Selecting the right cloth diaper detergent can be a daunting task considering the large number of options available. Our goal in this article is to provide you with the best detergent for cloth diapers as well as links to other articles that may make parenting easy.
Although cloth diapers are made of the same type of material as most regular clothing such as man-made materials, natural fibres or a combination of both, the detergents used to wash them will vary.
Furthermore, this type of diapers are designed to absorb urine so it is important that they are clean otherwise you will have stinky diapers in your hands.
Clean cloth diapers should not emit any smell, and if they do, this simply means that you need to switch your diaper detergent to one that works!
So if you’re wondering what detergent is best for washing cloth diapers, we’ve performed over 60 hours of research and done over 100 lbs of diaper laundry with 20 different detergents, and the Charlie’s Soap takes home the gold.
Our Pick – The Best detergent for cloth diapers
Formulated with coconut oil-based ingredients, washing soda and water, Charlie’s laundry powder contains no fragrance or dyes and is biodegradable and non-toxic.
Adding to this, this detergent is safe to use in both regular and high-efficiency washers, with only one tablespoon needed per load.
The raw materials in Charlie’s soap can be divided into two categories – natural mineral and bio-degradable ingredients.
Runner – Up – Biokleen Laundry Liquid
If you can’t get your hands on Charlie’s Soap, there’s always Biokleen. This fragrance, chemical and dye free detergent is great for washing cloth diapers and gentle on your baby’s skin.
Just like Charlie’s Soap, your clothes will come out smelling simply fresh. So what you don’t get is outdoorsy or artificial flower fragrances.
Available in a large 64 ounce container, Biokleen laundry liquid lasts forever considering you only have to use a small amount per wash.
If your child is suffering from eczema or sensitive skin, Biokleen is the perfect solution.
Biokleen makes a range of other cleaning products as well including dish washing powder and dish liquid.
Upgrade Pick – Eco-Me
Eco-Me is a company that produces cleaning solutions with one goal in mind – to eradicate chemicals from homes, and this is exactly what their laundry detergent sets out to do.
The ingredients they use are vegan and gluten free, and are food and plant based.
What you won’t find in their list of ingredients are synthetic fragrances, colorants, dyes, sulfates or any other harmful preservatives.
Made in the USA, the Eco-Me laundry detergent is produced in line with NPA guidelines, and is not only gentle on fabrics, but perfect for those with sensitive skin.
Adding to this, this detergent is Greywater and septic safe and is synthetic, fragrance, dyes, and Paraben free.
Budget Pick – Dropps
Launched in 2015, Dropps is a convenient liquid laundry detergent that is available in dissolvable, pre-measured packets.
It is not only compatible with all washers, temperatures, colors and fabrics, it is EPA Design for the Environment (DfE) certified and free of any phosphates and enzymes so it’s good for the planet and your baby’s cloth diapers.
These surprisingly small pouches are perhaps the best invention since white bread, and make the entire laundry process as smooth as possible.
Although it is not as good as our top pick, it definitely gets the job done in a much more convenient way.
Also Great – Seventh Generation Natural Laundry Detergent
Just as good as any of the cloth diaper detergents mentioned above, Seventh Generation is great for cloth diapers and great for removing tough stains such as poop.
It is made from entirely plant based ingredients and not only is it good for you but it’s good for the environment too.
One of the drawbacks of this detergent is that the cap is hard to read because the markings are on the plastic part.
But if you use Seventh Generation often, you will get used to how much detergent liquid you need for each load.
One of the nice things about Seventh Generation Baby is that it comes in frustration free packaging, which ensures safe delivery and again is recyclable, making it safe for the environment.
Table of Contents:
- Why you should trust us
- How we picked
- How we tested
- Our pick
- Flaws but not Deal breaker
- Benefits of Green Laundry Detergents
- Runner – Up
- Upgrade pick
- Budget pick
- Also great
- The Competition
- The Final Verdict
Why you should trust us:
We spoke to several parents and esteemed pediatricians in order to bring you the best detergent for cloth diapers.
We also scoured reviews from some of the most reputable childcare websites, and checked out the best diaper detergent reviews on Amazon, Costco, Walmart and several small retailers.
Our goal was to determine which product worked better than others, and ingredients to stay away from.
Being a parent of 2 boys and a girl, I know a thing or two about cloth diapers and their benefits, and you can read more here.
During my parenting experience, I’ve probably used hundreds of different detergents on baby clothes and diapers, only to realize that the best diaper detergents aren’t the same as regular detergents such as Tide and Surf.
How we picked?
Sure, detergents such as Tide and Surf will get them diapers clean, but detergent for diapers should leave no residue on the diapers when washed.
And this is the biggest difference between regular laundry detergents and diaper safe laundry detergents because literally all of the former contain chemicals and irritants that can cause a multitude of issues such as allergic breakouts and endocrine disruption.
There’s no way I was going to subject my kids to this especially if this was something I could easily avoid for basically the same price.
Speaking of price, this is another area I paid attention to considering that most detergents that are specifically labelled as “baby specific” or “diaper specific” were definitely ones to stay away from and here’s why.
Not only are they expensive and unnecessary, manufacturers of these products generally use their regular detergents only with a “baby safe” label on the bottle.
Basically, you need a detergent that does not leave behind anything on the diapers such as residue, because anything left behind on the surface of the diapers is also going to affect their level of absorbency, which consequently could cause leaks.
Fact is that diaper laundry detergent is a sensitive subject.
Ask three parents their product of choice and you will likely get three different answers. But the three aspects we took into consideration when determining the best diaper detergent are:
- Gentle on your baby’s skin – as mentioned earlier, regular detergents such as Tide contain several chemicals and fragrances that can cause skin irritation considering that babies have more sensitive skin.
- Free from chemicals and fragrances – fragrances and chemicals in regular detergents such as Tide include chemical fragrance (phthalates), optical brighteners (benzene), phenols (endocrine disrupters like BPA), synthetic detergents (often made from petroleum) and bleach.
- Effective on baby stains – one thing to note here is that you’re going to be dealing with poop and pee so a good diaper detergent must have what it takes to get rid of it all. And all the detergents I’ve listed won’t disappoint when it comes to stain removal. But stubborn stains are inevitable, and I’ve listed a few ways to remove them below.
How we tested?
When dealing with cloth diapers, the first thing you need to understand is that they aren’t regular laundry.
In fact, they are probably the most dirtiest laundry in your household and as a result require special care to get them clean in order to prevent diaper rashes, odor retention and ammonia build-up.
Adding to this, these type of diapers require special attention due to their contained fabrics that literally get washed hundreds of times.
Cloth diapers generally are embedded with stretchy elastic for comfort and Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU) and Polyurethane Laminate (PUL) waterproofing for practicality. And neither of the two will last long if subjected to regular detergents.
Cloth diapers have a central absorptive core topped by a wicking layer to keep the baby dry, and this fabric can be made of several different types of fabrics including cotton, microfiber, hemp and bamboo.
Each of our recommended products is free of chemicals, which is the main cause of damage to this core layer when washed repeatedly.
Our Top Pick – Charlie’s Soap
Charlie’s Soap may come across as an industrial detergent on first glance, but don’t let the packaging fool you, it’s one of the best diaper detergents you can get your hands on!
The natural mineral ingredients in the laundry powder include Sodium Carbonate (washing soda), C12-15 Pareth-2 (coconut oil-based detergent) and Sodium Metasilicate (drying agent).
It all started with Charlie Sutherland Sr., who overlooked the yarn oil division of a new textile company in NC. During his tenure at the company, he was looking for a cleaning solution to keep the machines that create the yarn clean, and consequently assigned this task to his son – Charlie Jr., and his brother in law – Ron Joyce.
Starting out with just $200, both Charlie Jr. and Ron started making soap that was much better than commercially made products, and selling it to the textile company.
After the company found out that the boys were making the soap themselves, Ron left the company to take care of the soap making business.
The company business soared as new textile companies realized the power of Charlie’s Soap. And even though a few companies moved their business out of the United States, the need for soap to clean the machines was always present.
The machines had to be literally flawless before being shipped overseas, but business began to take a hit in the early 90’s as most of the production in the United States took a hit.
Thankfully, Charlie Jr. invented a new Liquid Laundry line that was an instant hit with outdoor wear folks. This soap powder today along with the Laundry Liquid is made available throughout the globe.
I have never switched to anything else unless of course in times when Charlie’s Soap wasn’t available, and if you’re not using it yet, this soap powder is chemical free and non-toxic, making it effective, great and safe.
Charlie Soap works like a charm so much so that many cloth diaper manufacturers recommended using it on their products. It is free of fragrances and chemical brighteners, is non-toxic and biodegradable, non-irritating and even safe for the environment.
When using Charlie’s Soap, you will notice that the detergent itself has some type of smell, but the results of the wash are completely odorless.
And just the label says “nothing but the gold old-fashioned smell of clean. If you want flowers, go pick some”, that’s exactly what you get with this Soap.
The product can be ordered in different quantities, and although the label says that you get 100 loads, realistically its roughly 80 loads, which still isn’t that bad.
The instructions state that you should first run the washer with a few rags and Charlie’s Soap to get rid of any residue that already might be present from previously used detergents.
What makes it an even sweeter deal is the fact that Charlie’s Soap owing to its natural formulation can be used on cloth diapers and all other baby clothing.
Many consumer reviews claim that using Charlie’s Soap also increases the longevity of the clothes compared to other regular detergents.
All in all, Charlie’s Soap is an excellent choice for washing cloth diapers and if you’re like me, great chances are that you’ll be washing all your other clothes with it, soon!
Flaws but not Deal breakers
Although Charlie’s Soap is hands down THE winner when it comes to washing cloth diapers, it is not perfect. After the first wash with the soap in an effort to remove the leftover residue from previously used detergents, the tub of your machine might look dull and streaked.
This is however nothing to gripe over as you can simply add a little bit of vinegar along with hot water and Charlie’s Soap to remove the dullness.
Adding to this, Charlie’s soap does offer a money back guarantee so get in touch with them if the issue persists.
It is also worth mentioning that there was a claim made back in 2011 by what was regarded as a reputable website that Charlie’s Soap contained a harmful ingredient knows as 2-BUTOXYETHANOL.
This however turned out to be completely false as the researcher for starters sourced the information from a third party website, and second didn’t refer to Charlie’s Soap official site for the list of ingredients (where there is not even the slightest mention of 2-BUTOXYETHANOL).
In addition, Charlie’s son – Taylor Sutherland was quick to clarify that all the ingredients in Charlie’s Soap offer strength and safety beyond industry standards.
He further added that there was no way they would make a soap that was unsafe in any form knowing that it would be around kids and used to wash their clothing.
The claims made by Taylor Sutherland were further researched by a local professional and deemed to be true.
The local researcher highlighted the need to do your own research and not just blindly trust the information listed on .com websites.
Runner – Up – Biokleen Laundry Liquid
Founded in 1989 in an effort to produce products with no harmful chemicals, Jim Rimer once a sales executive for a chemical supply company witnessed harmful side effects among his customers and colleagues during his tenure.
These issues included respiratory problems to skin rashes and worse, and as a result vowed to find effective natural alternatives and hence the conception of Biokleen.
With a mission in hand, Jim spent countless nights studying botany and chemistry in his Portland, Oregon garage to formulate the company’s first leading edge product – the All-Purpose Cleaner.
As the demand for the company products increased, Jim’s daughter Cindy joined the company’s ranks and today serves as an executive visionary for Biokleen.
The Biokleen Laundry Liquid is a fragrance free formula that is extremely gentle on both skin and senses without compromising on cleaning power.
It contains no harmful or chemical ingredients, but is a formulation of grapefruit seed extracts (no essence) and plant based surfactants.
This powerful formation works magically to clean tough stains and odors, without leaving behind any harsh residues on cloth diapers.
Upgrade Pick – Eco-Me
Eco-Me claims that they take “cleaning to a whole new level” and their laundry detergent is evident of this.
They offer a wide range of cleaning solutions, and regardless of the one you choose, they contain no harmful chemicals, sulfates, harsh fumes, perfumes or dyes.
One of the reasons Eco-Me laundry detergent makes it to our list is simply because it is tough on dirt and stains, making it perfect for gentle skin and fabrics such as cloth diapers.
It contains all natural ingredients and works miraculously with standard as well as top and front load HE washing machines.
One of the noteworthy features of the Eco-Me laundry detergent is that it can be ordered in a plethora of different natural scents yet it contains no synthetic fragrance.
Adding to this, the container is good for up to 64 loads and the detergent is both septic and Greywater safe.
There are several reasons why the Eco-Me diaper detergent is worth a shot, most notably because it is a natural plant based cleaning system that is infused with plant essential oils.
If you can’t get your hands on Charlie’s Soap or Biokleen, then Eco-Me laundry detergent is well worth the investment.
Budget Pick – Dropps
Conceived in the early 80’s, Dropps is a patented formula that is designed to keeping fabrics looking better and longer. This detergent is both extremely reasonably priced yet it doesn’t compromise on the power to remove tough dirt and stains.
It is also convenient to use as it comes in small, dissolvable packs, where each is pre-measured to do each load so there’s no measuring cups, containers or guesswork to deal with. Using these pods is a joy as you simply need to drop them into your load of laundry.
Dropps just like all our best cloth diaper detergent products is chemical free, meaning it contains no NPE, chlorine or phosphate.
Truth is that finding Safe laundry detergents is really a daunting task, but Dropps being EPA approved is a dye and enzyme free formula that is tender on cloth diapers as well as baby’s skin.
You can do your laundry while you hold your bundle of joy, because it’s just a matter of tossing in a pack and voila.
If you’d really like to get remarkably clean cloth diapers without the fuss of containers and measuring cups, Dropps is the way to go.
Also Great – Seventh Generation Natural Laundry Detergent
Natural detergents that are tough on stains yet highly effective are hard to come across, and there’s the Seventh Generation Natural Laundry detergent.
With no optical brighteners, synthetic fragrances or dyes, this detergent delivers superb results even in cold water.
Although it contains no synthetic fragrances, it does contain enzymes to remove stubborn stains, and works well with both HE and standard washing machines.
USDA certified, the Seventh Generation Natural detergent arrives in an 80% recyclable plastic packaging, and it is advised you remove the dispenser spigot before recycling.
This 2x concentrated formula delivers the best results when measured and used appropriately.
Before getting started, it is recommended that you pre-treat the cloth diapers by pouring this detergent directly on the stained fabric and soaking them for roughly 15 minutes.
Next, fill the machine with water and add the detergent and then the cloth diapers.
A 50 oz Seventh Generation container is good for roughly 33 loads, and the 150 oz container washes 99 loads when measured right.
With regards to perfect measurements, the company recommends 1.5 oz / 44mL for medium loads and 2.2 oz / 65mL for larger and heavily soiled cloth diapers.
Benefits of Green Laundry Detergents
Green products have become increasingly popular owing to people looking to achieve their goal of improved health while being environmentally friendly.
But harsh reality is that many companies poorly define the term “green” in an effort to lure the unsuspecting into buying their products.
So the big question is “what is green” or better yet “what makes a detergent green”?
When it comes to detergents, the simple answer is products that use ingredients that are non-toxic to humans.
It also means that Green detergents are free of chemicals that might be harmful towards the environment.
Regular laundry detergent can cause myriad of allergies so much so that even WebMD recommends using Green laundry detergents.
In fact, one of the leading causes of diaper rash is residue and or chemicals left over from detergents and fabric softeners.
So while these regular non-green detergents and fabric softeners might exude flowery odors, they may severely affect your child’s tushy.
Treating Stubborn Stains
It is inevitable that even with using any of our recommended diaper detergents, you’re going to end up with stains that just won’t come off. Here are few tips on how to tackle those stains.
- Feces – Soak the clothes in cold water with a product that contains enzymes. Puracy bills itself as the most powerful stain remover in the market, and when you use it, you will wholeheartedly agree. This second generation formula is powered by six plant enzymes, and safely removes any type of stains. It is highly effective on cloth diapers and even pet accidents, cosmetics and mud, and is gluten-free and biodegradable.
- Urine Stains – getting rid of urine stains from cloth diapers can easily be done by diluting one tablespoon of ammonia into a bucket of water. Then simply place the effective area of the cloth diaper in the solution and rub gently until the stain wears off.
Babyganics 3x Fragrance – this plant based detergent is great for irritating and sensitive skin and also if your child suffers from eczema. This non-allergenic leaves no itchy residue and what’s best is that it’s super concentrated so you just need 1oz per load.
The Honest Company Laundry Detergent – made in the USA, this plant based advanced detergent is non-toxic and free of harsh chemicals, dyes and synthetic perfumes. It gently cleanses cloth diapers as well as all types of baby clothing owing to its pH-neutral formula.
All Free + Clear Laundry Detergent – safe to use in both standard and HE washing machines, this detergent has a hypoallergenic formula that rinses clean and is great for tough stains on diapers.
Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Baby Blossom – if you must have fragrance, this naturally scented with lemon and orange essential oils should do the trick. It will leave your baby’s cloth diapers feeling and smelling fresh for longer periods.
The Final Verdict
When shopping for a cloth diaper detergent, you will be spoiled for choice considering the myriad options available. However, we’ve done the homework for you, and with our years of expertise have listed all natural cloth diaper detergents that are so good, you will probably start using them on your other clothes as well. You might however have to deal with tough stains along the way, and for that we’ve listed the best cloth diaper stain remover you can get your hands on today.