Cloth Diaper Absorbency Tests: How Much Will It Hold?

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DSC04019 (475x356)

We made a grand old mess!

To satiate my curiosity about how much these cloth diapers really do hold, I laid out all 25 of those cloth diapers from the cloth diaper review, and I did two tests (on different days):

  1. Leah helped me do some closeup videos of how quickly each diaper and/or insert would absorb a Tablespoon of water. You’ll be surprised about some that wouldn’t absorb for minutes! (coming later this week)
  2. I poured water until saturation on everything I had and kept track of how much total liquid each insert would hold. The results are fascinating! (below)

Check out the video to see what I did firsthand on just a small sample of diapers. Keep in mind that I’m not a scientist, I just play one on the Internet. ;) My scientific method may not be perfectly sound, but I figure it’s all pretty interesting nonetheless.

If you can’t see the embedded video, click cloth diaper absorbency video reviews to see it on You Tube.

Cloth Diaper Guide
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The Chart: How Much Liquid do Cloth Diapers Hold?

My disclaimer: I only did this one time, so certainly I am off a bit here and there. I poured to saturation and/or sopped up water off the surface if inserts didn’t absorb as quickly, as you see in the video, which is unrealistic of real life diapering. Many inserts are partly dry even as the diaper is leaking in another area, but this gives an interesting comparison.

Name of diaper Material Amount held
Fitted diapers
Kissaluvs organic fitted organic cotton/hemp 1 ½ c.
small Kissaluvs insert w/o snaps ? ~3/8 c.
Kissaluvs fitted cotton fleece 2 c.
Kissaluvs long snap-in insert so thin… just over ½ c.
Wooldins fitted organic bamboo velour 1 ½ c.
Wooldins extra liner solid ¼ c.
Pocket diapers
Fuzzibunz microfiber (I stuff with 2) ½-¾ c. each
Bum Genius longest microfiber insert almost 1 ¼ c.
Bum Genius extra microfiber insert ½ c.
Thirsties Duo microfiber (snaps with hemp below) ¾ c.
Thirsties hemp doubler hemp/cotton ¾ c.
Kawaii Green Baby bamboo (I stuff with 2) ¾ c.
Babykicks Basic cotton/hemp and microfiber ~1 c.
Babykicks Premium insert Hemparoo JoeyBunz = hemp/cotton between ¾ c. and 1 c.
Babykicks extra insert almost nothing
Babykicks Premium diaper w/o any insert (wear as training pant) ¼ c.
Bumkins microfiber (I stuff with two) ½-¾ c. each
Oh Katy! microfiber ¾-1 c.
Oh Katy! newborn insert microfiber almost ¾ c.
Tiny Tush microfiber (Tweedlebugs insert) just less than 1 c.
Tiny Tush, newborn insert microfiber just less than ¾ c.
Go Green Champ microfiber solidly 1 c.
All-in-One Diapers
Motherease AIO ? over 2 c.! insert (came with Motherease) fleece-topped organic hemp ¾-1 c.
Ones and Twos AIO microfiber ~¾ c. (but the first 1/4 c. ran off the side…)
Ones and Twos extra insert microfiber ¾ c.
Covers with inserts (two-piece)
Sprout Change by Willow organic cotton/hemp at least 1-1/8 c.!
Econobum with prefold unbleached cotton nearly 2 c.!
Flip microfiber 1 ¼-1 ½ c.
Tuck and Go cotton/bamboo/ polyester ¾-1 c.
All-in-Two diapers
Hiney Liney bamboo/cotton (white) solidly 1 c.
Hiney Liney (off-white) ¾-1 c.
Softbums Echo microfiber almost 1 ¼ c.
Softbums drytouch mini pod microfiber ¾ c.
Softbums Omni w/bamboo extra long pod bamboo just barely 1 ½ c.
Grovia organic cotton not quite 1 c. (last 1/4 c. ran right through!)
Itti Bitti Tutto bamboo longest = maybe 3/8 c.
mid-size = ~3/8 c.?
small = barely 2 Tbs.
(very hard to absorb)

If you’re interested in more information on any of these diapers, check out the lovely sponsors who sent them to me by clicking the diaper name, or pop over to the comprehensive cloth diaper review for my thoughts plus a how-to video for each and every one of them…I’m also keeping close track of leaks this week and will come back to that post to report and change scores if needed.

I have some theories about why there may be a discrepancy between the measured absorbency and the actual leak-proof performance:

  1. Microfiber – it’s great for keeping babies feeling dry, and it dries quickly, but it doesn’t always soak up the liquid on contact either (a) quickly enough to keep it in the diaper or (b) far enough back on the insert. Microfibers are often dry on back as the diaper is leaking out the front (for a boy).
  2. On the contrary, materials like bamboo and fitted fleece absorb so well that they’re going to nab any liquid that comes at them and spread it evenly on the surface of the diaper/insert.
  3. A few diapers just acted funny – the Flip seemed super repellent on the side that’s supposed to face the baby, the Grovia for some reason had zero absorbency in its bottom layer, and the Itti Bitti was incredibly slow to soak up liquid. The Sugar Peas insert was very absorbent on one side but not the other.

Actual Total Absorbency

For a lot of the pocket diapers especially, I double stuff them as a general rule since the company sent two inserts. This results in absorbency like so:

  • Kawaii Green Baby and Thirsties Duo = 1.5 c. total absorbency for normal wear
  • Fuzzibunz, Bumkins = about 1.25 c. total for normal wear
  • Softbums Echo with DryTouch pod = almost 2 c. total absorbency

Nighttime Bulletproof Solutions!

At night, I might do something like this:

  • Kissaluvs fleece + its insert with snaps + Thirsties hemp doubler = 3 1/4-3 1/2 cups of liquid!
  • Motherease AIO + Sugar Peas hemp doubler = about 3 c. liquid!
  • Econobum prefold with Thirsties hemp = almost 3 c.

Here’s a rundown of the big winners (and biggest losers):

Poor Absorbency

  • Grovia held slightly less than a cup and can’t really have extra stuffing
  • Itti Bitti Tutto held less than a cup with all 3 inserts
  • Ones and Twos barely absorbed 3/4 cup
  • Babykicks extra insert is worthless – less than a Tablespoon!

Almost all the microfibers hold around 3/4 c. with no real standouts.

Great Soakers!

  • Sprout Change held 1.25 cups, impressive because it’s sooo thin!
  • All 3 fitted diapers held 1.5-2 cups and easily add extras
  • Econobum prefold held an impressive nearly 2 cups.
  • Motherease (below) was the winner, holding a whopping 2+ cups (but not quite 2 1/4 c.)


motherease AIO cloth diaper (4) (475x356)

How Much Does a Disposable Diaper Hold?

Here’s your answer, and my incredulity:

If you can’t see the embedded video, click disposable diaper absorbency to see it on You Tube.

7th Generation size 3 disposable diaper ??? a solid 2 ½ c.

When my son threw the disposable away for me, he said, “Whoa, this is SUPER heavy!” It was just like when a child wears a diaper into a lake and it comes out all hanging down to their knees. Pretty crazy stuff.

Now, don’t you all just want to go pour some water on your diapers? ;)

Check out part two, the speed tests, right HERE.


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22 Bites of Conversation So Far

  1. Michelle says

    Katie, I don’t know what diaper didn’t absorb for so long, but if it was pocket diapers and you just poured the water on them, that’s not how they work. You would need to squeeze the water (such as from a syringe) directly into it. Fleece doesn’t “hold” liquid; it’s one of the beauties of diapers like FuzziBunz. It keeps the liquid away from your babies bottom, which can help babies that are prone to rash.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Amanda Reply:

    ^^WSS. This is why you can’t test for repelling by pouring water on a cloth diaper. Most pocket diapers have to have weight applied to them in order to absorb, which is why a good snug fit is so important. Weird that you didn’t know that…

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    I was a total newbie to cloth diapering…it all depends on the fabric of the insert, not the style of diaper, as to whether it needs pressure to absorb, I think. We live and learn! :) Kataie

    [Reply to this comment]

  2. Kris says

    I don’t know if you are reviewing these or not, but I have a Smart Bottoms smart fold prefold that can definitely hold 2 cups of liquid. Stuff that puppy into an AIO with a pocket and it holds like almost 3 cups! Plus smart bottoms are made in GR – I bought my at ecobuns in Holland. =)

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Wow, how did I miss a GR-made diaper? Bummer…
    :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

  3. Cathy says

    No wonder Motherease were my favorites. When I first used the one-size diapers with the wraps I thought they would be leaking up a storm, but somehow they never did. Now I know why!

    [Reply to this comment]

  4. Laura says

    I just wanted to comment about something you mentioned in the video. With my son who is almost two, the whole insert will be saturated (not just the front) if he goes too long without a change (like overnight when he’s drank a lot of water before bed). My problem with him has been how much he goes. I use FuzziBunz Perfect Size large diapers (he grew out of the FB one-size) and even with three inserts (one microfiber, two hemp) there are some nights where he has soaked all three inserts after only five hours. I have tried “pull-ups” with him as well thinking they would be more absorbent and he leaks through those just the same.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Samantha French Reply:

    Hi Laura,
    I don’t know if this will work for you or not, but a good friend of mine was having the same problem with her little son, so she just switched to bamboo fitteds, and said they are working amazingly well! Maybe give that a try??

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    I’d try a fitted with hemp doubler…and maybe institute “second potty” which is what we call it when the child goes at the beginning and end of the bedtime routine, to try to get as much out of them before bed as possible! :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

  5. says

    Thanks for doing this!! One question…I use the Flip inserts and they say to wash it 6 times before using it to get the best absorbency. Did you happen to do that before testing it? Just wondering because I was surprised that your test showed them acting funny.

    [Reply to this comment]

  6. melissa says

    Did I miss prefolds? I’ve been cloth diapering for 6 years/4 kids, and prefolds are by far the most absorbent diaper I’ve used, not to mention easiest to care for. There are quite a few prefold options (Indian, Chinese, cotton/hemp, etc) but they’re all super absorbent IMO.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    I only had one prefold, from Econobum, but it has performed awesome. I’ll be sure to mention the fact that many, many people love prefolds in my wrap-up post! :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

  7. Christie Lin says


    I was wondering if you ever tried Motherease’s Sandy fitteds in bamboo and would love to know how they compare to wooldins bamboo velour fitteds.


    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    The only MOtherease we tried was the all-in-one, but I’m guessing if the bamboos look similar, they will be. Wooldins is not making diapers anymore…so that may help your decision! :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

    Christie Lin Reply:

    Hi Katie, Wooldins is still making diapers but by custom order. Their diapers are now $25 for OS fitteds vs ME Sandy which are $15 for 2-sized fitted. I’m trying to justify the extra $10 as you get a OS diaper which lasts longer but is bulkier. Both diapers have the same absorbancy. So I was wondering if there’s a difference in quality. Hopefully you still remember as its been a couple years since this awesome review you did!

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Oh! I thought Carolyn had stepped back, this is good to hear. Since I never tried Motherease’s fitted, I really can’t compare, I’m so sorry. Are they both organic bamboo? I can say that Wooldins was one of my ultimate favorites. If it were me, I might buy one of each and see what I think…but I’m a “2 scoops on one cone” kind of girl. ;) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

    Christie Lin Reply:

    Great! Glad to hear you love the Wooldins. I’ll do as you recommend then. Thank you.

    [Reply to this comment]

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