Question: I've heard people say that print diapers leak or don't work as well as solid color PUL diapers? I don't really understand why this could be. Is this true, why or why not?
The Geek's Answer: Awesome question! I am so glad you asked. This can be a really confusing issue, especially for those who aren't really familiar with the different types of diaper making fabrics, their content, uses, etc. So I will do my best to explain. :)
Most diapers, solid colored, are made from what is known as PUL. PUL is is a polyester/polyurethane knit fabric that is 100% polyester. It is then laminated to make it waterproof/leak-proof and is considered a non-breathable fabric. PUL usually comes in two thicknesses 1mil & 2 mil. While both are waterproof, the 2 mil is sometimes considered more durable, however it is also known to be harder to work with, as far as sewing diapers is concerned, and therefore not all diapers are made from 2mil.
But what about print diapers? Some print diapers are a polyester print that is then sent off, usually to the same manufacturers of the solid color PUL, so that they may laminate it, rendering it waterproof, the same as the regular PUL they produce.
Other print diapers are a cotton print. 100% Cotton prints that are laminated, known as cotton laminate, are not as effective as polyester prints that are laminated. They are known to wick and/or leak more frequently than their polyester friends. However, there are 50% poly 50% cotton knits that are laminated and in most cases to perform just as well as the 100% poly, so it seems that laminated prints should contain at a minimum 50% poly or more in order to be effective at preventing leaks/wicking.
Then why do some companies still make diapers with the cotton print laminate? Because there are soooo many cute prints of course! The cuteness factor often reigns supreme in the grand scheme of things. Maybe it's not important to everyone to have all the cutest diapers, but try and convince someone they don't want that uber cute "ooga booga' pocket diaper they saw and you'll be fighting a losing battle.
Ultimately, just because a diaper is made from a cotton knit and not poly simply means that you're sacrificing extended wear and some reliability for the joy of being able to put a cute diaper on your babies bum for friends, for photos, or for comfort. You take the good with the bad, you put the diaper on knowing to check it more frequently, or maybe after a thoroughly soaked diaper change because you know she or he will be able to wear it a little longer.
The verdict: Check the fabric content for the diapers you buy and keep the above information in mind. Also, just because you heard that XYZ Company's print diapers leaked, doesn't mean that they might not have now switched to poly print PUL. Some companies sell a little of both due to the fact that not all those adorable prints are available in polyester.
So keep on cloth diapering and enjoy!