Detergents & diapering

Many of you write to me frustrated that you have to use a special detergent for your diapers. Our Cloth 101 page on the site has always expressed the same views that we still hold, but it is not necessary to use a “CD” marketed detergent to have success, we see the most success from our customers over the years, and our own personal 7+years in diapering from mainstream detergents:

Detergent is a “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” point, if you are using a detergent and have no odors outside of the dryer or once freshly peed in (not the overnight diaper, that is a different scenario), then stop reading now and go to my giveaway section πŸ˜‰
However, if you take your diapers out of the dryer and sniff them, and you smell anything other than clean fabric, you have a problem. It can be described as “musty, barnyard, ammonia, stale urinal”, any of those terms qualify. Also, if they smell fine out of the dryer, but within a few minutes of it being on you smell a musty-urine smell, you have buildup, most commonly caused by liquid detergents.

These two problems require two different solutions, one of which we will tackle today.

For the “smell out of the dryer”, you are looking at:

1)not enough detergent
2)not the right detergent

For solution to number one, I have long maintained that with very, very exceptions of customers who have incredibly soft water, a tablespoon of detergent is not going to work. Imgine soaking your cotton tee shirts in the toilet, then placing them in a dark, warm bag for 24-48 hours. Do you trust them to get clean with a tablespoon of detergent? Use the recommended amount of your powdered detergent, it is the first step I recommend to fixing this problem. Now, if you have bad buildup you may need to strip first, which we will gget into next week.

For number 2, refer to our list above. Generally speaking, over the years of doing this, the more natural the detergent, the worse it is with diapers, with very few exceptions. Rockin Green, Planet and Country Save being those exceptions. Again, if it ain’t broke….but if you have problems look over that list.


January 27, 2011. cloth diapers, FAQ, Q & A, Wash routines.


  1. Tammy replied:

    I am having a problem, just developed this week, with my overnight diapers. What is your suggestions there? I have taken to rinsing the inserts with my diaper sprayer in the morning, but haven’t washed yet to see if this is helping…

  2. abbyslane replied:

    Tammy, when you say problems with overnight, they just smell in the morning but are fine out of the dryer?

  3. Tammy replied:

    They smell fine out of the dryer, but stink right when he pees in them.

  4. Tammy replied:

    I don’t use a liquid detergent, two weeks ago, I switched back to bumGenius from Grovia tiny bubbles. I didn’t have a problem with the Grovia, just bumGenius was in stock. I use the full cup for both detergrents. I have used bumGenius detergent before and not had a problem. I do have hard water. Any suggestions?

  5. Molly replied:

    I am SOOOOO glad I found your blog. I have been having a truly frustrating time getting my diapers to smell clean out of the washer, and continue to think that there MUST be a better solution than 5 or 6 washes only to have them smell faintly icky out of the dryer. All of the other sites claim use less detergent, only free and clear, blah blah blah – What you say actually makes sense! Thank you! Thank you for confirming I am not ridiculous for thinking I should use more detergent or whatever. Thanks!

  6. Kassy replied:

    I wanted to see your 7+ years experience with “mainstream” detergents but the link isn’t working for me. After an amonia problem resulting in my 2 year old having an amonia burn, I was referred to your blog and have read tons of great information. After reading all your stripping, amonia, wash routine posts, I’m certain I need to strip and switch detergents but prefer to use something I can get at the local store and not have to order special cloth diaper detergent. Please help! πŸ™‚

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