When I started cloth diapering, I didn’t understand. I really didn’t. I happily replied to those having stink issues ‘oh well microfiber works fine for me’– in my 4 month old’s ebf poo washed in town water heavily softened so it’s nearly perfect! Then we moved and our water changed. That cr@p got real — really fast. For those of you who I may have inadvertently brushed off 5 years ago in my new mom euphoria, I sincerely apologize. Ewww. I discovered that the diapers with the organic cotton inserts washed and stayed cleaner better than the ones with microfiber inserts. No matter how I softened, stripped, washed with harsh detergents, and bleached, bleached, bleached, the smell came back. I had ENOUGH. One of the reasons we switched to cloth diapers (and there were many) was the chemical smell and possible chemical stew that came from using disposables. If we couldn’t get these admittedly super thirsty fabrics clean in a brand new top loading machine with bleach and harsh chemicals (which, wait, now we’re putting THAT on our baby instead?!?) then we needed a change!
To what you may ask? Most modern pocket diapers come with 1 or 2 microfiber inserts standard. What’s the alternative?
In doing some research I found that other people had more luck with simpler, easy to wash cotton flat diapers. The kind grandma used to use! Say what? I didn’t want to give up my awesome colors and prints or the ease of pocket diapers, though, and my baby had sensitive skin, so I switched to flat diapers — as pocket diaper inserts and have never looked back. Read more about why FLATS are my favorite diaper inserts HERE! Seeing some results from the RDA that there was more yeast growth on microfiber than cotton, and knowing of course that if the inserts didn’t have strict attention paid to them that things got ugly really fast, it got me to thinking: what’s really in that ‘cloth’?!?
Compare them to a cotton flat (like a tea towel, but better!) and you’ll realize that they’re man made and have a lot of non-fabric components to them. They’re.. dare I say it? Plastic-y! Huh. It turns out, that tagline made famous several years age ‘not your grandma’s cloth diapers’ has a double meaning. Microfiber, though modern, really isn’t always your friend. It shouldn’t be used against baby’s skin! The more I thought about it, the more I realized it was more like plastic, and less like cloth. It even repels moisture until pressed, which is why so many people want to automatically strip their diapers if they do an ‘absorption test’ because it simply beads up–but there’s a double whammy, because it can also press back OUT and lead to compression leaks — like in a car seat! So why is microfiber used? It’s cheap!
After weeding out all my microfiber and trying to strip them one more time for donation, I decided I wouldn’t ship them to anyone else for them to try and salvage. After use on 1-2 babies and in harsh conditions, they had flattened beyond belief, held smell despite intense stripping and quite frankly, didn’t pass the sniff test. My problem to deal with, not anyone else’s. My husband asked what else could be done with them. I asked if we wanted to put around 30 inserts that still smelled like pee into rotation as mop pads or anything else. He agreed with me that it was time to let them go. Their life, while useful, was over.
Like any good country girl that has something she can’t recycle, use as a rag, compost, and doesn’t want to send to the landfill, I requested a bonfire*. Yes, I torched my microfiber inserts. Now before there is a riot going on in the comments about re-purposing them, etc. I will repeat that these were END OF LIFE inserts. Done. So despite wanting to be green and eco friendly and etc. we got rid of them along with a pair of inappropriately holey jeans, a raggedy wash cloth that mildew smell wouldn’t come out of after the 5th consecutive year of wiping tiny hands and faces, cardboard boxes we hadn’t recycled and some good old-fashioned fallen tree.
I was actually really interested to see
those b@stards go up in flames how they burned, especially compared to the other cloth items. Except. They melted. Think end of campfire meal foam plate, but much, much slower. My husband couldn’t get them to light. This little guy almost got roasted, too. Life in the country.
We considered marshmallows, only to realize that we’d left them at family’s house the week before when visiting. Heartbreaking, I tell you, heartbreaking. Anyway, so the cardboard and wood started going up, and he got around to the cotton items and they did just fine. But those inserts sat there, not even smoking, until they were covered with a blazing inferno, and then they shriveled up (like plastic) and melted away to nothing. Then we thought, you know, this may not be the best thing to be inhaling, and backed off. Yes, we were fine dealing with cardboard, wood, and even cotton, but once the microfiber started to burn, things got ugly, and that’s when we decided to back off. This is what we’re using in our diapers?
So other than really cool photos of fire and a little bit about our cloth diapering experience, what are you taking away from this? CHOICE. If you need to put new inserts in your diapers after a couple of years, consider prefolds or flats. There may come a time (I certainly have pushed for it, and others are right there with me) that a choice is offered in the future when you purchase pocket diapers: Microfiber or Cotton. I’m not going to lie. Cotton, especially organic cotton or a cotton/hemp blend is going to cost more. But in this instance, the old adage ‘you get what you pay for’ really does apply. I encourage you: choose cotton. Choose natural fibers over something that acts like plastic. Choose something that is good to have against baby’s skin and could be used for many, many years in different forms. Some people are using the diapers that their parents used on them or that their grandparents used on their parents on their own children, or as dust rags for 30 years. No kidding, they last a lifetime!
Have you made the choice to replace microfiber with a more natural choice? What was your experience?