Updated: September 2021
The key to simple laundering with cloth diapers is choosing the right detergent. Some detergents have ingredients in them that create build up on the diapers - causing them to retain odors and become less absorbent.
Below is a list of what to look for in a detergent, top recommended detergents, and detergents you should avoid.
Five (5) things to avoid:
Powders: 85% of Americans live in places with hard water. Liquid detergents are scientifically proven to clean more effectively than powders in hard water.
Pods & Flings: Generally speaking detergent packs (aka "pods", "drops", or "flings") don't carry enough cleaning power to get your diapers clean. I personally tested a few pod brands and found that they did not work well in hard water. Not to mention, they're extremely expensive.
Cold Water Versions: Cold water detergents are designed to clean in cold water. They do not work well in hot water. And since it is not recommended that you wash your diapers in cold water, there's no need to purchase this type of detergent.
Scents and Softeners: As a general rule, detergents that come with scents or added softeners like Downy, are bad for your diapers. The "scent" or "softness" is literally deposited onto the fabric of the diaper to make it soft and smell fresh. This will reduce the absorbency of your diapers.
"Natural" labels: Sad to say, but the word "natural" has become a marketing term used by large brands. They know that "natural" means a lot to environmentally-friendly parents and because there are no strict rules around how the word can be used, they use it liberally to get you to buy their products. Commonly used terms are "natural", "all-natural", "simply", "essentials", "free and clear", "free and pure", and "free and gentle". By any means necessary, avoid these products. Some are okay, but most aren't. And if you have some free time, feel free to check out the many class action lawsuits these companies are facing for duping consumers with these words.
Cloth Diaper Detergents
Best Liquid Detergent - Tide on Amazon ($17.94) - 19 cents per load
- excludes Pods, Cold Water, and Downy versions
30% more cleaning power per drop. Eco-friendly, 100% recyclable box. No-drip tap. Created with 60% less plastic and 30% less water.
Best Powdered Detergent - Country Save on Amazon ($29.97) - 19 cents per load
EPA Designed. Completely biodegradable. No coconut-derived ingredients. 100% phosphate-free. Gentle for sensitive skin. Ultra concentrated. Septic Tank Safe.
-----Recommended (in alphabetical order)
- Babies R Us
- Bravo (HEB)
- Ivory Snow
- Mighty Bubbles
- Motherease Kind
Recommended (with Exceptions)The detergents below are recommend with exception because some versions of the brand are fine for cloth diapers and others are not. Where possible, I tried to call out the versions that are not recommended.
- Arm & Hammer - excludes Essentials and Plus a Touch of Softener
- Biokleen - excludes Biokleen Cold Water
- Ecover Zero (Powder only)
- Gain - excludes Gain Flings
- Great Value (Walmart) - excludes Natural
- Kirkland Ultra (Costco) - excludes Lavender scents and pods
- Seventh Generation - excludes Free & Clear
- Trader Joe's (Powder only)
- Up and Up (Target) - excludes Free and Clear
The detergents below are not recommend for one or more of the following reasons: is currently under a lawsuit for false eco-friendly claims, is proven to not clean diapers well, has ingredients proven to irritate sensitive skin, and/or is not designed for use in HE washers.
- 365 (Whole Foods) - lawsuit
- A Happy Green Life
- All - lawsuit
- Ava Anderson
- Babyganics - lawsuit
- Better Life
- Branch Basics
- Charlie Banana
- Charlie's Soap
- Honest Company - lawsuit
- Mountain Green
- Mrs. Meyer's
- Rockin' Green