Detergent Dilemma

Wordle: DetergentChoicesWhen you first start using cloth diapers, picking the diapers is a lot of fun.  When you get your new diapers in the mail, you’re so excited to get them washed and on your baby!  So you look up the washing directions for your various brands, and there your fun ends.  It becomes confusing.

There are popular brands that recommend using ONLY natural detergents without dyes, perfumes, enzymes, or brighteners.  Then there are brands that recommend you DO use enzymes, or the diapers won’t get clean.  And then there are brands that say use regular Tide, but not Tide Free.  And then there are brands that say to use Tide Free, but not regular Tide.  Some say Rockin’ Green, some say no Rockin’ Green.  Some say, some say, some say… and pretty soon your head is spinning.

When did washing diapers become so complicated?  Back in the day our ancestors were hand-washing their flats/prefolds with a bar of soap, and later throwing them in the washer with some bleach.  Easy!  But with the advent of the “modern cloth diapers” made with elastic and stay-dry fabrics, more “rules” came into play.

Well, I am here to tell you this:  It’s not as easy to “ruin” diapers as we’re afraid it is.  There are definitely detergents out there that are known to cause repelling on diapers, but they may not be the ones you’d expect!

I have been washing cloth diapers for 4 years.  Of those 4 years, 2 years I have washed my diapers in Tide.  Plain ol’ regular “Original” Tide.  And when I was washing my diapers in Tide, I never ONCE had to strip the diapers.  I didn’t have any stink issues, and no repelling of my diapers.

Am I suggesting you go out and buy Tide?  No.  I’m just sayin’ is all.  ;)

I’ve tried a slew of “diaper-safe” detergents.  I’ve tried: Country Save, Mountain Green, Crunchy Clean, 9 formulas of Rockin’ Green, Planet, Eco Sprout, Lulu’s in the Fluff, Ruby Moon, Purex Free & Clear, Tide Free, Original Tide (HE powder and liquid), Arm & Hammer Sensitive, and Tiny Bubbles.

The detergents I’ve had luck with in my washer/water are the Tides, Arm & Hammer, and Tiny Bubbles.

There are brands that recommend using the “no-no” detergents.  And honestly, I understand why.  I help people all the time who are dealing with stinky diapers and diaper buildup.  It’s frustrating for them!  No one wants to constantly have to strip their diapers or feel like their diapers are never getting clean.  Is it harder on a diaper to use an enzyme cleaner, or is it harder on the diaper to be stripped every week because of stink?  *shrug*

Using some detergents will void the warranties of some brands.  That is my disclaimer in bold print.  But for me, I ended up throwing out the multiple lists and just trying what worked.  I certainly would rather use an eco-friendly detergent on my diapers, but it has to get my diapers CLEAN.  If my babies are getting rashes from buildup and ammonia in my diapers, I’m not doing them any good by avoiding the detergents that get their diapers clean, right?

When it comes to detergents, they are not all created equally.  The key is to find one that gets your diapers clean, and then stick with it!  :)

About Stacy

Stacy is a stay-at-home mom to four kids ranging in age from 1 to 8. She has been cloth-diapering for almost 3 years and is a self-proclaimed “diaper addict”. She loves trying new diapers and discussing all things diaper-related. She’s also striving to live more “greenly” in her home and loves finding new ways to do so.
Tags: by Stacy, eco sprout, rockin' green, ruby moon, tide original, washing cloth diapers

20 Responses to Detergent Dilemma

  1. christine kangas says:

    Thanks for this post! I might have to try tide one of these days….

  2. Jen Tooman says:

    I’ve been considering switching to Tide after hearing good things and dealing with some amonia issues. Do you use the liquid? Or powder?

  3. Pamela Frechette says:

    When I first started cd-ing, I was overwhelmed my all the choices for detergents! I settled on R&G and am using that up and switching to Tide. It’s more readily available where I am and not having to order it online is a huge plus! I had decided to do this long before reading this blog, but it doesn’t hurt to hear more good things about it. ;)

  4. Brittany H says:

    Great post. Detergent is truly the most complicated part about cloth. It’s not hard to get really stressed about it. This post helped me relax. I’m getting ready to prep my diapers this month as I get my last diapers for my stash together before my baby comes. I decided to go with tide. We will see how it goes! I suppose the only thing you can really do is try things out until you find one you like. Once you do it’s worth whatever the price is I’ve decided.

  5. Jennifer B says:

    Thank you! I think sometimes we try and make the cloth diaper wash routine way too complicated.

  6. I haven’t washed diapers since my daughter was a baby, oh, 24 years ago and I used the Ivory Detergent then…I am now pregnant with my 2nd child…I know, nothing like starting over…but I am not sure what to use so this post is definitely helpful. Thanks.

  7. Rose J. says:

    I agree. It definitely takes some time to figure out the right detergent and routine. I tried Tide and it did work really well…for a while. I tried Tiny Bubbles, but I just don’t think it got my diapers clean enough. Rocking Green led to horrible stink and a bad rash. Soap Nuts were my next choice but they just left a weird vinegar smell. I was about to throw in the towel, but then I found Eco Sprout. It took a few emails back and forth with Jared, but then I got a great routine down and have been using it for over 6 months now. No rashes, no ammonia stink. I recommend it to everyone :) I also say…it might time some trial and error to get it right – don’t assume a detergent does not work after a few washes.

  8. Lisa Kuhl says:

    I had trouble finding the right detergent for my diapers. I finally settled on Rockin Green. It works great and my diapers never stink.

  9. Sarah says:

    Great read, I’ve posted directions in my laundry room when I first started just for an extra reminder on what to do

  10. Rachel Neufeld says:

    I use country save detergent with great results but I am not scared of using a bit of bleach every now and then. I mean, these are diapers! I want rather they be clean and usable then stinky but last for 20 years.

  11. Julie L says:

    Thanks for this. I’m just starting out with CDing and I’m terrified to use the wrong detergent, but with finances being a factor in our decision to use cloth, I haven’t found a detergent that I want to pay a little more for (plus shipping). And frankly, I just don’t plan ahead that much. I need something that I can run to the store for when I suddenly realize that I’m on my last load of detergent.

  12. Christie says:

    I was thinking about using Ecos free and clear since I can buy it at Walmart or making my own any thoughts in either?

  13. Katy says:

    I love this and I completely agree! We used tide for a while and it kept our diapers gorgeous looking! BUT I found out that we have really hard water and what I thought was just normal leaks after 2-3 hours in a diaper actually had to do with the way the Tide mixed with our hard water :( I switched to Eco Sprout and so far so good! Unfortunately while people can tell you which diapers work GREAT on which babies-it doesn’t apply to detergents. It’s all a trial and error game.

  14. Alexis Bertch says:

    I have this dilemma too!

  15. christine kangas says:

    I just found out my water is hard ( I had no idea! ) … might explain the ammonia smell once they get wet

  16. Kelli A. says:

    Great post! I have to admit that I almost gave up on the whole cloth diapering thing because of the constant battle I had with the dreaded wash routine. I went from I think it’s working to oh no they are repelling again. Like you I to said okay I’m doing what works for me and finally found a routine wash that has worked awesome and have not had to strip my diapers or deal with rashes or the dreaded stinkies. I love CDing now and would never go back. :)

  17. Mandy S says:

    Wow…I definitely worried a lot about prepping my machine, making sure that non-CD safe detergents could NEVER be mixed up with the RNG that I chose to use…

    Like so many things with parenting, often times, we worry too much – what works for one babe/mom/family may not work for another!

  18. Grace Hoppe says:

    I’m using Charlie’s soap right now. I’m seriously considering switching to tide original when it’s gone. If I can find it. :-)

  19. Jenny Wisdom says:

    I’ve been considering using Tide because of all the rave i hear about it. Thanks for this post.

  20. kristin snyder says:

    Yeah this is what I need to do. I might even try Tide regular now. For the longest time i was having horrible problems with ammonia and thought i had it fixed, but it is slowly coming back. thanks for the tip!

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