What kind of detergent do you use for cloth diapers?

I’m not sure how many of my readers are active cloth diapers (or were in the past). But I’m struggling with a dilemma here, and I’m hoping you can help me out.

We’ve always used the cheapest detergent I could find, but we’re going to have to switch to something cloth diaper-friendly now.

Here are the brands I’ve read/heard about that I’m considering:

  • Country Save
  • Charlie’s Soap
  • Rockin’ Green Detergent
  • Original Tide (Most expert sites do not recommend this, but many of the cloth diapering moms in online forums swear that it works well for cloth.)

I liked the idea of Country Save because it’s the cheapest, so I could go ahead and use it for all of our laundry. The problem with Country Save is that I can only find it in unreasonably huge bulk amounts. I’m not sure if it’s going to work for me or the baby, so I’m hesitant to drop $60 on a year’s supply without testing it. I haven’t been able to find it locally.

The other huge problem: hard water. The water in my city has the highest lime content in the state. I’m worried that some of the cheaper detergents (like Country Save and Charlie’s Soap) won’t work as well for us because of our hard water.

I’m strongly considering Rockin’ Green Detergent. It has excellent reviews, it’s particularly environmentally friendly, and Rockin’ Green offers a special formula for hard water. The downside? It’s going to cost about 35 cents a load. Ouch.

To save money, I’m thinking about using the Rockin’ Green for diapers only. I’ve read that using ordinary detergents for the rest of your laundry can cause buildup to accumulate in the washer and affect diaper absorbency. So I’m thinking I might get a cheaper, relatively diaper-friendly detergent like Original Tide to use for the rest of our clothes.

Some commenters have suggested adding Calgon to the wash to combat the hard water. I’m definitely considering this as an option, but I’d like to keep things as simple as possible in the beginning as we adjust to the baby and cloth diapers. I really don’t want to fiddle too much with our washing system right away, so I’m hoping if I choose a high-rated, hard water detergent it will simplify our washing process.

Once I’m used to caring for the baby and washing all those diapers, I will experiment with less expensive brands to find something cost-effective and diaper-friendly. But in the beginning, I want to keep it simple.

So tell me: what detergent do you use for cloth diapers? Do you use the same detergent on all of your clothing? I’m especially interested in your system if you have hard water.

Photo by rickyromero

17 thoughts on “What kind of detergent do you use for cloth diapers?

  1. Jes

    We use Charlie’s on all our clothes (we don’t have hard water) At first we used it only for diapers, but we constantly had stink build up (didn’t matter if we used the home made stuff or bought stuff, our diapers ALWAYS stunk!). So we switched to using only Charlies. I have heard good things about the Rockin green for hard water, but I would be really hesitant to use a non diaper friendly detergent on clothes.

  2. Mrs. Money

    I was going to suggest making your own too and adding in some water softener to the mix. I think Kacie uses Country Save. Maybe she’ll send you a baggie to try for a small fee. ;) LOL!!

    I wonder how Dr. Bronner’s would work.

    I vote Rockin’ Green just because of the name. ;)

    PS. I’m no help at all.

  3. Kacie

    I COULD send you a baggie of white powder! That’s not suspicious at all. Alternatively you could track down a local cloth diapering mama and see if you could split the order with her?

    I also was going to suggest adding some of that water softener.

    Get some of the cheaper, smaller quantity detergent you can find to start out on the diapers. If you have problems with the detergent then you can strip them and address the problem once it’s an issue. I think as long as you go with one that’s at least on the ‘friendly’ list, it’s good.

    You won’t necessarily have a problem with your dipes. The fact that you are using prefolds a lot is good — those can take some abuse. And those can be washed with just about anything, I think. It’s the covers and your pocket diapers that are going to need the special attention (though it’s all in the same load anyway).

    If you use another kind of detergent for your other clothes, you could wash out your machine once a month. I have a ‘sanitize cycle’ for mine and it goes through with a little bleach and the extra suds rinse away.

    Ok so I say start out with Rockin’ Green (or something you can get a small batch of) for your diapers loads and do regular Tide with coupons or something for everything else and just watch and see what happens.

  4. Karen

    @Verna – At some point I will definitely try a homemade recipe, but I’m worried it won’t be strong enough with the hard water. I’m thinking I’ll go with the Rockin’ Green just in the beginning until I feel more comfortable experimenting.

    @Jes – I definitely won’t use a non-cloth-friendly detergent for our clothes. But I’m thinking I might be able to get away with Charlie’s or Country Save just for regular laundry, and then use the special Rockin’ Green hard water detergent for the diapers. I’m not worried about our regular clothes smelling like ammonia. Thanks for the tips!

    @Mrs. Money – I’ve never heard of anyone using Dr. Bronner’s, but that’s a good question! Is that what you use for ordinary laundry?

    @Kacie – Please don’t send me white powder. The Feds will come pounding on your door for sending me Anthrax! LOL.

  5. Kristin Hanes

    Hi Karen! I help out at my mom’s cloth diapering store, and most of her customers like Allen’s Naturally the best. It’s $50 to start but it lasts over two years when you JUST use it on diapers (REALLY good for pocket diapers like Bum Genius and Fuzzi Bunz)

  6. Bobbi

    I used a product called Dreft. It was 22 years ago but it worked ok. Not sure how ‘green’ it is though. You could try it and see, they have a $2.00 off coupon on the site. :) I am not much help either I am afraid. :)

  7. joanna

    The local cloth diapering company swears that All Free & Clear works just fine with diapers, and that’s what we already use- so I plan to give that a try first. We’re on a septic system, and all the specialty “cloth diapering” detergents seem to be powders, which we’re not supposed to use with the septic system. I know at least Charlie’s does come in liquid form, but I’m not about to pay shipping on a heavy bottle of detergent- so, we need to find a locally-available liquid alternative. Hopefully the Free & Clear works for us!

    1. Karen

      Joanna – Have you joined Amazon Mom yet? You can probably get free shipping on Charlie’s liquid at least for a few months. And once your Prime membership runs out, you can probably get free Super Saver shipping if you order $25 worth at a time. That is, of course, if you find that All doesn’t work. I hope you’re able to use All though, because that would be so much easier.

  8. Tanya

    We use Allen’s Naturally for all our laundry. Switched when we started cloth diapering and now that we are out of diapers, it’s still all I use. LOVE it. We buy a gallon which is about $50 but it lasts us for over a year. Our current bottle was purchased last November and I still have 1/4 of it left.

  9. Rebecca

    We love Ecos laundry detergent, I can do 100 loads for $7.99. Add a little borax to that for diapers and wash on hot. I do all our other clothes on cold. Soap nuts also work well, and both are very earth friendly and fairly priced too.

  10. Donna Freedman

    I cloth-diapered a little over 30 years ago and used original Tide. It worked fine.
    Good luck! Cloth diapering isn’t as bad as some people make it out to be. Huge money-saver, in my opinion.
    I’ve read articles online about making your own diapers. One clever woman made her own covers/soakers by buying 100% wool sweaters at garage sales/thrift shops, felting them, and sewing covers from the felt. They breathe but prevent all but the worst leaks — and as you know, you change cloth diapers more often than paper ones so major leak-throughs would be the exception rather than the rule.

  11. Mrs. Money

    I’ve used Dr. Bronner’s on regular laundry and it’s been fine. You can get the unscented baby mild to try (they sell travel sized bottles at Target). :)

  12. Jessica

    We are using Charlie’s Soap for everything right now. My husband is allergic to something in Tide. I bought a small bag to try it out since I didn’t want to make a huge investment if my husband or the baby ended up having a reaction to it. Baby is due next week so we’ll see how she does with it (we’re cloth diapering as well). Husband LOVES it!! Once we have established that no one is going to have a reaction to it I plan on buying the biggest container they have.

    Just wanted to mention that lots of cloth diapering mom’s I have talked to gave up on the “specialty” detergents and just wash everything in original Tide powder or make their own.

  13. SusanP

    I always used Ivory Snow or Ivory Flakes, but that was 40 years ago. I’d still recommend them or the greenest one that you can find for both uses.

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