Saturday, December 29, 2012

Cloth Diapering: A Beginners Guide-The Detergent

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Never knew there was so much to cloth diapering huh? It will get easier I promise. 2 weeks ago I was so overwhelmed with everything there was to learn, research, and decide on. Choosing a detergent was something that completely stressed me out! Let's get going.

Choosing a detergent seriously gave me a headache. Sometimes it still does. If you want to go with a stress free, easy route the choose a detergent on this list and be done! If you're like me and have to know more about it please continue reading.

A lot of women on said the best laundry soap was the one that works for you-meaning there is no 'bad' soap. The diaper manufacturers freak you out though and it can void your warranty if you use a non-approved soap. It's a nightmare out there people.

Here is a list of ingredients you should avoid:
Pure Soap
Fragrances (anything scented)

What happens is these ingredients will cling onto the fabric-it's what they're made for. That will create a build up and you diapers will start repelling liquid-exactly opposite of what you want it to do. Some of the ingredients like pure soap is also harsh on the laminate of your CD. Enzymes and fragrances can cause skin irritation and rashes.

To get a good look at a few popular detergents and if they're good for cloth diapering take a look at a chart like this one. If you have an HE machine, here is a chart for you.  Also, here is a list of approved detergents that CottonBabies recommends (the easy way!). Now with that said, a lot of people use Regular Tide or All F&C. They both have brighteners in them, but people love them. One thing to remember is even if you do use a non-recommended detergent and it 'ruins' your diapers, you can always fix them by stripping them. I'll do another post on stripping them later, but it's basically just washing it, alternating in really hot and cold water until there is no more buildup.

A few things to keep in mind:
-If you have soft water you'll want to use less detergent, since it's harder to rinse out. Hard water you'll want to use more. Some companies like Rockin Green have detergents made specifically for your type of water. They also sell test strips so you can test your water.
-If you have an HE washer, you'll want to find an HE compatible detergent. Normally this means it is low sudsing.
-Make sure to accurately measure your detergent.

Powder vs. Liquid
I haven't found the most concrete information on this topic, but here are a few notes I have found. In general, I think powder detergent is considered better for cloth diapers. One of the reasons I've read on this page is that liquid has ingredients in it to keep it liquid, and those ingredients are harder to rinse out. They also create build up quicker on your diapers and your washing machine. If you use a liquid, make sure to clean your washer out more frequently. The other side of this debate is that if you use a powder, dissolve it in water first. Some people believe that powder doesn't dissolve thoroughly and can cause buildup. Confusing much?? Another thing I read is that liquid is better for soft water because you need more surfactant and less softener. Powder would be better for hard water since it has more water softeners in it. I wish I could give you a concrete answer, but until I find one it's not possible. I think this is a preference issue and a trial and error issue. I wouldn't stress too much about this until you choose your detergent. Then perhaps use liquid if you have soft water and powder if you have hard water-then go from there. 

WAHM Detergents
Another category of detergents are home-made detergents. Work At Home Moms will make detergent and sell them on Etsy or the like. My first thought was to go with this category, however these are usually powder and made primarily with washing soda which is a water softener. We have soft water, so this isn't the best option for us. Who knew hard water could be a good thing??

For me, cost was also an issue. We moved to cloth to save money, so I wanted to keep our detergent economical. Another main reason we went to cloth was to keep more natural items on our little guys bum, so I really felt like we should try to stick with a more natural detergent. So I ended up choosing Country Save. It was approved, it was in budget, people liked it, I was sick of researching, DONE. I had to realize that this wasn't a one time purchase. I would probably try different detergents, and end up switching a few times like everyone else.

I received good advice from someone online. She said start out with an approved detergent. This way you can see the way the diapers should work. Then once you're comfortable, feel free to start trying your families favorite or any other detergent. My goal is to make my own in the future (that works well with soft water!).

Once your a little more into your wash routine, I suggest coming back to this link here: and learn more about detergent. It has some great information.

Did I confuse you even more?? I hope not! In summary I would suggest trying a detergent on the approved list. If you want natural and cost effective-go with Country Save to begin with. Once you see how your diapers should work and absorb, then feel free to try others.

6 Months later and I've switched detergents. I didn't feel like the Country Save was getting the diapers clean enough and my little guy kept getting rashes. I just made the switch to Tide Free and Gentle 3 weeks ago. I also use a 1/4 c. bleach. The diapers finally smell clean and the rashes are basically gone. He'll still get one it the moisture is on his skin too long, but mostly gone. Yay! 

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