The Dirty Truth About Homemade Cloth Diaper Recipies
Are you a parent who's recently embarked on the exciting journey of cloth diapering? If so, you're likely researching for the best practices and advice on what to do with the poo and how to wash your cloth diapers. Many parents choose cloth diapers to reduce their environmental impact and to help divert billions of disposable diapers from landfills. So it's only natural for families to also want the most natural detergent for washing their diapers. The cost savings of homemade detergent and knowing all the ingredients might be a draw as well.
While homemade detergents can be a tempting choice, they're not the best option when it comes to keeping your cloth diapers clean wash after wash. Let's explore why homemade detergents are not recommended for washing cloth diapers and why opting for a commercial cloth diaper-friendly detergent is the way to go.Inadequate Cleaning Power: Let's be honest, cloth diapers are really dirty laundry and we need to make sure that multiple layers of fabric wash clean every time. So it follows that we need good, strong, high quality detergent that rinses clean. Homemade detergents typically lack the enzymes and powerful surfactants needed to correctly break down and clean urine, feces and tough stains. While homemade recipes will often have a surfactant of sorts, it is typically some kind of soap (grated bar soap, soap nuts, castile soap, soap flakes etc.) combined with various amounts of water softeners like Borax, washing soda or the like. As we all know, soaps leave soap scum and over time those leftover traces will deposit on your diaper fabric affecting their absorbency and collecting grime. Soaps and detergents are chemically different (from a structural, chemistry point of view) and they work differently in your machine when they interact with fabric. Without real detergent, you risk inadequate cleaning, which can lead to diaper odors, bacteria buildup between the fabric layers and potential diaper rash issues and smells down the road. If you want to use it for your regular laundry, go ahead and try it, but skip it for cloth diaper loads and use the real stuff.
Washing Machine Issues: Today's washing machines aren't designed to be used with homemade detergents. If you are washing by hand that's one thing, but in a high efficiency (HE) washing machine, read your owner's manual. You might find that homemade detergents can cause problems or even void your warranty. So research what your machine cleans best with first and remember to do routine maintenance and monthly cleaning of your washing machine too for best results. Who knew you needed to wash a washing machine!
Commercially Made Detergents Are Properly Formulated: Lots of research and development go into creating laundry detergents so they are as gentle as possible while cleaning well. Most of North America has some degree of hard water if you live in an urban area and detergent companies know this so water softeners are already included in commercial detergents - no need to add extra or to guess about quantities for your water hardness.
So the consensus is really pretty clear. The majority of cloth diaper manufacturers and experienced cloth diaper users will tell you to choose a commercially available laundry detergent for successful cloth diapering. They have strong cleaning power with enzymes and real surfactants, they rinse clean, work in nearly all urban water conditions, provide consistent results and are compatible with how washing machines are built to run.
While I understand the desire to find a natural or homemade washing solution (trust me I've been there and I've tried them all), it's more crucial to prioritize the cleanliness of your diapers. Otherwise ammonia, bacteria, smells and rashes appear and you won't be able to cloth diaper at all anyway. Ammonia build up in cloth diapers can even cause burns to the skin that are quite painful for baby. So keep baby comfy and make your cloth diapering journey a breeze with a solid detergent.
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