Happy Family. Healthy Planet.®

Happy Family. Healthy Planet.®
Denver's Green Store for Cloth Diapers and More!

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Great Detergent Debate

Ask any cloth diapering mama about the kind of detergent she uses to keep her diapers clean and you're likely to get into quite a discussion! Some swear by regular blue Tide, others would gasp at the idea! If you're new to cloth diapering, simply learning about prefolds, pocket diapers, and double vs. single gussets might have your head spinning, but now that you're investing in cloth, you need to know how to keep it performing at its best!

Why does it matter which kind of detergent you use?

Some detergents contain softeners, which seems like a great idea. You want everything that touches your baby to be soft, right? The problem with softeners, whether in your detergent or added separately, is that they will cause your diapers to leak leak leak! They soften the fabric by coating the fibers with a waxy like substance that will make your diapers water (and therefore pee) resistant. Same goes for most diaper rash creams. For ointment that is safe to use with your cloth diapers, click here.

Those amazing detergents that get even your husband's socks clean owe it all to protein-eating enzymes. Get ready for a little Biology 101: Enzymes are naturally occurring proteins that act as catalysts for the other proteins around them. There are hundreds of types of enzymes and commercially, they are very popular: they are used to tenderize meat, help lactose-intolerant people happily enjoy ice cream in the form of Lactaid, aid in beer brewing, and even show up in baby food to "predigest" some of it. (Gag!) Enzymes are also used in paper, rubber, and film manufacturing. Our bodies are full of enzymes, working as catalysts for ongoing cellular growth and repair. So enzymes themselves are not the enemy!

However, the specific type of enzyme found in many popular fabric detergents can pose a big problem for your baby's behind. The type of enzymes found in most laundry detergents help lift stains by eating organic matter such as grass, dirt, sweat, and poo. However, those enzymes can also react with your baby's skin, especially when you add pee into the mix. This can cause your baby to develop a serious, blistering diaper rash!

Additionally, avoid detergents with "whiteners" or "brighteners." These detergents aren't actually whitening or brightening your clothes, they are covering them with phosphates. Have you ever played in the ocean after sundown and noticed the water glowing when you splashed in it? Phosphates absorb invisible ultraviolet light and re-emit it as blue light, just like glow-in-the-dark toys. While phosphates may make your clothes appear brighter, the chemical residue can cause a rash or allergic reaction. As if that weren't a good enough reason to avoid them, phosphates, although a natural and necessary element in nature, can wreak havoc on ecosystems when they get out of proportion.

Say that your well-meaning husband, or maybe even you-- in your most sleep deprived state, accidentally washes the diapers in a detergent containing softeners, enzymes or whiteners? Don't fret, you can fix this! You will need to strip your diapers: You can either wash them on hot two or three times without any detergent until the water is clear and free from suds or wash them once on hot with just a little squirt of Dawn dish soap. Don't try that on an HE machine, though! It's not a bad idea to strip your diapers every so often, just to keep them free from detergent buildup which can also affect absorbency and cause your diapers to get a little stinky.

On our website you can find
a wide variety of detergents that
work well and are safe for your diapers, baby, and our Earth.