What is a cloth diaper insert? An insert is an additional layer of absorbent cloth that is stuffed into pocket style diapers. In this guide we will explain the different cloth diaper insert types, the pros and cons of each, and how to care for your inserts. We also answer the question of what is the best cloth diaper insert.
What Is A Pocket Diaper?
Pocket diapers are made of a waterproof liner, and a fabric liner that wicks moisture away, with an opening between. That opening allows you to stuff in an insert. Pocket type cloth diapers diapers are easy to use, and are a great option for caregivers. But they will require a little bit of prep work upfront with stuffing.
See Cloth Diaper Types Explained Simply for more information on the various types of diapers.
An insert is simply a layer of cloth that is stuffed into pocket style cloth diapers.
What Is The Difference Between Inserts vs Liners
You’ve read (or hopefully will read) our Cloth Diaper Liners Guide. Liners are great. We highly recommend them. If you are new to cloth diapers then you may be wondering what the difference is between liners and inserts. They sound the same and serve fairly similar purposes. A liner is a very thin piece of fabric that you throw away when you change the diaper. They look kind of similar to a fabric softener sheet. The baby poops in the diaper, and you throw away the liner. They keep the diaper pretty clean and make poop easier to deal with. An insert is a much thicker piece of cloth that is added to a pocket or hybrid diapers. It’s an additional layer of absorbency. A liner can be used on top of an insert, but you wouldn’t use a liner without an insert (if using pocket diapers).
Cloth Diaper Insert Materials
There are several different types of materials that inserts are made from, and a brief description of each.
- Microfiber: These are the most common inserts. The drawback to microfiber is they tend to have compression leaks. This means if they are too tight, they can leak. These dry very quickly.
- Hemp: Hemp is extremely absorbent. They are great if your baby is a heavy wetter. A great option for overnight. However, because of that absorbency they also take longer than other inserts to dry. So you may need to buy a few extra. Hemp also tends to be more expensive. For more on hemp see Hemp Cloth Diapers – 3 Best Hemp Inserts for Cloth Diapers
- Bamboo: Very absorbent, natural material. Great option for naps or as an added insert for overnights.
- Minky: This is made from a polyester that simulates microfiber. Minky is less likely to cause rashes than microfibers. It’s expensive. The reviews are rather mixed on minky, and we would rank these lowest on our list of recommendations.
- Zorb: This material is new to the market. Zorb is absorbent and designed to minimize compression leaks. It’s also expensive and hasn’t really caught on yet.
- Organic: Cloth diapers are already environmentally friendly, but organic takes it to another level with the materials and fabric used not having been treated with chemical. Price point for these is on the high side. Organic diapers are a great option reducing exposure to chemicals. Organic inserts are comprised of materials that were grown and made without the use of chemicals. Diaper covers are generally made of a non organic material called PUL. This means you’ll have a hard time find diaper covers that are 100% organic.
Cloth Diaper Insert Absorbency Chart
|Microfiber Diaper Inserts||Inexpensive |
Absorbs very quickly
Quick dry time
|Prone to compression leaks|
Cause rashes more than other insert types
Fastest absorbency rate
|Hemp Diaper Inserts||The most absorbent|
Long dry time
|Slowest Absorbency rate|
|Bamboo Inserts||Very absorbent |
Long dry time
|Slow Absorbency Rate|
|Minky Inserts||Thinner and softer than microfiber||The jury is still out on minky|
Reviews are mixed
|Organic Inserts||Soft to the touch, made of materials grown without harmful chemicals||More expensive, fewer options for material types. Options for covers are limited if going to 100% organic is your goal.|
Hemp vs Bamboo
There is a lot of debate on which is more absorbent, and works better for over nights. We would encourage you to try both and decide for yourself. There is a resale market for whichever you don’t like, check out Cloth Diapers: Tips For Buying and Selling for ideas.
If your little one is a heavy wetter, and sleeps through the night, hemp is the most likely to work well. Hemp will ensure he or she has dry pajamas and sheets in the morning. One of the benefits of hemp is that overtime, with usage and washes the material becomes more absorbent with time. Hemp is the most expensive insert, the most absorbent, the slowest to dry, and can be rough to touch.
Bamboo is another great option for overnights as its also very absorbent. Compared to Hemp, Bamboo inserts are slightly less expensive, hold slightly less output, also slow to dry, and has a more gentle feel. One draw back of Bamboo is that over time the materials can shrink and lose some of it’s fluff.
There is no one size fits all solution for cloth diapering. What worked well for us, may not work at all for you. At Cloth Diaper Basics we will always encourage you to try several fits, options and approaches to decide what works best for your home. You may discover that a combination of Hemp and Bamboo works the best for your tiny bottoms.
Best Cloth Diaper Inserts
Which cloth diaper insert is best? The answer for that is going to depend on the situation. A lot of cloth diaper users find that a variety of inserts allows for coverage for any and all situations.
The best cloth diaper inserts are: Hemp at nap and night time. Microfiber, cotton, or a microfiber/bamboo blend during the day, around the house. If you are on the go, and don’t want to change diapers to avoid a leak, Zorb would be a good option.
Every family is different, you have to find what works best for your family.
Here are a few inserts we have had success with over the years and thought you may also like them.
These are our favorite Hemp Boosters
Organic and Bamboo Combo
Our favorite Microfiber
Great Bamboo Option
Our Favorite Hemp Inserts
These are the best of 2 worlds, cotton and bamboo
Overnight Cloth Diaper Inserts
Infants and toddlers go much longer between diaper changes overnight. An extra layer is often needed. Because of their absorbency bamboo inserts or hemp inserts work well overnight.
Other Types of Cloth Diaper Inserts
- Disposable diaper inserts for cloth diapers– there are options for disposable from Charlie Banana, these work best with AI2 or Hybrid Cloth Diapers.
- Doubler/Booster– These are smaller pads that you can add if you want your diaper to hold more output while not leaking. They do just what you’d think based on their names. They boost or double the capacity of the diaper.
Laundry Tips and Tricks
- Can cloth diaper inserts go in the dryer– yes, don’t use fabric softener.
- Can you bleach cloth diaper inserts– you can, but it’s not recommended
- Don’t forget to take inserts out!: When you are putting the inserts into the washing machine, do not forget to pull the inserts out of the pocket diapers. They don’t always separate, which can lead to the insert not absorbing properly, causing leaks.
- Cloth diaper inserts not absorbing– try stripping. See How to Strip Cloth Diapers: The Best Guide
For more guidance on laundry see How to Clean Cloth Diapers: A Comprehensive Guide.
Cloth Diaper Inserts DIY
If DIY is your thing, cloth diaper inserts could be right up your alley. While we have never tried to make our own, there are many people who have, and they’ve even shared their how to. Here are a couple we would follow, you know, if DIY was our thing.
FarmHouseBoone has simple easy to follow directions.
TheInspiredHome has a great how to for adding boosters with the inserts you already own.
Cloth Diaper Inserts Bottom Line
There are a lot of options for cloth diaper inserts. Get your hands on a variety, and decide what works best for you and your little. It may be that using more than one type of insert at a time gives you the best fit and fewest amount of leaks. Just as no two babies are the same, every baby will have success with different inserts.