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Ask a Diaper Junkie: What Gives With Laundry Soap?

Posted by Valerie on 5/20/2015 to Cloth Diaper How-To
Diaper Junction Ask a Diaper Junkie

Dear Diaper Junkie,

Why all the hard feelings over laundry soap? It seems if you go mainstream detergent like Tide, half the diapering community gives dirty looks. If you choose a cloth safe detergent like Rockin Green, the mainstream users treat you like you're using dirty diapers! What gives? How do I pick?

Loni, Greensburg, PA

Hi, Loni!

I’m going to be honest with you, I don’t understand the hard feelings. Most detergents are “cloth diaper safe”, some of them will just do a better job getting things clean. Mainstream detergents are highly effective at removing soil, which is something of utmost importance when cleaning cloth diapers. And I certainly understand why some families may choose a more environmentally-friendly detergent. In my opinion, your laundry choices need to be based on what your family values, and nobody else has the right to judge you for that. Here are the washing basics you should consider when making cloth diaper laundry decisions:

  • Use the correct amount of detergent. (pssst, we made a chart for that)
  • Avoid fabric softeners and additives such as borax and oxygen bleach.
  • Limit bleach use to instances of illness or infection.
  • Air drying is best for longevity, but tumble drying on low is just fine for most diapers.

My personal recommendation is to use a fragrance-free detergent. Plenty of people love their scents, BUT sometimes those heavenly fragrances can mask the odor of residual soil left behind on your diapers. Eco-friendly detergents tend to be lightly scented and aren’t quite as much of a problem as some of our favorite mainstream brands.

With all that said, based on customer conversations, most of our shoppers use Tide. The most common washing problem is not using enough detergent (this is true for eco and mainstream brands). So what should you choose? Simple—choose what you feel gets your diapers clean and fits your family’s budget.

Happy Diapering!
The Diaper Junkie

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Sarah B
Date: 5/20/2015
Thank you for this info! I am a first timer for cloth diapers!!!!
Date: 5/20/2015
I was just telling hubby the other day the one thing that seems to cause arguments in the cloth diapering community is the wash routine. It doesn't matter that there's lots of styles and tons of brands. Everyone has their favorites but don't get upset when someone else talks about their favorite but watch out when talking about the laundry! From the type of detergent to how many rinses and wether to prewash with a little detergent or just prerinse it can all cause arguments. Find what works for you and go for it :-)
Date: 5/20/2015
Thank you for addressing this! I've used lots of kinds of detergent with great success, particularly after ditching my microfiber inserts. It helps that I have an old school washing machine, too! Now if only the more natural laundry soap options could be more affordable!
Carolyn Allen Russell
Date: 5/20/2015
I am a little surprised that you recommend NOT using oxygen bleach but then seem to support the occasional use of chlorine bleach. I'd think that between the two options, the oxygen bleach would be the one to recommend!
Keara B.
Date: 5/20/2015
Thank you for sharing this! I have always used Tide with great results. That being said, I also started using Oxiclean and my diapers seem to smell cleaner coming out of the wash. Is there a reason I shouldn't be using it?
Diaper Junkie
Date: 5/20/2015
A couple of you have questions regarding oxygen bleach. In general you should avoid all caustic substances--borax, oxygen bleach, chlorine bleach, etc. These items can, and will, cause your PUL/TPU and elastics to deteriorate. As mentioned in my response to Loni, chlorine bleach is recommended in instances of illness or infection. This is because chlorine bleach kills bacterial, fungal, and viral bodies and is very cost effective in doing so. I hope this is helpful!
Date: 5/20/2015
I have been using cloth diapers for over 6 years now with my 3 children and have never had stinky diaper issues until the past month. I gave always used the tide original powder until I was no longer able to find it any longer so I bought the closest tide which has blue acti-lift crystals in it. Ever since then my diapers stink! I have desperately tried bleach, vinegar and RLR . The bleach has destroyed my cloth prefolds and the other two did nothing. I recently purchased the country save detergent and have had no better luck with that. I wash pretty much everday 1 loads worth of diapers so they are not sitting long. I used 1/2 scoop of the country save and my washer was so full of bubbles that I had to do 2 extra rinses after washing. I do always start the diapers with a cold rinse. I have a top loading HE washer with a water softener/ mineral treatment system. Not sure what to do next, with another baby arriving I can't deal with two stinky loads!
Camille W
Date: 5/21/2015
Thanks for this great chart! I'm not cloth diapering full-time yet but I'm sure it will come in handy when I am.
Date: 5/21/2015
And what of those who insist that line 3 of Tide is the minimum needed for 8-10 diapers? Or that 2 full scoops is needed if using a "weaker" detergent - aka mainstream free and clear. Does too much detergent cause issues too?
Jilliann M
Date: 5/21/2015
At the moment I use Gain. It's working so I'll keep using it. :)
Sarah S
Date: 5/22/2015
I'm going to try tide when my baby is born in September. We will see how it goes 😀
Maggie M.
Date: 5/22/2015
Thanks for this. I know a lot of people who are always so confused about washing.
Jessica J
Date: 5/23/2015
thank you for keeping it real! a good wash routine is the most important thing ;)
Date: 5/23/2015
iuse rockin green unsented and have had no issues. i say just use whats best for you.:)
Faye Dukes
Date: 5/24/2015
I love using my Gain Original and I have very soft water. I love the scents of Gain, but I know they aren't for everyone. I think everyone has to figure out what is best for them through trial and error :)
Kait WK
Date: 5/27/2015
I'm so glad you brought this up! There are some things that will work better for getting cloth diapers clean and fresh but every family needs to figure out what works best for them! No laundry shaming needed
Erica P.
Date: 6/1/2015
I started off using Tide powder since its what my ma used when we were young, and since its worked so well I can't bring myself to change. If it ain't broke...
Date: 6/1/2015
A fellow Tide user here! I was happy to learn more about wash routines over on Fluff Love University's page, as I didn't realize I needed to be doing a prewash before my main wash. Glad to have squeaky clean diapers now!
Date: 6/1/2015
A fellow Tide user here! I was happy to learn more about wash routines over on Fluff Love University's page, as I didn't realize I needed to be doing a prewash before my main wash. Glad to have squeaky clean diapers now!
Catherine B
Date: 6/5/2015
I don't really get this at all. I don't run around telling others how I wash my diapers and I don't care what anyone would think about it.
Vera S
Date: 6/8/2015
I am happy to see this post! Ive been using Baby Ecos until I got a good deal on Charlie Bananas laundry powder but heard that wasnt good for baby's skin. So now I am just using Baby Ecos until I figure out if she will have a reaction to it. Once those are out I will try something else.
Theresa Hover
Date: 6/11/2015
I'm so glad I found the chart you posted the link for, it's so helpful! I'm pinning it for future use. Right now we use Ecos lavender for our laundry, but once we have cloth diapers, I'm hoping to we can continue to use this one, even though we have hard water. Thanks for the article!
Mary Schuh
Date: 6/13/2015
Thanks for this! We use Windfresh (Sam's Club version of Tide) and OxyClean in every load. Love it!
Cassandra Lockshaw
Date: 6/14/2015
Thanks for this article and the included chart on laundry detergents! I'm new to cloth diapering and need all the help I can get!
Rowena A.
Date: 6/18/2015
Wish I'd seen something like this when I first started instead of listening to the employees at at cloth diaper shop. Could have avoided a bunch of stink issues!
Amy Mayo
Date: 6/20/2015
Thank you this is really helpful. I will be switching to tide soon!
Date: 6/27/2015
I've noticed this escalate lately. I started cloth diapering 11 years ago and I never noticed anyone arguing about it. We all just wanted our diapers to be clean and fresh. Who cared what you used? It seems some of the Tide crusade thing has been centering from some sort of cultish type compendium group? I don't get why these people feel the need to attack anyone who won't use Tide. It's all so Thank you for having a live and let live attitude about it. It's really refreshing after all the attacks I've seen recently. :) I used to have a horrible HE front loader that had gotten mold at the top of the boot that would not come off. It was awful. Then on top of that, we moved to an area with smelly hard water. It's so bad we have to regularly unclog the shower heads and hoses to the washer and rocks actually fall out. It's crazy. I find that rotating more natural laundry detergents seemed to work okay with my nasty HE washer. Last month we found an old school non-HE top loader for $50 that someone in my neighborhood was getting rid of! I about died! It does get stuck during the wash cycle once in a while but I'll take that small problem. Usually all we have to do is restart the wash. I pulled my microfiber inserts out of my rotation and have noticed that my wash water really suds up now. I haven't had any big stink issues so far and I'm happy cloth diapering once again. :D
Dandi D
Date: 6/27/2015
I used so many types of detergents and was never completely satisfied until I started using Tide Original. That's what works for us and we're sticking to it!
Date: 6/28/2015
Reading this confirms for me that I'm doing just fine in the soap department. I use Arm & Hammer free & clear (never was one for fragrances) without any problems.
Date: 7/1/2015
It's true how everyone is different - what works for one person definitely might not work for others! Right now we are using Rockin Green and I think it is doing fine. I tried Tide but - for me - it seemed to create so many suds that were hard to rinse and end up giving my son a bad rash. But I know for most people Tide works great.
Melody Krenelka
Date: 8/30/2015
Valerie, I'm an MBA student working on a business plan for a VERY unique cloth diapering service. I'm looking for a few people in various aspects of the cloth diapering industry to bounce a few ideas off (via email, or by phone, your choice.) If you're willing to hear about my idea and field a few questions, would you shoot me an email? [email protected]

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