Cloth Diapering 201: Detergents

Continuing on today with my cloth diaper series.  So far I have talking about the different kinds of diapers and use and care of diapers.  Now it’s time to tackle the next big decision that needs to be made when you are going to start cloth diapering.  What is the best detergent to use?

There is so much to choose from.  Of course there’s your regular detergent and then there are special detergents that are meant to use specifically with cloth diapers.  Ultimately what you choose is going to depend on your diapers, your machine, and your child.

Regular Detergents

Way back in the day when cloth diapering was all there was there were no special detergents for cloth diapers.  It was whatever you used to wash the rest of your clothes.  Then again, cloth diapers also didn’t come in the many different materials they come in now.  And washing machines were different too.

Since I started out with traditional flats like Grandma used to use I felt comfortable in sticking with my typical Tide detergent.  I didn’t want to buy a separate detergent for diapers.  And I knew that my daughter hadn’t had any sort of reaction since we started when she was 4 months old.  So I started with Tide Original.  We did fine with that for 6 months and then my daughter got this rash that would not go away.  This also happened to be around the time where I was also having problems with my washing machine.  I contacted Tide and they kindly sent me several coupons for their Tide Free and Clear to try.

I was still having trouble, but again, I think it had more to do with my washing machine in the end.  Once we replaced my machine things started to improve.  I also had to get the doctor to finally give her some medication to clear up the infection that she ended up with.  The concern with Tide is the enzymes that are in it.  Some children can react to this.  So frequent changes can help avoid problems, but then again you might want to go with something else all together.

Of the big name detergents you will find in your local grocery store All Free and Clear probably is the best for most diaper types.  Don’t ask me why I haven’t switched to that.  I only use the Tide Free and Clear on the diapers as it is.  I guess I’m just a Tide girl.  It’s hard for me to give up some of my favorite brands.

If you are going to go with something you can get in the grocery store then you want it to be as bare bones as possible.  No fabric softener in it.  Little to no brighteners or bleach.  No scents.  You might think a baby soap like Dreft would be great, but it contains brighteners, scents, and enzymes.  So you would be better off with the Tide Free and Clear than something like Dreft.

Special Detergents

Now there are all kinds of cloth diaper makers who are also making their own soap.  If you have a stash of BumGenius diapers, then you might want to use their soap too.  Because they put together what will work best with their diapers.  I think most people have a mixture of diapers though.

I had some samples of Tiny Bubbles for a while.  I tried using that instead of my Tide when I started having my rash problems, but nothing changed.  That was part of why I thought it was more my washing machine than the soap I was using.

Rockin’ Green seems to be a very popular soap with many in the cloth diaper community.  I don’t have any first hand experience with it.  I think the unscented is probably better, but that is probably true of all detergents.  Less chance of reactions when you have unscented.  Most seem to love it, but the ones who don’t are all saying the same thing, it doesn’t get rid of the stink even with the hard water treatment.

My Recommendations

If you want to try some of the special cloth diaper detergents I recommend contacting the companies and asking for some samples.  Give it a try first before you go spending the money on it and hating it.  If you have a few different to try that’s great.  So if one doesn’t work the way you think it should you can try another one to see if it’s the detergent or you’re having another issue maybe.  Like build up that needs to be stripped.  Remember to always follow the recommended usage.  And HE washers require less soap.  With my Tide Free and Clear I don’t even use the recommended amount for a small load.  I have had no stink issues.

Be aware of your water, your washing machine, and your child’s sensitivities.  Take all that into consideration (if you can) when purchasing your detergent.  My top picks (because it’s all I have used) is Tide Free and Clear and Tiny Bubbles.  But what works for me might not work for others.  And it’s all trial and error.  Just like you have to try out several different disposable diapers to find the ones that work best for your child and your budget, you also need to take that same consideration with cloth diapers and the detergent you use to wash them.

I hope you have been enjoying my cloth diaper guide so far.  Come back tomorrow for the final piece in the series about the possible hurdles to cloth diapering.

Cloth Diapering 101: The Diapers

Cloth Diapering 102: Use And Care

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  1. Thanks for all of the great info! My son is currently potty training but I have been debating on going cloth during his nap time and in the evening.

    • Sage, I think that’s a great idea actually. Will give you a little more protection over the underwear, but will help them feel wet better than diapers or even pull ups do. They do make trainers for cloth diapers too. So something definitely to consider. Especially since night training can really be a long process you might save yourself some money in the long run not having to buy diapers to use at night.

  2. I don’t CD, but we use Tide Free and Clear for my son’s clothes and we love it!

  3. This is so informative with some great tips! I was so confused on what to wash my diapers with. I always did a final rinse with vinegar.

    • I think it is a great idea. I used cloth diapers with my son who was born in 1978 and am using them now with my grngddauahter. Wow, how they have changed. I would love to learn more about diapers and their history. Excellent idea!

  4. My children are way way way pasted the diaper phase but even way back when I washed their baby clothes in a separate detergent. All Free & Clear is the only thing I can use because my husband has severe problems with any other kind including straight bleach.

    Thanks for a very informative article for those who are in this phase of their lives!

    • I have some and they are great for overnight bceause they soak up A LOT! But in general I prefer or G-diapers. Snaps always last longer than velcro so keep that in mind if you plan on using these diapers for more than one child. G-diapers are great bceause you can use disposable liners if you go on holidays and cloth the rest of the time. FuzziBunz are way less bulky than the Bum Genius bceause you buy them in sizes. In my experience the small fit my son till he was 10 months and the medium till he was over 2 yrs. Maybe buy a couple of each type you are looking at and use them to find out what you like best. You will always use them even after you buy more of your favourite later.

  5. Thanks for the tips!

    • I use a lot of . I have some of the AIO’s and some of the one size pockets. I like them a lot. One thing that I want to point out thuogh is that they say they will fit an 8lb baby. Bu tin my experience, they were huge and bulky on my son until he was about 10lbs. He is not almost 20lbs and they are still fitting good. One thing I like about them is that I can double stuff them at night because he is a heavy wetter. I think they are one of the best for keeping baby dry and not leaking.I would stay away from Kushies. Because they do not stretch around the waist like the BG’s do and they seem to feel really wet inside. With the BG’s, my son pees in it and I cannot tell it is wet unless I feel the insert. There is no wetness on his skin at all. With the Kushies thuogh, they constantly feel wet.Also I have used some and they are great. The only problem I see with them thuogh is that they get kind of rough inside after you wash them a few times. But they stay really dry also.I have and do use plain prefolds too and some wool. I really like wool.And last but not least. I have several fitteds that I have made for my son that I use. Of course I am biased toward the ones I have made. But other than that I would have to say the BG’s are probably the best for convenience and dryness.

  6. I never thought about contacting companies to ask for samples! Great idea! I’ve been using Rockin Green for awhile, which works well for us since we have SUPER hard well water to battle.

    Have you used Seventh Generation for your dipes? That’s what we use for the rest of our laundry and I really like it. Haven’t tried it with the dipes though.

    • I have not used Seventh Generation, but the reviews I have heard about it for cloth haven’t been super favorable which I was shocked about since it’s all natural.

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