Detergent 101

Detergents and Cloth Diapering

   My Grandma did use "special" detergent. Why should I?

Just like diapers have changed, detergent has too. Modern laundry detergent has several additives that are designed to stay behind in fabric- fabric softener, fragrance, enzymes and optical brighteners. Ingredients like fabric softener and optical brighteners can leave your diapers less absorbent, and ingredients like enzymes can actually be dangerous to your baby’s bum. Choose your detergent carefully today and you will save yourself a headache tomorrow!

What detergent works best for washing cloth diapers?

This is a loaded question since different detergents will work or not work to your satisfaction dependent on many different factors including your water, your washer and your diapers.  What works for one person's diaper laundry will not necessarily work for you and yours.

The best way to ensure clean, absorbant diapers is to choose an additive free detergent (see chart below) for all your laundry, and to follow presrcibed washing instructions

This chart analyzes many different detergent choices and rates them so that you can find the best cloth diaper detergent for your diaper laundering needs. We also pinpoint detergents that work well with HE or High Efficiency washing machines.

Feel free to call one of our diaper technicians fof one-on-one problem solving.

= Do Not Use for Cloth Diapers
= Uses fragrance/dyes/enzymes/brighteners
= Pretty Good
= Thumbs up!

Remember that even the detergents that have been given four stars will work differently based on the water, washing conditions, and individual children. Do some experimentation and find the option that works best for your family and your routine.



Rating Image Detergent
Brand and Name
Cost Per Load Enzymes Brighteners Dyes Fragrances Softeners Bleach

*Mountain Green
Baby Detergent


A PETA acceptable product
N/A No No No Yes No ?

*Mountain Green
Free and Clear

 
N/A No No No No No ?

 
20 Mule Team
Borax
 
$0.25 No No No No No ?

 
All
Free and Clear
 
$0.18 No Yes No No No ?

 
All
Baby Care Plus
 
N/A No Yes No Yes No ?
Rating Image Detergent
Brand and Name
Cost Per Load Enzymes Brighteners Dyes Fragrances Softeners Bleach

All
Small and Mighty
 
$0.23 No Yes No Yes No ?

 
Allens
Naturally Powdered and Liquid Laundry Detergents
 
$0.26 No No No No No ?


td> Arm & Hammer
FabriCare
 
$0.23 Yes Yes No Yes Yes ?

 
Arm & Hammer
FabriCare Free
 
N/A Yes Yes No No No ?

 
Arm & Hammer
Essentials Free

Note: The Mountain Rain edition has fragrance and dyes
N/A No No No No No ?
Rating Image Detergent
Brand and Name
Cost Per Load Enzymes Brighteners Dyes Fragrances Softeners Bleach

 
Arm & Hammer
Sensitive Skin
 
$0.20 No Yes No No No ?

 
Bio-O-Kleen
Laundry Powder
 
$0.20 No No No No No ?

 
Bio-O-Kleen Free & Clear Powder

 
$0.24 Yes No No No No ?

 
Bio-O-Kleen
Premium Plus Laundry Powder
 
$0.22 Yes Yes No No No ?

 
Bio-O-Kleen
Liquid Laundry Detergent
 
$0.20 No No No No No ?

Caldrea
Sweet Pea Laundry Detergent

Note: Contains plant-derived surfactants, Borax and essential oils of Geranium, Orange, Jasmine, Coriander, Rose and Bergamot. HE (front loader) compatible
$0.50 No No No Yes No ?
Rating Image Detergent
Brand and Name
Cost Per Load Enzymes Brighteners Dyes Fragrances Softeners Bleach

Charlie's Soap
Charlie's Soap

The most popular detergent we sell. 
$0.19 No No No No No ?

Charlie's Soap Liquid
Charlie's Soap

Liquid often works better with hard water and in HE machines.
$0.19 ? No No No No ?


Cheer
Cheer
 
N/A Yes No Yes Yes No ?

 
Cheer
Free and Gentle
 
N/A Yes No No No ? ?

 
Country Save
Country Save Liquid
 
$0.19 No No No No No ?
Rating Image Detergent
Brand and Name
Cost Per Load Enzymes Brighteners Dyes Fragrances Softeners Bleach

Country Save
Country Save Powdered Detergent- also the basis for BumGenius detergent.
 
$0.16 No No No No No ?

 
Dreft
Dreft
 
$0.27 Yes Yes No No ? ?

Dropps
Liquid Laundry Pacs
 
$0.31 No No No No No ?

 
Earth Friendly Products
Baby Hypoallergenic Laundry Soap

Vegetable & Coconut Based Soap...may not be strong enough to launder cloth diapers
N/A No No No No Yes ?

Ecos
Free and Clear Liquid
 
N/A No No No No No ?

Ecos
Magnolia & Lillies, Lavendar & Lemongrass Scents

Note: scented Ecos contains coconut based surfactants and softeners as well as essential oils
 
$0.22 No No No Yes No ?
Rating Image Detergent
Brand and Name
Cost Per Load Enzymes Brighteners Dyes Fragrances Softeners Bleach

 
Ecos
Powdered Laundry Deteregent
 
N/A No No No No Yes ?

 
Ecover
Non Bio Laundry

Vegan Approved
$0.47 No No No Yes No ?

 
EnviroRite
Laundry Detergent

Ingredients: Deionized Water, Vegetable-Based Cleaning Agents, Surfactacts, Microbiostat
$0.19 No No No No No ?


GAIN
GAIN
 
$0.45 Yes Yes No Yes Yes ?


GAIN
GAIN HE Powder
 
N/A Yes Yes No Yes Yes ?
Rating Image Detergent
Brand and Name
Cost Per Load Enzymes Brighteners Dyes Fragrances Softeners Bleach

 
Ivory
Snow

may not be strong enough to launder cloth diapers
$1.20 Yes Yes No No No ?

 
Kirkland's
Kirkland's Signature (Costco brand)

This product is nearly identical to Tide
N/A Yes Yes No Yes No td> ?

 
  Kirkland's Signature
Environmentally Friendly

contains vegetable based surfactants including those derived from coconuts
N/A Yes No No Yes No No

Kirkland's Free and Clear (HE)
Costco brand
 
$0.15 Yes Yes No No No ?

 
Lifekind
Naturally Safer Triple Concentrated

Note: contains Seed & Pulp Extracts, Orange Peel Extracts, Surfactants from Coconuts.
$0.23 No No No No No ?

Maggie's Soap Nuts
Maggie's Soap Nuts

Note: 100% natural - Grows on Trees!!!
N/A No No No No No ?
Rating Image Detergent
Brand and Name
Cost Per Load Enzymes Brighteners Dyes Fragrances Softeners Bleach


Melaleuca
MelaPower
 
N/A Yes Yes Yes Yes No ?

 
Melaleuca
MelaPower Scent Free
 
N/A Yes Yes No No No ?

Method
HE Laundry Detergent
 
N/A Yes Yes No Yes No ?

 
Method
Baby Laundry Detergent
 
N/A /td> Yes Yes No No No ?

Method
Free and Clear
 
N/A Yes Yes No No No ?
Rating Image Detergent
Brand and Name
Cost Per Load Enzymes Brighteners Dyes Fragrances Softeners Bleach

Mountain Green
Original Citrus

A PETA acceptable product
N/A No No No Yes No ?

 
Nature Clean
All Natural Laundry Liquid
 
N/A No No No No No No

Nellie's
Nellie's Laundry Soda

contains coconut oil based ingredients.
N/A No No No No No ?

 
OXY-PRIME
OXY-PRIME Powder
 
N/A No No No No No ?

 
Penguin
Sport-Wash

Restores factory applied waterproofing (DWR). Contains biodegradable vegetable surfactants
N/A No No No No No ?
Pink Solution

 
$0.12 Yes No No No No No
Rating Image Detergent
Brand and Name
Cost Per Load Enzymes Brighteners Dyes Fragrances Softeners Bleach

 
Planet
Ultra Powder
 
N/A No No No No No ?

 
Purex
Purex
 
N/A No Yes Yes Yes No ?

 
Purex
Baby
 
N/A No Yes ? Yes No ?

 
Purex
Free and Clear

Note: Many moms have expressed satisfaction with this detergent.
N/A No Yes No No No ?

Rockin Green
Soft, Classic & Hard
 
$0.25-.30 No No No Optional No ?


SA8
Sensitive
 
N/A Yes Yes No Yes Yes ?
Rating Image Detergent
Brand and Name
Cost Per Load Enzymes Brighteners Dyes Fragrances Softeners Bleach


SA8
BioQuest Concentrated
 
N/A Yes Yes No Yes Yes ?

 
SensiClean
SensiClean

Note: Some burns and rashes have been reported by users of this detergent.
N/A No No No No ? ?

 
Seventh Generation
Natural Laundry Baby
 
$0.53 Yes No No No Yes ?

 
Seventh Generation
Free and Clear

contains vegetable based surfactants and enzymes including those derived from coconuts
$0.53 Yes No No No Yes ?

 
Seventh Generation
Natural Laundry
 
$0.46 Yes No No Yes No ?
Rating Image Detergent
Brand and Name
Cost Per Load Enzymes Brighteners Dyes Fragrances Softeners Bleach

 
Shaklee
Liquid-L
Note: HE version has been linked with rashes
 
$0.38 Yes Yes ? Yes No ?

 
Sport-Wash
Residue Free

Note: Some burns and rashes have been reported by users of this detergent.
$0.59 No No No No No ?

 
Sun
Free

Note: Many moms have expressed satisfaction with this detergent.
N/A No Yes No No No ?

Sun and Earth
Deep Cleaning
 
$0.24 No No No No No ?

 
Sunlight
Ultra Sensitive Skin
 
N/A No Yes No No No ?
Rating Image Detergent
Brand and Name
Cost Per Load Enzymes Brighteners Dyes Fragrances Softeners Bleach

Sunlight
Ultra Sensitive Skin HE
 
N/A No Yes No No No ?

 
Surf
Surf
 
N/A Yes No Yes Yes No ?

 
Surf
Aloha Splash
 
N/A Yes No Yes Yes No ?

 
The Laundress
The Laundress Baby Detergent
 
$1.21 No Yes No Yes Yes ?


Tide
Tide
 
$0.25 Yes Yes Yes Yes ? ?
Rating Image Detergent
Brand and Name
Cost Per Load Enzymes Brighteners Dyes Fragrances Softeners Bleach

 
Tide
Free
 
N/A Yes Yes No No ? ?


Tide
HE
 
$0.33 Yes Yes No Yes ? ?

 
  Trader Joe's
Cleanliness is Next to Godliness
 
N/A No No No No No ?
/
 
Vaska
Herbatergent Lavendar and Non Scented

Note: Contains plant based surfactants and lavendar contains essential oils
$0.32 No No No optional No ?

 
Wisk
Free Clear Ultra
 
N/A Yes Yes No No No ?

Woolite
HE

Note: Woolite has an alkaline pH that may strip wool fibers so wool users should use caution.
$0.25 No No No ? No ?


How we rated the detergents:

Detergents received one to four stars based upon the amount of non-ideal ingredients they contain. Detergents that received three stars are mostly good but may contain at least one of the non-ideal ingredients, which means a little caution may be warranted when trying them. Detergents that received four stars have none of the non-ideal ingredients and should be a good place to start experimentation in finding the diaper detergent that will work best for you! If the YES/NO section for a particular ingredient has been left blank it is because we just don't know yet.

Ingredients to avoid

Pure Soap: Pure soaps are the more natural choice in the world of cleaners, but soaps will leave a residue on yourDiaper Detergent Bottle diapers and covers – similar to the soap scum you find in your tub. Soap scum on diapers makes them repel moisture rather than absorb it and it is also harsh on the laminates used in your diaper covers, making them absorb rather than repel water. The best choice for washing your diapers is to use detergent on them. Soapy coating equals reduced absorbancy!

Enzymes: Enzymes attack organic matter and help dissolve stains when activated with water or moisture. Sweat, urine, and feces are all organic matter so in that regard, it seems like a great addition to your detergent. the problem with enzymes in detergent is that with the incredible absorbancy of diapers, they have a tendancy to hold on to the enzymes which can deteriorate a baby's skin as it too is organic matter. These enzymes can cause blistering, bleeding, sores and rashes.

Fragrances and Dyes: These are harsh and unnecessary chemicals for a baby's laundry. Additionally, frangrances are designed to stay in your diapers, and anything remaining in your diapers, takes up space that could be absorbing urine. Additionally, artificial fragrances are often made from petroleum and do not degrade in the environment, and may have toxic effects on both fish and mammals. Additionally, they often can cause allergies and skin or eye irritation.

Optical Brighteners: These are actually tiny particles that stick to the surface of your clothes after washing. These particles make colors appear to be brighter by absorbing invisible ultraviolet light and re-emitting it as blue light. If you want to see if your detergent has these brighteners, simply look at the detergent under a black light. Although these optical brighteners may make your clothes appear brighter, they are chemical residues that are intentionally left behind on your clothes and may cause skin irritation or other allergic reactions. And, anything left in your diapers, takes up space that could be used to absorb urine and fecal matter!

Fabric Softeners: Fabric softener, either in liquid or sheet form – leaves a water-repelling residue on your laundry. When left on your cloth diapers (and towels), this residue makes them less absorbent and useful in the very purpose that they serve. It also coats your diaper covers and can deteriorate their water-proof laminate. If your diapers NEED softening add 1/2 cup baking soda to the rinse cycle of your wash. You can also try a commercial green fabric softener like Natural Choices Home Safe Product’s Safe ‘N Soft, Ecover’s Natural Fabric Softener, or Sun & Earth’s Ultra Fabric Softener. Dryer Balls also help soften laundry. 

Do Detergents Disinfect?

Many people believe that a detergent is supposed to disinfect clothing or diapers but this is just not the case with most detergents. Detergents that contain something like chlorine bleach, hydrogen peroxide, iodine, will kill bacteria/viruses/fungi present in the laundry but detergents without these ingredients will clean only...not disinfect. Most cloth diaper users avoid the above mentioned ingredients because they are harsh on clothing and skin. When searching for the perfect diaper detergent for your family please keep in mind that most of the higher ranked detergents for diaper laundry will NOT disinfect diapers and it is an unnecessary feature.

What Is Detergent Residue?

Detergent residue is a film that is left behind on clothing or in this case, cloth diapers.  Detergent build-up and residue can lead to repelling or beading of liquid; leaks and wicking; skin rashes and irritation; stinky diapers and diaper covers; dulling of colors in fabric. These all present problems for cloth diaper users so it is best to try and avoid detergent build-up and residue. Residue problems are usually caused by additives in your detergent such as brighteners, fabric softeners, natural additives like citrus extract or grapeseed extract, soaps, and stain guards. Well, what if it is too late and you have a build-up problem? The most common method for removing residue is to strip diapers. This can be accomplshed with using a lot of hot water (but not too hot on covers and pockets), many, many washes with an approved detergent, a product like Fuzzibunz Strip RX or GroVia Mighty Bubbles

Disclaimer:
Best efforts have been made in the preparation of this information. Maine Cloth Diaper Co. has made every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information herein. However, the information contained within this site is given without warranty, either expressed or implied. Maine Cloth Diaper Co. cannot be held liable for any damages caused directly or indirectly by the links and information on this site. In addition, changes and improvements to the information provided herein may be made at any time.

Maine Cloth Diaper Company