Best Cloth Diaper Laundry Detergents: What are they?
Cloth diapers are made from cotton or other natural fibers. They have been around since the dawn of time. Some believe that these fabrics do not require any special care when washed because they do not contain any chemicals. However, there is no way to wash them without some sort of treatment, which includes detergent and bleach. These products work well for clothes, but it does not apply to diapers.
There are several different types of laundry detergents. There are those that use chlorine based chemicals to kill germs and bacteria. Then there are those that use sodium hypochlorite (bleach) as their main ingredient to destroy harmful microorganisms. Finally, there is one type of detergent that uses both chlorine and bleach, which is called a dual action laundry detergent.
The problem with using chlorine based detergents is that they tend to cause irritation of skin and eyes. They also create a buildup of toxic waste in our waterways. Chlorine based detergents also damage fabric fibers over time, which results in decreased durability and wear resistance. On top of all this, they can actually make your baby’s skin itch if used too much.
So what kind of detergent should you choose?
Well, probably none of the above.
What is Tide Free And Gentle?
Tide Free And Gentle includes a built-in water softener and is extremely gentle on your baby’s skin. This makes it the best choice for washing cloth diapers at home because it will not irritate your baby’s sensitive skin. This detergent contains no perfumes or dyes and is safe enough to use on your baby’s clothing and blankets. It is also environmentally friendly (Green Seal Certified), which makes it safe for all washing machines (HE and non-HE).
The Best Cloth Diaper Detergent for you:
There are many different detergents that work well for cleaning cloth diapers. In fact, you probably already have a favorite in your laundry room right now. Here is a list of the most popular ones:
Tide Free and Gentle is the best if you have access to it. It is the only one that is truly free of perfumes, dyes, and other irritants. It is also safe for all washing machines (HE and non-HE).
Dreft is another gentle detergent that people like to use. It is designed specifically for people with sensitive skin. It has no perfumes or dyes and leaves your diapers lasting longer than other detergents.
Kirkland (Costco) house brand is very similar to Dreft. It lacks the pretty scent that many people like in their detergent, but it gets the job done.
Charlie’s Soap is a popular natural detergent that a lot of green-type people use. It is a little more expensive than the others.
Rockin’ Green has a lot of people talking. It is made from a combination of coconut oil and other natural ingredients. There are mixed reviews online about this detergent, so it might not be for everyone.
Country Save is an alternative to those that have had trouble with their diapers after switching to Charlie’s Soap and Rockin’ Green.
Natural “green” detergents work well. They are just more expensive as far as costs go. If you want to save money, then the above options are better for you.
The Best Water Temperature for Washing Cloth Diapers:
The temperature of the water that you use will affect how well your diapers clean. The warmer the water, the better your diapers will get cleaned. However, you do not want to use extremely hot water for two reasons. First of all, the heat can permanently damage elastics and other types of fabrics. Second of all, the heat can also cause skin irritation (redness, rash, bumps, etc.) on your baby.
Most people will use hot water when they first start using cloth diapers and then they adjust the temperature down as their washing routine matures. There is really no benefit to using cold water unless you live in an area where your water supply is frequently very hot. In that case, it would be best to let the water run for a few minutes in order to cool it down before use.
What Water Temperature Should You Use:
Since you want to get your diapers as clean as possible, you will need to experiment a little with the water temperature in your home. It is best to start out with warm water and then adjust the temperature up or down depending on if your diapers are getting clean or not.
Start with your wash routine as you normally would and then after the final rinse, check the absorbency of your diapers. If they are not getting clean enough, then you need to adjust the temperature of your hot water supply up (using your home’s water heater) and try the wash routine again. If they are still not getting clean enough, repeat this process until you find the highest temperature that your diapers can handle while still getting clean during the rinse cycle.
If the water is too hot during the wash cycle, you will see various types of damage to your diapers. You may notice a yellowish tint to the PUL. You may notice a waxy or oily buildup on the inside of your diapers. You may get redness and irritation on your baby’s skin. You may notice tears in your elastics.
You may notice a funky odor. You may notice slimy buildup. You may notice holes in your microfiber.
I am not saying that your diapers will experience all of these problems, I am just giving you an idea of what could happen if the water temperature is too hot for your diapers. You may also notice issues with prickly buildup, stink, and even repelling.
If you have hard water, you may experience mineral build up on your diapers. If this happens, then you can try using a water softener or you can add extra rinses to your wash routine in an attempt to rinse out the minerals. Some people report that adding baking soda to their wash cycle helps with hard water issues.
If you find that your diapers are getting clean but you are noticing a funky odor, you need to find a happy medium between cleaning and killing your baby with lavender scented death mist. Try using less detergent and make sure you are rinsing everything out well.
Sometimes, stripping your diapers can help fix build-up or mineral issues that may be causing problems. You can do a quick strip by wetting your diapers and adding ONE extra rinse to your wash routine. Alternatively, you can do a more thorough strip by soaking your diapers overnight in a mixture of water and detergent beforehand.
Always make adjustments to your wash routine slowly and pay attention to changes in your diapers before making further changes.
If you have well water, please note that the minerals in your water can cause the inner work of your washer to become rusty over time. You can fix this by putting a dishwasher safe drying agent in your dryer to keep the inside of your dryer from corroding.
After some helpful tips from CDAN members, I wanted to add that you can also use Oxiclean to whiten yellowing PUL. Use the standard dosage on your wash cycle and if that doesn’t work, do it a second time. Also, adding vinegar or bleach to the prewash section of your wash can also help whiten yellowing PUL.
MeLinda added that you should add the detergent to your prewash section of your wash, rather than the main wash. This helps prevent your diapers from getting sudsy.
Please note that these tips are for yellowing PUL. Having white PUL is a luxury and it’s perfectly fine to have a little bit of a yellow tinge to your PUL. Whitening clothing will also yellow your PUL over time anyway.
Sources & references used in this article:
Highly-adjustable, fitted cloth diaper by K Brown, T Miljkovic – US Patent App. 11/945,264, 2008 – Google Patents
Life cycle assessment of innovative circular business models for modern cloth diapers by BS Hoffmann, J de Simone Morais… – Journal of Cleaner …, 2020 – Elsevier
Baby Potty Training And Cloth Diapers by J Albritton
The effects of wearing diapers on skin by WCC over Disposable – blessedhomestead.com
Fluffy fresh diaper service by WCC over Disposable
Washing clothes by RE Zimmerer, KD Lawson, CJ Calvert – Pediatric dermatology, 1986 – Wiley Online Library
LCA-measured environmental improvements in Pampers® diapers by CM Gryniewicz – 1991 – digitalcommons.stritch.edu
Consumers and the Environment: A focus on five products by AW Koester – 1987 – ir.library.oregonstate.edu