12 February 2014

{Cloth 201} Cloth Diaper Absorbency Test

The number one question on all cloth diapering parents' minds is this one: Which diaper is the most absorbent? Because let's face it, that's what it really boils down to in the end. Your baby can have the cutest fluffy bum in the prettiest prints or colours, but if the diaper can only absorb a few drops you're bound to get frustrated. 

A few notes

Firstly, cloth diapers cannot be expected to hold as much liquid as a disposable. It's just not going to happen. 

Secondly, all cloth diapers are not created equally. Some are able to hold more liquid than others. Bulk does not necessarily equate to more absorbency and vice versa. 

Thirdly, synthetic fibres seem more prone to compression leaks vs natural fibres. 

What are compression leaks? 

Simply put, they are leaks that occur because of a baby's weight pressing against the cloth diaper and effectively squeezing out the previously absorbed liquid. When baby is sitting or lying down for extended periods of time (eg in the car or while sleeping), compression leaks can easily occur. 

Test methodology

I tested a bunch of inserts, prefolds and flats. My methods were as follows:

1. Weigh each insert when dry. Measurements were done in grams as I could easily convert it to ml (1g of water = 1ml of water). I made use of a kitchen scale for these measurements. All inserts have been properly prepped before the test, to ensure fair results. 
2. Soak each insert in a 1 litre jug of water for one minute. 
3. Remove insert and hold above the jug of water until all excess moisture has dripped down. 
4. Weigh wet insert. 

Simulating compression by lightly squeezing the wet insert
5. Lightly squeeze the wet insert to try to emulate normal compression when baby is wearing the diaper. Note I only squeezed each insert lightly, I did not try to wring out every last bit of liquid. Due to the subjective nature of this step, the results after compression aren't 100% accurate, but I believe they are in any case a good indication. 
6. Weigh the wet insert again and note the weight after compression. 
7. Total ml absorbed was calculated by subtracting the dry weight from the wet weight and converting to ml (1:1 conversion). 
8. ml Absorbed after compression was calculated by subtracting the dry weight from the compressed weight and converting to ml (1:1 conversion)
9. Compression loss was calculated by subtracting the ml Absorbed after compression from the Total ml absorbed and dividing the result by the Total ml absorbed. 

Natural fibres absorbency test results
Results - Natural Fibres

The hands down winner in this category was a large receiving blanket, which absorbed a whopping 375ml after accounting for compression. While that is impressive, do remember that it has quite a large surface area, so you would expect it to absorb quite a lot of liquid. Nevertheless, this illustrates why a receiving blanket is such an awesome overnight solution. 

Coming in second place is the Mother Nature AIO insert which was able to absorb 195ml after compression. 

And in third place we have the Imagine Smart-Fit cotton prefold (size small) which absorbed 165ml after compression.

Honourable mention goes to the Alva bamboo insert and the Cherub Tree hemp insert, both of which absorbed quite a fair amount of liquid despite being super trim. In my opinion this makes them great options for daytime where you want maximum absorbency with minimum bulk. 
Synthetic fibres absorbency test results
Results - Synthetic Fibres

The winner in this category was the Best Bottoms Stay Dry Night insert (size medium) which was able to absorb 225ml after accounting for compression. 

Coming in second place is the Snappy Nappy Night insert (size medium)which was able to absorb 215ml after compression. 

And in third place we have the Bumgenius one-size pocket diaper insert, which absorbed 210ml after compression.

HSB ratings

HSB stands for Hippie Safari Blog ratings, as this is my self-devised measure of absorbency per thickness of insert. I wanted to do this calculation in an effort to show which inserts are trimmest, yet most absorbent. It's all good and fine having a thick insert that absorbs a lot, but sometimes size matters (hello leggings!) and the HSB rating will help point you in the right direction so your child doesn't end up with a man-size butt on one end, but you also won't have to deal with a trim, yet less effective diaper. Obviously there are inherent limitations to this rating - firstly I don't take the size and shape of the insert into account. It is merely the thickness of the insert (folded if needed to fit into a regular pocket diaper) expressed as a factor of the amount of ml it is able to absorb. So don't see it as an absolute number or rating, but rather as a guideline to help out in specific situations where trimness is a big priority.

So... without further ado, the results (a high rating means more bang for your buck so to speak, ie the most absorbency for the least bulk and vice versa):

HSB rating results
HSB winners - natural fibres
In first place, the Alva bamboo insert
In second place, the Best Bottoms hemp day insert
And in third place, the Flip potty training pants insert

HSB winners - synthetic fibres
In first place, the Bumgenius one-size pocket diaper insert. 
Coming in second place, the Flip stay-dry insert
And in third place, the Snappy Nappy day insert (size medium)

These results are consistent with what I've noticed via trial and error and subjective observation of how things work and look on A, so I'm pretty happy with it.

Which inserts have you found to be most and least absorbent in your experience? Is the trimness of the insert a factor for you, or is absorbency the most important factor when it comes to choosing an insert?

Disclaimer: I by no means claim that these results are 100% accurate, nor that I have followed any proper scientific methods during these tests. I cannot and do not guarantee that you will achieve the same results. These results are merely intended to be used as a guideline and not as absolute truth. User discretion is advised. ;-)


  1. Thanks, this was really interesting. Can you use different inserts with different diaper brands?

    1. Yes definitely you can! I mix and match inserts all the time.


I'd love to hear your thoughts! Drop me a line and I'll make sure to answer any questions or comments you might have.