Alva Baby Insert Absorbency Test

In the past, I’ve indicated that I do have a bit of a bias against “China Cheapies.”  Sure, they come in some cute prints, but they’re cheap for a reason.  Some people have sworn by the wonders of an Alva Baby insert… but I wasn’t convinced.  I decided that the best way to determine how good or not good Alva Baby inserts are is to do an absorbency test.

I try to make my absorbency test experiments as fair, scientific, and unbiased as possible.  I start with the dried and prepped inserts.  I weigh them dry, then soak them in 4 liters of water for two minutes.  After they’ve soaked, I hold them up to drip for 60 seconds.  Then I weigh the inserts again.  Finally, I gently squeeze the inserts to simulate compression and then weigh a final time.  The only area of potential variability is that I’m compressing by hand, so I can’t guarantee that I’m doing the same level of wringing each time.

I do all of my weighing in metric, but convert to imperial.  I also do everything by weight because 1 gram = 1 milliliter of water.  That makes it a lot easier for me to tell, by volume, how much liquid an insert holds.

Alva Baby Insert Absorbency Test (Cloth Diaper Addicts)

Microfiber Alva Baby Insert

A microfiber Alva Baby insert is the standard insert that comes with most Alva Baby diapers.  If you order from a co-op, of course, you’ll have different options, including ordering extras and so forth.  If, however, you were to order a single microfiber Alva Baby insert from the Alva website, it would cost $1.88.

dry weight: 43 grams

60 second drip weight: 288 grams (245 mL of water, or just over 8.28 ounces)

squeezed weight: 220 grams (177 mL of water, or 5.98 ounces… nearly 3/4 of a cup)

4 Layer Blend Alva Baby Insert

A four layer blend Alva Baby insert is an “upgrade” insert.  It is two layers of bamboo on the outside with two layers of microfiber on the inside.  To purchase this insert from the Alva Baby website is currently $3.00.

dry weight: 51 grams

60 second drip weight: 282 grams (231 mL of water, or a little over 7.8 ounces)

squeezed weight: 225 grams (174 mL of water, or 5.88 ounces)

3 Layer Bamboo Alva Baby Insert

A three layer bamboo Alva Baby insert is the top tier “upgrade” insert.  It’s three layers of 100% bamboo.  It seems to be a bamboo rayon.  This insert is also currently $3.00 on the AlvaBaby website.

dry weight: 54 grams

60 second drip weight: 245 grams (191 mL of water, or 6.45 ounces)

squeezed weight: 213 grams (159 mL of water, or nearly 5.38 ounces… which is 2/3 of a cup)

In a Nutshell

Sure, some people like the bamboo and blend inserts… but I can’t for the life of me figure out why.  They cost more money.  They don’t hold as much.  And the blend inserts bunch.  Personally, if I’m going to use an Alva Baby diaper, I’m going to stick with the microfiber.  It, at least, performs as well as other microfiber inserts in that size range.

Do you use Alva Baby inserts?  What’s your preference?

About Suzi

Suzi is an American ex-pat living in British Columbia. She's a cloth diaper addict, wife, mom of three, and President of the Prince George chapter of Cloth for a Cause.


  1. AlannaB says:

    I have the microfiber and the bamboo…and honestly prefer the microfiber because it seems like they are better at holding in moisture. The only drawback is, because I deal with extremely hard water, is that microfiber seems to hold more detergent residue.

  2. I’m weird and not a huge fan of MF because of the amount that comes out when it does compress… bamboo may hold slightly less, but it lets go of much less when squished too 🙂

    • It’s not all Bamboo. 🙂 It’s just the AlvaBaby bamboo that I’m finding this to be the case with so far.

  3. I am so opposed to China Cheapies! But good for you for looking into the theories out there!

  4. Shannon Stubbs says:

    I have never used any Alva baby products yet. When I do use inserts though, I much prefer bamboo.

  5. Interesting! I wouldn’t have guessed that the microfiber would work better!

  6. Laurie Skiles says:

    I have always wondered. I HATE the feeling of microfiber (seriously dries out my hands) but I also dislike the extra cost. Thank you!!

  7. Brielle Bornemann says:

    I love the alva baby cloth diapers so far! This is my first try at cloth diapering with my third child, I’m lovin it!

    • HI brielle,
      I use Alva diapers too, but mine seem to leak every single time.Where did you buy yours from? Which detergent do you use? What is your wash routine like?

      Thanx in advance.


  8. Jessica T says:

    Good to know, was debating getting some of these.

  9. Leela R. says:

    Very interesting findings on the alva bamboo. At this point I only use their bamboo as doublers because it is so thin, but I guess I won’t be going out to buy a bunch of their bamboo to replace my microfiber. So far the most absorbent inserts I have are charcoal bamboo ones, but my 3.5 month old super soaker even saturates those in 2 hours. At some point I’m going to have to switch entirely to hemp!

  10. Sarah H says:

    I’ve been wondering about these diapers…thanks for doing the testing. Very interesting. 🙂

  11. Ashley Weber says:

    I use the Alva baby inserts. I havent tried anything but their microfiber though. I like them so far.

  12. Amy Snell says:

    I have a couple, they aren’t my favorite, I really love the Kawaii baby inserts 🙂

  13. Thanks for this. I’ve been curious about the Alva’s. I’m sooo tempted by some of their designs but was unsure whether they would be any good.

  14. Jessica Douglass says:

    Thanks for this test. I had some questions re: microfiber vs. bamboo and this helped a lot!

  15. Libby C says:

    Alvas are wildly popular on the Facebook b/s/t, but I’ve never been convinced. After reading this, I’m less convinced. I’ll stick with my Blueberries and RaRz.

  16. Vanessa V. says:

    Hmm..interesting that the bamboo didn’t hold as much as the microfiber. I’ve never tried alva baby but I will keep that in mind if I ever do. I only use bamboo right now at night as doublers, I do a thin cotton flat in a pad fold on top of a microfiber insert, on top of a bamboo and my heavy wetter goes 12 hours with no leaks and wakes up feeling nice and dry 🙂

  17. Miranda LeMaster says:

    This is awesome to see. I’ve also never been certain about co-op cheapies and love this comparison!

  18. Rachel A. says:

    I totally agree! I bought some bamboo inserts because people kept saying how great they were and how much better than microfiber they were! I personally like microfiber so much better! The bamboo does bunch up and cause compression leaks for me.

  19. Katie W says:

    Received a couple of bamboo Alvas as a gift and I’m not a fan. The inserts bunch up before I even have the diaper on the baby, and I don’t like that they’re a bamboo/ synthetic blend instead of bamboo/ cotton. Might also be why they’re not so absorbent.

  20. Carissa Whaatt says:

    Well, I to be honest and rather poor. And I choose not to receive child support or state money so I’m even poorer. I can’t afford much at all. most of my diapers consist of babylands, babycitys and alva. although I know they aren’t they best, and where I can’t afford the nice expensive ones, i figure it’s better then using disposables. I prefer my alvas of the babyland/baby city ones though. I do have a few bum genius I bought used off of someone on craigslist, I use those diapers at night time because they obviously hold more. 🙂 If I ever can save up enough money, I do want to buy more Alvas!

    • There’s no shame in using Alvas. Some people like them and find thta they work really well… regardless of their tax bracket!

  21. Jillian Bender says:

    I’m so glad to have read this. I have been meaning to buy some Alvas and totally would have gone with the crappy inserts!

  22. I personally like the Alva bamboo inserts and prefer them over the MF. I use 1 – 4 layer blend and 1 – 3 layer bamboo together and it’s bullet proof. The blends do not bunch at all but the 3 layer will if used alone. I’m not a fan of Alva diaper but love the inserts and they are a great cheap option when purchased in bulk.

  23. I need to point out a significant detail that has been overlooked in your findings on different Alva inserts. The test you conducted is flawed due to one small, but important, detail: you did not take into consideration the difference of absorption rates over a prolonged period of time. Bamboo is known to absorb more slowly than microfiber, so of course it seems like it holds less liquid in a test that is performed by dumping a large quantity of liquid quickly over the insert. In reality, bamboo does a fantastic job of absorbing large quantities of liquid but it needs the time absorb (which is why it is a great overnight leakage fighter). Bottom Line: If you want the best absorption for your baby, bamboo is a perfect material to pair with microfiber so you can offer max liquid absorption both in the short term AND long term wear of a diaper.

    • Actually, I accounted for that. If you look back into the post, I explained my methodology:

      1.) Weigh dry insert.
      2.) Soak insert in water for two minutes.
      3.) Drip dry for 60 seconds.
      4.) Weigh again.
      5.) Gently squeeze out excess.
      6.) Weigh again.

      No water is dumped on anything. The insert is submerged for two minutes. I’ve had some bamboo inserts that performed remarkably well, superior to microfiber. AlvaBaby bamboo inserts are just not one of them. However, if you’d like, I’m more than willing to revisit this methodology with a ten minutes soak.

  24. I have a bamboo blend that came with a Sunbaby diaper that I got from an etsy shop selling single diapers (I needed the argyle print) and it’s okay but nothing fantastic in comparison to other natural fibers and even microfiber.
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  25. Is 2 minutes a long time? How long does “slow absorption” take? Would the bamboo hold more if left for an hour or two? I’m looking for a super slim overnight solution for my gassy son. I was doing research on the 100% bamboo inserts when I found this article.

    • Really, if it takes longer than two minutes to absorb, then it’s not going to absorb your child’s urine at a rate that is useful. It’s not that all bamboo is terrible, just so you know. I use some bamboo inserts for my son overnight and love them. It’s just that AlvaBaby’s bamboo inserts are crap.

  26. I’m just getting ready to try cloth diapers, i ordered alva. Is there any way to use a more expensive brand insert in the diaper? I don’t want to buy the expensive diaper but if I buy the expensive insert will it improve the alva?

    • Well, it’ll be better than the Alva inserts. It’s not going to help the quality of the Alva diaper, though. :/ Another option is inserts and covers. I’m currently really loving the Bummis One Size cover with Thirsties Duo Stay Dry inserts. You can reuse the cover and just change the insert, which cuts your cost.

  27. I’ve thought about those but a lot of people say they prefer the 4.0 bc is the baby has a heavy pee or poo the have to change the whole thing anyway? I might try the 4.0 I’ve heard nothing but good reviews on the 4.0 . Do you have issues with haveing to change the whole diaper too?

    • Nope, I don’t mind changing the whole thing. I love the 4.0 and have it, but if it’s a wet, I don’t have to change a shell for a Thirsties, Flip, Blueberry, or Bummis cover. The insides are wipeable.

  28. What’s the best Insert you’ve found? As far as absorbency and ease of cleaning

    • I clean them all the same. Most super absorbent thing I’ve tested has been the Thirsties Duo Hemp prefold. However, it’s also bulkier than what I want in my pockets. I favor AMP hemp 2 layer inserts, trifolded, these days.

  29. Thanks for doing this testing, it really helpful to know what inserts absorb well, and which don’t before we waste money on them. Thanks!!

  30. I love the scientific data with this! I would never have though that the microfiber would hold as much as bamboo! Can’t believe it, but numbers don’t lie

  31. I use Alva Baby cloth diapers on my twins, and I have been really impressed with them! I use the microfiber inserts and think they are really great- we haven’t ever experienced any leaks so I guess they do a good job! I also love how trim fitting they are. Oh, and they are super cute 🙂

  32. I have been happily using Alva diapers in my 6mo old little one from day 1, moved from microfiber inserts to the 3 layer bamboo after 4mos. The microfiber ones are thicker and cause gapping in the gusset, leaked frequently and too bulky to double nicely. The bamboo 3 layer are quickly absorbent and super trim, only leaked once in 2 months when she was unchanged way too long. Thy are thin enough to double when needed and still feel trim. At night I fold up a cotton flat diaper with the bamboo liner and have never had a leak. Those are some heavy diapers in the morning. Even if they don’t actually hold more liquid, the bamboo fits more closely and absorbs so fast.

    I also have several of two kinds of hemp inserts. I use them and they do absorb more liquid, but often leak because they absorb slowly. Not cool. They also take much longer to dry, wasteful dryer usage.


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