Every Monday, if I’ve received a submission, I will answer reader submitted questions. Questions don’t have to be cloth diaper related, just email maria at change-diapers.com with “Mailbox Mondays” in the subject!
Maria says (and no, I’m not talking to myself again!):
Hi, Maria! I’m a Maria, too! And I have a couple questions for you about detergent.
First, I’d love to know if you can recommend a good diaper detergent that is NOT clean-rinsing. I live in an apartment and have to wash my diapers at the shared laundry facility, so using many popular cloth diaper detergents like Rockin’ Green or Charlie’s is not an option for me!
Second, this one’s always puzzled me. If using less than the recommended amount of detergent can get nasty poopy diapers clean, then why don’t we do the same for all the rest of our laundry? (BONUS QUESTION!– exactly how much detergent AM I supposed to use for diapers, anyway? I’ve heard different opinions on that)
Thanks for your time answering questions! We Marias gotta stick together, don’t you know! 😉
These are great questions! I will apologize in advance that this will get long!
For those who may be wondering, when you use shared laundry facilities, typical “cloth diaper safe” detergents can pose a problem, because they tend to lift the detergent residue from the machine.
My first rule for diaper washing is “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” so if your diapers are clean, stink-free and not repelling, leave your routine alone! That said, it’s a good idea to use the same detergent on your clothing and your diapers both, so you can avoid one detergent working against the other.
Some people have great luck with cloth diaper detergents, other people, not so much. Others just don’t have them locally available to them and/or prefer to use a less expensive, and more readily available detergent. I think we’re all aware of the charts that list the no-no detergents and ingredients, but many people successfully use standard detergents, and I’m one of them.
I use Tide Original HE powder, using about 1/4 the lowest load line for a full load of diapers. Many other cloth diaper users report successfully using Tide Original powder. Powder detergents tend to rinse out more easily, and don’t gunk up your machine as much as liquid detergents do.
Another standard detergent brand that’s been widely used with success is Arm & Hammer with Oxyclean and Arm & Hammer Essentials. I’ve tried it, but don’t care for the liquid variety, and the smell was a little much for me. I’ve also heard of several people using Country Save.
For more eco-friendly options, I’ve heard mixed reviews of Planet, Seventh Generation, Ecos and Ecover detergents. I haven’t used any of them myself.
Though Tide is a no-no with the detergent police (and it’s not exactly the most “green” option), it seems to be the most common “standard” detergent that cloth diaper washers use with success. I’ve said before that I’m not a huge fan of the charts, I really think you need to do a little trial and error to find what works for you!
As far as your second question, I do have a water softener and an HE machine (I use HE powder of course) so I use less detergent than others, but I never use more than half of the lowest load line for my largest, most soiled loads of laundry. While most people wouldn’t be able to get anything clean with a tablespoon of detergent, I doubt even the hardest water and dirtiest clothing would need a full scoop/capful of detergent.
If you normally use the largest load line for your other laundry, try running them through a rinse cycle with no detergent and check for bubbles. I’m guessing a lot of people would be able to wash their laundry a few times without adding any, thanks to all the detergent residue! Really, why wouldn’t companies recommend using a huge scoop of detergent for regular laundry? It lines their pockets!
I think it’s a great idea to at least try using less detergent, and see if your clothes still get clean. I bet they will. If they do, you’ve just cut your detergent expense in half, and if they don’t, well, at least you tried!
As for your bonus question, the amount of detergent you use is also a trial and error experiment, depending on how hard your water is, what type of washer you’re using, and what detergent you choose.
If you are using a detergent marketed for cloth diapers, use the recommended amount (a little less for soft water.) If you’re using a standard detergent, I’d start with 1/4-1/2 the recommended amount for a typical diaper load (around 15 diapers.) You want to get them rinsed pretty clean, and I find that if I use too much detergent, I definitely need to do extra rinses. If you’re paying to wash your laundry, you certainly want to minimize rinses, so check your rinse cycle for bubbles, and cut back on the detergent if you’re seeing a lot.
The great experiment really gets complicated when you have stink issues. You have to figure out of the smell is from detergent residue (usually when they smell clean coming out of the wash, but stink when wet) or not enough detergent (usually when they still smell dirty right out of the wash.)
Bleach is another thing some people don’t like, but I find that if I start smelling some ammonia (mostly in the thicker inserts I use at night) a little bleach in with the inserts only knocks it right out!
Is anyone else breaking the detergent “rules” and using a standard detergent successfully? If so, what do you use?