Laundry is one of life's great companions. Regardless of how much or little clothing you own, laundry is always there for you. As you journey through life the items change but the laundry remains constant. Sometimes you take it out for a trip to a Laundromat, other times you visit friends or family together, and if you are lucky, you are able to care for it in the comfort of your own home. If you are considering cloth diapers for a wee human in your life, your laundry may be a stressful topic. As we Covered in Cloth Diaper Care: Part Two diapers are treated a bit differently than standard laundry because they have a different function than shirts and pants. If you plan to invest in cloth diapers it is important to know how to properly care for them to retain their value and that value is tied to the effectiveness of the material to keep urine and feces contained.
Laundering cloth diapers might sound like a hard hitting topic for a mom-buddy mafia movie, but, sadly, that is not the case. But as cloth diaper bosses we are focused on the backroom dealings of your cloth diaper stash. This is the nitty gritty world of fluff and fluff covers. When you purchase a diaper you know that you are in this for the long haul, especially if you go for those $45 all in ones (looking at you bamboo all in one with a wonder woman logo on Etsy). In order to keep those babies in tip top fighting shape you need to care for them and protect them from the forces that seek to destroy their best qualities. The most important among these being absorbency, and for wool, TPU, and PUL, waterproof-ness. I suppose I made that word up and it is highly likely there is a better word ... But have I told you I have several children ... I am often operating on half capacity. In any event, the biggest threat to your diapers is the tool you turn to most when doing laundry: Detergent. Second to that is fabric softener followed closely by bleach and dyer sheets, but those are the topics of future rants.
Now, I think I know what some of you are thinking, "don't worry, I use Dreft on all the baby things, I am soooooo good at baby laundry already." I too, was once one of you, so naive and full of joy. And, yet, that confidence brought me only sorrow. Cloth diapers and Dreft are no longer compatible, they split and you must accept that. I have told you before these are not your grandma's diapers, and they require a better detergent solution.
Okay, there are two basic camps in the cloth diaper detergent world:
2. Everyone else
Are we all caught up? Great.
So, you may be aware there is a highly opinionated world of people out there who can be a bit hostile about their preferences with laundry detergent.... please multiply that hostility by eleventy billion for a person who uses Tide on their cloth diapers. Some cloth diaper manufacturers recommend and even require use of Tide detergent on their diapers in order to launder them within the warrantee. Tide original, (no scent or additional hoo-ha) powdered or liquid, in the red container.
I will inform you, however, that I do not use Tide, never have. This is likely due to some talk or environmental sustainability pamphlet I read at a particularly important stage of my formation as a human adult who had laundry at her hippy commune of a college. So, I speak to you as a member of group 2.
As an aside, there are several charts and figures available on the online that tackle laundry issues and help you to pick a detergent if you are not satisfied with anything here, I will post links at the bottom for your future reading pleasure.
For those who are dissatisfied with Tide or who are hoping to just stick it to group 1, I have some notes for you. First, you need to find a detergent with as little bells and whistles as possible, especially fragrance. No valleys, orchards, linen, sunshine, rain, mountains, or whatever on the bottle. I am talking stripped down, simple versions of cleaning products that make you say, "that smells like nothing." Once you find something with no scent you are headed the right way. Second, weed out anything that says, "brightens whites" or "vibrant colors," those detergents deposit too much residual material onto the diapers and will decrease absorbency. Third, avoid anything that claims to "soften" or "protect" you fibers, those are no good and will bring only tears.
Okay, are you sad yet? Maybe ... but we must press on.
If you are a fan of the "Free and Clear" marketing, there are several excellent options you can use on diapers as well as you other laundry. Just be sure it follows the rules above: no fragrance, no brighter/stainlifter, and no added softeners.
At this point you may say, but that is every detergent ever created, how will I cope with this insanity?
If you must use a detergent with any of these qualities then you accept your fate with the quality of your diapers. A friend of mine used a standard free and clear detergent with a pretty scent, but compensated by giving her diapers a monthly hot water and white vinegar soak and rinse. The build up of residual material is the issue, and if you have a way to combat it, more power to you and your fresh orange blossom smelling diapers.
A quick word on softeners and dyer sheets though, that is some terrible stuff to remove from both diapers and covers, and most pediatricians caution use of them on any baby items due to potential allergic reaction or rash. (I hope to cover this in a future post, so please argue with me about it then.)
So, this is the point in the program where I reveal what detergent I used and whole-heartedly endorse. None. I did not choose a detergent at all, after much frustration I went the route of a washing soap. I started using Charlie's Soap Laundry Powder on my diapers and later on all the household items. Our laundry was super clean and I did not need anything special for the diaper laundry. In fact, I sometimes washed all the baby items together in the same load! We did have issues finding the powder after the first year and made the switch to the liquid soap, but I had the same fantastic results, and to be honest, it was slightly less messy. I am firmly in the soap camp and know that there is an excellent community of cloth diaper folks who even make their own laundry soaps and save a crap ton of money doing so (DIY Cloth Diaper Detergent).
As promised, links to charts and figures:
Fluff Love University
Pinstripes and Polkadots
Mom Loves Best
I am a highly opinionated and sassy mother of three and wife to one. I hope you enjoy reading about my efforts to tackle the infuriating obstacles of life using straight talk and humor. If I say it, I mean it, or maybe I am being sarcastic. I like to focus on topics from my everyday life: parenting, cooking, crocheting, and a whole list of other things that inspire my rage.