Do Stay Dry Cloth Diapers Really Feel Dry? And Musings on Suedecloth vs. Microfleece

One reason cloth diapers have come such a long way since birdseye flats and plastic pants is: Stay Dry Lining.  When Fuzzibunz came along with their Microfleece lining, a magical fabric that allowed moisture to go through it and be absorbed into an insert, but that also wicked moisture away from the baby’s bum letting them stay dry, this was a huge break-through! Tereson Dupuy invented the modern cloth diaper with this innovative idea.  I wanted to test these diapers to see if they really felt dry.

As a parent I do get concerned about my children staying in wet diapers.  The downside of cloth diapers is that it is harder to know when they have wet.  There is no “pinch” test for cloth, although it is still effective to a small degree if you really know what you are looking for.  At least if you are using as “stay dry” cloth diaper you can feel good knowing your baby is comfortable, or can you?

Stay Dry lining materials include Microfleece and Suedecloth.  Thirsties is the brand you think of as a cloth diaper that uses microfleece, and bumGenius 4.0 is the most popular example of a diaper using suedecloth.

There are many benefits to using a diaper with a stay dry lining, however there are also many pitfalls. It is important when choosing a cloth diaper to understand both and know what challenges you may be facing in the future.

First, what are Microfleece and Suedecloth?

Both materials are synthetic and 100% polyester.  There is a very handy website with descriptions of common diaper materials on Zany-Zebra that I consult often.

In everyday life you see microfleece all the time, just in bulkier forms like Old Navy fleece jackets and scarves.  Suedecloth is also a fabric with many everyday applications, but because it is usually in thicker forms you may not connect the dots.  Suedecloth has a smooth lining and doesn’t pill up.  Microfleece will pill over time.  (depending on the brand, some are better than others)  Piling means the fabric will develop tiny balls after multiple washes, like your favorite sweater.  Suedecloth will stay very smooth over dozens of washes, or more.

With my experiment I wanted to see if, after a baby urinates, the lining really does feel dry to the touch.  And, if one stay dry material did a better job than another.  I also wanted to see if the type of insert or type of diaper made a difference.

I tried testing a few varieties.

  • Microfleece All-in-One with a Microfiber Soaker (AMP Stay Dry AIO)
  • Microfleece Pocket with Microfiber insert (Happy Heiny’s OS)
  • Microfleece topped lay in Microfiber soaker (Softbums Echo)
  • Suedecloth All-in-One with Bamboo insert (Ragababe AIO)
  • Suedecloth Pocket with Microfiber insert (bumGenius 4.0)

I also, for kicks, tested a few other types of materials:

Cotton (Gro Via AIO), Bamboo Fleece (Babykicks 3g)  and Bamboo Terry (Yo-Yoo), to see how wet those felt to the touch.

Based on my tests, which are in no way truly scientific, but as good as I could do, I came up with a few conclusions:

  • Suedecloth feels drier faster than Microfleece.
  • Pockets, due to that space between the insert and the lining, feel drier than sewn in All-in-Ones.  Suedecloth pockets feel drier than Microfleece.
  • Pockets also evenly distribute the moisture more to the soaker leaving less chance of feeling wetness in the spot where the urine is left.

That all sounds great, right?  Baby pees and still feels dry.  What’s not to love?

Synthetic liners do have some serious drawbacks.

The biggest: Repelling. Certain laundry detergents and other laundry additives “bond” with that material causing what is commonly referred to as “repelling.”  The soap scum, diaper creams, or fabric softener residue prevents urine from going through the layer of material.  In the worst cases no urine makes it through and it is like the baby is peeing on a plastic sheet.

Even with no repelling, there is still a delay between urinating on the layer of material, and it soaking through it.  I will be doing another video of this, but for now just know that when your baby pees it takes a few seconds for the urine to go through.  It helps when there is compression from their bodies, this will speed up the process.  But, imagine they are laying on their backs and sleeping.  The urine will possibly roll down the diaper before being absorbed.  If they pee very forcefully and a lot is expelled at one time, there might not be enough time for the pee to go through the layer of stay dry material before it finds an escape route.  THIS is why I do not like stay dry diapers for overnight.  There is a higher likelihood that it will leak.  But, then again, I want my baby to be comfortable while in a diaper for 10 hours, so I want the stay dry diapers to work!

A potential drawback of stay dry diapers is that they DO stay dry.  There are parents who would rather their baby’s feel the wetness in order to expedite potty learning.  The common saying is that babies in cloth diapers potty train faster.  I don’t really buy that, but, if a baby does feel the moisture and isn’t a fan, they may be more likely to want to learn to potty versus staying in a wet diaper.

And the last reason stay dry diapers may not be the option for you: they are synthetic.  Any cloth diaper with a PUL outer has synthetic materials, but these don’t always touch the baby.  There are parents who want only organic materials against the skin, and that rules out stay dry liners like Microfleece and Suedecloth.  There are diapers with Bamboo fleece, but testing showed me that they are soft but do not stay dry like the synthetic fleece.  In rare cases, babies actually are allergic or sensitive to the synthetic liners and develop rashes.

Lastly, there is the matter of the Poop.  I have gone into (probably too much) detail about the different forms of poop and how this relates to cloth diapering.  Suedecloth and Microfleece each have selling points.  Suedecloth is easier to spray off, but microfleece holds those runny breastfeeding poops in better.

I can’t tell you what to choose.  It truly is a matter of personal preference and what will work best for your baby’s needs.  But at least you now know that both materials are comfortable to the baby even after they have a wet diaper in case you can’t change them right away.

What is important to you in a diaper?  Stay dry, organic, easy to spray, etc?

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  • life is not bubble wrapped

    When it came time for my daughter to potty learn, she never ‘got it’ until we switched to underwear, so the ‘stay dry’ may just be a moot point? However it did seem that if we used diapers that were ‘less’ stay dry, she felt it sooner and could confirm if she was wet or dry during our ‘potty sits’, so I used them primarily during the day in the couple of weeks leading up to potty learning time! I used the more stay dry ones at night. She’s still in one diaper a night, but at 2 1/4, she’s quicker than a lot of her peers at ‘dry’ during the day so what’s to complain about?!?

    • Anonymous

      I mainly say that I don’t buy the saying about potty learning early since
      this is left over from when all diapers were non stay dry…. plus mothers
      then were a little more motivated to potty train if they were using cloth.
      It saved them washing time!

      Now since most people use the “easy” and “stay dry” diapers it is very
      similar to disposables. Baby feels dry and they aren’t hard to wash,
      therefore no huge push to learn the potty early.

      She is pretty early for her age, that is great! We are doing undies during
      the day here most days with accidents but we are trying!

  • Ariel

    Very interesting, thank you!

  • Amanda

    Fleece is WAY easier to spray off than suede cloth, IMO.

    • Anonymous

      I wonder if the sprayer makes a difference?

  • Christina D.

    I’ve been using Happy Heinys and Fuzzibunz at night and I have had a few issues with leaks. Must son pees a ton and pees it out fast so I’m thinking I’m having the escape route issue that you mentioned. Maybe I should try something else at night instead.

    Just out of curiosity… what do you use for overnight use?

    • Anonymous

      I flip flop between the Babykicks organic fitted, Little Beetle Fitted, and
      Motherease Sandy’s with random covers

  • We were hard core Fuzzi Bunz users – up until my second started moving her legs and we found out that she had issues with PUL touching her skin. We always had great success with the microfleece in those FBs – bottoms were dry to the touch when taking off wet diapers and they were easy to spray off.

    We also used Drybees Fleece Pockets at night – those have a suedecloth lining – and had similar success – although since we DID use them for nights, it was more likely to have damp bottoms in the morning as the diaper inserts were usually saturated.

    We still have those Drybees and they are in our night rotation. And a few of my homemade diapers have microfleece toppers on the night doublers. But most of our diapers leave OBV touching the skin. And while it isn’t stay dry, it is antibacterial – and we haven’t had issues with rashes at all without a stay dry liner. My fave diapers, bar none: Nifty Nappy fitteds. The inner of the diaper is microfleece (which keeps it really soft!) but the inserts that touch the wet zone are topped with OBV. I make my own knock off for my own babe in a similar manner.

    • Anonymous

      I love my Drybees Hybrid AIO but the lining is way less soft than bumGenius!
      pockets. They are so trim though. Perfect babysitter diaper!

      Recently Bamboo has come under fire about their antibacterial claims among
      other things. Through processing it becomes rayon but is just made FROM
      bamboo. There is still debate whether or not it retains those magical
      qualities after the processing. I don’t know the answer but though you
      might like to know!

      The bitty bum from Nifty Nappy we tested was adorable! Too bad my giant
      baby outgrew it in a minute!

  • how did the “other” fabrics fare as far as wetness. i saw you tested them but did i miss anywhere where you said how they were?

    • Anonymous

      There wasn’t much to tell… they just felt sopping wet. LOL.

  • Navine

    Thanks for such a good article. We only use cotton diapers and I think it did motivate my daughter to potty train faster. She is fully potty trained (both night and day) at 3 yrs old.

  • Lefty33

    Thank you for this discussion! I’ve been going over and over what material to put as lining in the diapers I’m making my daughter. This helped clear things up for me! Wonderful!

  • Samantha

    I find that microfleece lets go of the poop much better – especially the poop of a baby eating solids. With our diapers with suedecloth the poop sticks like velcro! It tends to just roll of the fleece. This is comparing Sunbaby (fleece inner) to Alva (generally suede inners).

  • leah jones

    I bought a whole pre-folds/inserts diaper package before having my baby and g-diaper newborn diapers with cloth inserts. I used the newborns until he outgrew them in a few weeks. Now, I have what our pediatrician calls a “sensitive” baby. Among other things, this means that if he feels wet, he cries–non-stop, with increasing pitch, until changed. So I ordered G-diapers with that stay-dry layer in small and medium–but they didn’t fit. I have a pudgy baby and I guess those are for skinny babies, so we’re disposables until the fuzzibunz and charley bananas I ordered come in. I’ve thought of buying diaper liners so that I can use my prefolds and inserts because the price of the pocket diapers is steep even used, but I thought the insert would just bunch up somewhere in the diaper and be useless. Any ideas for making use of my economical prefolds and covers with this challenging baby?

  • wandercat

    We just started CD’ing, yesterday actually, and my daughter already has a rash. She never had diaper rash before, and I’m wondering if I’ve missed something??We have Smart Snugs AI2, and are using the bamboo inserts. I’m not so sure about my CD switch now. Anyone have some insight from a similar issue?

    • MamaCto3

      My LO is sensitive to microfleece, but not suedecloth. Perhaps your dd is allergic to something in your dipes?

      • namilea

        Did you “break them in/prep them”? I know this comment is old but incase someone else has this problem, you need to wash them about 4 or 5 times before first use to make them work properly, they work even better after multiple washes.

  • I use pocket diapers, but I made ‘liners’ out of microfleece from Joanne’s. You can guesstimate, or trace around a standard envelope as a template to make them. The liners help wick the moisture down, but they also keep most the poo off of the diaper itself.