Bamboo Vs. Charcoal Bamboo: Are They the Same Thing?

By April Duffy •  Updated: 04/30/24 •  4 min read

Over the past seven years, I’ve seen hundreds of Cloth Diapers for Beginners Facebook Group members be disappointed or confused after buying bamboo charcoal inserts.

Why? Aren’t bamboo and charcoal bamboo the same thing? No, they are not. Not even a little bit! Most inserts labeled “charcoal” even if the word bamboo comes after it, are in fact not bamboo.

That’s right you heard me, they are not bamboo. As if cloth diapers weren’t confusing enough, right!

What are Charcoal Bamboo Inserts Made Of?

Charcoal bamboo inserts are mostly microfiber wrapped in fleece or a bamboo/synthetic blend outer layer.

Here’s a great video by Jay’s Nest showing you the inside of one of these inserts.

A note here that although charcoal bamboo inserts are made from microfiber, they can go next to skin.

What are Bamboo Inserts?

Bamboo inserts, real bamboo inserts, are made from 100% bamboo, or a combination of bamboo and cotton (usually organic cotton to keep customers looking for natural products happy).

They can feel fuzzy or even silky and can be white or almost golden yellow in color depending on the makeup and maker.

What’s Better: Bamboo or Bamboo Charcoal?

Now that we know they are not the same product, you might be wondering how to charcoal bamboo and bamboo inserts compare. Here’s a quick chart with their differences outlined to help you decide which might be best for you and your baby.

BambooCharcoal Bamboo
Made from bamboo or a bamboo/cotton blendMade from a combination of fleece and microfiber
Baby can feel the wetnessExtremely stay-dry (microfiber topped with microfleece is a stay-dry super-combo!)
Holds a TON of liquid, helping to prevent leaks Incredably bulky, and prone to compression leaks
Thin and lightweight for the absorbency gainedReally good at hiding stains (because it’s dark)
Very soft against baby’s skinSynthetic plastic fabrics (causing microplastic pollution)
Natural fibre (ok for babies with polyester sensitivity) Synthetic plastic fabrics (won’t work for babies with polyester sensitivities)

How Do I know if an Insert is Really Bamboo?

While calling an insert with little or no bamboo in it is pretty shady at best, thankfully most retailers will list out the materials used in their products.

Always, always, always check to see what the insert you’re buying is made out of.

If the insert only states that the inside layers are microfiber, assume that the entire insert is synthetic. If the insert lists bamboo and cotton, assume it’s the real deal.

If you’re really wanting to get granular, remember that bamboo absorbs more than cotton (albeit slower) so if you’re looking for the most absorbent bamboo insert you can find, look for high concentrations of bamboo. Check out this article to see some statistics on cotton vs. bamboo absorbency.

You can indeed find all-bamboo inserts.

Conclusion: Always Check the Materials List

Charcoal bamboo and bamboo inserts are not the same thing. Charcoal inserts actually don’t even have any bamboo in them most of the time. Instead, they are often fleece-lined microfiber.

While charcoal bamboo charcoal inserts do have some pros, like giving a stay-dry feel and being good at hiding stains, if you’re looking for the lightweight absorbency of bamboo, you will be very disappointed.

Again, always check the fabric list of the inserts you’re buying. Even if it doesn’t say “charcoal” like the Alva “4 Layers Rayon from Bamboo Inserts” on Amazon here, which even though it’s listed as bamboo still has two layers of microfiber in it.

Click here for more information on choosing cloth diaper inserts, including how to layer them and which ones are best for your baby.

April Duffy

April is the founder of Cloth Diapers for Beginners and author of The Cloth Diaper Wash & Care Handbook. Since 2015, April has helped well over 75,000 parents and caregivers cloth diaper their children through this website, her book, her YouTube Channel, and the Cloth Diapers for Beginners Facebook Group.