Cloth Diaper Inserts Compared (+ Absorbency Chart)

It’s both a fun and overwhelming process when learning which cloth diaper inserts will work best for your baby. We’re going to review cloth diaper insert absorbency, fabric options, and some of the best combinations for different cloth diapering needs. By the end of this, you’ll know everything you need to know about cloth diaper inserts including some of my top picks!

Each type of cloth diaper insert has pros and cons, but hemp inserts are the most absorbent, microfiber inserts absorb the fastest and cotton is the most well-rounded versatile insert.

Short on time? Jump to insert absorbency comparisons by insert where we rank the most absorbent inserts by how many oz they can each hold, or jump to insert material comparisons.

Cloth diaper insert absorbency chart comparison: vertical
Cloth diaper insert chart comparing absorbency, durability, and cost

Understanding cloth diaper inserts

The terms – inserts vs boosters vs soakers and more

With so many endless possibilities for combining different inserts, it’s important to first understand the basics so you don’t get confused when purchasing your inserts.

Inserts and soakers 

Cloth diaper inserts are the main absorbent layers that are stuffed into a pocket diaper, laid in a diaper cover, or have snaps that are compatible with a cover. They are the heart of your cloth diaper, being the primary part responsible for absorbing leaks.

Inserts and soakers are made to hold a lot of liquid and can even be used alone with younger babies or light wetters.  

Cloth diaper cover with cloth diaper insert laid on top
Insert inside a diaper cover

Boosters or doublers 

Cloth diaper inserts can also be referred to as boosters or doublers. Boosters are simply additional inserts to boost absorbency in any cloth diaper system. The best boosters will hold a lot of liquid while still being very trim. Often inserts marketed as boosters will have fewer layers than a normal insert to avoid bulk. 

Normal inserts, when used as a booster, can sometimes add too much bulk. Too much bulk in the diaper (aka overstuffing) can ruin the snug fit around the baby’s legs which may cause leaks. Some babies need a booster at all times, while others might just need one for naps, car trips, longer outings, and bedtime.


Used alongside inserts directly against babies’ skin to protect the cloth diaper from stains, rash creams, or for easy cleanup of stool. They do not absorb liquid at all and are considered a cloth diapering accessory. Reusable liners offer a “stay dry” effect, while disposable liners allow parents to avoid handling or rinsing off solids.

Wool soakers

Wool diaper covers are also called soakers. Using the term “soaker” when referring to an insert is outdated terminology, but we’ve included it in this guide to clear up any confusion. 

RELATED: If you’re looking for more natural diaper covers, I highly recommend learning about wool diaper covers. Wool covers not only support absorption but they wick moisture away from the skin for incredible comfort and dryness!

Different styles of cloth diaper inserts

There are different styles of cloth diaper inserts. They’re usually a separate piece, but you may also find them sewn in permanently in an all-in-one (AIO) cloth diaper. In other style of diapers, inserts can be snapped into a diaper shell, stuffed into a pocket, or simply laid into a diaper cover. 

Types of cloth diaper inserts:

  • Pads
    Multiple layers are sewn into a thick pad shape to insert into a diaper cover. This is what most people think of when they think of inserts.
  • Flats
    A large square piece of fabric is folded before fastening it around your child or laying it into a diaper cover. 
  • Prefolds
    Cloth insert that is stitched to easily fold into thirds before inserting into a diaper cover. The middle panel is thicker and more absorbent than the two foldable panels on either side. It can also be used without folding by fastening it around your baby’s waist before covering it with a diaper cover.
  • Fitteds
    A highly absorbent wrappable diaper-shaped insert that provides full coverage. They feature elastics around the legs for better leak protection and sometimes come with snaps for easier diaper changes. It’s one of the best inserts for overnight cloth diapering, but it is often too bulky for daytime use.
  • Preflats
    A cross between a flat and a fitted. Think of a flat insert but pre-cut with wings that you fold in various ways to suit your child. They provide all-over coverage. They’re also similar to a fitted, but thinner, less absorbent, and do not have elastics or snaps.
  • Contours
    An hourglass-shaped flat with no elastics or snaps. Great to use as an added booster for bedtime but must be secured with diaper pins or Snappis.
  • Snakes
    A longer-shaped and thinner insert that allows you to customize the fold to maximize the absorbency in the wet zone.

ALSO SEE: If you’re just getting started and need a better understanding of all the basic components of cloth diapering, read our cloth diapers for beginners’ guide

Insert absorbency comparison (how many oz)

If you’re here to simply understand which inserts are most absorbent, this is the list for you! I’ve tested some of these inserts while others have been carefully collected from other sources online. For my liquid absorbency tests, I weighed the dry insert and submerged it in water until it was fully saturated (1 min) then when it was no longer dripping I weighed the saturated insert. I repeated this a total of 4 times with each insert to get an average.

So, which cloth diaper inserts are most absorbent? Find out below how much liquid each insert actually holds using cloth diaper absorbency tests:

Cloth diaper prefolds

  • 22 oz – Osocozy Toddler Cotton Prefold (Beige Trim)
  • 18 oz – Osocozy Premium Cotton Prefold (Green Trim)
  • 17 oz – Nicki’s Diapers Bamboo Prefold (Large)
  • 15.7 oz – HempBabies Bigger Weed Hemp Prefold 
  • 15.6 oz – Osocozy Toddler Better Fit Cotton Prefold (Beige Trim)
  • 15.3 oz – SmartBottoms Smart Fold Hemp/Cotton Prefold (Large)
  • 14.5 oz – Geffen Baby Fleece Hemp Prefold (M/L)
  • 14 oz – Thirsties Hemp Prefold (Size 2)
  • 13.6 oz – Buttons Cotton Prefold (Size 3)
  • 13.6 oz – Buttons Bamboo/Cotton Prefold (Size 3)
  • 13 oz – Geffen Baby Jersey Prefold (Medium)
  • 12.9 oz – Lighthouse Kids Supreme Bamboo Insert (One Size)
  • 12.6 oz – Osocozy Medium Better Fit Cotton Prefold (Red Trim)
  • 12.6 oz – AppleCheeks 3 Layer Bamboo Insert (One Size)
  • 12.5 oz – AMP 3 Layer Hemp/Cotton Insert (One Size)
  • 12 oz – GroVia Bamboo/Cotton Prefold (Size 4)
  • 12 oz – Gerber Cotton Prefold (One Size)
  • 11.6 oz – Thirsties Duo Hemp/Cotton Prefold (Size 2)
  • 11. 2 oz – Osocozy Infant Cotton Prefold (Blue Trim)
  • 10.5 oz – Geffen Baby Jersey Prefold (Small)
  • 10.1 oz – Nuggles BambooLuxe Overnight Insert 3 Layer (Size 1)
  • 10.1 oz – Smart Bottoms Smart Fold Hemp/Cotton (Medium)
  • 10 oz – Bambino Mio Cotton Prefold (One Size)
  • 9.8 oz – Les Confections Lili Hemp Daytime Insert (One Size)
  • 9.5 oz – Osocozy Newborn Better Fit Cotton Prefold (Peach Trim)
  • 9.5 oz – Bummis Infant Size Cotton Prefold
  • 9 oz – Thirsties Duo Hemp/Cotton Prefold (Size 1)
  • 9 oz – Boingo EcoMax Hemp Prefold (One Size)
  • 8.9 oz – AMP 2 Layer Hemp/Cotton Insert (One Size)
  • 8.8 oz – Smart Bottoms Smart Fold Hemp/Cotton Prefold (Small)
  • 8.8 oz – AMP 2 Layer Bamboo/Cotton Insert (One Size)
  • 8.3 oz – HempBabies Little Weeds Hemp Prefold
  • 6.4 oz – GroVia Bamboo/Cotton Prefold (Size 1)
  • 6 oz – Geffen Baby Fleece Prefold (X-Small)
  • 6 oz – Blueberry Cotton Prefold (Newborn)
  • 4.7 oz – Osocozy Preemie Size Cotton Prefold (Purple Trim)
  • 3 oz – Bummis Cotton Prefold Diaper (Newborn)

Cloth diaper flats

  • 15.6 oz – Imagine Baby Stretchy Bamboo Flats
  • 14 oz – Nicki’s Diapers Bamboo Flats (Large)
  • 13.5 oz – Osocozy Bamboo/Organic Cotton Birdseye Flats
  • 12.7 oz – Two Sparrows Hemp Flats
  • 12.6 oz – HumBird Hemp/Cotton Stretchy Flats
  • 12.5 oz – HempBabies Hemp/Cotton Flats
  • 12 oz – Ikea Cotton Burp Cloths
  • 10 oz – Nicki’s Bamboo Flats (Small)
  • 9.4 oz – Imagine Baby Printed Cotton Flats
  • 9.2 oz – Flip Daytime Organic Cotton Insert
  • 9 oz – Geffen Baby Jersey Hemp Flat
  • 9 oz – Truly Charis Hemp/Cotton Flat
  • 8 oz – Osocozy 100% Cotton Flat
  • 7 oz – BabyKicks Hemp/Cotton Duz-it-all
  • 5.9 oz – Disana Brushed 100% Cotton Liners

Fitted and hybrid diapers

  • 36 oz – Truly Charis Heavy Wetter Fitted Hemp/Cotton (One Size)
  • 31 oz – Pooters Hemp/Cotton Overnight Fitted + Insert (One Size)
    • Fitted alone is 18 oz
  • 27 oz – Twinkie Tush Fusion Bamboo/Cotton/Fleece + Inserts (One Size)
  • 26 oz – Twinkie Tush Bamboo/Cotton + Inserts (One Size)
  • 24.5 oz – Sloomb / Sustainablebabyish Bamboo Fleece Fitted + Insert (Large)
    • Fitted alone – 15.2 oz
  • 18 oz – Nicki’s Diapers Bamboo Fitted + Insert (One Size)
  • 17 oz – Motherease Sandy’s Bamboo Fitted Diaper (Toddler)
  • 15 oz – Motherease Sandy’s Bamboo Fitted Diaper (Large)
  • 15 oz – GMD (Green Mountain Diapers) Workhorse Fitted (Large)
  • 14 oz – Babybeehinds Hemp/Cotton Fitted + Insert (One Size)
  • 12 oz – GMD Workhorse Fitted (Medium)
  • 12 oz – Motherease Sandy’s Bamboo Fitted Diaper (Small)
  • 9 oz – Motherease Sandy’s Bamboo Fitted Diaper (Newborn)
  • 8 oz – Pooters Snapless 100% Cotton Fitted (One Size)

Inserts, boosters & more

  • 13.5 oz – Lil Helper Overnight Insert (Big)
    • Booster adds 3.7 oz
  • 11.5 oz – Buttons Microfiber Daytime Insert (Large)
  • 10.8 oz – Rumparooz Microfiber Insert (Large)
  • 9.5 oz – Generic Microfibre 4 layers (Long)
  • 9 oz – Tidy Tots No fold Hemp/Cotton Insert and Booster (One Size)
  • 9 oz –  Nicki’s Diapers Ultimate Bamboo Insert (One Size)
  • 8.1 oz – Thirsties Hemp/Cotton Natural Duo Insert (Large)
  • 9 oz – Geffen Baby Hemp/Cotton Super Absorber Plus (One Size)
  • 8.2 oz – Smart Bottoms Cotton Too Smart Inserts (One Size)
  • 8 oz – La Petite Ourse (LPO) Bamboo Pocket Inserts (One Size)
  • 8 oz – AlvaBaby Charcoal Bamboo Insert (One Size)
  • 8 oz – Mama Koala 3-Layer Microfiber Insert (One Size)
  • 7.2 oz – Geffen Baby Microfiber Ultra Absorber Plus (One Size)
  • 7.2 oz – Nerdy Mommas Bamboo Insert (One Size)
  • 7 oz – Alva Microfiber Insert (One Size)
  • 7 oz – Kawaii Microfiber Insert (One Size)
  • 7 oz – Designer Bums Insert (Large)
  • 7 oz – Lil Helper Charcoal Insert (Large)
  • 6.5 oz – Thirsties Hemp/Cotton Insert (Large)
  • 6.5 oz – Peachy Baby Bamboo/Cotton Insert (Large)
  • 6 oz – La Petite Ourse (LPO) Bamboo All in two inserts (One Size)
  • 6 oz – GroVia Hemp/Cotton Stay Dry Soaker Pads (One Size)
  • 6 oz – GroVia Organic Cotton Soaker Pad (One Size)
  • 6 oz – Kawaii Baby Bamboo Green Baby Insert (One Size)
  • 5.8 oz – Wink Diapers Hemp Insert (One Size)
  • 5.8 oz – Lil Helper Charcoal Insert (Small)
  • 5.6 oz. – Lil Helper Bamboo Insert (Small)

Inserts, boosters & more (Cont’d)

  • 5 oz – Thirsties Polyester/Cotton Fab Doubler (Large)
  • 5 oz – Designer Bums Insert (Small)
  • 5 oz – Geffen Baby Hemp/Cotton Super Absorber (One Size)
  • 4.7 oz – AMP 3 Layer Hemp/Cotton Booster (One Size)
  • 3.7 oz – AMP 2 Layer Bamboo/Cotton Booster (One Size)
  • 3.6 oz – AMP 2 Layer Hemp/Cotton Booster (One Size)
  • 3 oz – Geffen Baby Hemp/Cotton Super Absorber (Newborn)
  • 4 oz – Thirsties Hemp Insert (Small)
  • 4 oz – Gerber Polyester/Rayon Insert (Large)
  • 3.5 oz – Geffen Baby Hemp/Cotton Quick Absorber (One Size)
  • 3 oz – HumBird Hemp/Bamboo Exceptional Insert (Newborn/Small)
  • 3 oz – GroVia Polyester/Cotton Stay Dry Booster (One Size)
  • 3 oz – Peachy Baby Bamboo/Cotton Insert (Small)
  • 2.8 oz – Super Bottoms Cotton Booster (One Size)
  • 2.5 oz – GroVia Cotton Booster (One Size)
  • 2 oz – Thirsties Cotton Doubler (Small)
  • 2 oz – Gerber Polyester/Rayon Insert (Small)

Cloth diaper insert materials compared

Cloth diaper inserts and boosters come in a variety of materials each with its pros and cons. They are most often made of cotton, hemp, bamboo, microfiber, or Zorb. For boosters, the absorbent material is sometimes topped with microfleece, cotton, or bamboo velour.

Cotton cloth diaper inserts

One of the oldest and most widely used natural fibers in cloth diapers. They’re soft, breathable, affordable, absorbent, and available everywhere. Fitted diapers and some all-in-ones use knit cotton, whereas prefolds and other inserts are made of woven fabric. 

Cotton absorbs slightly slower than microfiber but is still a good solution for a forceful wetter / flooder.

Cotton is highly versatile, found in either organic or non-organic as well as a variety of different finishes and styles like cotton velour, and sherpa. They are bulkier than some inserts so if wanting to boost absorbency looking for one labeled as booster or doubler will help keep things trim.

Pros of cotton inserts

  • Natural
  • Absorbent
  • Affordable
  • Easy to clean
  • Durable
  • Stays soft
  • Very breathable
  • Comes in a variety of finishes
  • Versatile

Cons of cotton inserts

  • Bulky
  • Can be harmful to the environment (not all cotton is created equal)
  • More prone to mildew if left damp

Cost: Inexpensive
Absorbency speed: High
Absorbency capacity: High

Available as:

  • Flats, prefolds, or pads. 
  • Unbleached or bleached.
  • Organic or regular.
  • Boosters.

Hemp cloth diaper inserts

Durable and all-natural while holding the most liquid. Hemp is naturally antimicrobial and environmentally friendly, requiring no pesticides or herbicides to grow. It is the thinnest but also the most dense diaper material. This makes it extremely absorbent without the risk of compression leaks. 

Hemp fabrics in cloth diapers are often blended with cotton which provides a softer fabric, better longevity, the steady absorption of cotton, and a high liquid capacity held by the hemp fibers. 

Both bamboo and hemp inserts need to be washed multiple times before first use to remove lingering natural plant oils. They become softer with each wash but benefits from machine drying because air drying may make them stiffer. 

Hemp inserts can hold about 2.5x the amount of a microfiber insert of the same size while also remaining more trim. Though it holds a lot of liquid, it’s slower to absorb liquid so pairing it with a faster-absorbing insert will benefit your baby the most.

Pros of hemp inserts

  • Natural
  • Durable
  • Most absorbent
  • Very trim
  • Becomes softer and more absorbent with washing
  • Locks wetness in (no compression leaks)
  • Most sustainable option

Cons of hemp inserts

  • Most expensive
  • Feels stiffer if air dried
  • May need to be paired with something quick to absorb (though not always)
  • Slower to dry

Cost: Expensive
Absorbency speed: Slowest
Absorbency capacity: Highest

Available as:

  • Flats, prefolds, or pads. 
  • Unbleached or bleached.
  • Organic or regular.
  • Boosters.

Bamboo cloth diaper inserts

Bamboo fiber is incredibly absorbent, anti-bacterial, wicks moisture away, and is very soft. Amazing, right? Unfortunately, bamboo inserts are not what they seem, even with organic labels. The label “100% Bamboo” is a synonym of sorts for Bamboo Rayon or Bamboo Viscose.

The vast majority of bamboo textiles on the market are heavily processed into what is essentially conventional rayon with little to no trace of the original plant left. What you would think is a natural fiber is actually a semi-synthetic when it comes to bamboo cloth diaper inserts.

Even though they’re heavily processed, it’s one of the best in terms of how much liquid they can hold while remaining somewhat trim. Rayon from bamboo wicks moisture away from the baby’s skin at three to four times the rate of cotton. You may need to wash them up to 5 times to break them in, but once they’re prepped they offer excellent absorbency.

Pros of bamboo inserts

  • Highly absorbent
  • Very soft
  • Somewhat trim
  • Durable
  • Wicks moisture away from the skin
  • Trim

Cons of bamboo inserts

  • Highly processed with toxic chemicals
  • Longer drying times

Cost: Moderate
Absorbency speed: Low
Absorbency capacity: High

Available as:

  • Flats, prefolds, or pads. 
  • Unbleached or bleached.
  • Boosters.

Bamboo charcoal cloth diaper inserts

I include this here because most, if not all, bamboo charcoal inserts are not bamboo at all, they are made from microfibre wrapped in fleece or a bamboo/synthetic blend outer layer. If you’re looking for the lightweight absorbency of bamboo, you will be very disappointed.

However, bamboo charcoal is a better alternative to standard microfiber as it can be used against your baby’s skin and can hold more liquid than a regular microfibre insert.

Pros of bamboo charcoal

  • Can be placed against the skin unlike microfiber
  • Absorbent
  • Absorbs quickly
  • Doesn’t show stains

Cons of bamboo charcoal

  • Just microfiber wrapped in fleece
  • Bulky
  • Prone to compression leaks
  • Bad for the environment

Cost: Moderate
Absorbency speed: Medium
Absorbency capacity: Medium

Available as:

  • Pads. 
  • Boosters.

Microfiber cloth diaper inserts

A synthetic quick-to-absorbent material made of a polyester blend. They’re light, fluffy, and fast drying, but need to be used with a barrier between your baby’s skin and the insert itself since it is so drying it can irritate the skin. Microfibre inserts are known for holding onto diaper smells.  

Most diapers needing an insert will come with a standard microfiber insert.

It’s more prone to “compression leaks” where when fully saturated, putting pressure on them may let out the liquid which is not the best for cloth diapers. In general, when compared with the same layer count and size, bamboo, hemp, and cotton are trimmer and more absorbent than microfiber.

Pros of microfiber inserts

  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to find
  • Very quick to absorb
  • Fast drying

Cons of microfiber inserts

  • Bulky
  • Compression leaks
  • Holds onto diaper smells
  • Bad for the environment
  • Cannot be placed next to a baby’s skin
  • Less durable

Cost: Inexpensive
Absorbency speed: Highest
Absorbency capacity: Lowest

Available as:

  • Pads.
  • Boosters.
Cloth diaper cover open with inserts

Cotton, bamboo, hemp, and microfiber are the most common cloth diaper insert materials used, but there are a few others that are much harder to find and are more fitted towards DIY inserts:

Minky cloth diaper inserts

An absorbent super-soft synthetic fabric made from 100% polyester fibers. Extremely trim and holds about the same amount of liquid as a microfiber insert that is comparable in size. It repels stains better, is more odor-resistant, and feels softer than microfiber. 

Minky inserts are a great option if you like microfiber, but would like a thinner insert. These are hard to find, making them a popular DIY insert.

Pros of Minky inserts

  • Quick absorbency
  • Fast drying
  • Affordable
  • Very soft
  • Trim
  • More stain and odor resistant than microfiber

Cons of Minky inserts

  • Prone to compression leaks
  • Builds-up smells over time when compared to natural fibers
  • Difficult to find

Cost: Inexpensive
Absorbency speed: High
Absorbency capacity: High

Modal is a type of rayon fabric. It is similar to bamboo in that it is semi-synthetic and can’t be certified as ‘organic’ due to how it’s chemically processed. Instead of bamboo, modal is made from the wood pulp of beech trees. 

It’s very absorbent and offers an incredibly silky feel that stays with lots of use. They’re also resistant to mineral build-up which is extra helpful for those who wash with hard water. Modal is excellent at wicking moisture away, is highly breathable, durable, and doesn’t pill. It can hold up to 50% more liquid than cotton.

However, people with allergies to pollen, sap, or other tree types are more likely to be irritated by Modal. 

These are incredibly hard to find if you’re looking to purchase them. Those who want Modal cloth diaper inserts will in most cases need to DIY them.

Pros of modal inserts

  • Resistant to mineral build-up
  • Soft
  • Breathable
  • Durable
  • Highly absorbent
  • Wicks moisture away from the skin
  • Good pilling resistance

Cons of modal inserts

  • May cause  allergies
  • Heavily processed
  • Hard to find modal inserts
  • Sensitive to heat

Cost: Moderate
Absorbency speed: High
Absorbency capacity: High

Zorb cloth diaper inserts

Zorb is a blend of bamboo, cotton, viscose, and microfiber. Still fairly new, it was designed specifically for reusable cloth diapers by Wazoodle Fabrics to reduce costs and improve performance.

Though hard to find commercially as an insert, it remains a popular choice for those who want to make their inserts, and you can sometimes find zorb inserts on Etsy.

Each layer of Zorb replaces 2-3 layers of cotton, bamboo, hemp terry, or microfiber. The manufacturer claims that it absorbs moisture 20x faster than other fabrics, and will hold more moisture. It’s also apparently much less likely to have stink issues from hard water.

Pros of zorb inserts

  • Incredibly absorbent
  • Affordable (if you DIY it)
  • Quick drying
  • Breathable
  • Very trim
  • Non-allergenic
  • Highly durable
  • No toxic chemicals are used in the production
  • Antimicrobial
  • More eco-friendly than other synthetic fibers

Cons of zorb inserts

  • Hard to find (Etsy is your best bet or buy directly from Wazoodle)
  • Has some synthetic components
  • Needs 5-6 washes before using
  • Fabric is not Oeko-Tex certified
  • Expensive if purchased pre-made
  • Prone to compression leaks
  • Has to be an inner layer or it frays

Cost: Moderate
Absorbency speed: Highest
Absorbency capacity: High

Cloth diaper insert absorbency chart

Now let’s compile that and review cloth diaper insert absorbency. The below cloth diaper absorbency chart assumes that the number of layers and size is the same across inserts and is primarily comparing between types of fabric. As you can see, the most absorbent material for cloth diapers is hemp, followed by bamboo and cotton.

Natural or syntheticAbsorbency capacityAbsorbency speedDurabilityCost
Bamboo Viscose / RayonSemi-synthetic●●●●○●●○○○●●●○○$$
Bamboo CharcoalSynthetic●●●○○●●●○○●●○○○$$
Minky (for DIY)Synthetic●●●●○●●●●○●●●●○$
Modal (for DIY)Semi-synthetic●●●●○●●●●○●●●●○$$
Zorb (for DIY)Synthetic●●●●○●●●●●●●●●○$$
Cloth diaper insert absorbency chart by Love and Homemaking

Best cloth diaper inserts (my favorites!)

Though materials do make a dramatic difference in absorption speed and capacity, there are also other factors to consider with inserts like how many layers they have and their size. Here are my top recommended inserts to date!

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you from qualifying purchases. Rest assured that we only recommend products that we believe in and have personally used or thoroughly researched. Read disclaimer

REMEMBER: If you are buying inserts for a newborn-sized diaper cover, be sure that the inserts are newborn-size as well or you’ll have too much bulk and may struggle with leaks. Always prep and launder by directions provided by the brand itself.

Best cotton

These OsoCozy GOTS Certified Organic prefold cloth diapers (picture 1 below) and cotton flat cloth diapers (picture 2) are amazing. 100% GOTS-certified organic cotton with excellent absorption, softness, and durability. So affordable, so easy to clean, and dries quickly. Requires folding but allows for the most customized fit.

For flats and prefolds, most people need the Better Fit option as it’s shortened to fit a diaper cover lengthwise when used as an insert, whereas the Traditional Size option is longer to accommodate those who want to wrap them around their baby’s bottom. These work excellently on their own or as a booster. They do require 4-6 washes to get it to full absorbency as it’s a completely natural material, but you’ll be left with a thick, soft, natural, and absorbent insert.

Thirsties also has an organic cotton insert pad (picture 3) that is trim, 100% GOTS-certified cotton, and absorbs SO well! They work wonders when paired with the Thirsties hemp/cotton insert linked in the next section.

OsoCozy Organic Prefolds
OsoCozy Organic Prefolds
OsoCozy Organic Flats
OsoCozy Organic Flats
Thirsties Organic Cotton Doubler
Thirsties Cotton Doublers

Best hemp/organic cotton blend

Thirsties has a great set of hemp/organic cotton blend inserts made from 55% hemp and 45% GOTS-certified organic cotton. They absorb quickly and are surprisingly trim for what they can do! Thirsties hemp/organic cotton cloth diaper inserts (Picture 1 below) are sold as the insert on their own, while the Thirsties natural duo inserts (Picture 2) have two inserts that clip into each other, the top layer being 100% organic cotton (mentioned in the “best cotton” section) and the bottom layer being the ordinary cotton/hemp blend insert. These two inserts together are a game changer while also being all-natural and trim.

Thirsties hemp/organic cotton flats are also an amazing and more affordable option made with 60% hemp and 40% organic cotton jersey.

Thirsties Organic Cotton and Hemp Flats
Thirsties Hemp/Organic Cotton Flats
Thirsties Natural Dup Hemp and Organic Cotton Insert
Thirsties Natural Duo Inserts

Best bamboo viscose/rayon

Though I’m no longer a bamboo insert user myself, I’ve heard these bamboo prefold cloth diapers from Nicki’s Diapers are a great option for those seeking bamboo rayon/viscose inserts as well as these bamboo doublers that are made up of 8 absorbent layers.

Bamboo Prefold Cloth Diapers from Nicki's Diapers
Bamboo Prefolds by Nicki’s Diapers
Bamboo Doublers by Nicki's Diapers
Bamboo Doublers by Nicki’s Diapers

Microfiber and bamboo charcoal

I stay clear of microfiber for inserts because of how quickly they start to retain smells (and stripping them only helps short term!). Even with strict cleaning routines, it’s inevitable, so due to the poor life span of microfiber and the fact that it’s synthetic and not great for my baby’s skin, I suggest going with better-quality inserts from the start.

If budget is a big concern, my recommendation is to opt for cotton flats or prefolds.

Bamboo Charcoal: Many of the same issues exist with bamboo charcoal inserts since they’re also made with microfiber, but they are still much better than plain microfiber due to the fleece surrounding them.

Alvababy bamboo charcoal inserts
AlvaBaby Bamboo Charcoal Inserts

How to use cloth diaper inserts

You’ve finally built up a stash of inserts to try out. Now what? Cloth diapering is so simple in practice, but there are a few tips to make this simple task much more effective.

Picking the right inserts for different situations

Different inserts will do better (or worse) in certain situations than others.

For example, for heavy wetters or for long periods with no opportunity for changing (think long trips, bedtime), you will want high-capacity absorption. The best options in these situations would be hemp, cotton, or bamboo rayon.

If your baby will be sitting in a car seat, stroller, high chair, or booster chair, or even just wearing tight clothing, you will want to avoid microfiber and bamboo charcoal since they’re most prone to compression leaks.

For side sleepers, forceful wetters, or for times where lots of movement is expected, you will want faster absorbing inserts like cotton or microfiber on top of a high-capacity insert like hemp or bamboo.

How to layer cloth diaper inserts

There are so many different systems and intended ways to use cloth diapers, but at the core, it’s so simple. You’re just using fabric to absorb pee and catch solids. There’s no right or wrong way to do it, as long as it works! 

For best performance, you want to layer your inserts from the quickest absorbing on top, to the slower but most absorbent inserts on the bottom. You will know which is quickest to absorb by the material of the insert.

Generally, cloth diaper inserts can be layered in this order:

  • Microfiber (If using as top layer add a liner)
  • Zorb (for DIY inserts)
  • Minky (for DIY inserts)
  • Modal (for DIY inserts)
  • Cotton
  • Bamboo Charcoal
  • Bamboo Viscose/Rayon
  • Hemp

For example, if you wanted to pair a microfiber insert with a hemp insert, the microfiber would be best placed on the top (closer to the skin) of the hemp insert. But since microfiber can be irritating to a baby’s skin, it would need something between it and your baby’s skin, like a fleece liner or the lining in a pocket diaper.

However, if you were pairing say, a bamboo insert with a cotton insert, the cotton insert should go on top as it absorbs quicker than bamboo and bamboo can retain a lot more liquid. 

You do not need to boost your cloth diaper absorbency power if it’s not needed. Many babies do fine with just one insert.

Picking cloth diaper inserts

Best places to buy inserts for cloth diapers

Nicki’s Diapers is one of my favorite go-to sources for cloth diapering needs as well as Amazon. For any Canadian deliveries, I go with Lagoon Baby.

Non-toxic inserts

When purchasing organic inserts, you will likely want the insert to be GOTS-certified or Oeko-Tex-certified. After all, what touches your body can go into your body and that has potential health risks, especially for vulnerable babies. 

Many baby products on the market still contain toxic chemicals known to cause cancer and other health concerns including products like bedding, bibs, and clothing for babies. Cloth diaper inserts may be no different if they’re not certified or tested to be clean. This doesn’t mean that all products that aren’t certified are toxic, but certification ensures that they are not.

When you see the label “organic,” they often have still been processed conventionally and can be (almost always is) full of residual toxic chemicals. Instead, you should look for a certified organic label.

GOTS certified logo and Oeko-Teex Standard 100 certified logo

GOTS Organic VS Oeko-Tex

GOTS Organic certification means that organic textile and fabric products are grown, processed, manufactured, labeled, and distributed according to strict ecological and toxicological guidelines. The “organic” label requires a minimum of 95% organic fibers whereas “made with organic materials” requires at least 70% organic fibers.

Oeko-Tex certification ensures that every component of the textile or garment, from the fabric to the thread and accessories, has been rigorously tested against a list of up to 350 toxic chemicals and is certified safe to use. It does not mean organic and all fabric, including synthetic, may be certified. 

Oeko-Tex however, only covers the processing of the fabric and the testing of the end product whereas GOTS includes a multitude of additional factors it certifies for from seed to distribution, but it only applies to truly organic textiles. 

Either of these certifications ultimately means that your textile was processed without harmful chemicals, though GOTS organic certifications are considered the highest quality. Both are excellent options in that brands took the extra steps in making sure they’re providing a cleaner and safer product for our babies.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

How to use cloth diaper inserts

Stuff the insert into a pocket diaper or simply lay an insert onto a cloth diaper cover. If necessary add an additional insert or booster for extra absorbency. Fasten the diaper cover onto your baby and at the next change, remove the inserts and replace them with fresh clean ones.

How long do cloth diaper inserts last?

Usually around 2 years for typical microfiber inserts, but other inserts like hemp have better longevity. With proper care, ​​some families can use the same inserts for 2-3 children in a row!

How do you prepare new fabric inserts?

Most fabric inserts will not be ready to use right out of the package. Natural fiber inserts need to be washed several times to get them to full absorbency and to remove any lingering natural oils in them. Synthetic fibers do not have natural oils in them but prewashing is still needed to take away any dirt and grime that may have accumulated during manufacturing or shipping (plus it makes them more absorbent.)

​​Natural fibers require multiple washes to prepare, while synthetic fibers usually require one wash.

Can any cloth diaper insert fit into your cloth diapers?

You may be wondering if you’ll need to get the same brand of inserts as your pocket diapers or cloth diaper covers to get the right fit. Luckily, most cloth diaper inserts will fit into most cloth diaper covers or pocket diapers. There are exceptions of course, but the inserts that do not fit in all diaper covers will usually look different from others, and you can always read reviews about the fit before purchasing.

Do I have to use inserts with cloth diapers?

If using an all-in-one (AI1) cloth diaper you do not need to add inserts as it’s already sewn into the diaper cover. However, if using an all-in-two (AI2), pocket or a TPU/PUL diaper cover, you will need to add the absorbency layers into the cover (padded inserts, fitteds, prefolds, flats) to make your cloth diaper absorbent. 

Can I use 2 inserts with cloth diapers?

Absolutely! So long as it doesn’t become too bulky you can double up or even triple up your inserts to boost absorbency. Adding too much bulk can loosen the snug fit around your baby’s legs and cause leaks. Using additional inserts as boosters is often necessary for heavy wetters, naps, bedtimes, long car rides, and other moments when extra protection is needed.

How many diaper inserts do I need?

The general rule is a minimum of 24 diapers, but I wrote an article that will help you calculate how many cloth diapers you need depending on how you plan to use them.

Can I use folded prefolds or flats as an alternative to inserts for pocket diapers?

Yes! The one thing to be aware of is how much bulk you are adding into the pocket. If too much bulk is stuffed into the diaper pocket, it may create a bulge where liquid can trickle down to the leg holes resulting in leaks. To prevent that simply layer the prefold or flat on top of the pocket rather than inside of it and ensure there are no gaps between the elastics and legs.

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