What Cloth Diaper Detergent Should I Use?
Washing cloth diapers is not difficult and truly does NOT require special laundry detergents or equipment. That said, the type of cloth diaper detergent you choose, as well as the method you choose to wash your baby's cloth diapers, does determine the level of absorbency and will affect the lifespan of the cloth diapers.
There are some commercial detergents designed and marketed specifically for babies, such as Ivory Snow and Dreft. These detergents have excessive fabric softeners built-in for that "softness" some parents want to feel on their baby's clothes. YOU DO NOT want to use these detergents on cloth diapers; they cause a build-up that renders cloth diapers ineffective. When it comes to detergents, staying simple is best - the less ingredients in your detergent, the better.
We sell and recommend the following brands of cloth diaper detergents. All are free of phosphates, dyes, enzymes, brighteners, fabric softeners and harsh chemicals. All will work with High Efficiency (HE) washing machines.
(Shown in alphabetical order.)
- bumGenius! Cloth Diaper Detergent - Blended specifically for High Efficiency (HE) washing machines, this detergent was developed in partnership with Country Save, a low-sudsing detergent formulated to work in hard or soft water areas.
- Country Save Powdered Laundry Detergent - Biodegradable and completely soluble, Country Save is a low-sudsing detergent formulated to work in hard or soft water areas.
- GroVia Tiny Bubbles Cloth Diaper Detergent - Developed in partnership with The Design for the Environment Program, Tiny Bubbles is completely biodegradable, ultra-concentrated and developed without animal testing nor does it include any animal by-products.
- Rockin' Green Cloth Diaper Detergent - Available in three different versions (Soft Rock, Classic Rock, and Hard Rock) Rockin' Green can be used in either hard or soft water areas. Rockin' Green does have all-natural scents available, but comes in an unscented version as well. A VEGAN and GREEN detergent, Rockin' Green is also free of enzymes, fillers, and comes in reusable packaging.
- Thirsties Pre-Wash - Designed to loosen stool and kill bacteria that linger in your baby's cloth diapers, Thirsties Pre-Wash is the only pre-wash solution specifically formulated to pre-clean cloth diapers.
- Thirsties Super Wash - Naturally whitens and eliminates odors with custom probiotic ingredients. Thirsties recommends using their Pre-Wash (above) first. The Super Wash does NOT contain harmful enzymes, but does introduce constructive bacteria to eat away at the bacteria that leaves residual diaper odors. A highly concentrated cloth diaper detergent, the Super Wash is entirely non-toxic and 100% biodegradable.
The Top 10 Basics of Caring for and Washing Cloth Diapers
1. Detergents Consider what detergent you want to use and be attentive regarding how much of it you use. Read the manufacturer's recommendations for usage; as a rule, commercial detergents tend to exaggerate how much is needed per wash, so we recommend 1/4 of whatever amount they suggest.
While your detergent doesn't have to be a cloth diaper detergent, avoid "baby" detergents such as Dreft and Ivory when washing cloth diapers. We strongly recommend selecting all-natural detergents that are environmentally friendly. Detergents that are free of phosphates, dyes, fragrances, fabric softeners and residue will extend the life of your baby's cloth diapers, reduce risks of skin irritations and alleviate issues with build-up.
The biggest culprit for washing cloth diapers is fabric softener. Fabric softeners, over time, create an impenetrable layer atop the fabric fibers, rendering your baby's cloth diapers incapable of absorbing any moisture. If you choose to use a commercial cloth diaper detergent, just MAKE SURE THERE ARE NO FABRIC SOFTENERS in it!
2. Wet Pail or Dry Pail? You do not need a wet pail. A wet pail poses more risks with young Toddlers in the home than it is worth. We recommend using a dry diaper pail, with a diaper pail liner, and washing every other day.
3. Solid Waste. Before placing your cloth diapers or diaper covers in a diaper pail, be sure to remove as much solid waste as possible. There are different diapering accessories to help reduce the amount of solid waste on your baby's cloth diapers - like stay dry diaper liners, flushable diaper liners, and even a diaper sprayer you can attach near the toilet for hands-free cleansing.
4. Wash Diapers Regularly. Set a cloth diaper washing schedule you can live with, but try not to exceed 3 days. If you wash every other day, or every third day, your cloth diapers will last longer, stay fresher, retain less stains, and as an added bonus, you will not need to purchase as large a supply of cloth diapers and diaper covers.
5. Cold Wash. Always begin your cloth diaper laundry with a cold wash; the cold water will lift and rinse away waste from the diaper and reduces the opportunity for stains to set in.
If using an HE (High-Effiency), front-loading washing machine be sure to set water levels to high so diapers can be cleaned and rinsed thoroughly; sometimes tossing in a towel or two will help increase water levels if your machine bases water level on the weight of the load.
6. Hot Wash. After the cold wash, put the cloth diapers through a HOT wash (120F/60C) to thoroughly cleanse and sanitize.
7. Optional Rinse. When your baby's cloth diapers have completed the hot wash cycle, you may find the need for an additional rinse; we find this to be more true with commercial detergents that tend to be high-sudsing and high-residue. If you are using a commercial detergent DEFINITELY do a final cold rinse.
8. Drying. Whether you tumble dry or hang dry your cloth diapers and diaper covers is a personal preference, however, research has shown that cloth diaper covers hung to dry tend to have less wear and tear and a longer lifespan.
Cloth diapers, covers or diapering accessories made from synthetic fibers should tumble dry on warm/medium. Natural fibers such as hemp or cotton can tumble dry on hot.
Cotton fibers like to be "fluffed" - if you hang dry your cloth diapers, from time to time give them a quick "fluff" in the dryer here and there for maximum absorbency.
9. Oxygen Bleach? While not necessary (and check with the manufacturer - because some of them recommend against it), using oxygen bleach on occasion is fine. It helps to whiten, reduce any stains, sanitize and fights odors.
Please Note: If you remove any solid waste before putting cloth diapers into the pail, and you wash on a regular cycle, oxygen bleach is not a necessary part of your cloth diaper wash.
10. We do not recommend using additives such as baking soda or vinegar in your cloth diaper wash.
Preparing Cloth Diapers
Before your baby's cloth diapers ever wrap his/her bottom, they need to be prepared. A few wash/dry cycles alleviates any dirt or residue that could be left from the manufacturing and/or shipping process. This also ensures the fabric fibers are "prepped" and "fluffed" to ensure their absorbency.
Hemp or Cotton
|Wash Cotton 3-5 Times and Hemp or Organic Cotton 5-7 times in HOT water (120F/60C) using manuf. recommendations for appropriate amt. of detergent. These cycles are necessary to ensure your baby's cloth diapers absorb properly.
The cloth diapers DO need to be dried in the dryer between each wash cycle to fluff fibers for absorbency, and ensure appropriate shrinkage occurs.
|Wool should be hand washed in lukewarm water with wool shampoo or Woolwash.
Roll or line dry. Do NOT place in dryer.
|Wash any Polyester products once, using the manuf. recommendations for appropriate amt. of detergent. If possible, avoid pre-washing synthetic polyester products with natural fibers.
Dry in a single warm dyer load.
PLEASE NOTE: Once your baby's cloth diapers have been prepped, and are ready to be used, future diaper washes can include both synthetic and natural fibers together, excluding wool; wool will always be washed separately.
When Your Cloth Diapers Aren't Getting Clean Enough…
If you notice your cloth diapers are not getting as clean as you'd like, experiment with a different brand of detergent. Sometimes the simple act of switching from one brand to another can make a difference in the overall cleanliness of the diapers.
You should also always be on the look-out for any diaper rash that might be caused by a particular kind of detergent, detergent residue, or any extra ingredients you may not have noticed your detergent contains. If this happens, the quickest remedy is switch to another brand.
Very hard and very soft water makes a difference in how well your baby's cloth diapers are cleaned. Families living in "hard water" areas might not notice the need to install a water softener until they begin washing their baby's cloth diapers.
Always be sure to read the instructions from the manufacturers for your individual cloth diapers; some detergent ingredients may void product warranties from the manufacturer. Some manufacturers will discourage the use of bleach in all forms or have special conditions for detergent, such as using less than would normally be required. In general, however, when washing cloth diapers just follow the above basic guidelines and everything should work beautifully.