Tuesday, September 1, 2009

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Detergent NO-NO's


Detergent NO-NO’s!

Oftentimes we’re asked, “Why can’t I use free and clear detergents to wash my cloth diapers?”

Or, “My friends use X Free and Clear to wash their cloth diapers. Why can’t I?”

Excellent questions. While detergent recommendations are a dime a dozen, first it’s important to understand what works for one doesn’t work for everyone. There are so many variables to consider: type of cloth diapers being laundered, washing machine, water condition (soft or hard), washing routine/frequency, etc...

Therefore, we definitely recommend following the guidelines set by your diaper manufacturer. All diaper manufacturers provide the same disclaimer when it comes to detergents:

NO: enzymes, dyes, perfumes/fragrance, optical brighteners, whiteners, or fabric softener

Nearly all commercially available detergents found at your local grocery store and box chain store will have most, if not all of these “no-no’s” in the formula. Free and Clear detergents are no exception. While “Free and Clear” sounds great, in reality the only thing the detergent is free and clear from is fragrance and dyes. Free and Clear detergents usually still have optical brighteners, enzymes, or even worse - fabric softener (leaving behind waxy residues).

More often than not these ingredients will cause buildup on your diapers and ultimately lead to wicking or complete repelling (ie. the diaper is unable to absorb any fluid). Therefore we do no recommend using a free and clear detergent for this primary reason; the consequence and hassle is not worth the risk!

We do recommend Charlie’s Soap, Allen’s Naturally, Country Save, FuzziBunz Detergent by Vaska, Tiny Bubbles and new to our cloth diaper recommendations and coming soon to Kelly’s Closet: Rockin’ Green!

64 comments:

Lisa said...

I started out using a Free and Clear detergent for my Fuzzi Bunz since my cousin said that worked for her, but after a couple of weeks I noticed the diapers not performing as well as they had initially. After reading several cloth diaper detergent guidelines I've decided to switch to Charlie's Soap.

Savannah said...

Wow. Good to know. I'm using Woolite and I thought it was okay. Now I'm thinking that maybe it's not! I'm going to check it out! Thanks for the heads up!!

Becky said...

I use Planet and really like it, it doesn't have any of the bad stuff in it and it gets the diapers clean.

Amanda said...

We use Country Save & love it. I don't know how a fragrance free soap can provide such a fresh, clean smell in the diapers but it dose! We now use it for all of our household laundry too.

mamadurf said...

I use charlie's soap but I was reading on Diaper Swapperds that it causes rashes and blisters and that in an "interview with Charlie" he said he doesn't reccomend it for diaper laundering and never intended it to be used so and he's not sure why's it's marketed as being cloth-safe :( what's the true story on Charlie's? I'm so confused!

Upstatemomof3 said...

Woo Hoo for getting Rockin Green - I love that stuff. I have had a few near misses with my MIL who constantly wants to wants my diapers in Dreft. No matter how much I tell her not to she is insistent that is what is best, So, she cannot do diaper laundry for me. *sigh* :)

MrsEAM said...

Thanks for posting this! I've been having a hard time helping my husband understand why we need to get a special laundry detergent and this should do the trick!

ih0ney said...

I use Tide and it's been fine. I just rinse it very carefully and not use so much detergent. I'm in a very small town and don't have whole foods store.

Amy B. said...

Any one use Crunchy Clean? I heard that one is also supposed to be good!

angelina said...

hi guys, i know all of this...however ive been using a nono , one with fabric softener built in for two months i guess. how does one get the yukkies out of the diaper once they're in it? also, ive been noticing a blackish stain on mine where little man's pee is waiting for a wash, what is this? its something new. to do with the detergent maybe?

dannyscotland said...

I want to try Country Save, but I haven't yet. I've heard great things about it.

Ashley said...

I use planet detergent, and so far so good. I wish I could find Country Save locally!

natalie said...

Anyone use Arm & Hammer Essentials Free? I've read on other blogs that it works well and is free of all the no-no ingredients (except for the Mountain Rain version which has fragrances).

Katie said...

I use Charlie's, but have heard that a lot of people use, and really like Tide . . . doesn't it have most of the no-no's?

luke and pamela said...

i would be interested in learning the best drying system for CD mamas in winter! i began CDing this summer when my little one was born, and dry my liners on the line, plus use the sun for getting out stains. what do i do in the long 8-month cloudy/cold/snow/winter season in michigan?

hosiewosie said...

I love the detergent talk, even though I know what I'm supposed to use and what works for us, I'm always looking for something different- just crazy I think.

Becky said...

if you live in a small town with no whole foods you should look for detergent online and with free shipping! that's what I did...granted I have a LARGE supply of it, but it was a good price!

Stacey Ho said...

what about using vinager as a softner? Is this ok?

Sarahjenne said...

Tide Free seemed like it was working for awhile, but after 3 months or so I noticed a stink that wouldn't go away. Then I started getting leaks from diapers that had only been on the baby for a few minutes. I switched to Allen's. Hopefully that will work better.

heather said...

so glad you are getting rockin' green! it has been the BEST laundry detergent since i started a yr ago! Kim is great to work with as well! i HIGHLY recommend it!

Erin said...

I LOVE Charlie's Soap. It gets everything out!

Megan said...

I use Arm and Hammer Essentials fragrance free which doesn't have any of the No-nos. I have also used Purex Free which has brightners, but nothing else. Both have worked fine for me.

Brie H said...

I didn't know this.. good thing I switched. .. that tiny bubbles I won from you is awesome!! I love the way it smells

Yara said...

I've heard of a lot of babies getting very very bad rashes as a reaction to Charlie's.
I use ecover, and it works very well for us. I've had the same bottle for, oh, about 6 months or so now. Maybe more. The small bottle ; )
I use it on diapers and the baby's clothes.

Ammie said...

Thanks! I love this post. At first we used Purex Free and Clear (with no problems), but we've been using Charlies and I'm noticing less residual odor. Hooray!

Arizona Girl said...

A friend of mine (doesn't cloth) uses Charlie's Soap. We were watching her children for the week and I washed my diapers with her soap. As soon as he filled they diapers they smelled horrible and way worse than normal. Is there a better way? Normally I soak our diapers in vinegar and then use our normal detergent. It works better than the soap did but not as good as I want.

Joe said...

That's a very important point to bring up, I sure didn't know about this when I first started cloth diapering. Regular detergent can totally ruin your diapers, make then waterproof, stink, etc. Our pre-fold are sorely looking right now... :)

I've personally been using Nellie's, and it works great!

Allison said...

I use Planet detergent. It works very well. Haven't had any problems so far.

Cloth Diaperer Extraordinaire said...

mamadurf, Katie, Yara and everyone else who has been wondering about this...

Charlie's Soap has been getting a bad rap for quite some time for something that is relatively misunderstood when it comes to washing diapers.

Ideally everyone should make sure their diapers are completely clean and disinfected.

Charlie's Soap rinses completely out of whatever you're washing... so if you're washing cloth diapers and so long as you're following the recommended amount of 1 tablespoon per load - (yes ladies - it's 1 tablespoon per load even when washing cloth diapers regardless if you're using a front or top loading machine too) then the detergent itself is rinsing completely out of the cloth diapers. So it's not technically the Charlie's the children are having reactions to.

So, what's causing the rashes? Most likely it's from residual bacteria or from the diapers not being fully clean (they should come out of the wash and/or dryer smelling like absolutely nothing- you should not smell any residual odors... if you do the diapers/inserts are not clean).

Because Charlie's Soap rinses completely clean there isn't any residue left behind to interact with the bacteria or remaining unseen soiled matter on the diapers so when a child wets their diaper then the urine interacts with the bacteria and/or "soil" and that's what is likely causing the reaction.

In all fairness to Charlie's Soap, no detergent was designed to disinfect diapers - so it's a bit unfair to blame the soap.

Now with all that said, if you use Charlie's Soap or any other detergent for that matter please be sure to follow the recommendations of your diaper manufacturer as well as the directions for the detergent. Many people mistakingly use less Charlie's Soap than what is called for (I had one mom tell me she only used 1/4 the amount of Charlie's to wash her diapers - which would be roughly 3/4 of a TEASPOON... definitely not enough to clean diapers!!!)

Another point I'd like to make - anything can cause a reaction! Although we currently use Country Save I'm allergic to it - and even touching a small amount causes the most severe reaction which leaves my hands cracking and blistering for days! (I've also experienced a chemical burn from Country Save in a very sensitive area which I'd rather not discuss!) HA!

Charlie's Soap has provided a FAQ on using their detergent for washing cloth diapers: http://charliesoap.com/faq.asp?cartID=2E25A08EDD8E4EC6ABA463A789F9723A

There is also a link to a PDF that is quite helpful as well. I hope this helps clear up some misconceptions about Charlie's Soap.

Cloth Diaperer Extraordinaire said...

Angelina

If you've been using a "detergent no-no" then usually all you need to do is strip your diapers. The easiest and safest way to strip the diapers from detergent residue is to wash the clean diapers several times in hot water with no detergent or additives (usually 4 washes should work). This should rinse out all the residue... if not, then we would recommend hand scrubbing your diapers with a small bristle brush (such as a toothbrush) and use just an itsy bitsy smidge of detergent to help break up the stubborn residues that may be remaining (we don't typically recommend the use of Dawn - unless you know you have an oily/waxy buildup - and if you do, then please contact us on recommendations for stripping your diapers).

Cloth Diaperer Extraordinaire said...

Natalie

After researching the ingredients for the Arm & Hammer Essentials Free detergent is appears it should be save for use with cloth diapers. However, you would want to make sure you use 1/2 the recommend amount (and 1/4 the recommended amount if the amount is based on a top loading machine).

Cloth Diaperer Extraordinaire said...

Luke and Pamela

You can still line dry your diapers/inserts in the winter even if the sun isn't out. The UV rays from the sun are what is doing most of the work - not necessarily the heat from the bright sunshine! Therefore, even on an overcast day - you can hang your diapers/inserts outside and still get the benefit of the sun! Now, the diapers/inserts may not dry thoroughly because there will be a lack of heat from the sun - but you can just finish them off in the dryer.

Here's something interesting few people realized... some parts of Alaska get very little sun... so they actually FREEZE their items in order to disinfect (extreme cold kills bacteria). Pretty nifty eh?

Cloth Diaperer Extraordinaire said...

Stacy Ho

Vinegar makes a great natural fabric softener; it also helps to break up residue and rinse it away as well as reduce lint and static electricity.

Unfortunately, however, most manufacturers do not recommend the use of it!

Cloth Diaperer Extraordinaire said...

Arizona Girl

Not sure what type of diapers you're using but we definitely do not recommend soaking your diapers in vinegar - especially if you're using pocket diapers.

Not quite sure why you had stink issues after using the Charlie's Soap unless you didn't use the right amount to wash the diapers or you had bacteria hanging out in the diapers...

A Psych Mommy said...

Amy--I have used Crunchy Clean before and liked it--my fave is the "Monkey Farts" scent :)

brightland416 said...

I also started out using Free and Clear but then I switched to Charlie's Soap because there was a sale on it, so I didn't experience these problems yet. So glad I know now. Thanks for the info!

The Camerons said...

I use Charlie's Soap and now we use it for everything! It's wonderful! Very economical too!

Anna said...

Thanks for the reminders!

thejepps said...

I'm glad this post came out because I noticed a lot of people using "traditional" detergents and wondered if they knew something I didn't.

Wyoming Mom said...

I use Tide Free or All Free and Clear for my diapers and have been really happy. I am sensitive to perfumes myself so we also use it for our regular laundry.

Also you can hang diapers to dry outside even in the winter - even in Wyoming (or other COLD areas). If you have a problem with things freezing to the clothesline, soak the line in strong saltwater solution and then put it back up. No more freezing clothes to the line. :)

angelina said...

thanks for the response and advise cd gurus! i will strip my diapers and get some better detergent soon/ fabric softener free. as for my other issues, i have been drypailing and do not typically rinse out unless pooey. i was every day so they arent sitting in the bucket long. however i have noticed over the last few months on some diapers is a dark spot from the urine which has not washed out, what could this be?

Cloth Diaperer Extraordinaire said...

Angelina: I forgot to answer the second part of your questions on your first post... you asked about the black-ish stain... It sounds like this is mold/mildew. I would be sure to wash your diapers every other day - as the longer they sit in the pail and especially if you live in a humid area then mold/mildew can occur.

If the black spot/stain is indeed mold you're going to want to remove any spores you see (if any). It's best to remove the spores outside. Then, soak the offending inserts/items in cold water then wash in hot with detergent and bleach (you should only use bleach on the inserts - not on the actual diapers).

Then put the items outside in the sun to dry. Repeat the process if necessary! This should help...

Crissy said...

I love Rockin Green! It's the only detergent we use in this house for all things baby!

Pamela said...

What do you all think of the homemade laundry detergent with fels naptha, borax, and washing soda?

The Smith Family said...

nice clarification. I've heard that free and clear was an OK detergent if you don't have something like Charlies. But I'll stick to Charlie's.

Christina's Cookies said...

I was using All F&C for a while and thought it was working fine but now that I have been using my Tiny Bubbles I can REALLY tell the difference!

Sarah J. said...

we use All Free and Clear thats sold at Military Commisarys. It has no optical brighteners like normal All Free and Clear. So far...so good! I really want to try Rockin' Green though!

Cloth Diaperer Extraordinaire said...

Pamela:

We do NOT recommend the use of homemade detergent.

Homemade detergents work great for your personal laundry but it's not safe for use with cloth diapers. Borax (sodium borate) and Washing Soda (sodium carbonate) are very strong substance (alkaline/caustic) that can cause excessive wear and tear to your diapers (especially over time). Now, with that said, these two ingredients are found in a number of cloth diaper friendly detergents... however, it's only a percentage of the overall formula and not the sole or main ingredients and the ratios are safe for use (especially with the small quantities called for with laundering cloth diapers).

Fels Naptha is a soap and true/natural soaps are also NOT recommended for use with laundering cloth diapers because these will cause a residue buildup problem.

Rebecca said...

Have you heard of Shaklee liquid laundry detergent? They're a home-based company. Would that be safe?

Cloth Diaperer Extraordinaire said...

Rebecca I've been asked about the Shaklee detergent before. From what I recall the last time I researched it - I don't believe it's cloth diaper safe/friendly - mostly because of the concern with the enzymes they use (apart from stating they use enzymes I was wasn't able to ascertain the other detergent ingredients).

TheClothDiaperWhisperer said...

Yes, the "free and clear" detergent issue tends to be a debate but we can honestly say the best bet is to stay away from using it. Serena- thanks so much for all your detailed responses.
BTW gals-Serena is the in house expert when it comes to washing! She tests out all of the detergents we sell (and will be selling!) on our sites to make sure they pass the test of being cloth diaper safe.

Maggie said...

I use Kirkland environmentally friendly detergent from Costco. I really like it, but have you heard anything about it? Is it supposed to be okay?

Yara said...

thanks for explaining that! I have personally never tried Charlie's; I just use ecover now because that is what my diaper manufacturer recommends : )
I also always make sure my diapers are ridiculously clean ; )

Yara said...

oh and also, I am curious to try that new Rockin' Green!

kathryn said...

I have heard that Sun Free detergent is okay to use. Is there any way to find out if it has the "no-no's" in it? I read the box and it doesn't have brighteners or perfumes/dies. This is a really inexpensive detergent so if it's ok to use on cloth diapers it would make my life easier. I have none of the recommended detergents within a 100 mile radios of me! Thanks!

Candace said...

I am pretty sure that the black spot that someone is referring to might be an ammonia spot. Especially if it comes up after the baby pees. My dipes are clean despite now having the best detergent, but occasionally I forget a rinse cycle and have buildup. When this happens wee man's urine turns to ammonia pretty quickly and we get those darkish spots- not mold, but three to four inches in diameter and of a purplish gray black hue.

Cloth Diaperer Extraordinaire said...

Rebecca - FOLLOW UP:

I was able to track down some of the ingredients for the Shaklee Liquid detergent: Organic Enzymes, Fabric Brighteners, Water Softeners, and Fragrance

Therefore I do not recommend using this detergent on your cloth diapers!

Cloth Diaperer Extraordinaire said...

Maggie: I love Costco! However, my understanding is the Environmentally friendly detergent Costco offers is formulated by Wintree. Although they don't disclose all of the ingredients so I can properly assess them - they do state on their website that the formula does have a natural whitening agent. Without knowing what specifically they're using - I would say it's not likely to be safe.

My biggest concern with this detergent is whether the formula has any type of fabric softener built-in.

I would say erring on the side of caution would be best with this particular detergent.

Cloth Diaperer Extraordinaire said...

Kathryn:

Apparently there are some moms who have used Sun Free with success. Again, without knowing what types of diapers they're using and what type of machine they're laundering with (as well as their routine) it's really hard to say whether the detergent will work well for you or not.

In trying to research the ingredients (most commercial detergents do not make this info readily available) - it appears the formula does have fabric brighteners in it - from what I could find.

I suppose you could try it and see - but be aware should you notice the diapers aren't absorbing properly or if they begin to leak!

Cloth Diaperer Extraordinaire said...

Candace Great point. Occasionally, we too get some odd colored stains on our inserts (never really seen the purple-y black - but we have had some rust color looking stains).

If the "black" Angelina is referring to isn't mold - then it's very likely what you're mentioning! Thanks for posting!

Lisa Borglum said...

I just started cloth diapering my 7 month old a couple days ago. I had heard so many good things about Charlie's, so I tried it. I followed the instructions to a "t", including running a couple empty loads with old rags to get old detergent residue out of my washer. Unfortunately, my daughter developed two very bad blisters on her bottom. This could not have been bacteria because these were new diapers.

Jess said...

I have been using soap nuts, but I dont think theywork very well in my small portable washing machine. I just ordered some mountain green baby detergent, and samples of country save. I found them at Alice.com. If you cant find these 2 at a local store I recommend checking out this site.I cant afford $15 just to ship a detergent and this site has free shipping all the time,so a box of country save is 9.99. You have to order 6 items at a time though. I just ordered i bottle of mountain green, and 5 .50cent samples of country save, so that counts as 6 items. Sorry for rambling. I just thought some people might find that useful.

Erin said...

I'm curious if Kathryn is still using Sun. I want to know if it's ok b/c it's SO cost effective!

Anonymous said...

I use original Tide powder (up to line 3 on the scoop in my HE Front Loader) for ~15 of my pocket diapers. They come out smelling clean and don't stink after LO pees in them I have no problems with stains, repelling, or rashes. I've been CDing for about 10 months (I didn't start til LO was 10 months, so I've been dealing with toddler poo and pee as well). I've never had to strip my diapers either. Honestly, as long as your LO is not sensitive and your detergent does not contain a fabric softener (e.g., Downey) ANY detergent is safe to use. Make sure to use a proper amount for a load size - this is just laundry - and the dirtiest of laundry at that. Just use common sense.