Monday, July 20, 2009

Cleaning Cloth Diapers With Homemade Laundry Soap

One of many frugal regrets I have is that I wasn't savvy enough to use cloth diapers. I still was a newby at frugality when my first was a baby, over 13 years ago, and the gross factor had much more power over me than it does now.

So when Colleen sent me an email asking about using my Homemade Laundry Soap to clean cloth diapers, I drew a blank. Here's her e-mail...


Hi Gayle,

I have been using your homemade laundry detergent for a little over a year now w/o any trouble. So, I want to first thank you and then ask if any of your readers have said that they safely wash cloth diapers w/ the homemade detergent. I am concerned b/c some sites warn against using borax claiming that is is abrasive. I already wash my baby's clothes w/ the homemade detergent, but wanted to play it safe with the diapers since they come into such close contact w/ a delicate area. :)

Thanks, for your time and all of the great ideas that you put out there for all of us!

Sincerely,
Colleen

Does anyone have an answer to Colleen's question?

29 comments:

4ddintx said...

Hi,
I use a dry version of the homemade laundry detergent and have for over a year. I use it in a HE machine AND I wash my daughter's diapers in it.

No problems with her skin. I've never heard that about borax being not for sensitive skin. One of the reasons I use the homemade detergent is that it doesn't have the scents and fillers that other detergents do. I have an older daughter with very sensitive skin and she does great with the homemade detergent. Also, before I did the homemade detergent I always added borax to the wash when doing the diapers!

If your reader is worried she can just do an extra rinse. I always do an extra rinse with vinegar anyway. The vinegar cuts any remaining smell and acts as a fabric softener. It's the only fabric softener I ever use, especially on diapers. Commercial fabric softeners (even dryer sheets) cut the absorbency of the diaper since they coat the fibers. The vinegar doesn't do that.

Thanks for the great blog!

Tabitha
(Mom to 6 girls)

Abbi said...

I have been using the homemade laundry detergent for about a month now. I also been using it on my son's cloth diapers. I have not had any problems as of yet. His skin is not sensitive. So, no promises that it will work on other babies as well.
Hope that helps :)

Never A True Aggie said...

I just started cloth dipes with #3 and wished I had done it with #1 and #2. It is so much easier then I thought. I have done as much research as I can and so far, I have not seen anything, but here is what I think. I think it would be ok. I have seen some people use borax to strip their diapers (what you do when they start to repel and not absorb...has to do with detergent build up). Some people use totally organic detergent and some people use plain old tide.

Here are my 2 cents, I think you should do it and see if any rashes develop. If they do, then maybe it is too harsh. One good sign is that he/she hasn't reacted to his/her clothes.

Also, for fellow cheapies like me, I found good bargains at diaperswappers.com and etsy. You can get a stash for less. You can also make your own. Check you tube for tutorials.

Sarah said...

I have heard both that it is ok and that it is not- but the most popular laundry soap recipe that is passed around on the diaper boards does have borax in it- with one recommendation-that the soap be dissolved in hot water before adding to the washer. I posted a copy of the recipe here http://sockday.blogspot.com/2009/06/powdered-laundry-soap.html mainly because I kept forgetting it. There is also an explanation of the chemistry behind the ingredients.

Tiffany said...

I've never washed cloth diapers in the homemade soap but my sons have extremely sensitive skin so using the right soap is a big issue for me. Even laundry soap made for sensitive skin gives them excema flare ups and rashes. Since using the homemade soap we haven't had a problem. I would assume if it doesn't irritate my sensitive skinned boys, it would be fine on a baby's skin too.

karen robertson said...

I use cloth diapers, sometimes. My baby is still new, and I'm not quite in the groove yet. However I do use the homemade laundry detergent on them, and all my baby clothes. I also use cloth wipes rather than baby wipes, and I wash these in the homemade soap. My diaper soaking pail is 1/4 cup washing soda and 1/4 cup borax. So far I haven't had any problems. I also read the site that said not to use borax on your cloth diapers, but then I also found lots of sites that said it was ok. The impression I got was that it was more for the life of the diaper than baby's skin. But at 3 months, I haven't noticed a problem yet.

NW Coupon Lady said...

I don't have little ones in diapers but our whole family has sensitive skin and I had always used the All free and clear laundry soap until about two months ago. We now use homemade laundry soap and we have not had any problems at all. I would give it a try and double rinse like some of the others suggested. My guess is if the clothes are fine the diapers probably will be. Good Luck.

Gloria said...

Seventh Generation has a great laundry detergent for babies however; if your trying to be frugal you may want to use these ingredients for your baby clothing. 1 bar ivory soap grated as fine as possible. I cut my in chunks and then pulverize it in the food processor.

1 cup washing soda - arm & hammer in the laundry aisle

1 cup borax laundry booster

I also highly recommend that mom's making there own laundry detergent and are washing diapers in it, to use the extra rinse cycle. Baby girls are susceptible to irritation and Urinary tract infections so make sure the soap has been wash out good.

I also recommend that no one use soap with dyes, or frangrance...they are not good for any of us.

Anonymous said...

I used homemade laundry detergent with my two little ones and the diapers, wraps, cloth wipes and the kids made it out just fine. I didn't soak, but scraped with a dedicated spatula next to the toilet and washed everyother/every third day with a double rinse. Worked fabulous for me and no more work than disposables, if you consider store trips. But like the others said, I'd do a test because everyone's skin is different.

Carol said...

The trouble people have with the home-made laundry recipe with diapers has more to do with the diapers becoming less effective over time than with sensitive skin. Some waterproof materials (fleece, if you use pocket diapers, and some of the waterproof covers) hold on to the soap and have a hard time letting it go. Over time it builds up and the covers will begin to leak and the fleece begin to repel water, making the diaper leak. Just depends on they type of diaper you're using. It can take months for it to happen, and people assume their diapers are faulty or worn out, not knowing that it was actually soap build-up. (it can be reversed, just takes a lot of work) So if you can find a recipe without the actual soap flakes, that would be best. Google "diapers soap residue" - there's lots of information out there, and I think some sites have alternative home-made recipes that avoid residue-causing soap.

Myra said...

it works fine with cloth and sensitive skin (DD has eczema) and whenever I have a problem with diaper absorbsion I run them thru the dishwasher a few times... they will create bubbles at first cuz they were holdin extra soap so when they stop bubblin they are ready to be taken out, squeezed n dried... it's called striping the diapers...I always use a vinegar rinse after washing too...

Emily said...

I use cloth diapers for both of my children, DD-21 mo., and DS-1 mo., and have done a lot of reading/research about laundry detergent.
As I understand it, the problem with using the homemade detergent is not with the Borax, but with the Fels Naptha soap. As previous commenters have said, soap leaves a residue on diapers and causes build-up which makes them less absorbent, or even makes them repellent. I have heard of making a homemade detergent for diapers using OxiClean in place of the soap, but have not tried it myself. Here is a link to the recipe:
http://www.diaperswappers.com/forum/showthread.php?t=484825

Hope that helps!!

laurel said...

My homemade detergent is a powder, also using borax, washing soda, and fels naptha laundry soap (grated). I have been using it on our laundry, and my son's cloth diapers, for two years without issue. I do occasionally strip the diapers to get rid of build up. We use several different kinds of diapers, from hemp to Bum Genius all in ones. I haven't had trouble with the detergent and any of them.

Heather said...

Love, Love, LOVE my cloth diapers (we use HH and BG)! We use Charlie's Soap since we got it as a shower gift. Two little 80 load bags have lasted us over a year with all the laundry we do for diapers and clothes...not too bad! Once our third and last bag is done (probably around Jan) we'll be doing homemade.

A good friend does homemade laundry soap with their diapers and haven't had any real problems. We all do the extra rinse with vinegar and they have stayed very soft and absorbant.

Seriously cloth is the way to go! To quote my husband (who DOES do diaper laundry as well), "Why would anyone not do cloth diapers?" This is a man who first changed a diaper the day we had our baby. And never did laundry until he was 27 years old. If he can embrace it, anyone can!

Heather

Kate said...

I am a cloth diapering Mama as well (LOVE IT!)...and think myself quite the little expert! LOL However, I am NOT an expert on laundry soap. The only point I have to make is that you should use such a SMALL amount of detergent with your diapers that I am sure the homemade stuff would work great. I am talking teeny tiny here people. For a large load of diapers I only use a tablespoon of soap. And as other posters have stated, putting about a cup of vinegar in the final rinse works wonders. Using that second rinse cycle is a God send. Now if we could only have an easy way of washing diapers while camping! LOL

Donna said...

I cloth diapered with my two on and off, and found that though the homemade detergent worked fine for cleaning and was not harmful to baby skin, after a while things got "non-absorbent" and it would help to run a load through with a tablespoon of regular detergent and vinegar on the rinse, with an extra rinse and spin cycle.

J said...

we use castle soap or the plain soap base you get from the craft stores to make your own scented soap. Then rinse with vinegar. I only use 1/4 cup in the front load HE washer I have.

Milehimama said...

I've been using homemade detergent on cloth diapers for 6 weeks now with no problems. I use that soap for all of the family's clothes for a while now (I use Zote, though).

I have read that periodically you should boil the diapers to strip them but haven't made it to that stage, yet.

I just started cloth with my 8th baby and it's so much easier than I thought it would be. I wish I had started sooner, too.

I HAVE heard that dry, powdered WASHING SODA can eat holes in the cloth, though. Haven't had any problems with the homemade soap, which has the borax and soda dissolved.

Anonymous said...

My babies are all grown up now and when they were little we all used borax to wash cloth diapers (all we had at the time). Funny how time changes things but I'm pretty sure borax is pretty much the same!

Heather Brandt said...

I have not noticed any problems with using washing soda in my homemade diaper detergent recipe. I got it from the forum at mothering.com. I use 8-9 squirts of Simple Green All Purpose Cleaner and 1/4 cup of Arm & Hammer Washing Soda. I add 1/4 cup of Calgon Water Softener because we have hard water. My PUL pocket diapers look great and smell cleaner than they did when I used Purex. I have not chosen to try the Borax homemade detergent b/c I had read enough to make me concerned it might make the PUL diapers less water resistent. I also have concerns about using Borax as an ingredient based on some things I have read about it being considered less of a healthy/safe ingredient.

Heather

TL. said...

I make my own liquid laundry detergent, but I skip on the borax. I just add a half cup of washing powder extra. here is my recipe:
http://amphibianfroggie.blogspot.com/2008/11/homemade-laundry-detergent.html

Jeff9 said...

The best way to clean cloth diapers is to pre-rinse them off in the toilet using a Hand Bathroom Bidet Sprayer. So convenient and if you are trying to help the environment (and your pocket book) you can give it a double whammy by virtually eliminating toilet paper use by using it on yourself also. That is what they were originally created for. I think Dr. Oz on Oprah said it best: "if you had pee or poop on your hand, you wouldn't wipe it off with paper, would you? You'd wash it off" Available at http://www.bathroomsprayers.com they come in an inexpensive kit and can be installed without a plumber. Now we're talking green and helping the environment without any pain. One review: http://jonathanandandrea.blogspot.com/2009/04/spray-it-or-scrub-it.html

Jeannie said...

I don't have my box of country save near me, but I am fairly certain that the one of the main ingredients is borax, Country Save is one of the detergents recomended by our diaper manufacturer as a safe one.

Laura @ Laura Williams' Musings said...

I have been making the powdered laundry detergent for well over 8 years.

1 box of Borax
1 box of Arm & Hammer Washing Soda
1 bar of Fels Naptha or Zote soap (zote is a Hispanic laundry soap)

Grate the soap and mix all the ingredients a container.

Use 2TBSP (not a typo) per load of laundry.

I now have an front loading washer and it works wonderfully in it. There's no suds but those suds in the store bought stuff are basically for looks anyway. If I use a double load (which is 2 laundry baskets of clothes in my washer) I will put in 4 TBSP as my washer holds two loads of laundry.

Vilate said...

So I CD and LOVE it! I also make and sell them! I love the idea of homemade soap. The other soaps out there have enzymes in them, and the enzymes are great for killing the bacteria on our clothes, but when you use them on cloth diapers and the baby pees in them the residual enzymes attack the baby's bum and will literally eat it! It is awful to see! My advice would be to try it out. With a few diapers, not the whole stash. Then if it isn't a prob go ahead with it. I add 3-5 drops of tea tree oil to my load of diapers also to help kill the bacteria, vinegar is super for a softener, and then I say hang them out in the sun to finish it off! The sun is a natural bleacher and will bleach the stains off! tell her good luck and way to go on CDing!

Anonymous said...

I too made one with a combination of washing soda, borax, and fells naptha but I believe it ruined the PUL on my cloth diapers! I contacted the company I purchased them from and they said that all three of those ingredients are not good for cloth diapers. I would recommend doing some more research before using them on cloth diapers with PUL.

Rebecca said...

Sorry, I didn't have the time to read through all the comments, but I noticed some of the people saying that soap buildup is an issue. This is true, but there's a very simple remedy. Use a squirt of regular blue Dawn dish soap in a hot wash with no laundry soap or detergent. Then do a hot rinse, and another hot rinse, until you don't see anymore soap bubbles in the water (this is best for a top loader). That effectively strips the soap residue from the diapers without you having to boil them. The soap residue is a bit annoying to me, but doing a strip once every month or two is worth it to me considering the amount of money I'm saving using homemade laundry detergent. And really, you can start to tell when the diapers are getting less absorbent, and that's when you'll want to strip them. If you have enough in your stash and don't have to wash as often, you can go longer between strip cycles.

Caleb & Lisa Humphrey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jaimie and Shelly said...

We use a version of your laundry recipe, but we use Ivory soap and just spot treat with Fels Naptha. We use grated soap, borax, and washing soda and put it in a bucket. Our recipe is at http://mainstreethomestead.blogspot.com/2011/12/laundry-on-line-detergent-recipe.html
We use it dry without adding water and just put it in the wash before the clothes so that it dissolves. We cloth diaper and this formula works well on them. If there is an extra messy load, I'll add in a cup of vinegar.