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The Best and Worst Cloth Diaper Detergents

The Best and Worst Cloth Diaper Detergents

Cloth Safe Detergent.

We’ve briefly talked about this in other blogs, but here’s your reminder

“Cloth Safe” isn’t really a thing, but there are definitely detergents that are better than others.

Is the detergent you’re using the best detergent for cloth diapers?

What to Look For In a Cloth Diaper Friendly Detergent

Say it with me.

Enzymes and Surfactants.

Those two are key players in making sure your cloth diapers are clean and are what make up the best detergents for cloth diapers.

Detergents that you use on your cloth diapers should, as a rule, be free from additives and fabric softeners.

I know, I know. I just said that cloth safe detergent isn’t really a thing, but you do want to make sure that additives such as bleach or oxi-clean aren’t on the menu.

Thankfully, most packaging will indicate if they contain fabric softeners or additives such as bleach.

Scented detergents are a-okay!

Powder or Liquid?

If you’re anything like me, you’re like powder?


I’ve been using liquid for years and I’m not using a powdered detergent for this, that, and the other reasons.

Keep in mind that most of our clothing and household items we wash do not contain many layers and liquid detergent washes away more easily.

With cloth diapers the opposite is true.

Powdered detergent is more eco and budget-friendly since you’re paying for more cleaning power and less water.

I promise, the powder will rinse away and you’ll eventually be a powdered lover like myself.

Things to Avoid When Washing Cloth Diapers

Dryer Sheets

Just say no.

Dryer sheets while they do cause repelling also have a pretty dark side.

You know how you have to have your car tested for emissions?

The vent of the dryer with fabric softener sheets wouldn’t pass an emissions test. Yikes.

Fabric Softeners

Fabric softeners will cause massive repelling issues.

Have you ever heard that you shouldn’t use fabric softener on your towels, because it will decrease their absorbent properties?

That holds true!

If you must use a fabric softener stick to something plant-based.

Still not convinced that you can get away without fabric softeners?

Think again! Think wool!

Wool Dryer Balls are 100% wool, eco-friendly, decrease dry times, AND reduce static cling keeping your clothes and cloth diapers soft and static-free.

The Best Cloth Diapers Detergents

#1 Tide Roll Tide Roll!

I’m a walking billboard for Tide and I’m unashamed.

Tide contains water softeners, surfactants, and enzymes in just the right ratio.

Tide works well in all water types and just plain, works!

The gold standard.

The holy grail.

The everything you want in a detergent, detergent.

Dare I say the best detergent for cloth diapers.

Yep! I double-dog dare!

Now I know many of you are side-eyeing me right now.

I know it’s pricey.

I know it’s not “natural”.

That’s okay!

We’re cleaning the dirtiest laundry we will ever wash.

Get the good stuff. It’s better than dealing with ammonia burns down the road.

If your family or child has sensitive skin it’s worth noting that we do also recommend the free and gentle version.

#2 Gain

MMMM Apple Mango Tango.

That stuff smells so good, but it’s also effective!

Gain contains slightly less water softeners than Tide, but even if you do have moderately hard water (as does most of the United States) this detergent should serve you pretty well and at a cheaper price than Tide.

This detergent deserves to be called the second best detergent for cloth diapers!

#3 Foca

Foca is good and CHEAP, but keep in mind that this isn’t HE friendly in its powdered form and is suuuuupppeeerrr foamy.

What it does well is clean.

This budget-friendly detergent can even be added to your tide in a pinch when you’re running a bit low and can’t swing your normal big box of cloth diaper detergent.

#4 Arm and Hammer Free and Clear

This powdered detergent is safe for families with sensitive skin.

It’s free of dyes and perfumes and will keep all of your laundry fresh and clean

#5 Pretty much anything else that’s mainstream

Most mainstream detergents will get your diapers clean.

Just remember that they follow the aforementioned criteria:

They should contain enzymes and surfactants

They should NOT contain additives or fabric softeners.

The Worst Cloth Diaper Detergents

#1 Homemade Laundry Detergent

Stop right there.

That’s all you need to know. It’s bad. Just say no.

Okay, but you want the facts.

Homemade Laundry Soaps (I’m going to keep calling them soaps because you can’t make detergent at home. You need a lab for that!) are nothing more than some water softeners and a little bit of soap.

Laundry soaps may have worked in the past when washboards were the washing machine, but without all of that intense agitation - it’s just not going to work.

Many recipes for homemade laundry soaps also contain borax.

This laundry additive is extremely abrasive and can ruin your PUL completely.

If this isn’t enough to stop you, these soaps are not designed to rinse out of your clothes or machines.

The soap will build-up on your clothes and machine.

What does that mean?

The soap will be trapped in your clothes- along with dirt and debris.

Your machine?

Say goodbye to your warranty and some possible pricey repairs.

#2 Borax

While this may not be a straight-up detergent, it is something people tend to add to their cloth diaper detergents.

Borax can cause premature wear on fabrics and is detrimental to PUL.

It doesn’t take long for Borax to do this either.

#3 Anything marketed as “Cloth Friendly/Safe”

We’re going to let the proverbial cat out of the bag - most of the detergents designed or marketed as “Cloth Diaper Detergent/Soap” is nothing more than a good marketing ploy.

Most of them are costly, ineffective, and are filled with mostly water softeners and little to no cleaning power - ie those enzymes and surfactants we keep yammering on about.

#4 Tide Simply Clean and Fresh

This is one place where Tide leaves me disappointed.

Don’t be swayed by the lower price point.

This detergent seems pretty watered down if you will and won’t cut it for your diaper laundry.

Maybe your regular laundry, but skip this for your cloth diapers.

#5 Natural Detergents

Remember when talked about mainstream detergents?

This is all well and fine, but as sustainable and more eco-friendly options are becoming more mainstream it’s worth noting that most natural detergents don’t contain enough cleaning power.

That’s not to say that others haven’t had success with more natural detergents, but we just don’t recommend using them.

For them to be effective you’ll likely need to use even more detergent which is not only wasteful but isn’t budget-friendly.

Conclusion - The Best and Worst Cloth Diaper Detergents

So what is the best detergent for cloth diapers?

The best detergent is what works for your family and your budget!

Steer-free and clear (bad pun. I know) of homemade and stick to a powered mainstream detergent that fits in your budget.

If you ever have a question about “is this safe” refer back to this blog or reach out to our knowledgeable customer service team!

Now that you know what the best detergent for cloth diapers are *cough cough* Tide *cough cough* it’s time to jump back into the wool dryer ball conversation.

Nicki’s Diapers Wool Dryer Balls are the solution to ditching one-time use fabric softener sheets and long dry times.

These reusable wool dryer balls reduce static cling, absorb moisture in all of your laundry (not just cloth diapers!) decreasing the time you need to run your dryer, and can be reused and reused- no need to repurchase!

This sustainable solution isn’t as noisy as plastic or rubber counterparts and is virtually indestructible-lasting up to 1,000 loads!

The best part - they come in amazing colors.

Click HERE to bring some wool dryer balls home today!