Why is cloth diaper detergent such a hot button issue for me? Why do I care how you wash your diapers? Why does an internet “fight” about this way vs. that way, and arguments over semantics make me want to tear my hair out? Well, first of all because the detergent rules/fear is what stopped me from cloth diapering earlier, and I was pretty ticked when I found out that what I’d been told through the old game of telephone was simply untrue (yet 4 years later, the same things are repeated daily.)
Second, because I struggled for SIX MONTHS with washing issues and now I HATE to see people going through what I went through. Washing 20 diapers in the largest load setting, yet using 1/2 tsp of detergent. For poop. And pee. And wondering why the diapers reek.
Third, it drives me bonkers when people say “but I use 1/2 tsp of xyz detergent to wash 20 diapers and it works GREAT!” Yet that same person needs to constantly strip diapers, use additives, and may even resort to bleach, or using mainstream detergent to “strip.” Then those same people are in groups/boards etc. telling new cloth diaper users the same old stuff about washing diapers. Your diapers will not get clean with water alone (and yes, 1/2 tsp of detergent in a large load is essentially water alone.) If they don’t smell clean, they aren’t.
Use the proper amount of detergent, whatever detergent you choose. A larger load size requires more detergent. More water does not equal better for cloth diapers. It’s a delicate balance between temperature, agitation and water. Too much water means the diapers float around vs. agitating against each other (or the agitator in a top loader.) Hard water requires even more detergent. The detergent has to “work” on the minerals in the water, so if you are barely using any, there’s no more left to work on the diapers! Repeated rinsing can cause more issues with hard water as minerals are re-deposited on the diapers. (Note: consider Calgon water softener if you have very hard water.)
Lastly, I hate to see people decide against cloth because they are frightened of voiding warranties, or switch back to disposables because they can’t get their diapers clean by following the “rules.” I think manufacturers are doing consumers a huge disservice by saying that mainstream detergents will void warranties, and implying that they will damage the diapers or hurt your child. No two manufacturers seem to say exactly the same thing either, even though many brands are very, very similar in construction/materials. I double hate that I am so, so afraid to say something like that, lest I totally alienate myself, make all diaper manufacturers hate me, and ruin any chances of working with anyone ever again. On the other hand, I’m not alone here! There are many reputable manufacturers and retailers that recommend using normal amounts of detergent, even (GASP) mainstream detergents. They have decades of anecdotal evidence between them, to show that your diapers won’t repel, stink or fall apart, which is about all the “other side” has. (Also dislike that I feel like I’m “choosing sides.” I’m on team clean diapers!)
I don’t think there is ONE detergent or ONE perfect method of washing that is right (not having trouble? Great, don’t change a thing!), but at least use the proper amount of detergent, and realize that stinky diapers and requiring regular stripping means your diapers aren’t clean. Take a look at your wash routine and with some small tweaks, you can get them clean without a bunch of hoopla!
Have you struggled with washing diapers? Did the oft repeated “rules” steer you wrong?