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All about the ‘snap’ closure type: the laundry-friendly choice

In our last post, we explained the ins and outs of the hook-and-loop (also known as Velcro®) for cloth diapers. In this installment, we’ll discuss another type of fastener: snaps.

If you've looked around the Internet for cloth diapers lately, you'll no doubt have found some with snaps. The snaps are always plastic, and are a little smaller and easier to snap together than their metal cousins. The snaps usually come in two sizes: small and smaller. Both sizes are equally effective, as far as we can tell.

The advantage of cloth diapers that use snaps

Snaps offer many advantages, described below.

  • Snaps are laundry-friendly. This is the #1 reason to choose cloth diapers with snaps. You can leave the snaps unfastened before dropping your diapers in the washer. It's then easier for the soap suds to get into the nooks and crannies of the diaper, getting them really clean. Another boon is that snaps do not snag on other items in the wash, so you can rest easy knowing that the other cloth diapers in your wash cycle will remain pristine.
  • Snaps open up more design possibilitiesFor example, a side-fastening cloth diaper becomes possible when snaps are used. A 'side-fastening cloth diaper', or 'side-snapping cloth diaper',  is one where the front panel is snap-free except a few male snaps at the edges. The male snaps are fastened to the female snaps at the leg area. The benefits of side-snapping diapers is that your baby is less likely to notice them, and therefore to undo them :-). The other benefit is that they create a nice, snug fit around the leg, and they stay put even when your baby is particularly active.
  • Snaps are available in lots of colours, which can be fun AND functional. Colourful snaps jazz up a plain cloth diaper or diaper cover and can be chosen to match a baby’s outfit (hey, why not, right?). Aside from aesthetics, the colours can serve a functional purpose too: They can be used as a signal of the size of the cover. For example, you could purchase all your Medium covers with green snaps, and all your Smalls with pink snaps. You can then quickly identify which size is which, and that’s useful if you’re in-between sizes, or have two kids in different diaper sizes. You might ask: Aren’t the different sizes obvious? Well, not in a sea of laundry where cloth diapers and covers with elasticized leg openings tend to bunch up. 
  • Snaps are hard for little hands to undo. My children were actually pretty good about not undoing their cloth diapers and covers, but I’ve heard from many parents where this is an issue. Snaps stay snapped and that’s good  for parents’ sanity.
  • Snaps are durable. Snaps are pretty much indestructible no matter how much adventuring your baby does, or how long the cloth diaper has been in your stash. 
  • Snaps are less likely to cause skin irritation.  If a cloth diaper with hook-and-loop closures comes undone or shifts around after a big bout of baby exploration, the hook-and-loop might come into contact with baby’s skin, causing painful irritation that might go unnoticed if the problem is covered up by a diaper cover. With snaps, however, the risk of skin irritation is greatly reduced, not only because the cloth diaper is more likely to stay done up, but also because, even if it does become undone, the exposed snaps will be more gentle on baby's skin. We would guess that this reasoning explains why about 90% of all fitted* cloth diapers have snaps while only about 50% or less of cloth diaper covers have snaps. With covers, the risk of skin irritation just isn't there because there's always going to be layer of diaper beneath the cover protecting baby’s skin. 

In closing, snap closures on cloth diapers offer a lot of advantages, laundry-friendliness, durability, and stay-puttedness. This closure type is more expensive than hook-and-loop, so you’ll see them on higher-end cloth diapers and diaper covers.

In our next installment, we’ll talk about external closure types.

* A fitted cloth diaper is one that has elasticized leg openings and some sort of way to do it up, either snaps or hook-and-loop.

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