Regardless of whether you’re using cloth diapers or we’re just talking about baby clothes and items that need regular washing, babies seriously add to the laundry pile!
The laundry piles will never cease, but once you get the hang of washing cloth diapers, the added effort you’ll have to put in over disposables is minimal.
Of course, as with all parenting-related things, washing cloth diapers does require some practice – and the right tools.
One of these is having the best detergent for cloth diapers you could possibly get. Why work too hard when you can have something else take the workload off your shoulders instead, right?
Choosing the right cloth diaper detergent can make or break your cloth diapering experience.
Not only will your cloth diapers last more if you choose the right product, but the correct detergent will safeguard against leakages as well as remove all signs of staining and residue buildup.
In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about choosing the best detergent for cloth diapers out there.
But first, let’s go over a few things we need to discuss.
Best Detergent for Cloth Diapers – a Quick Look at Our Top 6 Recommendations
Note: When clicking on any of the below links, you’ll go to the product listing pages on Amazon, where you can read further information, see current prices and read customer reviews.
- GroVia Mighty Bubbles Laundry Treatment
- Rockin’ Green Natural Laundry Detergent Powder
- Charlie’s Soap Laundry Powder
- Seventh Generation Ultra Power Plus Laundry Detergent
- Allens Naturally Liquid Soap Laundry Detergent
- RLR Natural Powder Laundry Detergent
Best Detergent for Cloth Diapers – a More Detailed Look at Our Top 6 Recommendations
Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do about those mountains of laundry that will be calling out your name pretty soon. That’s just an aspect of parenting we all have to accept.
However, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do to make your job a whole lot easier! Start off by having a look at some of the best detergents for cloth diapers out there today.
These baby detergents work for you, not against you, so you won’t feel like switching back to using disposables anytime soon!
GroVia Mighty Bubbles Laundry Treatment
The GroVia Mighty Bubbles laundry treatment is a powder treatment that’s been specifically designed to treat cloth diapers.
This is not a baby laundry detergent for cloth diapers in and of itself, instead it’s a laundry treatment product which contains pods that dissolve completely in the washing machine.
It’s made without ammonia, alcohol, ethers, and Phosphate, is a safe detergent for all washers, and is HE compliant.
It’s made from the following list of natural ingredients:
- Sodium carbonate
- Sodium percarbonate
- Sodium polyitaconate
- Oxygen bleach activator
- Sodium silicate
This product works absolutely great on most (if not all) cloth diapers and inserts alike, and it excels at removing buildup of urine. You can even use these pods on charcoal bamboo (microfiber).
It also does a great job at getting that nasty poop smell out of your baby’s cloth diapers.
You should also have absolutely no problem whatsoever using these pods with hard water.
People from all over the country who have hard well water use this perfectly fine, and report that they notice no color changes whatsoever (unless it’s their cloth diapers getting back to white!).
For those of you who have hard water, you should be fine treating your cloth diapers with this product once every 6 weeks or so. That’s usually the sweet spot for the best results.
If you’re looking for a quick and effective cloth diaper stripping product that doesn’t do much (if any at all) damage to the shells, you’ve found it!
Seriously, give it a try and see for yourself just how much dirt and oil this product manages to get out of your cloth diapers. You’ll be surprised what comes out of there, especially if you thought you had clean diapers!
Rockin’ Green Natural Laundry Detergent Powder
This is a plant-based clean rinsing natural detergent that was specifically designed to be used by people with access to soft to moderate water. It’s also grey water safe and septic safe.
It’s excellent for use as a cloth diaper detergent, even though it was not specifically designed to only serve this purpose.
Thanks to its natural ingredients, it’s a great choice for babies with sensitive skin, chemical sensitivities, and allergic temperaments.
It’s made from the following list of ingredients:
- Sodium carbonate
- Sodium per carbonate
- Natural chelating agents
- Sodium sulfate
- Biodegradable surfactants
- Natural fragrance (if scented)
It does not contain any fillers or dyes, and it’s free from phosphates, bleach, dyes, optical brighteners, parabens and SLS / SLES. It’s vegan, gluten free, biodegradable, and was never tested on animals during the manufacturing process.
For those of you worried about their cloth diapers fading colors after a few washes with detergent, there’s no fading with this product.
Parents who have been using this detergent for many months/a couple of years on end report that their diaper covers still have vivid colors.
All in all, you can rely on this detergent to keep your cloth diapers in perfect condition – no smells, no stains, and no compromised absorption.
It’s also great that you don’t really need to use much of detergent at all to clean your cloth diapers. A little goes a very long way with this product, which means you won’t have to buy new detergent as frequently.
When used as intended, you can expect a bag to last you a few months, even if you wash your baby’s cloth diapers up to three times a week.
Charlie’s Soap Laundry Powder
This is an eco-friendly cleaning powder that’s great for use on cloth diapers.
it’s a hypoallergenic & non-toxic washing soda that’s made from natural ingredients and is EPA safer choice certified. As a matter of fact, each and every bottle has only four ingredients.
It’s fragrance-free and is an excellent choice for babies with sensitive skin.
It’s also safe for use if you prefer to hand wash your baby’s dirty diapers instead of having them cleaned in the washing machine.
You can also use this to deep clean your cloth diapers, and it does a great job at that, too.
As of this writing, there’s three different sizes for you to choose from: 50 loads, 100 loads and 300 loads.
Overall, it rinses very well, leaves behind practically no detergent residues whatsoever, and has your cloth diapers come out very clean and soft.
There’s absolutely no detergent deposit that causes your cloth diapers to stink or repel water after a few cycles, and it works great in HE machines.
It should be noted, though, that it’s best to try out a small sample of this product first before you commit to a whole bucket. Just like any other laundry soap you might be making a switch to, your baby could develop skin irritation to it.
That’s very unlikely to happen, because there’s only 4 ingredients in this product, but still – stay on the safe side and make sure first!
Charlie’s Soap have a few helpful pages for you to check out:
- Here’s a page on how to best wash your cloth diapers with their product: http://www.charliesoap.com/faq_laundry.html#laundry
- And here’s a page on how to get the best results possible from using their product with your HE machine: http://www.charliesoap.com/faq_laundry.html#machines
Seventh Generation Ultra Power Plus Laundry Detergent
This baby’s laundry detergent from Seventh Generation is designed with plant based ingredients, and makes absolutely no use of any dyes or artificial brighteners.
It’s an excellent choice for those of you who constantly battle stains in your baby’s cloth diapers, because it’s formulated with PlantTech, which offers 20% more stain-fighting power.
It’s perfect for when you need to go the extra mile to deal with stains or extra messy cloth diapers, as it’s one of the strongest plant based detergents on the market (if not the strongest) and is a cloth diaper safe detergent.
You’re fine to do whichever you prefer, washing them by hand or popping them in the washing machine and letting that do its thing.
Overall, this is one of the best eco friendly detergents that work extremely well on cloth diapers.
No stinks, no traces of urine and earth friendly – what more could we ask for?
Allens Naturally Liquid Soap Laundry Detergent
This is a recommended detergent by the leading cloth diaper manufacturers out there.
The following is a list of ingredients it contains:
- Linear Alkylaryl Sulfonate
- Sodium Chloride
As you can see, it contains no harsh dyes or fragrances, and it gets everything clean and looking bright. You baby is also likely no never experience a diaper rash with this, even if they have sensitive skin.
It’s also biodegradable, and will do well with a septic system if that’s what you have at home.
If you’re looking for some of the strongest detergent for cloth diapers, this probably isn’t it.
It’s completely fine if you intend to buy this for use with your normal laundry, but for cloth diapers (especially when dealing with bad messes and stains), you can find other stronger options that give them a better cleaning.
You might be able to make it work for you if your baby’s poop isn’t that bad, and you make use of a good cloth diaper sprayer to knock off the poop into the toilet!
It also lasts a long while, and will see you through many loads before you need to buy another one. It may seem expensive on the front end, but keep this in mind.
You could literally go a year before having to buy detergent again, and that’s even if you do a load of diapers every day.
When using an HE washer and using this detergent for all your laundry (and not just for your baby’s cloth diapers), then this bottle can easily last you a year.
So, if you’re looking to minimize on the cost you’re paying per load, this is some of the most cost-efficient stuff you can get!
Some cloth diapering parents even boast about a bottle lasting them 2 years when using the recommended amount, and that’s not something you hear about everyday!
RLR Natural Powder Laundry Detergent
This is a natural laundry treatment powder that’s specifically designed for babies with sensitive skin.
It is hypoallergenic, non-toxic, vegan, and biodegradable. It makes absolutely no use of any phosphates, parabens, optical brighteners, SLS/SLES, or artificial fragrances.
It should be noted that RLR is not exactly a bleach, bluing, or detergent. In reality, RLR is a proprietary blend of sodium carbonate.
Pure sodium carbonate is indeed the main ingredient of RLR, but the concentration in this product is actually much stronger than standard washing soda.
It’s very strong, so you can rely on it when it comes to stripping the stink (and any possible residue) from your baby’s cloth diapers. It also doesn’t need multiple washes to do this – in fact, one wash is often all you need.
If you’re looking for something to use for deep cleaning your baby’s cloth diapers, this is an excellent choice to consider.
So, all in all, this is a great laundry booster to use to deep clean and strip diapers.
If you’re about to form a stash of cloth diapers that were used before, then this is exactly what you need to strip second hand cloth diapers, get all the gunk out and reset the fabrics before your baby wears them!
It works very well and has a very mild (if any) smell to it, which is excellent for families with sensitive skin. This is especially true if you’ll be using it to wash other pieces of clothing besides your baby’s cloth diapers.
Do I Need a Specific Detergent for Cloth Diapers? Can’t I Use Any Detergent?
There is an expansive selection of detergents available out there, all promising to achieve one thing or another.
There are also extensive detergent lines dedicated solely to cloth diapers.
While these may be the first choice for the uninitiated, it’s good to know that just because a product boasts of the magic it can bring to your little one’s cloth diapers, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the best option out there.
In fact, many moms swear by regular detergent to achieve a perfect wash, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that, if done right.
Still, there are some elements you need to look out for, whether you’re going for a specific cloth diaper laundry detergent or a regular one.
For example, and contrary to what most people would think at first, a number of cloth diaper detergents contain harmful ingredients that can easily lead to rashes and irritation if not rinsed well.
This is something you’d want to avoid, especially if your baby’s skin is sensitive. Ideally, you should always read the ingredient list first before you ever buy a detergent, even if the product is marketed as ‘natural’.
That said, if a cloth diaper detergent has all the elements we’ll outline below, then it’s good to go!
The same applies for regular detergents, too. There are great regular baby detergents that work perfectly on cloth diapers, and then there are ones which basically ruin them at the first go.
So, to sum it up: no, you do not need to use a detergent specifically designed for use on cloth diapers, but you can’t use any detergent on your cloth diapers either. Read on to see what I mean!
What Makes a Cloth Diaper Detergent Recommendable?
Many parents have shared their reasons for using cloth diapers, and I’m sure you have your own, too.
These reasons range from environmental factors, to budgetary matters, and a desire to prevent exposure to harmful chemicals.
Unfortunately, though, it’s super easy to have all these factors negated with the use of an inappropriate detergent.
This is what you should take into consideration when purchasing a detergent for cloth diapers:
We all love a good scent (especially on diapers), but you wouldn’t want to irritate your baby’s skin just for the sake of a lovely smell.
So, opt for a detergent that has fewer fragrances (or ideally no artificial fragrances at all) to prevent diaper rash.
To help eliminate any undesirable odors, add half a cup of baking soda to your load.
Free From Whitening or Brightening Enzymes
The recommendations are mixed on this one: while enzymes are more effective in removing stains, they can irritate your little one’s skin as well as shorten diaper life.
Bleach is a killer when it comes to cloth diapers.
While there’s certainly no refuting its cleaning power, bleach can ruin cloth diapers and drastically decrease their lifespan.
Bleach should only be used when fighting an infection, such as a yeast diaper rash. Even then, it should really only be used sparingly.
No Pure Soap
Pure soap damages cloth diapers’ waterproof capabilities.
To help prevent cumbersome leakages, go for a detergent that’s not made of pure soap.
Not only do fabric softeners compromise the absorption capacity of cloth diapers, they can also lead to irritated skin.
Natural Doesn’t Always Mean Natural
We can’t emphasize this enough – reading labels is an absolute must when purchasing any baby related product, both for your and your baby’s sake.
Plenty of products out there are marketed as ‘natural’, but a read through of their ingredients list points to anything but that.
Seriously, give this a try the next couple of times you’re at the supermarket or shopping for baby items online, and you’ll be shocked.
So, be sure to go through the list first and check that the detergent does not contain whitening enzymes, dyes, fabric softeners, fragrances and bleach.
Surfactants are what will clean your cloth diapers, as well as soften them. Surfactants are usually found in liquid detergents.
While many moms swear by these to really get stains out, a number of cloth diaper brands actually suggest avoiding cationic surfactants.
All this said, you should always read the washing instructions on your cloth diapers first to ensure that you’re going for the best product for the job.
What to Avoid When Shopping for Cloth Diaper Laundry Detergents
One of the reasons why you’re probably using cloth diapers is to limit your little one’s exposure to harmful chemicals and toxins.
Unfortunately, the detergent you use may actually be worsening the situation.
According to Joan Tamburro, DO, pediatric dermatologist at Cleveland Clinic, “a child who has skin problems may be more prone to laundry detergent reactions”.
Budgetary concerns may very well be another issue, too.
With these factors in mind, here’s what to avoid when shopping for cloth diaper detergent:
Fabric softeners, soap-based detergent, coconut-oil based surfactants, and bleach should all be avoided.
When preservatives are exposed to urine, they react with the skin, and can lead to intolerance.
Preservatives are generally toxic, harmful and irritating.
They’re usually found in liquid detergents, which makes powder detergents safer on that front.
Avoid laundry pods.
These present a choking hazard to your baby, and it’s safer to not have them in the house altogether.
Avoid homemade detergents, as these are based on soap.
Soap builds up and traps bacteria in the fabric, leaving your diapers less than squeaky clean.
While the price of homemade detergents is very appealing if you’re on a tight budget and trying to save every penny you can in baby costs, in the long run, they can actually end up being more expensive.
Soap residue has a tendency to get stuck to your washing machine as well, causing irreparable damage. Now that’s definitely not something you want to deal with!
What You Should Be Sure of Before Buying Cloth Diaper Detergent
A cloth diaper laundry soap that works for one family might not work for another, so there’s no one size fits all answer that’s equally good for everybody out there.
Three factors that you need to consider before deciding on a detergent relate to your washing machine, water, and how high on your priority list the environment is.
Hard vs. Soft Water and Cloth Diapers
You can test the hardness of your water by using test strips.
Soft water is on the 0-60 parts per million (ppm) range. Anything above 120ppm means that your water is hard.
Hard water can be quite harsh on cloth diapers, as mineral deposits tend to build up on the fabric and create a barrier that leads to leakages.
Soft water isn’t all good, either. It can contribute to excess suds, which also lead to build up.
This is where having the right detergent makes a huge difference.
While there are a number of detergents that function well in both hard and soft water, it helps to check the fine print first to see what will work best in your situation.
Washing Machine Type When Cloth Diapering
Some cloth diaper detergents are specifically made for regular washing machines, while others are developed for High Energy (HE) machines.
If your washing machine is HE, the best detergent would be an HE-safe one, developed to keep suds away while maintaining cleaning power.
Chemicals and toxins not only harm us, but also the environment.
Plant-based cloth diaper detergents are a more environmentally friendly option over synthetic ones.
Plant-based detergents rely on natural and biodegradable ingredients that are kinder on the environment and our bodies.
A Word on Build-Up
Cloth diapers sometimes need some invigorating.
If your trusty diapers are looking a bit worse for wear, a detergent specifically made to remove build up can greatly liven them up.
With constant use and regular laundry, cloth diapers get heavily built up and they do not remain as watertight as before.
To prevent leaks, thoroughly strip cloth diapers using a laundry detergent made specifically for this, and before you know it, they’re as good as new again!
What’s the Best Cloth Diaper Detergent?
So, as you most likely noticed now that you’ve finished reading this article, there’s no one ideal cloth diaper detergent that will work perfectly well for everyone.
A product that one family swears by, might be a total disaster for another. I’ve heard about such stories and experienced this myself, too.
In short, as with most other baby-related things, there’s no one size fits all answer that’s going to work beautifully well for everyone alike.
The good news is, though, that there are plenty of cloth diapering detergents available on the market these days, and each of these caters for specific needs.
You have to take into consideration your type of washing machine, the water being used, your baby’s sensitiveness, your environmental priorities, as well as your budget.
As long as the detergent you opt for does not have any of the items we listed on the avoid list, you should be good to go!