Which detergents are cloth diaper safe? You may have seen detergent indexes…charts…top choice lists. Wouldn’t you like to know the SIMPLE TRUTH?
Every single detergent is cloth diaper safe unless it also contains synthetic fabric softener. You will know it has fabric softener added because it will say right on the front in large letters. You will not have to hunt around on the bottle.
Tide with Downy is the only detergent that I know of that is made like this. I’m happy to update this page if someone has more information that I’m not aware of.
Take a deep breath and know you will not ruin cloth diapers because of a non cloth diaper safe detergent. The fabric softener works by coating fabrics. So it, in essence, prevents the diaper’s fibers from absorbing. The worst thing that can happen if you do use this type of detergent, is that you may have to take a few steps to remove it.
If this happened to me, I’d personally run my (already washed) cloth diapers through a long hot wash cycle with a tiny bit of detergent (for a full load this would be less than line 1) with one extra rinse. And of course stop using the detergent that contains synthetic fabric softener. It may take a few washes to get them back to normal. You can use them after this first initial wash, just adjust accordingly in the meantime. That could mean adding another insert as a booster or changing more frequently.
You shouldn’t have lasting effects once you stop using the detergent.
Are detergent indexes and lists useless? Yes and No.
Since there are no actual scientific cloth diaper laundry studies, peer reviewed information, or certifications all of the information you will find is based on that person’s own research, interpretation of said research, combined with their personal experiences. Does that make indexes and lists useless? No. It just means that it is an OPINION, not a fact or a law.
Detergents work differently based on water type, the machine being used and what is being washed. A detergent’s effectiveness will vary from person to person. Basically, even if 200 people say it’s the only thing that worked for them, you’ll find another 200 that say it was the worst thing ever.
Why do I NOT recommend following detergent indexes and other detergent lists?
They give people a false sense of a guarantee. People look at it and think, “If I used the top rated detergent I’ll have no issues”.
Consider the chart’s information, but also do other research from a variety of sources, then use common sense and apply. A really good place to start with detergents is often the one you already use on your clothing. If it does a good job with that, it will likely also work well on cloth diapers. Just no synthetic fabric softener.
Cloth diapering and washing is as simple or complicated as you let it be. Never blindly follow ANYTHING you read or hear without first thinking about it and how it may work for you and your situation.
You don’t need a science degree or a complicated wash routine to get diapers clean. It’s just really dirty laundry. Treat them as such.
For more information visit my Top 10 Washing Tips page. It will give you a good foundation to create or fix your wash routine.
If you have found a detergent you love, please feel free to share it and your experience!