If you wash your own diapers, you probably have either found a detergent you love or are searching for that soul mate of soaps. Finding the right method for washing your cloth diapers can be just as overwhelming as starting to use cloth diapers. There are some people who swear by certain detergents and others who have trouble with the same ones. But there is one hard-and-fast rule: your detergent does matter.
Your soap or detergent can build up on diapers over time. This creates a barrier between the cloth and your baby's bottom, preventing the cloth from effectively absorbing urine. What you don't want in your detergent are all the additives. You're trying to clean your cloth diapers, not coat them in a bunch of chemicals and other junk. Here is some residue-causing stuff to avoid:
- Fabric softeners - these cause liquid to repel or wick onto baby's clothes.
- Optical brighteners - these are chemical particles that absorb UV light and reflect back a bluer light, which makes clothes look whiter. These particles can build up and cause residue, and some
- Stain guards - stain guards prevent staining because they coat the cloth. You want your cloth to absorb the stain-causing materials. That's the whole point of a diaper.
- Soaps - this is a little confusing, but soaps are actually different than detergents. Although they are natural, they can react with your water to create residue.
- Natural additives - this is a biggie. A lot of detergents nowadays are marketed as being natural, eco-friendly, etc. That sounds like it would be great for cloth diapers, right? Not necessarily. Many of these contain oil-based surfectants. That means that the soapy stuff is made of oils. These oils can coat your diapers over time, creating a barrier to absorbency. Oils that you don't want to see in detergents are orange oil, citrus extract, and grape seed extract, among others.
Using a detergent specifically formulated for cloth diapers can help solve your problems. From a totally objective standpoint, we have noticed that Rockin' Green is pretty popular with cloth diapering parents. Out of all the cloth diaper detergents that are available, this is the one we hear the fewest complaints about. In fact, I don't know if I've ever heard a complaint about Rockin' Green.
If you're still not sure, check out the cloth diaper detergent chart at The Diaper Jungle. This chart gives you ratings and pros and cons for lots of different kinds of detergents and may help you find the detergent that's right for you.
And whatever you do, use lots of water. Lots of rinses don't matter if your water level isn't high enough. Crank up the water, crank up the heat, and get washing.