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What Detergent Should I Use For My Cloth Diapers? Can I Use A Store Brand?

Using a good detergent in the correct amount is critical to success with cloth diapers. Use the right detergent and you’ll enjoy easy washing and fresh clean diapers.  Use the wrong detergent or not enough and you may experience leaking diapers, rashes, excessive staining, odor issues and an overall bad experience using cloth.  But is choosing detergent for cloth diapers really that hard?  Nope!

So what's the big deal with detergent then? Why all the hype about it.  Well there used to be a lot of talk about using ‘proper’ cloth diaper specific detergent.  There was a lot of info circulating about how commercial detergents were bad and how they had brighteners and whiteners and enzymes that would eat your diapers alive.  There used to be a conception that you should only use 1/4 of the recommended amount of detergent and lots of other talk that made washing diapers seem like rocket science.  But really, it's quite simple.

Luckily common sense seems to have prevailed and even many of the main diaper manufacturers are now recommending readily available mainstream detergents such as Tide.

So, let's be clear.  You can use ANY detergent you like.  Ones that are made commercially and are found at any grocery store, or 'environmentally friendlier' ones if you wish (note, you may need to use more detergent than recommended on the package for these types of detergents).

BUT - do not choose any detergent that contains fabric softener.  That's all you need to remember.  If the detergent contains fabric softener (as many 'baby specific' detergents do), it's a no-no as it will coat your diapers and cause repelling.  So, for example, Tide is okay, Tide with Downy is not. Easy right?

Keep in mind that some babies can be sensitive or even allergic to some ingredients in detergent or the fragrances, so if your baby reacts or gets a rash, switch detergents to something hypoallergenic or more natural and see if there is any improvement.  

Powdered or liquid detergent doesn't matter either.  Just make sure to get the kind that's made for use in your machine (HE high efficiency detergent if you have an HE machine).  

And you know what’s even easier?  No more guessing at the amount to use either.  Just follow the amount specified on the back of the package for the size of load you are doing.  No more, no less.  If you increase the amount of water you are using in your load, increase the detergent too to maintain the proper ratio for your detergent to work properly and not be diluted and you’re good to go.  Use common sense.  Diapers are dirty laundry.  Treat them accordingly and use good detergent in a proper amount. Then let your washing machine handle the rest.


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