I love my DIY cloth diaper detergent!

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I was reading a wonderful post on the Thirsties blog last night, but I felt that I should respond.  1) Because I love my recipe, and 2) Because I know that many of you do too and I owe you that!

The post I’m talking about is Homemade is Not Always Best by Thirsties.

My thoughts:

1) I LOVE Thirsties!

I have had the pleasure of working with them and have loved it every time.  They are a wonderful company, have kind employees and fantastic products.  I have never been let down by a cover of theirs!  When I went to the ABC Kids Expo last fall, I was SO excited to speak with them and talk about their line.  I immediately felt at home and all of my butterflies went away.  I was in my element!  I seriously love this company and am thankful for the opportunities that I have had to work with them and to share their products.

2) I think that this post is wonderful!

I share my cloth diaper detergent recipe here on my blog and from time to time people do ask about the specific ingredients because there is some debate among companies as to what is recommended and what is not.  This can vary from company to company, which makes it confusing for you, the consumer.  This post does talk about the things that we all want to know, which is, “Why do some companies not recommend these items?”.  I am thankful to have it as a resource to point readers to (I want you to do what you feel comfortable with!), and as one for me to better understand the reasoning behind these recommendations, or lack of.

3) I still love my detergent.

Furthermore, I still recommend trying it.  In my experience, this detergent does not cause any problems with PUL and/or elastic.  I’ve been using this recipe for three and a half years at the time of this writing, with the exception of times I tested samples of other detergents.  For me, and some of you, it simply works – and the savings is hard to beat!  Plus it works great on clothes too, how convenient is that?

In my laundry experience (of all types), I find the oxygen cleaner to be the ingredient that could be perceived as the most problematic (aside from soap, which I do not include in my cloth diaper detergent recipe).  In my recipe, an oxygen cleaner accounts for about 24% of the detergent composition.  I generally use 1 tablespoon of detergent per wash (2 for heavily soiled), which means that I am using less than a teaspoon of oxygen cleaner per wash (about 1.5 tsp in a heavy load).  I have never had an issue with this hurting my diapers, nor have I had anyone report this problem to me.

  • I do not recommend using this detergent as a booster (used on top of another detergent).
  • I also do not recommend using oxygen cleaners as a cleaning agent on it’s own, in large quantities or as a soak for cloth diapers.

Of course there are wash routine issues from time to time, for different users – but that will happen with most any detergent.  Every washing machine and water combination (hard or soft) is different, and baby’s diet can cause chanes too.  This is obviously not an issue of wear on the diaper – just something I thought I would note.

4) I love other detergents too!

Yep, I said it.  I love mine, but I’ve had the pleasure of trying out detergents formulated for cloth diapers and by cloth diaper companies and I really love some of them.  Thirsties Pre-Wash & Super Wash combo is actually one of my favorites.  It is super easy to use (no measuring required) and it worked wonderfully for me.

Another detergent that I love is Eco Sprout.  This detergent is also easy to use (no panic over how much to use/not use) and it works consistently.

What are your thoughts and what detergent do you use?


Amanda Hearn
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  • Thanks for your post. I was a little irate at first at Thirsties as the article, to me, seemed to mostly be about getting people to buy detergent (esp from them, marketing ploy) rather then make it at home at a lesser price.
    This is especially frustrating for me as if I had to buy diaper detergent I’m not sure we could afford to CD, as of right now with the price we have to pay each week to wash at a laundry mat nearly equals what we’d pay on amazon mommies to order disposables at the discounts they give. Hubby was pressuring me to go that route until I found your recipe, which lasted on only diapers for 8 months using only half of what I’d made, then I started using it on laundry as well and we’ve used almost a 1/3 of what was left already but we have a lot of laundry, still great.

    Any way I read what you wrote and saw their post in a different light. But I still worry that their post will make moms who can’t afford to buy premade detergent feel guilty or like their damaging their diapers if they use a home made detergent.

  • I have been using your “recipe” for my diapers for about 4 months and have not had any problems. I get microfiber stink, but only when the diapers sit for an extra day and usually an extra rinse or two after a good wash helps. No worse than when I used Rockin Green.

  • I read the Thirsties article last night. I found it interesting and wasn’t sure how to feel about it. I studied homemade recipes before finally deciding what I wanted to put in mine. Everything I read said the ingredients I chose were cloth diaper safe and no one said anything about experiencing any problems.
    My homemade detergent is similar to yours. I add Fels Naptha or Dr. Bronner’s castile soap to mine. I use a spoonful, sometimes a little more. I tried quite a few commercial diaper detergents in 3.5 yrs before finally trying a DIY recipe. I have had less “stink” problems then I ever have before. Our water is SUPER hard and this formula is the only thing that has kept the diapers from smelling like urine/ poop out of the dryer or ammonia after the diaper is wet. I use Dawn or Original Tide every so often to strip.
    Our water is so bad, it eventually destroys PUL. Before I was using my own detergent, 3 of my Thirsties covers and a duo diaper were ruined by too many rinses our water. I explained what happened, my washing routine and sent pictures. Thirsties replaced everything under warranty. They even offered suggestions on how to wash their covers in hopes of preventing the same thing from happening again. They really are a great company to work with!

  • What first caught my eye in researching this blog was the “Homemade is not always best”. In some cases I agree.
    I have been using a very similar laundry detergent recipe for some time with no problems at all although I admit, I haven’t washed any diapers in a while. : ) (yea!)
    I followed your links and read the post on Thirsties and was a little dubious about some of Sonya’s comments. I am with you 100% regarding the amount of ingredients and dilution ratios… I can’t imagine for example, how this could harm elastic in a diaper.
    At any rate sweet pea, I love your recipe, I love making my own very cost effective laundry detergent and hope you will continue with yours.
    I write a blog for a very eco friendly disinfectant. As you probably know, there are no “green” disinfectants mainly because the product labels make “kill” claims. (You can’t be non-toxic and kill.) What really worries me are the homemade products people use and “think” are disinfectants, which aren’t. Vinegar is a perfect example. I love vinegar and it is a wonderful cleaner but… its not a disinfectant. I worry so much that people will use it thinking they are killing harmful bacteria… and they aren’t. Check out our website when you have time. http://www.vitaloxide.com
    Good luck with your blog and I look forward to reading much more!!

  • I get my diapers from http://www.Sno-Pea.com. They are a lot like Bum Genius diapers. Anyway, I love them because I rinse once then wash them in hot water with my homemade fabric softener and detergent then hang them out to dry and they are perfect! I need to try your recipe though! It seems a lot simpler than mine lol

  • Why is is NOT recommended to use both a store bought and homemade detergent? I noticed with my wash, that just the homemade detergent leaves a “barnyard” type smell, and when I use the combo, no smell, and stains come out great. Thanks.

  • Thank you for this post and the one with the recipe! I’ll be a Mom myself in 4, very short, days and realized about 2 days ago that I had washed EVERYTHING, including my diapers in my homemade soap that contains Ivory soap! I’m just finishing running the last of all my diapers through a major stripping (they’re mostly used to begin with) and have made up a “test batch” of your diaper detergent, and will be posting shortly about it on my own blog (with links back here, of course)!

    I was really saddened when I watched the water beading up in the wash before I started stripping the first load! Luckily, the water beading has been replaced by it being quickly absorbed by the fleece layer!

    I do have a question though…I noticed when I used the detergent that it doesn’t really “bubble” at all…is it supposed to? I know this is a semi-silly question since I’ve been using homemade laundry soap for the better part of a year now and we don’t really ever see the “so called cleaning action” of bubbles in that either, but it did have me a bit concerned as to whether my diapers were truly being cleaned or just “rinsed out”.

    • your homemade detergent won’t really bubble up like commercial varieties. Commercial types are purposely made to bubble because people assoicate the bubbling with cleaning ability. If someone bought a laundry detergent or a dish soap or hand soap etc and there was no foam to it they most likely would say…”hey this stuff isn’t working, there isn’t even any suds”.

    • Clarissa is right on, this detergent doesn’t sud like most traditional detergents which contain chemicals that cause them to suds, but this doesn’t actually make the detergent more effective – it just gives the appearance of “cleaning”.

  • I was wondering if your detergent is HE compatible and if not (because I saw it said in non HE machines) do you know what would need to be changed to make it work? I have been trying to find this out but so far haven’t had much luck.

  • Amanda,

    My wife and I are going to be cloth diapering our our soon to be child and I would like the advice of a “seasoned pro” as it were. What brands of cloth diapers have you tried and liked? Have you used or do you have experience with hand made cloth diapers and if so what inner fabrics do you prefer. Also, thank you for the laundry detergent recipe. My wife isn’t due for 6 months but we are already using your detergent on our clothes and anything we buy for our anxiously awaited child.

    Thank you

    • Congratulations 🙂 There are so many great diaper brands. My recommendation would be to familiarize yourself with the type of diaper you may want to use and then choose a brand based on that. I have a post that talks about the types here

      Many people love pocket style diapers like the bumGenius 4.0 or Thirsties Duo Diaper – or an envelope style (similar to pocket) like AppleCheeks.

      A few of my favorites are:
      bumGenius Elementals (organic cotton inner)
      prefolds with Thirsties Duo Wrap covers
      One-Size Fitted with Thirsties Cover (Fitted brands like fluff by Mama Made, Kiwi Pie, Goodmama, etc.)

      Those are just a few of many, if you narrow down the type you might like I would be happy to help further 🙂

  • Amanda, your post is so helpful because it’s honest and gives both sides PLUS you can share over 3 years of using your formulation. I agree with you that borax and washing soda aren’t the potential “bad guys” in homemade diaper detergents; pure soap is most likely the culprit because it contains oils that can cause residue and build-up.

    My own experience bears this out. Both the detergent I made myself (with Fels Naptha) and two of the “boutique” detergents I tried (using Castile soap) caused buildup and required periodic stripping.

    For the past year I’ve used nothing but original Tide or Eco Sprout. I can’t remember the last time I had to strip diapers. It’s been at least 8 months, maybe more?

    I’m bookmarking your recipe since it’s the only one I’ve found that doesn’t use SOAP (liquid or grated) in the recipe. Thanks!!

  • I have a question. I make my own liquid detergent using 1 bar soap, 2 cups washing soda and 2 cups borax diluted in 5 gallons of water. Would that still cause build up? I’m gonna use it and see but I was kind of hoping someone might have some advice here?

    • I use home made liquid detergent. It consists of borax
      Washing soda and fels naptha.
      Leaves no residue! Washes amazing!
      Not to mentiom never ever leaves a smell.
      My kids also never get rashes (2 in cloth diapers)
      My youngest always had bad rashes but this does not
      Seem to cause him one at all!

  • Hello 🙂 I am going to be staying home and we’re looking to save $ so I am looking into using your recipe. Oxyclean has a history of giving women in my family rashes so naturally I am worried about using it on our daughter’s diapers. Is there any alternative to the Oxyclean? Thanks!

  • Does anyone use diapers they’ve made? We are expecting and my mom and I got an amazing deal on PUL fabric so she is currently busy sewing away. I’ve heard lots of things about PUL not standing up to many washes. Are you ladies putting them in the dryer as well or exclusively line drying. I’m also hesitant about using the borax. Does any one have babies with super sensitive skin? My skin is quite sensitive and I have many allergies so I am expecting our baby to be similar.
    Thanks for all the advice ladies!

  • I use home made liquid detergent. It consists of borax
    Washing soda and fels naptha.
    Leaves no residue! Washes amazing!
    Not to mentiom never ever leaves a smell.
    My kids also never get rashes (2 in cloth diapers)
    My youngest always had bad rashes but this does not
    Seem to cause him one at all!

  • Hello There. I found your blog using msn. This is an extremely well written article.
    I will be sure to bookmark it and come back to read more of your useful information.
    Thanks for the post. I’ll certainly return.

  • So I have been experimenting with soap nuts and I found them to be a pretty good green cleaner and laundry “detergent” and you can’t beat the price. When bought in bulk they are like $.03-.05 a load! However, I started to notice a distinct odor but couldn’t put my finger on what it smelled like until the word “vomit” was used (my autistic brother who is VERY sensitive to smells started to point this out to me about my son’s clothes) and now whenever I use them I smell “vomit”. They don’t immediately smell, just after a few hours of wear when the body start producing natural odors. It’s not mildew, it’s not the same smell. Sigh, I need a knew way to use these suckers to eliminate the funky smell they are leaving. So, I was thinking that instead of the soap which we know can cause repellent issues, has anyone tried adding ground soap nuts to their detergent instead to use on their cloth diapers? I may try it out and see. Plain soap nuts for cloth didn’t work for me, because I would never remember to take them out of the rinse cycle, and they gave my LO a BAD rash. I have tons of soapnuts and nothing to do with them.

    • I got some soap nuts and the people I got them from gave me sprigs of lavender in a cloth tea bag to use in the dryer. I didn’t like the soap nuts for my diapers, but I loved the lavender. Maybe this could help with your “vomit” problem. 🙂

  • i cloth diaper my 8 mo old and am in LOVE with it. i currently use rockin green hard rock (we have very hard water) i am going to try your recipe and am so excited…. do you have any tips using this with hard water? should i use more? add something? help! just curious if you have any secrets for hard water, dont want to get a build up!
    thanks so much for your time and this recipe!

  • Any tips on detergent and washing in for softened hard water and HE top loader? New to all of this.. Oh and I use thirsties duo wraps.

  • I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love your blog, and this post is the perfect example of why. You’re smart, not condescending, and you’re goal is clearly to help people, not make them into clones of you. Thank you!

  • I Actually recently setup a steam shower unit, the best item we have purchased in a while,
    kids and family think it’s great, simply cannot see us heading back to regular showers anymore

  • I’m curious to see your detergent recipe. We have extremely hard water here. My husband occasionally has to remove and empty our shower head of *rocks*. 🙁 Not only that but sometimes the water here gets an awful mildewy smell to it that won’t even go away when we filter it. It’s really frustrating since we pay more for living expenses to live in a “nicer” area. I guess we’re mainly paying more for the schools. Sad thing is we homeschool.lol.

    I’ve had a horrible time trying to get our diapers clean. I packed up all our microfiber inserts but the laundry still very easily starts to smell of ammonia and my baby tends to get rashes. Thankfully we don’t have barnyard stink. I do have to say that our regular laundry doesn’t smell so great either. I’ve been switching every so often to see if that helps ( it does for about a week) but I wish I could just find one detergent that is actually *safe* for my family and the environment but also works. The last three detergents I tried were a soap nut liquid from Whole Foods (their store brand) but that got moldy! :O I bought a Mexican brand called Foca since we recently bought a very old used non-HE top loader and got rid of our horribly smelly, mold-stained front loader. – I will never buy a front loader again!- But I was afraid to use the Foca because I was afraid it would smell too strong. I also bought a bottle of liquid Sensitive Persil because GroVia added it to their recommended detergent list and I was hoping it was safer than regular U.S. brands but my son’s been using it on his laundry and I really don’t like the smell of it. Soooo, I tried the Foca yesterday and I like it! It’s really cheap and it says it has no sulfates. I have looked around and haven’t seen anything negative about it so I hope it’s safe. I’ll have to continue researching but I think I’ll keep your recipe around just in case the Foca doesn’t work out. Thanks for sharing the recipe. 🙂

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