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Cloth diaper covers, styles and fabrics

Posted by Bryana on 1/29/2007 to Getting Started

When it comes to selecting cloth diaper covers we are often contacted with queries and general confusion about how to choose between the various styles and fabrics. Knowing that everyone comes into cloth diapering with differing levels of knowledge, we want to clear it up a bit for you here. Consider this your guide to cloth diaper cover styles and fabrics.

Before we start, let's define "What is a cloth diaper cover?" A cloth diaper cover is a protective, water-resistant or waterproof, outer cover worn atop a cloth diaper. The cloth diaper cover's job is to keep moisture from seeping into baby's clothes, your hip, crib sheets, car seats, or anywhere else it wasn't intended to go. Basically it is a protective outer layer - and it comes in a few different styles, and within those styles, a few different types of fabrics.

Cloth Diaper Cover Styles

Believe it or not there are truly only 3 different styles of cloth diaper covers; wraps, pull-ons, and side-snapping diaper covers.

Wrap Style Diaper Covers, like the Bummis Super Whisper Wrap pictured at left, are easily recognizable and even easier to use. Wraps have side "wings" or "flaps" that wrap around from the back to the front of the diaper cover to secure in place with snaps or hook-and-loop closures. Wrap style diaper covers can hold a cloth diaper in place without pins; they are a favorite for those using contour diapers or prefold diapers. Wraps are generally the trimmest option for cloth diapering. It is important to ensure that wraps cover the full expanse of the baby's rise (the measurement from the front waistline, through the legs/crotch and back up to the back waistline atop a cloth diaper), as well as the width of the crotch area.

Pull-On Style Diaper Covers are the most simple to put on, and can be the most economical, style of cloth diaper cover available. Pull-On Diaper Covers, like Bummis Super Whisper Pants, will fit over nearly any style of cloth diaper. We even used them as a "just in case" barrier for our children as they were on the tail-end of potty training through the night.

Pull-On Diaper Covers range in pricing. You can select from the inexpensive lightweight, waterproof nylon pull-ons or the more expensive untreated wool soakers for their extra absorbency and protection.

Our customers select Pull-On Cloth Diaper Covers primarily to use with fitted diapers. The Pull-On does not serve to secure the cloth diaper, but rather as a waterproof or water-resistant barrier to diapers already secured with snaps, pins, or snappi fasteners.

There is one downside to Pull-On style cloth diaper covers - removing a soiled cloth diaper means sliding it down the child's legs. Whereas this is not an issue for wet diapers, it can be messy for poopy diapers when the cloth diaper beneath was not secured properly, easily soiling your baby's clothing and/or legs.

Side-Snapping Style Diaper Covers are pretty self explanatory. Unlike a wrap, with wings that wrap from front to back, these cloth diaper covers secure with snaps on both sides. Side Snapping Diaper Covers do not usually have as trim a fit as wraps or pull-ons, but they do offer a more complete coverage of all styles of diapers, with increased adjustability around the thighs and waist.

Just as with pull-ons, side snapping diaper covers require the cloth diaper underneath to be secured with diaper pins or a snappi diaper fastener.

Cloth Diaper Cover Fabrics

(PUL) Polyurethane laminate: Non-Breathable/Waterproof
  • A sturdy, durable fabric.
  • Does not require specialized wash and care.
  • Non-breathable and waterproof.
  • A two-sided fabric that can either be sandwiched between two layers of fabric, as with the Bummis Super Whisper Wrap and Bummis Super Snap Wrap, or left with one side exposed in the inside cover.
  • Can build up odor over time.
Wool: Breathable/Water Resistant
  • Known for its longevity and durability, the interlocking protein molecules have the power to elongate, stretch and recover, creating an extremely robust fabric that will last for years.
  • Can store moisture up to 35 per cent of its own dry weight yet it remains dry to touch and speeds up the body's own cooling system. As a result it is often recommended for night-time usage, when leaks are most often going to occur.
  • Requires special wash and care - specifically re-lanolizing and hand/gentle wash and dry.
  • Highly breathable, allowing for maximum circulation in/around baby's bum. This can assist in preventing diaper rash.
  • Contains natural lanolin which creates a natural waterproof barrier or repellancy.
  • Available in side-snapping, pull-on or wrap styles, wool is typically thicker than other diaper cover fabrics.
  • Resists odor with its naturally antibacterial properties.
Nylon/Cotton Coated Fabrics: Somewhat Breathable/Water Resistant
  • Somewhat hardy fabric - very thin and flexible.
  • Wash as normal, hang dry or medium heat tumble dry.
  • Depending on the type of coating, nylon or cotton coated fabrics tend to be water-resistant, not waterproof.
  • Coated cotton fabrics may build up odor over time, however nylon covers, like Bummis Whisper Pants do not retain odor.
Vinyl: Not Breathable/Waterproof
  • Hardy fabric initially, but breaks down quickly, becoming discolored, hardening and cracking or splitting.
  • Non-breathable.
  • Fabric discolors over time.
  • Rarely used cloth diaper cover fabric - replaced by coated nylon/cotton and PUL fabrics.
Polyester Fleece: Breathable/Water Resistant
  • Recognized for longevity and durability, fleece is both soft and flexible.
  • Does not require any special wash and care.
  • Water resistant, not waterproof, and breathable.
  • The Polyester fleece diaper covers made with a single layer breathe much like wool diaper covers.
  • Polyester fleece has a reputation for retaining odor if not washed with regularity and if exposed to fabric softeners.