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The hallmarks of a great detergent for cloth diapers aren’t much different than your standard laundry formula. But our standards are — understandably! — much higher when it comes to washing cloth diapers versus any other type of clothing.
Our favorite detergent for cloth diapers that is both sustainable and effective is the Charlie’s Soap Laundry Powder. This powerful formula is safe for sensitive skin and ultra-concentrated.
With so many quality laundry detergents available, there’s no need for a one-size-fits-all approach. So keep reading to find out which formula we recommend for your specific needs!
What to Look For in a Laundry Detergent for Cloth Diapers
A quality detergent for cloth diapers should clean AND sanitize without damaging the fabric or leaving residue behind.
That all sounds great, of course. But what should you really be prioritizing (or steering clear of) when shopping for cloth diaper detergent?
Without question, your cloth diaper detergent of choice should include a heavy dose of surfactants. Surfactants are the ingredients that actually lift particles out of the fabric.
What your cloth diaper detergent should not contain a lot of are things like fragrance, dyes, and other fillers.
You don’t need to forego scented detergent altogether. But you should be aware that these ingredients are the most likely to cause skin irritation and other issues!
Ingredients to avoid entirely when selecting a cloth diaper laundry detergent include bleach and fabric softeners. (Bleach can be used on cloth diapers as needed but should not be a part of your regular laundry routine.)
Enzymes: Yay Or Nay?
Enzymes are incredibly effective at breaking down organic stains like those found in your average cloth diaper. However, some members of the cloth diaper community have pushed back against their use.
The most important facts are that:
- Most enzymes will not damage cloth diaper fibers (the enzyme cellulase is one notable exception)
- Existing research shows no evidence that enzyme-containing detergents irritate babies’ skin
Whether or not you want to use a laundry detergent containing enzymes is a personal choice. There are several formulas available both with and without them.
At Enviromom, we’re always trying to highlight the most eco-friendly products available. But we also need to point out that the most sustainable laundry detergent formulas aren’t always effective on cloth diapers.
Some of the most common problems associated with using eco-friendly detergent on cloth diapers include:
- Product build-up — coconut-derived ingredients are the most frequent culprits
- Needing to use more detergent per load
- Insufficient cleaning
For the best results (for both your family and the planet at large!), we recommend striking a balance between cleaning power and environmental responsibility.
Opting for a detergent without ingredients like synthetic fragrance is a small but meaningful way to improve your household’s sustainability. Another great option is to choose a laundry detergent with low-waste packaging.
Best Detergent for Cloth Diapers in 2023
Best Overall — Charlie’s Soap Laundry Powder
Charlie’s Soap Laundry Powder
Eliminate stains and odors naturally with this super-powered biodegradable detergent.
Cloth diapers call for the strongest laundry detergent you can get your hands on. Fortunately, Charlie’s Soap Laundry Powder is as powerful as it is gentle.
This powder laundry detergent promises to tackle tough stains and odors without leaving behind any residue. Its super short ingredient list features hypoallergenic plant-based surfactants and washing soda.
You can use this detergent whether you have hard water, soft water, or a high-efficiency washer. It also boasts the E.P.A.’s Safer Choice seal of approval.
Best Laundry Pods — Dropps Detergent Pods
Dropps Detergent Pods
These detergent pods pack a ton of laundering power in a small, child-safe package.
If you enjoy the convenience and minimal waste of laundry pods, Dropps Detergent Pods are your best option.
You may already know that detergent pods aren’t super popular in the cloth diaper community. Rest assured that Dropps pods are just as effective as other detergent formulas. Dropps recommends using its Small Loads Sensitive Skin & Baby formula on cloth diapers.
Dropps also infuses all of its pods with a bittering agent to deter overly curious children and pets. (You can learn more about the brand by checking out our in-depth Dropps review!)
Best Budget Option — All Free Clear Powder Laundry Detergent
All Free Clear Powder Laundry Detergent
Safely and effectively wash cloth diapers for just cents per load with this supermarket favorite.
Opting to use cloth diapers means committing to a lot of laundry… and that calls for a lot of detergent! For an affordable formula you can buy almost anywhere, we recommend the All Free Clear Powder Laundry Detergent.
Though this detergent is made with synthetic ingredients, it’s free of dyes, fragrances, and other unnecessary additives. The fact it comes in a cardboard box is also a plus in terms of sustainability.
If you can’t find the Free Clear formula, the original All powder detergent is also a great choice. But other formulations (including the Free Clear Liquid) contain ingredients not recommended for cloth diapers.
Best Detergent Sheets — Earth Breeze Eco Sheets
Earth Breeze Eco Sheets
Our favorite laundry detergent sheets for minimal waste without sacrificing cleaning power.
It’s easy to think that only liquid or powder detergent is strong enough to get cloth diapers clean. Yet many families use alternatives, like Earth Breeze Eco Sheets, with great success.
Earth Breeze is one of our favorite brands of dissolvable laundry detergent sheets. The company is all about delivering super-effective detergent while putting as little stress on the planet as possible.
All Earth Breeze detergent is formulated with minimal ingredients (so less chance of skin irritation). We recommend the Fragrance-Free version for cloth diapers.
Best for Cotton Diapers — Tru Earth Eco-Strips
Tru Earth Eco-Strips
These eco-friendly detergent sheets are a great option for 100% cotton cloth diapers.
If you use cotton cloth diapers, then Tru Earth Eco-Strips are another low-waste alternative to liquid and powder laundry detergent.
One of the best things about Tru Earth is that there are a variety of formulas available to choose from, including a detergent specifically for babies. Scented and unscented versions are also available.
While we like this detergent for general use, Tru Earth is upfront about the fact that its products aren’t appropriate for all cloth diapers. There’s a chance that this laundry detergent could break down the fibers of cloth diapers made of non-cotton fabrics.
Best Enzymatic Formula — Rockin’ Green Platinum Series Dirty Diaper Detergent
Rockin’ Green Platinum Series Dirty Diaper Detergent
This powder laundry detergent features diaper-safe enzymes for efficient cleaning.
The Rockin’ Green Dirty Diaper Laundry Detergent stands out from the crowd largely because it is specifically marketed toward cloth diaper users.
This laundry detergent offers the cleaning power needed to handle most cloth diapers while relying solely on plant-based surfactants. There are no dyes, brighteners, or artificial fragrances in this detergent.
The true highlight of this laundry detergent formula is the inclusion of cloth diaper-safe enzymes. These enzymes help break down stains and odors without harming the cloth fibers themselves.
While this detergent works great for many families, it’s not the gentlest option out there. If you know your baby has particularly sensitive skin, you may want to try another formula first.
Best Liquid Formula — Tide Free & Gentle Eco-Box
Tide Free & Gentle Eco-Box
Tackle tough stains and odors with this gentle Tide laundry detergent sold in low-waste packaging.
If you’re a die-hard eco-consumer, a brand like Tide may not even be on your radar. Yet there’s no denying the good reviews formulas like Tide Free & Gentle receive from cloth diaper enthusiasts!
This laundry detergent is a wonderful option for sensitive skin. Seals of approval from eczema and psoriasis organizations support this claim.
We particularly like the Eco-Box — an alternative packaging that uses 60% less plastic — this and other Tide detergents are available in. Just keep in mind that not all retailers offer this option.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is liquid or powder detergent better for cloth diapers?
Liquid, powder, pods, and dissolvable sheets are all capable of cleaning cloth diapers safely and effectively.
The reason some cloth diaper users recommend one type of detergent over others often has to do with cost. Powder and liquid detergents tend to be more economical when laundering cloth diapers, partially because you can easily adjust the amount of detergent added to each load.
Can you use dryer sheets on cloth diapers?
You should not use dryer sheets (or any other fabric softener) when laundering cloth diapers. These products can leave behind a residue that affects the diapers’ absorption while also trapping odors and stains inside the fibers.
To fight static, wrinkles, and slightly soften your freshly laundered diapers, consider using dryer balls made of plastic or wool. Dryer balls offer many of the same benefits as dryer sheets without the many drawbacks.
Last update on 2023-09-10 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API