Microfiber Vs. Microfleece: What’s the Difference?

By April Duffy •  Updated: 06/20/24 •  6 min read
Kiddos tugging at your shirt? Watch this article instead right here.

Cloth diaper lingo can be so frickin’ confusing when you’re new to cloth diapers. Throw in some fabrics with similar names, call one a liner and one an insert like those somehow sound different, and that’s a recipe for confusion. Since confusing these two fabrics happens all the time in my conversations with cloth diaper beginners, I thought it best to once and for all clarify it here.

So, that’s the difference between microfiber and microfleece? In short, microfiber is an absorbent material that’s used in cloth diaper inserts to hold the urine baby puts into their diaper. Microfleece, is a wicking material that’s used as a barrier between the diaper and baby to provide a “stay-dry” feeling, and to make clean-up easier.

Here’s a photo of a microfiber insert (white), and a couple of microflece cloth diaper liners (beige):

Want to know the difference between microfiber and micro fleece?

Let’s take a closer look why these two fabrics are so different, so we can really understand what they are used for.

What is Microfiber?

Microfleece insert
A Close-up of a Microfiber Cloth Diaper Insert

Microfiber (or microfibre) is a synthetic fabric made from polyesters and polyamides, or a conjugation of polyester, polyamide, and polypropylene. In other words, it’s made from plastics. These plastic fibers are 100 times finer human hair and densely packed to make absorbent cloths. 

What is Microfiber Used for in Cloth Diapering?

As I mentioned above, microfiber is used as absorbent cloth diaper liners. They come with many inexpensive pocket diapers and are also sold on their own. Microfiber can be made into microfiber-only inserts like the white one you see in the pictures above, or you can find it combined with other fibers. It’s usually hidden on the inside of charcoal/bamboo liners (those super-thick, usually grey liners) as well.

Microfiber is an inexpensive fabric, and it is incredibly fast absorbing. In fact, it’s so absorbent that it can’t be placed next to baby’s skin as it will take so much moisture from the skin it causes irritation and rashes.

Other drawbacks of microfiber include compression leaking, bulk, and difficulty to clean properly. You can read more about how microfiber compares to other types of inserts in this post all about the pros and cons of microfiber.

Why Do Some Say That Microfiber is Bad for the Environment?

If you’ve been hanging out on the cloth diaper groups, like the Cloth Diapers for Beginners Facebook group, you’ve probably read one or two comments about microfiber being bad for the environment.

So what’s the deal with the bad for the environment comments? Well, there are a few reasons actually: it’s a petroleum-based product; it sheds plastic micro-fibers into the wash, which can’t all be filetered out by wastewater treatment plants, and therefore contributes to the growing problem of plastic pollution in our waterways; and those micro-bits of plastic pollute the fish and other seafood people eat with contaminates they soak up before being ingested by that sea life.

But I’ll explain all of that later, first, let’s get back to comparing microfiber to microfleece for the non-environmentally focused folks (’cause we love you too).

What is microfleece?

Microfleece cloth diaper liners
A Close-up of a Microfleece Cloth Diaper Liner

Microfleece is made of PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) or other similar synthetic fibres, and can even be made from recycled plastic.  Fleece is soft, light and absorbs less than one per cent of its weight in water. (Source)

How is Microfleece Different than Polar Fleece?

It’s worth noting here, especially for those hoping to DIY themselves some liners out of fleece they have at home, that microfleece has different properties than polar fleece.

Specifically, microfleece is the lightest weight of fabric known as fleece.

While microfleece is light and wicking, polar fleece is actually so thick that it’s actually water repellant (though it’s also great for cloth diapers in that you can DIY up some inexpensive covers from them, check out the DIY portion of this post).

Here’s a quick video from TheSassyMonkeyKY showing the difference between the two fleece types:

What Is Microfleece Used for In Cloth Diapering?

Because it is light, soft, and only absorbs less than one percent of its weight in water, but is thin enough to wick moisture away from its fuzzy side, leaving it feeling dry to the touch, microfleece makes the perfect cloth diaper liners.

Placing a single layer of microfleece, fuzzy side up, on top of a cloth diaper not only makes clean up easier (it’s so much easier to swoosh a small piece of fabric in the toilet instead of a huge diaper), but it also gives baby a “stay-dry” feeling and helps reduce moisture rashes.

If Microfleece Is Made from Plastic, Is It Also Bad for The Environment?

Unfortunately yes. All synthetic fabrics and especially “pilly” fabrics like microfiber and microfleece shed tiny bits of plastic into our rivers, lakes and oceans each time they are washed. Here’s a quick video  by The Story of Stuff Project that explains it all:

Story of Stuff Project that explains it all:

More Information

For more information on cloth diaper liners, you can check out this post on the differences, and pros and cons between disposable liners and reusable ones.

For more information on microfiber liners, you can click here.

Bonus: What about Microsuede?

Microsuede is another of the many fabrics used in cloth diapers. Sometimes called suedecloth, you’ll find microsuede used as the lining in pocket diapers.

Microsuede is another fabric that is 100 % polyester-based (source).

It is soft, breathable, lets water through it, and fairly easy to clean solids off of, making it a good choice for the inner lining of pocket diapers. It doesn’t irritate the skin like microfiber but isn’t as stay dry feeling or as soft as microfleece. Microsuede is also more prone to staining than microfleece, so using reusable fleece liners with pocket diapers still has some benefit.

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.