Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Great Cloth Diaper Detergent Debate

I really wanted this to be a HUGE expose' with tons of literature and facts being thrown at you but I hate secrets and I need to get this one off my chest. SO, I think I will make this a series of posts and we can and SHOULD all get involved and help each other out. Here goes.

I think somehow along the way, we as cloth diapering mamas, got MIS-informed. I'm going to personally blame bumGenius on my information as they were the first diaper I purchased and the biggest name on the market. I believed what they wrote and never questioned or second guessed. bumGenius has a LIST of things that should not be used in a detergent while washing their diapers: enzymes, brighteners, whiteners, dyes, perfumes, and essential oils.
*edited here to state that I believed that the ingredients that were told to use NOT to use was strictly for the sake of the cloth diaper. That is what I assumed "cloth diaper safe" meant.

WHY though?
Has anyone ever asked why? So we all started this huge search for the perfect detergent good enough for our diapers. Has anyone read the other BIG name website's washing instructions? Did you know that the majority of the sites I went to recommended TIDE! WTH? A detergent that I could ACTUALLY buy here locally? A detergent that has a household name? I had this HUGE spreadsheet of all the big name companies, with links to their washing techniques, their detergent brand of choice and what to avoid while washing their diaper (like bleach).
*edited to state that enzymes are being recommended by numerous cloth diaper companies.

I know that a lot of us are buying eco-friendly detergents and looking for something that will "do the job" correctly. Well, why is it then that EVERY single weekly cloth diaper chat, we are discussing stripping and ammonia issues? Why do we keep coming back to this issue? Why are we being asked and made to buy detergents that essentially aren't working (hence our issues) or our warranty will be voided?

Why have all of a sudden diaper companies coming up with detergents that correlate with their diapers to buy? As if we didn't spend enough money on the diapers, now we are being made to feel as if we should buy the matching detergent?!

Enzymes: they are natural! You can find enzymes in eco-friendly detergents like Ecover or Babyganics. Enzymes work with the dirty agents to get them clean. If it doesn't have an enzyme, it is essentially soap not detergent. Enzymes: the reason bumGenius says is a no-go....ready for it? May cause baby's tush to get a red, diaper shaped rash. Well, honestly, I think that is up to me as a parent to decide. Should I not give Zealand milk, because he MAY have an allergic reaction? Would an insurance policy be voided if I gave it to Zealand to try? All the while, shelling out big bucks to buy soy or goat's milk? (This comparison may be a tad different, but you get the point)

So, who started it? Why is it written this way? Why are we not second guessing the system in place? How do we fix this misinformation? How do we fix this ammonia/not clean diaper issue?

(This is not written to piss anyone off, I want to truly find the best detergent on the market for myself and ALL cloth diaper users, whether it be $1 or $100. I want it to be an informed decision though, not one of antics or advertising.)

(I's also like to thank Julie at Rumparooz, for getting me motivated to write this article. She informed me of enzymes and her companies washing routines!)



Pamela said...
I make my own detergent from Fels Naptha, Borax, and Washing Soda because it's cheap and I like to make stuff. And I totally bought into the nonsense that I should purchase the fancyschmancy diaper soap/detergent/whatever it is because one diaper in my stash said it couldn't be washed with borax.

But now? I'm *so* over that.

Jen said...

I think these are great questions to ask.

I know the reason that some of the big name detergents aren't recommended for cloth diapers or any baby garments is because of their strong fragrances and/or additives that can irritate the skin. But I know I've seen some on the shelves that are hypoallergenic.

For me, though, I know my own limitations. I don't know anything about how absorbancy is affected by different detergents, which is why I stick with tried and true. J

ust recently I learned how the chemicals in dryer sheets affect the absorbancy of fabrics they're dried with (neat trick - if you use dryer sheets, take your lint screen out of your dryer and sprinkle water on it. If the water just pools on top, you probably have residue/build up from your dryer sheets. Wash the link screen with regular dishwashing detergent, and try it again. Now the water should run through)

I'm in the process of trying Rockin' Green for the first time. I don't think it's too terribly expensive, since I have a HE washer ($15.95 for 90 loads). Baby Magic sells for $15.39 at Target for a 100 oz bottle, and only does about 64 loads.

I'm very interested to hear what other people have to say on this.

Sarah J. said...

I have been waiting to hear what you had to say on the subject since you started leaking hints on twitter!
For the first 5 months I cloth diapered, I used prefolds and had no idea I was supposed to be using special soap or detergent until I got my bumGenius. I associated the stink with microfiber since I didn't have any trouble when we were using prefolds. Maybe they aren't the real problem...

natalie said...

This is totally a discussion that needs to happen... I used a homemade detergent, like Pamela, above, but then read that the soap could cause repelling in FuzziBunz (which is what I mostly use)... and then I read that Borax was bad for the PUL...*groan*

So now I'm using soap nuts. And I was feeling great about that, because they're natural, they're cheap, and they're easy... and I ran across a lady claiming they made her diapers repel.

So I'm trying to decide whether to stick w/soap nuts or go back to 7th Generation, which worked great...

zealandsmom said...

Pamela- So you aren't having ANY issues with your homemade soap?

Jen- I'll look into absorbency and detergents and write about that! Thanks.

Sarah- I have a WHOLE lot more to write about, not just detergents, but actual SAFTEY and GREENliness of cloth diapers?!

Amy- I assume that Tide has enzymes. I think almost ALL mainstream detergents do.

Natalie- I am going to write about PUL, as not every company uses the same brand, so we need to find a detergent good for ALL! And that works and the doesn't cause ammonia or repelling!

Bobbi Janay @When did I go from a kid to a grown up? said...

Girl I agree, I was using something that was working had no problems and then changed and that is when all the issues we have been having started.

Rebecca O said...

Right now, I am using EcoStore powder detergent. And only because I won it recently. It seems to be working. I have to agree about the bumGenius diapers that I have. They do seem to stink no matter what I do.
I want to try soap nuts. And Rockin Green too. And I have tried Thirsties Pre-wash and Super-Wash. I am just so lost with all the options...I read one thing, then the next day read just the opposite. It's frustrating. I want something that I can buy locally (or order online for the same price) that works on ALL my diapers.

Anonymous said...

Well Ill tell you right now Tide free and clear gave my baby a rash becasue of the Enzymes and it cause a really bad build up, and all my diapers starts to stink...Eww, and I found Rockin Green and all that went away...I have tried other before that too and nothing worked to get the smell out..nothing! I was ready to give up the cloth dipaers! Ahh! I dont even listen to what some diaper brands put on the lables anymore..drives me mad but RnG works for us so thats what Im staying with!
A big I <3 you to Kim for RnG!

Jackie at 3littleones said...

what a great post! I have always wondered this myself. When I first started to cloth diaper - I used a homemade detergent from borax, washing soda and fels naptha. When I read bad stuff about the fels naptha, I changed my homemade to borax, washing soda and oxyclean free. I never had any issues w/ this formula. I've tried soap nuts & liked those except I would always forget about them and they would go thru the dryer and then I would have to stop the dryer if I wanted to do a new load of laundry - lol!
Now I use Rockin Green - b/c I love the scents - I feel like it helps keep my laundry room smelling pretty :) I'm getting cheap again though and am tempted to go back to my homemade version. Especially b/c I'm on my last baby adn my cloth is in it's last year so if the borax really wears it down, at this point, I'm not too concerned anymore. 18 months ago I was much concerned about all my cloth lasting long to get through my current baby too :)

Attila & Tamara said...

Hmmm.... I am so interested to see where this discussion leads!

We are using soap nuts and have very hard water. I have found that if I use Calgon every few washes, it helps with the ammonia issue. I do feel that my diapers are getting clean. This is the only thing we've ever tried (we've been CDing for about 6 months).
I have a friend who uses prefolds and covers and she just uses regular detergent--not even the "free" version and she said she hasn't had any problems. She's been doing this for a year--she didn't even know you were supposed to use a special detergent.

I'm anxiously anticipating the follow up posts and comments that we'll see here!

TheGirl said...

Oh Mama, I am so glad you are starting this. When I started cloth diapering I used Seventh Generation on all my diapers, now I do everything you are supposed to, Rockin Green or Charlies and you know what, as much as I do like them,my diapers do stink. they stink all the time. I can't wait to read the next post in this series! Help the mamas! haha

Andrea said...

I have to agree with Audrey, Nicole & Brianne's Mom - I was using regular detergent...really anything and I kept getting a build up, and they started smelling worse and worse. It actually got to the point where I wasn't sure that they were even coming clean. I finally broke down and bought Rockin Green and I LOVE it! No more smelly diapers - in fact they actually smell clean! :) So, I feel like I'm in the same boat, it's so darn expensive, but what's a mama to do? We gotta have clean dipes!

skgaff said...

THANK YOU!!!! This definitely needed to be said. I started with Charlie's Soap and it gave my daughter a terrible rash. Tried bumGenius detergent and a couple others. Finally switched to Tide at the recommendation of Stephanie from Abby's Lane (awesome diaper store) and have not had any problems since!!!

taylorUSMCwife said...

I have used All Free and Clear (worked well, used for 2 months with no problems noticed), Country Save (worked just fine and super cheap but now our commissary doesn't carry it), and Rockin Green (works fine for me, love the scents, but it is kinda pricey compared to the other two).

This laundry thing is confusing to me. My mom just started making laundry and dish detergents and is soooo happy. Maybe I will go that route?!?

taylorUSMCwife said...

Pamela, I have the same question! You don't have any stinkies or build-up issues with the homemade detergent? TIA

Jen said...

I will say this for Rockin' Green - I just "rocked a soak" on some old towels that had a musty smell I just couldn't get out. I was thinking it was time to toss them, but for some bizarre reason, I'm really attached to them.

I did my first soak, and the water turned a yucky brown color right away. My husband took them out of the tub and left them wet in the sink for several hours thinking that was fine. Got home, and they still had a musty smell.

Did another soak, this time only for 2 hours. Water was actually pretty clear after the soak. Washed on Hot/Cold, and they came out...smelling musty. Maybe a little less musty than before, but definitely musty.

Decided to take a chance, and rocked another soak yesterday for 2 hours in super hot water. The water was a little cloudy, but not dirty. Ran them through a rinse-only cycle in the washer, and they came out smelling like...nothing. Dryed them, still no smell.

Going to test them tonight to see if they musty smell returns after they get wet again.

I'm kind of wondering - is this because Rockin' Green has a great formula, or just because I've soaked them 3 times in hot water & detergent. Has anyone tried "rockin' a soak" with their regular detergent?

maddec said...

Hmm. I have a very hard time believing that there is some big conspiracy within the bigger cd companies to sell detergent. Most of them are cding mamas, too. I mean, really, if it was all about cash and not caring about customer service and babies tender skin, they'd let you ruin your diapers and happily sell you new ones. A lot of stripping and ammonia issues are related to local water conditions. I think companies like bumgenius do their very best to do extensive research and provide guidelines that are going to help the most people take the best care of their diapers. Like you said, we're free to take the advice or leave it.

zealandsmom said...

Maddec-I agree take the info or leave it but why can't I see your blogger profile? Why is it private? Is it because you possibly work for bumGenius?
AND Fuzzi Bunz has their own detergent but yet they still recommend Tide? So other cloth diaper companies don't care about babies hineys?

maddec said...

LOL! No, def not an employee of anyone. I've got 4 kids--isn't that job enough? I don't know about the profile thing--I don't blog, it used my google account name.

I do live in St. Louis and visit the Cotton Babies store in person and did a detergent test for bumgenius months ago, though, so I guess that is why I feel like I know some about the heart of the company. I thought the tester was the best thing I had used on my diapers in years, but was told by Cotton Babies that they would not use that formula b/c something like 10% of the babies that tested had rash during the test. Since it was inconclusive whether the rash was from the det, they dropped it and moved on. To me, that communicated a devotion to care for babies above profit. B/c I would have bought that detergent! :)

I don't know about all the ins and outs of diff companies and their warranties, so I can't explain FB. Do they offer the same one year warranty that bumgenius does? I can't imagine they'd want to replace FB that had been washed irresponsibly, ya know?

hannah said...

This is such a great question. I have been asking it myself. I've noticed so many CD stores and manufacturers say not to use Free & Clear detergents. Of course when I started cloth diapering three weeks ago, I didn't know this, and all I had was All Free & Clear. Then I read about how this was going to leave a coating on my diapers after a few weeks and cause them to stink and leak.

I was a little worried about having use this on my diapers for several weeks. But at the same time, I haven't seen any concrete proof. No studies done, no real evidence cited. The English teacher in me needs support for this argument!

I just stripped my diapers yesterday to try to rid them of this supposed build up caused by the All Free & Clear, even though I haven't noticed any difference in performance. I read that I should rinse them on hot until I didn't see any soap bubbles (not agitation bubbles) in the water. I never saw any soap bubbles at all!

This of course makes me wonder how much truth there is to this. Are we just being hoodwinked into buying natural detergents because the cloth diapering retailers and manufacturers are in bed with the natural laundry companies?

gnatalie said...

I'm excited to read more in this series. Interesting that the only diapers I have stink issues with our my BG's. I'd love to know that I could by detergent at a local store. Thanks for addressing this issue, and thanks to Julie @RaR. Love my Rumparooz :)