Velcro vs. Snaps

velcro-1The Lowdown on Fastening Cloth Diaper Covers

  • What: Cloth Diaper Fasteners
  • Why: Everyone has a preference
  • Where: Most cloth diapers

No matter which type of cloth diapers you use, you have to choose a side: the light side or the dark side of fasteners: in other words, snaps or Velcro? Proponents of both will make a strong case for joining their numbers, but here I’m going to try, despite any bias of my own, to present only the facts.

The same debate exists for baby clothing as well. Some people swear by zippers. Some wouldn’t touch a zipper if the clothes fell onto their baby and vastly prefer snaps. I won’t tell you which camp I belong to, but I can tell you this: there are no zippers on any diaper cover.

Now let’s straighten out terminology. I’ve used cloth diapers for more than six years consecutively, and I’ve never heard the term hook and loop. When I came across the term for the first time researching for this post, I had no idea what it meant. I pictured some archaic loop going over a button or some such thing and immediately dismissed everything that offered hook and loop. Who’s ever heard of hook and loop on clothes, much less diapers?

It turns out that hook and loop has a much more recognizable name: Velcro. Velcro comes under the name hook and loop, and aplix, and possibly more weird terms I’ve never heard used in real life. I’m assuming that’s a branding or copyright or patent issue of some sort. I’m calling it Velcro until lawyers inform me I need to edit everything to say some non-branded term.

velcro-2

Thirsties one size diaper cover with hook and loop (aka Velcro) closure. You can see the laundry tabs on the inside back of the cover.

Now let’s get down to the business of fastening diapers. Take your pick, snap or Velcro. Or better yet, try both. Here’s why:

I’d say using Velcro is a snap, but too many of us are suffering from sleep deprivation and confusion isn’t funny. Velcro has virtually no user error and offers nearly infinite adjustments. The right kind of Velcro closures can overlap, so the softer side of Velcro covers the back of the Velcro tab itself, allowing the other tab the fasten on top of it as needed for a super slim fit. Lots of one size diapers sport Velcro because it fits such a wide range of waist sizes. On a wiggly, possibly peeing baby, speed is essential and Velcro offers the supersonic fastening speed of disposable diapers.

As always, there’s a flip side to Velcro, and I don’t mean the scruffy part that feels rough. Velcro works great for fastening diapers. Unfortunately, it also works really well at fastening to other diapers and prefolds and pretty much anything else it finds attractive in a load of wash. And trust me, Velcro can find plenty attractive. It’s not at all particular about the characteristics of its mates, but it is great for surprises almost every time you do the dirty diaper laundry. You can solve this issue by separating your covers from your inserts if you have anything except all-in-one diapers, which obviously don’t separate. Even after segregation, the covers will try to stick to each other as well, which can result in faster wear and tear on the Velcro itself.

Manufactures have addressed the issue of washing Velcro by providing laundry tabs to hold the sticky part of the Velcro during wash and dry cycles. Some solutions work better than others. I’ve generally found it works better to attach the two Velcro tabs from a single diaper to each other than to the laundry tabs provided. Regardless, before you put a used diaper in your diaper pail, you need to fasten the Velcro tabs to something or total chaos will ensue in the washing machine. And you do not want to go through a diaper pail checking for loose Velcro tabs. Some people find the extra step hideously taxing, others don’t even notice. You’ll know best what will or won’t irritate you and anyone else using your cloth diapers.

Another downside to Velcro relates to life expectancy. Once the sticky side gets stuck to something (like a cloth diaper insert during a wash cycle), you have to clean it out for it to stick properly again. If it doesn’t stick anymore? You end up with a diaper attached on only one side, or worse, not at all. The softer side of the Velcro along the top front of the diaper can also come undone, though a needle and thread can solve that problem.

Additionally, an adept baby or toddler who can reach the tabs can undo the Velcro. Depending on the contents of the diaper, the results range from irksome to disastrous.

velcro-snap

Thirsties one size diaper cover with snap closure; note the snaps are also used in three rows to adjust the rise of the diaper

Snaps always behave during laundry cycles. They will not try to mate, even briefly, in the washer or dryer, and your diapers will come out looking exactly like they did when you put them in, except free of pee and poop. They never get stuck to each other or any prefolds or inserts, and don’t require special laundry tabs to keep them closed during cleaning because it doesn’t matter.

Snaps are harder for little hands to undo, keeping the diaper exactly where you snapped it. A very determined toddler can certainly pull hard enough to unsnap them, but it’s an odd angle and much less likely to happen.

Snaps also claim to have a longer life expectancy. Unlike Velcro, they don’t wear out or require cleaning. The most likely failure with a snap is that it remains snapped and separates from one side or the other of a diaper cover. A gentle hand or careful attention to undoing snaps can go a long way towards preventing snaps from breaking.

velcro-old-snap-1

An old snap on a Fuzzi Bunz pocket diaper

velcro-old-snap-2

The same snap as seen from the inside of the diaper cover; it won’t be long before it separates completely and no longer snaps.

Snaps, on the other hand, require a learning curve of sorts. To get them lined up properly can take some doing, particularly when the target is moving. Many diaper covers offer three snaps per side, which offers great flexibility for fit, but gets trickier for first-time or infrequent users.

Additionally, snaps provide less adjustment. The snap positions are fixed. If your baby is in between snap settings, you do one side one way and the other side on the next snap over and try not to worry about it.

You’ll never see Velcro as the means for adjusting the rise of a diaper. The length of the diaper (which determines size) will always be adjusted using snaps, so just because you see snaps on a diaper in a photo doesn’t necessarily mean it’s using snaps for fasteners.

In my experience, the brand makes a bigger difference than the Velcro or the snap. I have snaps on some diaper covers that show no wear and tear, and ditto for the Velcro on the same brand covers, regardless of the style. On covers that fail, the snaps seem to pull out of the fabric at roughly the same age the Velcro stops sticking. To be fair, almost all of my diapers are secondhand purchases and even the brand new ones went through three kids, so my failure rate is probably higher than the average cloth diaper user.

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