inserted into the pocket.


This material holds a fair amount of liquid, absorbs quite fast, and is pretty cheap. The only real drawbacks to cotton are that it is prone to a bit of shrinkage, and it's not as absorbent as the other material types listed below.

Bamboo Terry

This material is the perfect blend of fast drying time, and good absorbency.

Bamboo terry isn't as prone to shrinkage as cotton, bamboo cotton, and hemp, so you know your bamboo terry inserts will keep their shape without distorting.

Bamboo terry holds a good volume of liquid and absorbs quite fast, so it does the job well.

This is the fabric type we opted for when creating NappyLuxe.

Another reason for this choice is that it enables our bamboo terry inserts to be topped with a stay-dry layer without this layer sagging - something bamboo cotton and hemp inserts are prone to.

The main benefit of having a built-in stay dry layer is that you don't need to purchase separate liners for your nappies and it will help keep your baby dry and happy. 

Bamboo Cotton

This fabric is nice and absorbent, but is very prone to shrinkage. This means the inserts your start off with will shrink in size a little.

It also means that if the material is topped with a stay-dry layer, this layer doesn't shrink, which starts to sag on top of the shrunken insert.

We've also found that with bamboo cotton you really need to stay on top of your wash routine to ensure ammonia can't build up and cause little holes and fabric degradation.

Because it's so porous, this fabric degradation sets in faster than with other fabric types such as bamboo terry.

Fabric holes will reduce the life span of your cloth nappies and you may need to buy replacement inserts. 


Hemp holds the highest volume of all material types, but it comes at a cost.

The cost is not just the high price tag - it is very prone to shrinkage, and is very rough to touch.

Because it's so prone to shrinkage, it's not suitable to have a built in stay-dry layer on top without sagging.

Many parents complain about the discomfort of the rough, stiff fabric against their baby's bum. 

It is also very slow drying, and slow to absorb.

Finally, just like with bamboo cotton, hemp is usually the first insert material type to start degrading with ammonia build up if you aren't staying on top of your wash routine making it harder to live with and use over years. 

So...what are the best cloth nappies made from? 

After extensive testing of the above fabrics, in our opinion, bamboo terry was the absolute stand out winner. 

Bamboo terry is by far the most effective all-rounder, and combined with a high-quality nappy cover, provides an easy, low maintenance reusable nappy for parents and their little ones.

If that sounds good to you, you can't go wrong with bamboo terry. 

Ready to level up your inserts game? Shop our premium bamboo terry cloth nappy inserts packs now. 


Meet the Author

Natalie Lassen

Black and white photo of Natalie with her daughter cuddling

Natalie, Founder of NappyLuxe, is an eco-conscious mother and entrepreneur who discovered the benefits of cloth nappies for her family and the environment. With a mission to create the ultimate cloth nappy, she spent years researching and testing various designs before launching NappyLuxe - a range of high-quality, easy-to-use, and ultra-absorbent cloth nappies. Natalie is passionate about sharing her experience and expertise, helping parents make informed decisions and embark on their own sustainable parenting journey.

June 10, 2022 — Natalie Lassen
Tags: Learn