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Laundering cloth diapers is actually incredibly straightforward once you’ve got your system down. Choosing the right detergent for your diapers is not as difficult as it sounds, either! The main factors to take into consideration are:
- Environmental Impact
- Ease of Use
Detergents come at a number of different price points – but most are within a few dollars of each competing brand. If you’re at a place where cost really is the most important factor, the following strategies are recommended:
Buying in bulk
Co-op and bulk-bin stores will let you purchase detergents by the ounce in your own refillable container. Just weigh your clean, empty container, and then fill up with as much or as little as you want to bring home. Because you can measure exactly how much you’re buying, you can make sure you stay exactly within your budget. Bonus – the cost per ounce is usually lower than buying typically packaged detergents, as you’re not paying for the bottle or the increased cost to transport the packaging.
Buying powdered detergent
Powdered detergent used to be the gold standard in home laundering. With the advent of high-efficiency machines, and ease of dispensing into small receptacles in the machines came liquid detergent as we know it today. While powder is typically a lower-cost option, with so many liquid detergents available, some powdered detergents are becoming increasingly difficult to find in stores.
Making your own
Making your own detergent can be highly economical as the ingredients themselves are fairly inexpensive. I wouldn’t use homemade laundry soap on my cloth diapers, so I can’t recommend it for my readers. I wrote about why I don’t use homemade Laundry Detergent for my cloth diapers .
However for those of you still interested, you usually have to buy a large container, but that container will last you ages. If you have access to a bulk bins store, you may be able to purchase smaller quantities to make a smaller batch. You can also customize it to meet exactly your family’s needs, especially important If you’ve got an allergy or sensitivity. The Eco-Friendly Family has a fantastic DIY Recipe if you want to try it out. (1)
Whichever detergent you get should ultimately have the same end result – clean, sanitary diapers! If that’s not happening, then it doesn’t matter which of the other categories it satisfies. To ensure you’re giving your detergents the most optimal conditions to work its magic, make sure you’re washing them properly. See our article Cloth Diaper Washing Instructions ~ That Work
If diapers aren’t getting as clean as you’d expect, or they aren’t as clean as they used to be, you can troubleshoot before switching detergents.
- Check that diapers aren’t holding onto excess detergent residue. Even with proper cleaning, diapers can hold onto residue from detergents, reducing their absorbency, and ultimately looking and feeling less “clean”. You can find out more about how to strip the residue from your diapers here.
- Make sure your washing machine isn’t overdue for a deep cleaning. All washing machines are prone to needing a deep cleaning every now and then. To help get a cleaner clean on all your loads, check out how to effectively clean your washer.
Ease of Use
Like many aspects of 21st-century living, convenience has trumped environmental impact when products are marketed to consumers. Being a savvy consumer though, you can learn where these “convenience” items are actually traps and where you can both save money, and reduce your environmental impact by choosing the most eco-friendly options.
Increased packaging under the guise of convenience has been at play for decades now. Smaller package sizes, multiple layers of plastic packaging bags, wrappers and such all increase the amount of waste that consumers must go through before even getting to their product. By opting for packages with as little extra waste as possible, you are able to help your home and the planet at the same time! Look for individual items that don’t have extra “wrapping” around them, and avoid sample sizes or multipacks and opt for larger containers, where possible.
Pod detergents have become increasingly popular due to their easy portioning and dispensing. They don’t come without their own set of concerns, however. The containers that they come in are almost exclusively plastic, and while many can be recycled, unfortunately, it is estimated that less than 10% of plastic that is sorted for recycling is never actually recycled. (2)
If you do prefer pods, opting for cardboard packaging (3) or reusing plastic packaging around the house first would help extend the life of this otherwise single-use container.
Hands down, the best way to eliminate waste when purchasing laundry detergent, is to eliminate single-use packaging altogether. You can do this by making your own detergent and storing it in your own containers, or by purchasing pre-made detergent in bulk at co-ops or other stores that offer bulk items for purchase. If you don’t have access to any locally, you can also purchase refills for dispensers you already own. Brands like Method (4) and Grove Collaborative (5) both offer refill packs for your liquid detergent. Just keep in mind that with both of these options, you’re still receiving the detergent in a plastic bladder bag, although single-use, it is far less plastic than buying an entirely new dispenser bottle each time.
Ease of Use
Another very legitimate consideration when determining what laundry detergent you’re going to use is how difficult it will be for you to use it. Suggesting that everyone simply choose the detergent that had the highest marks in each category and leave it at that would be incredibly short-sighted, as we know each option is not feasible for every family.
Whether you don’t have access to low-cost ingredients, you don’t have the space to store large quantities, or you don’t have the funds for the up-front cost of larger sizes or reusable containers, it is understandable that how the detergent gets used is one of the factors in which is right for you as well.
We hope this guide was helpful and gave you many factors to consider when choosing how you will launder your cloth diapers. When you’re ready to start discovering brands that are specific to your needs and preferences, we have a few resources that you can use to help guide you right here on YourClothDiaper.com. Simply use our search function to find what you’re looking for! Can’t find the information you need? Head on over to our Facebook Page and send me a message detailing your concerns or questions and I will help you the best I can!!
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