Every Monday (if I have received a submission)I will answer reader submitted questions in my Mailbox Mondays post, and ask readers to weigh in with their opinions.
Questions don’t have to be cloth diaper related, just email maria at change-diapers.com with “Mailbox Mondays” in the subject, or Fill out my contact form for readers, which you will always be able to find on my Contact Page.
I’ve got a two questions for ya.
#1: My All Free & Clear detergent has “optical brighteners” in it…how does that effect cloth diapers?
#2: What safe-for-cloth-diaper detergents are available at department and grocery stores? I don’t really want to order detergent online (not even really sure why) and we only have one or two ‘natural’ stores in town and I don’t think either has some of detergents I’ve seen for cloth diapers. (i.e. charlies soap or soap nuts etc.)
I’ve been using All Free & Clear happily for a year, but want to try something new.
OK so, I’m reading this. I’m reading, reading, then I get to this: “I’ve been using All Free & Clear happily for a year, but want to try something new.”
Cue ominous music…
In all seriousness, for the love of Pete, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! Switching from a detergent that is working well for you could cause a long process of stink, stripping and endless rinsing. Take it from me, don’t do it.
Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system…optical brighteners are chemicals that bind to the fibers of your laundry. While they don’t actually make your laundry any cleaner, they absorb ultraviolet light, and reflect back blue light, making your laundry appear whiter. Interestingly, military approved detergents do not contain optical brighteners. Clothing washed with them could potentially make soldiers visible to night-vision, and therefore vulnerable to attack. If you buy All Free & Clear in a commissary, it will likely say that it does not contain optical brighteners. I’m not in the military, so I’m not an expert, but I believe the uniform care instructions may have been relaxed in some branches to allow optical brighteners.
The concern with optical brighteners and cloth diapers is first, that they could potentially cause repelling since they have to bind to the fabric in order to work. In addition, they could potentially be irritating to skin.
I haven’t been able to find any “safe” detergents locally. However, some that have reportedly been found in grocery stores are: Allen’s Naturally, Country Save and Charlie’s Soap. Standard A.K.A. “no-no” detergents that work well for a lot of people include Arm & Hammer Essentials, Arm & Hammer with OxyClean and Tide Original Powder.
While I haven’t personally used these, a few “green” detergents have been used with mixed success, and may be available locally. They include Ecover, Planet and Seventh Generation. Generally, “green” or biodegradable detergents will not contain optical brighteners, but check with the company to be sure.
I really think that if a detergent is working of you, keep using it, “rules” be darned. However, with something like brighteners, it can take long-term use for buildup to cause issues. I would think after a year of use, you’re in the clear, but who knows, right?
Now that I’ve told you way more than you wanted to hear…
Edit 5/17/12: In case anyone else finds this post. Like the commenter below, I had been unable to find any evidence that optical brighteners damage your diapers, or somehow permanently attach to fibers. I try to be cautious since I don’t want to be the black sheep in the cloth diaper world, but this sort of thing (recommendations without science behind it) were what fueled my washing survey and washing cloth diapers post. I have been using a detergent with enzymes, brighteners & the like for more that two years with no issue. I’ve been using a touch of Oxi Clean Free in every load for more than a year & no longer need to use bleach on my microfiber.
A true laundry expert assisted with an RDIA Laundry Science Webinar and explained that if diapers are rinsed well, enzymes will not harm diapers or baby. Any damage may be due to a reaction when chemicals react with heat from a dryer.
Following the webinar (in March I believe?) I suggested that we look into the idea that optical brighteners build up & damage your diapers, and I really hope we do. Thank you for the link!!
5/24/12 I wrote another post about this.
Cloth diaper care recommendations have been repeated so much, and while the theories make sense, the science and real world use just doesn’t support them. As always, carefully follow manufacturer instructions, I am not responsible for damage and so forth.
How about the rest of you? Do you use a standard detergent or one that is known to contain optical brighteners? Did you have any problems? How long did you use the detergent before you started having problems?