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Cloth Diaper Detergent 101

What is the best cloth diaper detergent?  Certainly, that question is many-faceted.  It really depends on the type of water you have (hard or soft), the kind of diapers you have, the kind of washing machine or dryer you have or how often you wash your diapers.  It also depends on how important the environment and your family’s overall health is.

Soap Vs. Detergent

You may also want to consider using a laundry soap for your needs.  Although both soaps and detergents are surfactants (surface-acting agents, or basically a chemical that loosens soil by reducing tension in the water), soap is natural, while detergents are chemical.

Soaps are made of natural fat and lye, and is very much alkaline.  Detergents are petroleum derivatives, and have antibacterial agents and preservatives.  Soap is the more environmentally safe and health conscious choice…But many people feel that drastic laundry loads call for drastic measures.  We, however, stick with soaps, mainly Charlies Soap.

Cheap Detergents

When it comes to cheap detergents for cloth diapers, or for any laundry, cheap does not imply that the detergent or soap is not natural.  Of course, there are plenty of store brand detergents that are not natural, and do not do a great job at properly cleaning.

Remember, the surfactants in the detergents or soap simply breaks down the surface tension.  It is the agitation in the washing machine that cleans the clothes.  Think of it this way.  If you have a pot that has food caked on it, you can’t just put some dish soap on it and call it a day.  You have to scrub it.

The thing is, price isn’t the key factor for quality cloth diaper washes.  The ideal is to find a detergent or soap that is fragrance, dye and additive free.  If you can find one that is less expensive, all the better.  In general, natural is better.

Natural Cloth Diaper Detergent

Here are some tips for natural cloth diaper detergents.

  • Any detergent or soap can cause an allergic reaction.  Each child is different.  So, no matter how natural the detergent is, if you’re child is having some allergic reaction, changing laundry detergents is the first thing you should do.
  • Baking soda does wonders.  It really gives a cleaning boost.
  • Distilled white vinegar is great in the rinse cycle.
  • Pure soaps, while being the more natural choice, will often leave a residue on diapers and covers.  It’s a kind of soap scum, and it will make your diapers repel pee rather than absorb it.  Not good. The reverse can happen with covers.  It will ruin the laminate, thus making the cover absorb rather than repel.

What To Avoid In A Detergent

You want to avoid detergents with dyes, enzymes, fragrances, brighteners and softeners.  This should pretty much be your standards for all laundry (and your health), but certainly for cloth diapers.

Here are some detergents that have at least two of the above ingredients:

  • All Baby Care Plus
  • All With Stain Lifters
  • Cheer
  • Dreft
  • Ecos
  • ERA
  • Gain
  • Kirkland’s Signature
  • The Laundress
  • Melaluca MelaPower
  • Method
  • Purex
  • SA8
  • Shaklee
  • Sun
  • Tide
  • Trader Joe’s
  • Wisk

Now, that being said, many parents swear by their brand.   Tide, for example, is hailed by many as being the only detergent that will get their diapers clean.  I say, do what works.

A List of Natural Laundry Detergents and Soaps For Cloth Diapers

  • Charlie’s Soap
  • Rockin Green
  • Sun and Earth
  • Seventh Generation Sensitive Care
  • Sensiclean (may cause rash with some babies)
  • Planet Ultra
  • Natural Value (may cause dermatitis with extended use)
  • Nature Clean (avoid with yeast infections)
  • Mountain Green Free and Clear
  • LifeKind Naturally Safer Triple Concentrated
  • EviroRite
  • Ecos Free and Clear (might leave a residue in hard water)
  • Bi-O-Kleen (some parents report this causes repelling)
  • Arm and Hammer Essentials
  • Allens Naturally

You can see from some of the added text above, that natural does not necessarily mean better for cloth diapers.  Yes, you may want to avoid the ones that have caused problems.  But again, there are many factors, and what works for one might not work for all.  For example, we use Charlie’s Soap.  I have read a lot about Charlies causing rashes, or not cleaning diapers so well.

We have had only great results from Charlie’s.  No rashes.  Clean clothes.  I think it has a lot to do with water hardness or softness, as well as the type of washing machine.  We use a front-loader, HE.

I could say Charlie’s Soap is the best laundry soap for cloth diapers.  But as I have not used to many others (and why would I switch if it’s working so well for us :) ?).  Even if I wanted to switch, we got such a good deal on a 5 gallon bucket.  A 5 gallon bucket costs $150.  We actually got a further discount, for $125.  That’s 1280 loads for $125!  That’s a fantastic deal.

Related posts:

  1. The Best laundry Detergent To Use For Cloth Diapers: No Detergent?
  2. Ingredients To Avoid For Cloth Diaper Detergents
  3. Tips For Washing Cloth Diapers

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