People often think it is fine to use their regular detergent on their cloth diapers. It may be, but it is a good idea to check the ingredients first to make sure there is nothing listed that may be detrimental to cloth diapers.
These are the main offenders to look for:
Enzymes – naturally break down materials, may also cause children to break out
Dyes & Fragrances – harsh chemicals that may lead to skin irritation
Brighteners – leave build-up leading to smell issueSofteners – waterproof the fibers so that diapers will no longer absorb
I have seen enough detergent problems in cloth diapers to instruct people to start with a detergent known to be safe for cloth diapers from the beginning. There are ways to remove “bad” detergent build-up, but none of them are fun or guaranteed to work. It is also difficult to recommend which detergent will work best for you. Water conditions differ greatly by region, state, and sometimes even by city. Type of washer also plays a huge role in how detergents work. One of the best ways to find out what might work for you is to ask other local cloth diaperers with similar conditions what they use.
When we lived in Arizona, we had extremely hard water. I have also had front loaders since I started cloth diapering. When I started 11 years ago, I don’t recall there being any detergents specially formulated for cloth diapers. I started with Tide Free & Clear because some friends on mothering.com recommended it. It seemed to get the diapers clean, but I had to do quite a few rinses on each load to get the suds out of them. I also got a strong ammonia smell frequently, but was able to strip them with some success for short periods of time.
When my second son was born, he broke out almost immediately when I put the cloth diapers his older brother had used on him. I decided to try a different detergent and tried Mountain Green Free & Clear and was fairly successful with that. I didn’t seem to have any build-up issues, but the diapers always seemed to look dingy to me. I used Purex for a bit, but they changed the formula somewhere along the way and the new brew didn’t work as well for me. I used a box of Planet but didn’t feel that it really got the diapers clean with my hard water. I also tried Sun Free and had awful stink issues. I finally found Country Save at a local cloth diaper store and used it successfully for several years and entirely through my third son’s diaper days.
When my fourth son was on the way, I was seduced by the fun names and delicious scents of Rockin’ Green, and used their Hard Rock blend starting with prepping his diapers until we moved to Washington when he was two. Since we moved into a house with a water softener, I switched to the Classic Rock formula and had continued success. I have been happy with Rockin’ Green’s performance, and am excited that I can now justify using it on all of my laundry since we are now OFFICIALLY DONE WITH DIAPERS!