Waterproof Cloth Diaper Outer Fabric
PUL (Polyurethane Laminate): PUL is a laminated polyester or cotton fabric, typically a stretchy knit, although you can find it as a laminated flannel or linen sometimes. It is WATERPROOF and one of the preferred fabrics for a diaper outer. Both 1 mil (millimeter) and 2 mil versions exist. This refers to the amount of laminate on the fabric. 1 mil is more flexible and drapes better than 2 mil does, but 2 mil fabrics will hold up to washing better than 1 mil fabric will.
Up until recently, PUL was mainly produced by a company called Fabrite that had around 40 solid colors available. Fabrite has discontinued its line of PUL. Other companies have picked up the slack so PUL is still available. Most notably, JoAnn fabrics has begun to sell limited colors of PUL. You can find "Babyville" diapering fabric in the utility fabrics section and it seems to be working well for mamas so far.
PUL can be purchased online for between $6 and $10 after shipping from most coops. At JoAnn fabrics, it runs around $7-14 per yard. Use your discount coupons to get a better price! You can sometimes find PUL in “diaper sized cuts” which are usually 20 x 20 and enough for one diaper. Check on your favorite diapering forum in the For Sale or Trade section to get some good deals on this specialty diapering fabric.
Wool: Wool is a natural fiber that feels cool when the baby is hot and warm when the baby is cold. It is naturally water resistant but can be treated with lanolin every month to increase its water resistance. It is commonly used as a diaper cover material to go over fitted diapers and prefolds which are not waterproof.
Boiled wool: This is wool fabric that has been washed in very hot water and dried in a hot dryer to shrink the fibers, and make them denser and more waterproof. You may purchase boiled wool online from specialty stores by doing a search for boiled wool fabric but it will be very expensive (upwards of $45 a yard). Boiled wool is occasionally available through fabric coops for cheaper ($9-11 before shipping). The easiest and cheapest way to get a hold of boiled wool is to go to the second hand store, pick out a 100% wool sweater and wash it in hot water/cool rinse and dry it in the dryer on the highest setting.
Wool interlock: This is available anywhere from 100% wool to 75% wool with lycra added for stretch. It is an excellent fabric for making “regular” looking clothes to cover cloth diapers and prevent leakage. This typically comes in a natural color that can be dyed by hand. A lot of people have had success using kool-aid as a dye! Check the internet for how to do this simple dyeing process. This wool is available online (usually in the winter) through fabric coops for $6-9/yard before shipping. Wool material is not readily available in fabric stores.
Malden Mills FleeceThis high quality fleece is available directly from Malden Mills for $12-16/yard and through fabric coops for $6-12/yard before shipping. “Seconds” quality pieces are sometimes available. These are pieces that may have some slight imperfections but are sold at a lower price.
Windpro (WP) is a fleece (100% polyester) made by Malden Mills; the highest quality diaper fleece maker around. Windpro comes in lightweight, midweight, and heavy weight versions. Light and midweight are acceptable as a diaper outer for daytime. For nighttime use heavy weight WP as a diaper outer. Windpro usually comes with a layer of DWR (durable water repellent) sprayed onto it to make it more water resistant. WP comes in a variety of finishes. "Velour” is a soft finish, "Hard face” is a finish that is smooth and sometimes slightly patterned, loft refers to looping of the fabric to give a shag carpet type of look to one side of the fleece.
Windbloc fleece: A layer of waterproof material is sandwiched in between the fleece so it is truly waterproof diaper outer.
Note: Fleece CAN be purchased in local fabric stores, but not all fleece is alike. Fabric store fleece that CAN work as an outer diaper is the "no pill" variety. It will be water resistant for about 30+ washes before starting to wick liquids. You can treat this fleece with DWR (Durable Water Repellent) that can be purchased in the sporting goods department of your local Wal-Mart to make the fleece more water repellent. A good rule of thumb with fleece is: when you hold fleece up to the light, the more light that you can see through the fleece, the less water resistant it will be.
“Stay Dry” Diaper Inners
Microfleece: This is a thin fleece that is used in some of the most popular cloth diapers as a diaper inner. High quality microfleece is available from Malden Mills. Microfleece of slightly lesser quality is *sometimes* available at fabric stores for $9-10 a yard when it is not on sale. Ask the sales associate to point you to the "microfleece". Some people experience "build up" of detergent on it over time which can lead to stinky diapers.
One of my favorite types of microfleece is Malden Mills Microchamois. It is thin, stay dry, and has a lovely brushed finished that holds up well in the wash and doesn't pill up. It so luxurious and easy to sew. You'll never want to sew with another fabric again!
Power Dry Fabric (Athletic Wicking Material): This fabric is made by Malden Mills and is usually used to wick sweat away from the bodies of athletes, but works great at wicking liquids away from the skin and into your soaker layer.
Suedecloth: This is a 100% polyester fabric that is widely used as a diaper inner because of its “stay dry” properties. “Alova suedecloth” can be purchased at Joann fabric stores in a variety of colors that vary by season.
Raw silk (silk noir): This is a raw silk fiber fabric that is somewhat course but is one of the only all-natural fabrics that is considered “stay dry” and keeps moisture away from the skin. It is used as a diaper inner or a liner next to the baby’s skin to keep the baby feeling dry.
Microfiber: This is an 80% polyester 20% polyamide fabric made of millions of tiny fibers woven tightly together. It is highly absorbent and works well as an insert in pocket diapers or sewn into a diaper as a soaker. It should not touch the skin because it is so absorbent that it will dry the skin severely with prolonged exposure.
Microfiber can be purchased fabric coops by the yard occasionally and can be found in various colors. Microfiber towels are used by the automotive and cleaning industries commonly and can be purchased in the automotive sections of Walmart, Target, etc. for about $1-2/towel. They are called “automotive detailing cloths” and come in sizes from 12”x12” to 16”x16. If you tri-fold these towels they fit great into pocket diapers.
100% Organic Cotton Fleece (OCF): This is wonderfully soft organic cotton with a fleece finish on one side. It is great for a fitted diaper and can be used as an outer, inner, and/or soaker. It is available through fabric coops for $9-10/yard before shipping.
Hemp fleece: This is a hemp/cotton blend fleece (100% hemp is not yet available in the USA). Hemp fabrics also come in jersey and knit versions. It is a natural fiber, considered more environmentally friendly than cotton because not as many pesticides are necessary for its cultivation. It has antibacterial properties and is one of the most absorbent fabrics in diapering, which limits the bulk of diapers. It is used for both diaper inners and outers and especially in the soaker region of a diaper because it is so absorbent for the amount of layers you have to use. It is not waterproof.
I have never seen hemp sold in local stores. I purchase through fabric coops for about $5-6/yard before shipping.
Bamboo: Bamboo is considered an environmentally friendly fabric because it grows like (and is) a grass and is sustainable. It comes in fleece, jersey, and velour, and it seems like more finishes come out every week! The velour is very soft and comfortable as a diaper inner for the baby. It is used for both inners and outers and soakers. It is fairly absorbent for its thickness but a somewhat delicate fabric.
Really high quality bamboo is quite hard to come by at this time as only a few fabric coops have custom milled it from China so far. Check coops on yahoogroups.com and ask around for extras. You can get bamboo increasingly in local stores, but check for quality before buying a lot of it!
Cotton French Terry: This comes in both 100% organic and non-organic versions. It is fairly rough until washed several times. It is used for both inners and outers. I’ve only seen this online and through fabric coops.
Organic Cotton Short Velour (OSV or OCSV): This is an organic fabric with a soft velour finish. This is the only 100% natural fabric besides silk noir that is considered a “stay dry” fabric. It is usually used as a diaper inner for this reason, but many fitted diapers use OSV for inner, outer, and soaker. It is very luxurious feeling.
Flannel: There are many variations and weights to flannel. Usually the heavier, double brushed (two soft sides) flannel is used for diapering. It can be used as a diaper inner, outer, or soaker. A flannel outer IS NOT WATERPROOF and will require a cover.
Flannel is available at most local fabric stores. It comes in many colors/styles/prints. It costs between $1 and $8 a yard. You can obtain heavier diaper flannel from fabric coops.
Cotton/Polyester velour: Velour is available in anything from 100% cotton to 8% cotton mixed with 20% polyester. It is a soft fabric usually used for diaper inners. Higher cotton percentages (close to 100% give a somewhat “stay dry” fabric for the baby’s skin). 85/15 is available in fabric stores. It is also available through fabric coops on a regular basis.
Birdseye: This is a common fabric used in flat fold and pre-fold (old fashioned fold and pin type) diapers. It is made of 100% cotton. It is sometimes available in local fabric stores (Joann Fabrics and Hancock Fabrics) and can be found through fabric coops for $2-4/yard.
Sherpa: This is a cotton/polyester blend fabric that can be used as a diaper inner, outer, or soaker. The polyester is usually only found on the back of the fabric and doesn’t touch the baby’s skin. It is quite absorbent. High quality sherpa is found through fabric coops. Local fabric stores carry a very heavy polyester fabric called sherpa that is not the same thing and is not suitable for diapering. Most of the time sherpa is found in its natural (off white) color but custom colors can be found on coops occasionally.
Minkee: This is a 100% polyester fabric with a very soft feel to the right side. It is used as a diaper outer for fitted diapers sometimes but IS NOT WATERPROOF. It also makes a nice diaper inner that is relatively stay dry. This is available at most local fabric stores. It comes in polka dot, plain, and other styles in assorted colors.
Fold Over Elastic (FOE): This is a common type of binding used on cloth diapers. It is elasticized so you can use it as your binding on diapers and as the elastic for the leg, back, and sometimes the front of the diaper. Pull taut in the areas where elastic is needed, and refrain from stretching and use it as regular binding in the other areas of the diaper. Cloth diapering FOE is 1” thick with a matte finish. It can be dyed any color you wish to match your diapers. DO NOT BUY the shiny finish FOE which is usually used for lingerie. It doesn’t hold up well to repeated hot washes. Fold over elastic cannot usually be found in local stores.