>This may be long, but it’s very relevant and I want to get my entire story out there.
I’ve mentioned before that detergent is a hot button issue for me because it was the only thing that prevented me from cloth diapering earlier. So, I’ll start from the beginning.
When I chose the diapers I wanted to try, I knew I wanted to start with just a few to see how it went. I also knew that I needed a “safe” detergent. Googling led me to a chart with stars, that rated detergents based on their ingredients. The one I was looking at rated detergents from 1 to 4 red stars. None of the “4 star” detergents were available at any of our grocery stores, Target, Wal Mart, or anywhere else I could think to check.
So, I started looking into ordering some. At the time of my research, there were 4 or 5 detergents that I could order online, that had 4 red stars/thumbs up ratings. I eliminated the detergents that were reported to give babies burns, as well as those with so-so reviews.
Now, keep in mind that I’m
cheap frugal, so my maximum price for detergent was $2.99 for a 32 load bottle, and I’d only pay that much if we desperately needed it. My “stock up” price was closer to free, or pennies.
A single bottle of the “thumbs up” detergent was about $12, then add shipping. I could potentially buy a case to bring the price per bottle down a bit, but yikes. All this for 3 diapers I didn’t even know if I’d like? So, that’s where it ended. I gave up on cloth diapering. I couldn’t make 3 diapers a $75 experiment.
When my son’s rashes (clearly caused by disposable diapers since they disappeared when we switched to cloth) were so bad that it hurt to look at, I decided I was going to do this darn it! One way or another.
My poor husband searched high and low at every store within a 30 mile radius, in at least 3 cities and two states. He finally found a 4 star/thumbs up detergent at an Organic store we had just discovered. He bought it and I ordered my diapers.
I googled the chart again (I hadn’t bookmarked it) and was shocked to see that the detergent he had bought had only a single red star, not four! What?! Had I made a mistake?? It didn’t take me too long to figure out that there are two different charts out there that look very much the same, but one uses 1-4 red stars, and the other uses 1-5 stars: red, black or gold.
I was upset. I had ordered the diapers and was anxiously awaiting their arrival. It had been 5 years now since my first interest in cloth diapering (before my daughter was born.) I turned to the ladies in a cloth diaper group I belong to, to get advice and find out what they did. They all recommended one work-at-home-mom made detergent. Shipping was included, and while still quite expensive to me, it was cheaper than the alternative, and highly recommended. I ordered it and just washed the diapers in the Method detergent I had while I was waiting for it to arrive.
That WAHM made detergent worked for a while and stopped working after a few months. I started using Naturoli Soap nuts (another brand of soap nuts are listed on one chart; no soap nuts are listed on the other.) They stopped working after a while too. I used a sample of Rockin’ Green that I received, then I began using Tide after seeing it was used successfully by so many Moms. I figured if it didn’t work on the diapers, I could use it on our clothing, and while far more expensive than my standard detergent, it was still inexpensive compared to others. The amount of money I had already spent on diaper washing items sitting in my laundry room, was just ridiculous. I cannot keep spending $15-$20 (or more!) on things that don’t work. (side note: I’ve also been very successfully using a different WAHM detergent for several days recently.)
So, the charts. How are they made? Well, there are common “no-nos” for diaper detergent, including optical whiteners/brighteners, fabric softeners, fragrance and enzymes. These charts were compiled based on experience, right? Nope! They were compiled solely based on what ingredients detergents contain.
How does one get listed on this chart? Beats me. I suppose you’d have to contact the maker of the chart with a list of your ingredients, proof that you test regularly to ensure PH balance (or whatever else they are looking for.) Who knows what else. The little guy loses again. Rockin’ Green is probably the biggest name in WAHM detergent, yet it was JUST listed on the charts. Even so, if you buy scented Rockin’ Green, wave buh-bye to a star (and potentially your warranty.)
Well, they have research to back up the fact that those ingredients would damage diapers, right? Nope! In fact, several diaper manufacturers recommend using the standard “no-no” detergents, which contain enzymes. They say they from their experience they do not damage diapers, and in fact get them clean.
The optical whiteners/brighteners and fabric softeners make sense to me. They would bind to the fabric of the diapers and potentially cause repelling. But, worst case, you strip and start over. Fragrance and enzymes (in my opinion!) have more to do with the baby’s bottom than with the diapers. Even in my soft water, I am not usually able to smell the detergent after rinsing, and if I’ve accidentally used too much and can smell it, I rinse again. My diapers are rinsed clean, and my son’s poor sensitive hiney was never bothered by the enzymes in the detergent either.
It is my humble opinion that someone interested in cloth diapering should find the most highly recommended detergent, which is also affordable, available locally, and that they wouldn’t mind using on their other laundry, should it not work on the diapers. Use it. If it works, sweet. If it doesn’t, well, strip and try again. You’re out a couple bucks, and can use it on your other laundry.
So what is the problem? Certain diaper manufacturers may not honor their warranty if you have used a detergent that isn’t “5 stars” on the chart that they recommend.
Maybe I’m too analytical, but where is the evidence that fragrance (etc.) will damage a part of the diaper that would otherwise be covered under warranty?
How about a controlled study. Take 30 identical washing machines, supplied with identical water. 30 brand new, identical diapers, each washed with a different detergent 200 times (or whatever they consider to be the lifetime of the diaper.) In fact, each diaper should be “soiled” from the same “supply” between each washing, right? Since the ammonia in urine could affect the results.
Photos and scientific testing should be done after every x number of washes to evaluate the elastic, aplix, laundry tabs, inner lining, waterproof outer, and any other part of the diaper that would be covered under warranty.
Only then should they be “allowed” to void a warranty based on the detergent used (quotes around “allowed” because I know they will do whatever they darn well please). I would think that the bleach they (the company I am thinking of) say is OK to use once per month, would be much more likely to damage diapers than fragrance. I was discussing this with my husband and he kept interrupting me, outraged. He said (the man comes out in him here!) it would be like Ford saying that your warranty was void if you didn’t use Shell gasoline. I said, yeah but if they said that there was an ingredient in Exxon gasoline that would damage your engine… He said, “Then Exxon should sue them!” Where’s the proof?
So, what do I do? Spend potentially hundreds of dollars having pricey “safe” detergents shipped to me, hoping they will work? What if none of them work? Warranties don’t cover staining, repelling, stink or my baby’s rash. Should I just stick with disposables? Or should I find a detergent that works, and stick with it, rules be darned?
I am a strict rule follower, but I chose to be able to cloth diaper my son. Save his tush, save the earth and save my wallet too. Unfortunately, that may mean that an issue I’ve had with a couple of diapers, will not be covered under warranty. The same problem, if experienced by someone using a “5-star” detergent, would be covered.
There were two diapers that are bad enough to be sent in. Two packages of “safe” detergent would cost about as much as those diapers. So, I will enjoy my clean, stain and stink-free diapers, my son’s rash-free tush, and all that extra $ in my pocket can buy two new diapers from a different company.
A truly good product will hold up just fine with typical use. Meaning, average use and washing with a number of detergents that are affordable, and available at any grocery store. If your product requires delicate handling and pricey detergent, how good is it?
I would love to see fluff on every tush, but if detergent is such a hassle for someone who wants to cloth diaper, it’s not going to help our case in persuading people who are on the fence (or on the other side of it!)
Silent *SCREAM* so I don’t wake my son. 🙂