There seems to be no ONE detergent that works for everyone. Different water types, machines and diaper stashes, means that you will get a variety of recommendations for detergents. You can also just go to just about any store and buy their store brand: Tide, Purex, and Gain to name a few and ALL will clean your diapers well. Just stay away from detergents with lots of plant oils, fabric softeners or bleach.
Recommended Detergents (Start with full amount of recommended detergent):
- Tide Original Powder (HE)
- If you little has sensitive skin we then recommend moving to Allens Naturally Liquid Laundry Detergent** (available from The Diaper Drawer) – perfect for Baby clothes and sensitive skin! Fragrance Free.
- For specific detergent safety check with us! We will help you decide if what you are currently using is safe for your cloth diapers!
- No fabric softeners or dryer sheets, which coat fabric and reduce absorbency. This includes ‘baby’ detergents such as Dreft. DO NOT use diaper rash creams that are not “cloth friendly” and avoid pure soap.
- Do not use Sanitize cycle on any cloth diapers!
- We recommend using pail liners (leaving the pail lid open) or Hanging wet bags for dirty diaper cloth storage
- WE DO NOT RECOMMEND SOAKING YOUR DIAPERS IN A WET PAIL. Soaking in caustic detergent eats away at natural fibers such as cotton, hemp, and bamboo.* (You can rinse with a diaper sprayer with plain water)
How to PREP your Diapers and Boosters
*Wash all natural fibers separate from other cloth (synthetics such as microfiber) for the first few washes as you wash off the natural oils. The oils from the natural fibers can wash off onto your other cloth and cause absorbency issues. You can wash them with towels and clothes.
* Shells and covers DO NOT NEED TO BE PREPPED only washed once before use
1. Wash AND dry all natural fiber inserts, soakers, all-in-one diapers and boosters 3-5 times in hot water (120° F or 140°F max) with a recommended detergent before you first use them. This enables diapers to absorb properly by removing natural oils and waxes. (You may add a rinse to ensure no detergent build up)
2. Tumble dry on warm between each wash to ensure shrinkage and proper absorbency.
3. They’ll continue to increase in absorbency with use, but that should be enough to get most of the natural oils washed out.
Once they’ve been prewashed, all diapers except wool can be washed and dried together.
* You can use your diaper after the first wash, but it will not be fully absorbent and may leak after about an hour. To save water and energy – when washing your natural fibers separately, you can wash them with your regular laundry, as long as you use a cloth friendly detergent. (It is good to use a cloth friendly detergent for all washes since detergent may remain in the drum of your washer between uses). Maximum absorbency will not be reached until 10 full wash/dry cycles have been completed.
Wash and Care for Hybrid Shells and Covers
Wash your shells with diapers. HANG TO DRY!!!
- KEEP IT SIMPLE
- PRE-WASH your diapers on cold with detergent (Line 1 of Tide) – make sure for an HE machine that the drum is 2/3-3/4 full with diapers and cloth wipes. You may need to add other clothing items to fill it up. Make sure you add SMALL clothes only I like to add baby PJs and tea towels and dish cloths!
- Open the door, fluff the diapers (pull them away from the wall of the machine)
- HOT wash on the normal cycle or heavy duty cycle (NEVER USE THE SANITIZE CYCLE, these are too hard on your diapers and are unnecessary)- cycle should be a minimum of 90 minutes and put on the extra rinse feature. Cloth diapers should be in contact with detergent for 45 minutes. Use the longest wash cycle that you have on your HE machine (NEVER THE SANITIZE CYCLE) USE THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF DETERGENT (line 4 of Tide). Not enough detergent and too much detergent both create problems.
- Tumble dry soakers, boosters.
- If you have stinky diapers, they aren’t getting clean enough and you need to add more detergent or switch brands
- To maintain diapers, we strongly recommend using GroVia Mighty bubbles once per month for a deep clean.
- “Stripping” should be needed rarely if at all. Tweak your detergent (switch brands or increase the amount) before thinking you need to strip you diapers! If you need to strip we recommend the mighty bubbles strip: Fill your bathtub half full of hot water and add 3 pods of might bubbles. Add Clean Diapers and Soak overnight. Then rinse in the tub and rinse in the machine! If diapers still smell after this we recommend a bleach wash in the machine. Sometimes mighty bubbles brings all the stink to the surface and a bleach wash after is required.
Do I need to add a water softener?
First – test your water for hardness! You can find the water hardness testers at pet stores and some home hardware stores.
If you are using Tide Original powder as we recommend then:
For water hardness 0-180 ppm – no softener needed
For water hardness 180-250 ppm – Add Borax 1/4 cup in the first wash cycle, and a 1/2 cup of in the second wash cycle (ADD SOFTENER RIGHT INTO THE DRUM)
For water hardness over 250 ppm – Add Borax 1/2 cup of water softener in both cycles, right into the drum of the machine.
Stains: The easiest way to clear up stains is hang diapers to dry in the sun right after they come out of the wash. Even if you do it inside through a window! It is safe to use a natural oxygen bleach occasionally if you want to keep your diapers whiter. Hanging your diapers to dry in the sun is the best way to eliminate stains (seems unlikely but its true! Try it!). Mighty Bubbles once a month will also help to battle stains!
Stinky diapers coming out of the wash: Gradually increase the amount of detergent you are using until the stink goes away.
Leaks: Are your diapers fully prepped? How long do you leave baby in diaper? (Change every ~2 hours) Is it time to add more absorbency with a booster? Consider changing from a microfiber insert to a more absorbent fabric like hemp, bamboo or cotton. Do you have the right fit? Leg gaps are often a leak culprit!
For more help with Cloth Diaper Laundry or further reading check out The Monarch Mommy laundry fundamentals here!