Homemade Cloth Diaper & Laundry Detergent

I have used a number of cloth-safe diaper powders. My favorite was Bio-Kleen. I wasn’t able to get it easily anymore though, so I switched to a homemade powder using borax and fels naptha soap. My second child’s skin had no problem with this detergent. My third child though, had very sensitive skin, and at around two months, he developed a stubborn rash. I researched online, got two doctors’ opinions, stopped using the homemade detergent, stripped the diapers, tried fleece liners (to keep his skin dry), and tried all sorts of cremes, but nothing worked.  I switched him to disposable diapers.  This is the only thing that cleared up the rash.  He stayed in disposable diapers for two months, during which I kept doing research about laundry detergent, cloth diapers, and rashes, because it pains me to throw those disposables diapers (and the $$) into the trash.

I found out that the Fels-Naptha soap in the homemade detergent could be harsh on the skin and that bar soap is not recommended for cloth diapers, because it leads to build-up, repelling instead of absobring moisture, leaving you with a leaky diaper.  I also suspected that borax might be too harsh for the skin as well.  So, what was I to do without the two main ingredients of my homemade laundry detergent?

After more research, I replaced the borax and the bar soap with baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and an oxygen cleaner (sodium percarbonate and sodium carbonate) such as Sun Oxygen cleaner.  I kept the washing soda (sodium carbonate) because it is very mild and a great way to soften hard water (great for our Texas).  So my current cloth diaper recipe is this:

Equal parts of the following 3 ingredients.  I find all of them at my local grocery store.

**BIG DISCLAIMER:  I am NOT a scientist.  As a matter of fact, I strongly dislike chemistry and any other scientific subject and still will never uderstand atoms and things, even though I have taken three chemistry classes in my lifetime (and passed all of them, just for the record).  I totally made this recipe up myself after doing online research on laundry and diaper detergents.  I have no idea whether the experts would approve.  All I know is, it works for my pocket book, and it works very well for my baby’s bottom.**  

Cloth Diaper Detergent Recipe

Equal parts of:

-baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
-oxygen cleaner* (sodium percarbonate and sodium carbonate) *The ingredients of Sun Oxygen Cleaner are: Sodium Carbonate, Sodium Carbonate Peroxide. If you can’t find Sun, check the other oxygen cleaners and make sure they have ONLY these two ingredients: Sodium Percarbonate and Sodium Carbonate and/or Peroxide. 
-washing soda (sodium carbonate)

I have a lidded jar that I put 1 cup of each into, shake it up, and then use 1 Tablespoons per cloth diaper (medium) size load.  Even if the load is large, I would not use more than 2 TBS.  If it’s a very small load, use less than 1 TBS.

Updated: YES, you can use this powder on your regular wash.
MORE is less. Do not use more than 2 Tablespoons for an extra-large load of this powder; baking soda is very harsh when you use too much. The only reason it works here, and doesn’t ruin your cloth diapers, is because you are using a very small amount.

I’ve been using this recipe for the past 5 months and it seems to work just fine.  The diapers don’t smell like some fancy scent, but that is fine with me.  They do not smell unclean, and that is what is important.  I do want to let you know that cloth diapers may have stains.  Just because a cloth diaper has a stain does not mean it’s not clean.  You have to think of it as a dye.  Sometimes certain things in baby’s diet may leave a stain (dye) on the cloth diaper or insert.  It does not mean they are dirty, but if the stains bother you, hang your diapers out in the sun and they will magically disappear.

I still use my regular powdered laundry detergent for the rest of the laundry in the house.
DO NOT use the BORAX/soap bar powder on your diapers.

Laundry Detergent Recipe (Powder)

DO NOT USE ON CLOTH DIAPERS. I save this one for very heavily soiled items, like kitchen/toilet cleaning rags.

The ingredients are:

-1 bar Fels-Naptha soap (found at your local grocery store)
-1 cup Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
-1/2 cup Borax

I cut up the bar into 8-10 pieces and then turn them into a fine powder with the help of one of my all-time favorite kitchen appliances, this food processor (which I paid $119 for, back in the day…no fair; what a sweet deal they have going on these days).  I then add 1 cup washing soda and 1/2 cup borax and process it some more.  I use an old ice-cream tub for storage.  Not the prettiest container, but very practical, because I  make about 5 or 6 batches at a time, which lasts me so long that I can’t remember the last time I made laundry detergent.

For light loads, use 1 Tablespoon.  For heavy loads, use 2 Tablespoons.  Gotta love that.  The stuff lasts forever.  So that’s that!  Another easy way for us to save money and rid our house of toxins.

***
If you’d like to join our Cloth Diaper Questions facebook group and discuss cloth diapering with like-minded moms, you can find it here.

Comments

  1. says

    This is so funny that you posted this! I had this exact problem with Bear. I actually stopped cloth diapering him altogether because I just didn’t know what to do an couldn’t find any info. I am actually thinking about trying again since I need bigger ones for Sweet Pea soon anyway and by the time she is ready he will be potty trained (or so I hope, lol).
    But after researching after having Sweet Pea I found out the same things as you. I cut the Fels Naptha, but kept the boarax. But she has had no troubles at all.
    I think I will try yours though!
    Thank you for all this!

  2. says

    Our homemade recipe is the borax, washing soda and grated Dr. Bronner’s bar soap. The lavender and peppermint are my favorite scents! We haven’t had any weird reactions around here, but I’ve never done it on cloth diapers! Thanks for the great tips!

  3. says

    I’m really inpressed with your research. I imagine in a lot of products it’s the perfume that irritate the skin more than anything.

    I’m a big fan of sodium bicorbonate, I used it to clean my eyes (very diuted in boiled water) for a long time with good results; My ophtamologist wasn’t too happy, so I switched to baby shampoo which is great too and removes makeup like magic.

    I expect you know of all the wonderful things you can do with sodium bicarbonate and vinegar…

    Looking for new blogs to read? ExposeYourBlog!

  4. says

    Elisa, do you have a front loader? I have had the same problem with Annie-Rose. I use bio-kleen and she gets the worst rash. The only thing I have been able to do is use disposables with her to keep it away. I have stripped the diapers and everything. I think I might try your recipe with the new baby.

  5. says

    No, Jess, I have a top-loader. Yeah, try the recipe, and let me know. I’m still not 100% sure if it was indeed the detergent that caused the rash – but of course, I won’t experiment on the baby to find out. No rashes no, so I’m happy and sticking w/ the homemade cloth diaper detergent.

  6. says

    i used cloth diapers
    on two out of my four kids
    starting mainly because
    of stubborn diaper rash
    on my daughter

    i was amazed at the selection
    of products available
    and methods for how to wash
    dry
    etc.

    your detergents look inexpensive
    and effective and
    i’m so glad you decided to share
    at fridays unfolded.

    alison

  7. says

    Love this! I tried every kind of cloth diapering when my kiddos were little. Luckily, they potty trained themselves early!
    Thank you for stopping by my place!
    Kerry at housetalkn.blogspot.com

  8. says

    I have been making my detergent from the washing soda, Fels Naptha and Borax for several months. I love it for most things. I was using it though on hubbies work clothes. ( he works in cutting oil) It took the cutting oil smell out but his clothes seemed to be getting heavier and heavier. I thought it was my imagination till he said something about his work clothes seemed to weight him down. We decided it was because I have a front loader efficiency machine and there just was not enough water used to rinse it out good.

    I had to go back to regular detergent for his work clothes to get the detergent to rinse out good. And I ended up redoing his clothes with severl cycles using vinegar to get out all the soap.

    I think he now weighs about 10 pounds lighter when he leaves for work. LOL

    I love the homemade for everything else though.

    Karan

    • says

      I too noticed something with the weight on clothing when I first switched to homemade (we don’t use Fels-Naptha because of the chemicals; but we make our own bar-soap and just use that).

      I found that I really needed to just trust that I only needed a small amount of soap.

      Store-bought detergent has a large percentage of fillers (anything above 0 is large to me, in this area), therefore you need to use more to get enough cleaning power. Store-bought “concentrates” just have less fillers.

      So think of homemade as ultra-concentrated. And if you have a heavy load, add a bit more washing soda, rather than the entire mixture. OR add a bit more baking soda to stinkier clothes.

      :)

  9. says

    Finally!! I’ve been searching for a recipe that has worked for someone for cloth diapers specifically. I’m tired of paying so much for all of the commercially made CD detergents.

    • Anonymous says

      Have you ever heard of soap nuts? That is what I use on our cloth diapers and all our laundry. I love them!

  10. Anonymous says

    Is this still working well for you? I’m going to make this for my cloth diapers, but just wanted to see how it was going!

    • says

      Yes, absolutely. I’m still using both these recipes. Since writing this, I have also tried it regularly in a front loader HE washing machine and both recipes still work great for us. =)

  11. says

    These are great recipes but personally I wouldn’t use fles naptha soap since it contains napthas (from petroleum). I prefer to stick with Dr. Bronner’s. Just wanted to share.

    Thanks,
    Angela

  12. says

    Oh man, I’m so glad you posted this. I have been using cloth diapers for 1.5 years, and started using the Borax / Washing Soda / Oxiclean about a month ago. Ever since then, my son has had a stubborn little spot of rash that REFUSES to go away. I’ve tried everything for it, but just realized the connection that it started with this detergent. I’m thinking it must be the Borax.

    So I’m VERY relieved to see you are washing without it and things are still getting clean. I’m going to switch and start this on my diapers today. THANK YOU!

    • says

      With my top-loader, I do one cold wash w/o detergent. Then a hot wash w/ 1 TBS powder. Then another extra cold rinse.

      With the front-loader (that I’m using for all of 2012 while I’m living with my parents) I have been doing one cold wash w/o detergent. Then a long “white wash”, on very hot with 1 TBS powder. I do not do an extra rinse here..I just let the washer do it’s thing.

  13. says

    Thank you for posting this! Question: Could you add essential oil to the cloth diaper recipe to give it a scent? Or is that a no-no for diapers?

    • says

      first off….. I love that you posted this!! you are my new hero!! we are trying for our first baby (well our first successful pregnancy anyhow) and we are doing it on a VERY low budget, when you combine that with the desire to go as handmade/homemade/natural as possible, well…. I thrive off of other moms like you who are making my life and my journey so much easier!!

      secondly, my question…… how can you add the essential oil effectively? wouldn’t it cause clumping in the powdery dry soap?
      I am very excited to try this…… and even more excited to try adding scent, I am a scent freak!!

    • says

      Good question. I haven’t tried with the essential oil, but this is what I would try, as a little experiment: take about 1/4 cup of your powder mix out and put it in a separate container. Then add one or two drops of essential oil. Mix it up and see if it really will stay clumpy. I have made salty bath crystals before and the oil just coated the individual crystals and didn’t make them stick…so I’m not sure about this, but maybe it would do something similar. If that doesn’t work, my second thing I’d try would be to just put it in the water (of a top loader), or for a front loader, I’d just put a drop or two on top of the powder in the powder compartment. Just a few things to try. If you try them out, come back and let me know how it all worked out. Thanks! =)

    • says

      From what I found out online, it is not the same. Oxiclean has added ingredients besides the main two. Sun Oxygen cleaner has only two ingredients: sodium carbonate and sodium carbonate peroxide. Here’s a little more on oxiclean: http://everyshadeofgreen.blogspot.com/2008/05/good-and-bad-on-oxiclean.html

      I personally, would stick w/ the simple ingredients of the sun oxygen cleaner, because it is often the added “inactive” ingredients and fragrances that cause diaper rash in really sensitive children.

      PS: You can always email me at elisa129@gmail.com =)

    • Anonymous says

      do you use wool dryer balls? you can add a drop or two of essential oils on a wool dryer ball and then dry as usual (they really help with softening diapers up too and are way easy to make!)

  14. says

    I have read a few other places that over time Borax and Washing Soda will fade your clothes/be too harsh. How long have you been using this and what have you noticed?

    • says

      I’ve been using the borax/washing soda/fels naptha powder since June of 2011. I haven’t noticed any fading. Then again, I don’t buy designer clothes…we shop at Target or get hand-me-downs..and I don’t over-wash things, meaning: we all try to wear our t-shirts more than once.

    • says

      I’ve been using the fels naptha, washing soda, borax detergent for about 4 1/2 years and I haven’t noticed any fading. :) I’ve used the liquid version and the dry version.

  15. says

    Thanks so much for sharing this recipe! We just bought our first cloth diapers, and our first baby should be here some time this month :) I’m making a nice fat batch of soap so we can give ‘em all a first wash and have plenty of detergent on hand! P.S. We lived in the “various apartments/temporary hotels” until the military settled us here, too, for ten months! It was quite wild…

    • says

      Haha, don’t you love that military moving business? My husband is getting out by end of 2013, and I cannot wait to be done moving. Of course, after 1.5 years in one place, I’m sure I’ll get a little stir-crazy. But I will get over that..quickly. =)

  16. says

    Could you make the Cloth Diaper Recipe into a liquid? I use the other recipe for my clothes but it is in a liquid form. I have been looking online for a liquid cloth diaper recipe but nothing is coming up and I really like your recipe because I have a front loader HE washer!

  17. Ashley says

    Will this recipe help get rid of the smell in my cloth diapers? I have tried everything and nothing works, my diapers look clean but smell awful. Also is oxyclean ok? I couldnt find sun oxy?

    • says

      You can try Oxyclean, but the ingredients are different than Sun oxygen cleaner, so I don’t know how well it will work w/ sensitive babies. This recipe doesn’t have any fragrances, so when I take the cloth diapers out of the wash, they smell like wet cotton, but they do not stink. Have you tried hanging your diapers outside in the sun?

    • Ashley says

      No, that is the next step, but we don’t have a clothes line and the wind is an issue so I have to worry about them blowing all over my backyard. Something has got to work, I’m sick of stinky diapers!!!

    • Anonymous says

      There is a product called RLR that is great for striping detergent and stink out of diapers. Bleach will also work but there are obviously downsides.

    • Anonymous says

      we fought major stink issues with our diapers. finally ended up boiling the inserts one at a time on the stove(husband thought i was nuts!) then washing without anything 3 times. now they are like new again!

    • says

      When diapers smell after washed..the detergent residue has built up in them.. I do have a dryer but at times I take clothes pins and hang my diapers on hangers on the fence and yes it is windy here in Oklahoma but Sun will bleach the stains out.. You should find though after switching detergents and running vinegar through the washer the diapers will no longer smell, and also make sure you wash with HOT water and do a double rinse cycle.

  18. says

    Thank you. I’ve been ordering cloth diaper detergent and this will save me a lot! By the way, you take such beautiful pictures, do you have a post on Photography tips or is your camera a super hi-tech one?

    • says

      Thank you! I don’t have one yet, but I’m going to make a camera page with tips & info. =) I do have a DSLR, which makes a huge diff. in pics.

  19. says

    I have been making my detergent with:
    Baking soda
    Washing soda
    Liquid castile soap (dr bronner’s unscented baby-mild)
    Distilled white vinegar

    Which has been working so well for my 6 mo old daughter.

    I have never tried and oxygen cleaners but I am curious what the advantage might be.

    • says

      I am thinking of switching to Dr. Bronner’s baby unscented bar soap instead of the fels naptha, but haven’t gotten around to it. I’ll post it when I do, Alexa-Merlee.

  20. says

    What kind (brand) of cloth diapers do you use this on?
    I am looking to invest in some Bumgenius diapers and would love to know if this has worked successfully for those with BG. I’m so paranoid about ruining my diapers and/or voiding the warranty.
    Thanks!

    • says

      This is a gentle cloth diaper detergent. You can use it on ANY cloth diapers. I have friends who use BG and I have some on the way to my house too. I will use this same detergent. It is basically just a gentle wash for anything you want washed in a more gentle way.

    • says

      Tara – Thanks for sharing that link. I think that they probably put that there, because when people generally use baking soda in a wash, they’ll add a large amount, like a quarter cup to the wash cycle, along w/ their regular detergent, which is full of chemicals. That would wreck your diapers, b/c too much baking soda is harsh.

      In my cloth diaper detergent recipe, you are supposed to use no more 2 Tablespoons, and can use as little as 1 TBS for your load. This is a very small amount and does not harm the fabric in any way. BG uses the same cloth diaper fabrics like all other major cloth diapers, so I really don’t see it being a problem. I’ll be throwing my BG in w/ the rest of my wash.

      But of course, that is up to you.

    • says

      Fyi, I’ve been using my bum genius 3.0s for 20 months now and the elastic is pretty shot. I know they sell replacement elastics, but for the price of the diaper I should be able to get all the way through one child with them. Just thought I would share for those about to order bg’s diapers. Im super excited to try this cloth diaper detergent as well! No soap in my blender!

    • says

      Hmm, I have never heard of Purex Crystals, so I really don’t know what to tell you. You could always do a little online research and experiment on your own. Good luck!

    • says

      I can’t tell you exactly how many loads I get out of one batch. I usually make 5 batches at once, one after another, then add them to the same container, and that lasts me a good 6 months or more.

      I throw the clothes in the top loader, then the detergent, then set the washing cycle, and the water adds.

  21. says

    i may be trying this one. We have an issue with Ammonia stinkies and easy rashers in our house. i have tried many different methods and they seem to work at first then right back to square 1. I cylce between mostly Cloth back to all disposables a few times a year because of our issue. I prefer using my cloth diapers though and o not have the money to always buy brand name Cloth diaper made detergents.

    • says

      It’s worth a try! I have been using it for so long and really have never had a problem w/ ammonia or anything and no more rashes here!

    • says

      I have washed indian & chinese prefolds, Thirsties Covers, Wonder Wrap Covers, Thirsties All In Ones, Bummies AIOs, Oh wehat else….fuzzy bunz, bummis whisper wraps. I have not had any issues with buildup, rash, or anything, since using this powder. I’ve been super happy w/ my cloth diaper powder and I will keep using it.

  22. says

    Thank you for posting this! We have been making natural all purpose liquid soap for over 4 years now & a lot of posts out there have recipes containing borax & soap for cloth diapers, and those 2 things don’t mix with cloth diapers! Really appreciate you putting out some research & good info. on the web for others to see! MAHALO – Malena of BALM! Baby & THinc. Soap

  23. says

    Have you ever considered using Soap Nuts? They are as natural as it gets…they grow on a bush. We have used them for all of our laundry for over 4 years and love it. They clean very well, they are kind to your washing machine, clearly eco friendly, leave your clothes simply smelling clean and they are very cost effective. I sell them now on my site as well. My selling them has nothing to do with this comment. I used them long before the company’s inception.

  24. says

    Okay I know you made this post a while back but I have been searching for a good cloth diaper detergent recipe!

    Thanks SO MUCH for this! I can’t wait to try it out for my diapers!

    • says

      It works very well. I have used it with Thirsties, Blueberries, Proraps, WonderWraps, Bummis, BumGenius…etc. I think the thing is this: When they say on the diaper covers that they don’t want you using sodas on your diapers, they are thinking the general recommendations on the washing/baking soda box, which usually says something like: “Boost your laundry by adding 1/4 cup into your washing machine!”…but we are not talking that much. We use 1 Tablespoon of the mixture..so you can figure out how little, possibly only 1 teaspoon of baking soda is going into the wash..so that is why it is not harming the covers. Even over time. Mine are in great shape after years of this detergent powder.

  25. says

    Hi Elisa, thanks for sharing this recipe! Have you any tips on what to add to the soiled nappies while they are in a hanging pail (wetbag) waiting to be washed – every other day. I don’t want to soak my soiled nappies straight away as they are bamboo which have a self reacting antibacterial compound which spoils if you soak them too long. I was thinking perhaps spraying the dirty area only with a bit of water/baking powder solution or maybe water/your detergent solution would do the trick? any advice is appreciated!

    • says

      I just put mine in an little trash can. It holds about 10 diapers (prefolds, inserts, covers). Then I wash about every 3rd day. I don’t soak mine at all. I just dump the poo, and throw them in the pail, kind of folded up, so it stays non-messy. I would not put baking powder or soda directly on the diaper because it is very harsh and can harm the fabric. We only use it in the detergent because it is a very small amount, less than 1 Tablespoon for 1 load.

  26. says

    Just made it today! Hope it works as well as it sounds! Word to the wise though…make sure you close the lid on the container right after putting the ingredients in so you don’t inhale it accidentally…I’m feeling a little dizzy right now! Thanks for the recipe… :)

    • says

      Yes, Stephanie, this is normal. =) Just do the smell test when it’s done. Stick your nose into it. Haha. It should just smell like nothing much but wet clothes. Also, I check to make sure spots on clothing came out before I put it in the dryer. For cloth diapers, I don’t care about stains. They are like dye..look dirty but are not dirty if they do not smell. Hanging cloth diapers in the bright sun will take the stains out. I hang my bed sheets too when I can.

  27. says

    Hi I was wondering why you dont use this detergent with your regular laundry? Also what kind of diapers do you use? I use cloth-eez wh fitted. Does this recipe not take out stains as well? Im just curious :) Can I add a scent to the detergent? I REALLY want to try and read somewhere that borax is hard on cloth diapers so im so happy I found this! Thank you!
    How long have you been using this?

    • says

      I use prefolds. Lately I have been using it with my regular laundry. I just have some fels naptha bars that I bought, so I’m going to use them up. Once I’m out of those, I’ll just be using this recipe for all my laundry. I”ve been using it forever…since before I wrote this post, so well over a year. Borax was used in hospitals as a disinfectant for years, so it is harsh. You can add a few essential oil drops to the wash, but I’ve noticed that you really have to add a lot in order for the scent to stay. I’m used to my clothes and diapers not smelling like anything and I really like it like that.

    • says

      Im so excited about your post! My babys bum is SOO sensitive! The SUN oxygen cleaner works as a disinfectant also right? I guess for me if they are clean I dont care if they dont have a scent! Now I have HE washer and dryer and I will be washing anywhere from 6-12 workhorse fitted diapers at a time, is 1 tbsp enough or too much?
      Thanks so much for your post! I sure hope you let us all know if you try something else new that you love :) … have you used the wool dryer balls?

    • says

      1 Tablespoon is the most I would use. I always used 1 Tablespoon when I had an HE top loader. It still worked great. Although, with only 12 diapers, you could use 2 teaspoons. Just stick your face in a diaper after the wash – I still always do the smell test. It will smell just wet and different from the highly scented wash you might be used to, but you can tell it is clean. It should smell nothing of poo or urine. I haven’t tried the wool dryer balls yet.

  28. says

    Oh yeah I meant to ask you how much this costs you and how long it lasts? Do you really feel that you save a lot of money doing this?

    • says

      I haven’t done the math yet, but I do feel like I save a lot, because laundry detergent, especially fancy, green, great for diaper kinds are very expensive. But when you look at their ingredients..it’s basically what I am using, it’s just a rip-off. =)

  29. says

    Hi. I just recently made batches of both of these. Except I used zote instead of fels napths bc I couldn’t find it. Anyway long story short, my grovias (stay dry soakers in ai2) started repelling, or so it seems since I suddenly am getting night time leaks every night! (We could go 12 hours w no leaks just a week ago). The diaper that just leaked didn’t even feel too wet inside, it seemed like it just seeped out the back after rolling off the soaker. Any advice? Could it be the zote residue in the washer? (I never use fabric softener on anything)

    Thanks!

    • says

      There are 2 laundry recipes inthis blog post, one for cloth diapers, one for the laundry..although I have been using my cloth diaper one for all my laundry. The soap and borax are used for regular laundry and should not be used on your cloth diapers. The soap will leave a residue and cause your diapers to repell and it will also irritate your child’s bum.

    • says

      Yes. I only used the cloth diaper recipe for my diapers and other soap for my other laundry… maybe I will try using the cloth recipe for everything so no soap is involved anywhere…

    • says

      That is weird..I was using both, one for cloth, the other for regular laundry for a long time, and still do occasionally, and I really never noticed an effect on my diapers. So maybe it is the Zote soap.

    • says

      I’m not sure what you mean by “prep”. I just put the soiled diapers in a pail after dumping the poopy in the toilet. I wash about every 3rd day. I then just do a cold wash w/o any detergent. Then I run a hot w/ extra rinse w/ my powder. That’s all I do. =) I ignore many of the directions on how to care for diapers, because if you look on most cleaners they will recommend adding an insane amount to your load, like 1/4 cup or something. That is crazy. We use a tiny bit with this recipe.

      Ok, sorry, I think I know what you mean by “prep”. You got brawn new prefolds? I haven’t gotten new ones in ages ;) but I would just wash them the exact same way, only do it a few times, then see if they leak..if they leak, wash & dry them a couple more times.

      Hope that helps! =)

  30. says

    Hi Elisa.

    Thank you for posting this. I’m getting ready to have my first child and have been looking for a simple detergent recipe safe for my baby and my cloth diapers – I like the versatility of the Flips. I do have two questions, though. First, how do you recommend to do the prewash? All the companies (including Cotton Babies) recommend prewashing before the first time you use them, but they suggest doing 6-8 times, which is a waste of a lot of water. Secondly, I’ve been searching for a while and I don’t think anyone sells Sun Oxygen Cleaner in my area – Central Florida – or online. I’ve found Oxo Brite Non-Chlorine Bleach Powder, online instead. Will that work as an adequate replacement?

    Thank you, again. :)

    • says

      Oh man! I think maybe they are getting rid of Sun. Because I can’t find it anywhere either. THe ingredients for the Sun Oxygen Cleaner are: Sodium Carbonate, Sodium Carbonate Peroxide. If you can’t find Sun, check the other oxygen cleaners and make sure they have ONLY these two ingredients: Sodium Percarbonate and Sodium Carbonate and/or Peroxide. Those are the only 2 ingredients I trust. I don’t trust Oxi Clean, because first of all, I can’t find the ingredients on the tub! Lame. I will do some more research, because I’ll be running out soon and I’ll have to figure out what else works.

    • says

      I look forward to your update. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one having a hard time finding the Sun product.

      Also, what do you recommend for prewashing cloth diapers? It seems pretty wasteful to me to follow Cotton Babies’ instructions for Flip Diapers to wash everything 6-8 times before first using to increase absorbency.

    • says

      Oh, sorry, Christine, I completely ignored this question the first time. I am lazy, so I just prewash & dry a couple of times and try them out. If they leak, I wash & dry a few more times. The only diapers you REALLY need to prep a lot are the HEMP prefolds. Hemp is weird..it absorbs more the more you wash it..so you really do have to wash it like 8 times before using, or it will cause leaks. I’m not sure about the FLIPS, but join our facebook CLoth Diaper Questions group and the ladies (144 of us!) on there will let you know. A lot of them love the Flip diapers: https://www.facebook.com/groups/353822974654830/

  31. says

    Baking soda doesn’t “soften” water, it makes it “harder”. Vinegar acts as a water softener, on the other hand…and is often recommended in the rinse cycle of diaper laundry to neutralize any alkaline ingredients not completely rinsed away and to rebalance the pH.

    I live in Arizona (where the water is incredibly hard) and found that using a lot of washing soda (which is basically a stronger form of baking soda, sodium carbonate vs. sodium bicarbonate) made the diaper wash water much too hard and my diapers (especially the elastic) were literally falling apart. I use mostly baking soda with a small amount (about 1/3 cup for an entire batch) of Borax. In hot water, Borax also converts to peroxides, the boron inhibits the metabolic processes of many organisms (fungi in particular), and it acts as a buffer which improves the cleaning abilities of the other ingredients. But it has to be used in hot water, and it has to be rinsed thoroughly. The recipe I use also includes water softener. I use the liquid Calgon water softener (again, not very much, about 2 capfuls…thoroughly mixed in with the dry ingredients, wear gloves if you do this by hand, the chemical reaction it causes with the oils in your skin burns), substituting the powdered water softeners (either White King or Calgon) resulted in a blistering rash.

    For people who can’t find the Sun Oxygen Cleaner (try checking Family Dollar and Kroger-owned/affiliated stores, those are the places I find it most reliably, and if you have Family Dollar near you, you can get a huge tub of it for about $5), the only best Oxyclean brand product to use is Oxyclean Baby. The other types have additional detergents, alcohols, and chemicals added to them in addition to the peroxide-forming ingredients. Oxyclean Baby is just sodium carbonate and sodium percarbonate. However, it’s incredibly expensive, so finding either the Sun or another “generic” with just the peroxide ingredients is your best bet.

    • Anonymous says

      Hello, I had a local cloth diaper consultant give me the same exact recipe! Question….. I will be cloth diapering for the first time with my baby due in may. I have a 3yr old son, who has very sensitive skin. I anticipate this next baby will be the same since my husband also has sensitive skin. I started using this detergent on all family laundry about a month or two ago to save money since I also planned to use it on my CD I may anyways. My son is having some eczema type rash spots on elbows, legs, stomach, rear. I am itching like crazy. However, my son always has skin issues in the winter. Just curious if I can blame his itchies on winter skin, and blame mine on pregnancy, or if there is anything at all in te detergent that could cause this? I really want something safe for CD but also safe for all family laundry including baby clothes!

    • says

      Make sure you are using the backing soda/washing soda/oxygen cleaner mix. That is the gentlest. The yellow mix is too harsh for many, and I will stop using it entirely when I run out of my 3 Fels Naptha bars that I have stored up. The clear powder is strong enough to clean and gentle enough to be good for sensitivie skin.
      If you are using the clear powder, and you are still having rash issues,
      are you using too much? You really should be fine with 1 Tablespoon of the powder for 1 large wash. You can even use less, say 1/2 TBS for 1/2 load, and 1/4 TBS for small load. It is strong and effective, but you will know if you didn’t use enough.
      If youre family is still having crash rash issues from the gentle cloth diaper powder, then I really don’t know what to tell you. You could have a rare allergy. You could have something else on the clothes that is not coming out with washings.
      Are you using anything else in the wash or dryers? Dryer sheets and softeneres are a no-go for sensitive skin. Good luck!! I really can’t help you more b/c I’m just a mom, not a scientist. But you know your family best so I know you will find out what is causing it. Try using coconut oil or jojoba oil on the dry skin patches..those oils are amazing.

  32. Anonymous says

    Thanks. Yes, I am using the washing soda/baking soda/Sun recipe. It could easily just be that we are having winter skin issues with my son and pregnancy itchies for me! I am only using half of a scoop (use the scoop that came with the Sun). I measured and thats a little less than a tablespoon. And this is a top loading HE Whirlpool machine. I’ve NEVER had sensitive skin before (only my hubby and son), and prior to this I was using HEB Free and Clear detergent(local grocery generic), as well as a little Downey liquid fabric softener for the whole family. And we had NO issues with this. And I now know that there is nothing sensitive about my previous wash routine! LOL! But nobody in the family had issues with it. I was only switching since I want to be able to wash baby’s clothes and diapers in the same thing as family laundry. I didn’t want to have to buy 2 different types of detergent, especialy with the high cost of cloth diaper detergents!!! I think I just tried the switch to the homemade at the wrong time of year, because now I don’t know if this is detergent related or winter dry skin related. I would presume its the winter dry skin since we have had our heater running a ton more this year than in the last few years.

  33. says

    Question I found another recipe that calls for 3 cups washing soda 1cup baking soda and oxiclean….. should I only use 1 cup washing soda does it make a difference?

    • says

      I personally would not use more washing soda. Of the 3 ingredients in the cloth diaper detergent, washing soda is the harshest and too much of the washing or the baking soda, would just wear the fabrics out faster.

    • says

      Yes, I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt, but for me, I think less is more…less chemicals are always going to be less harsh on the clothes, so if your clothes are getting clean, I would be fine with leaving it.

  34. says

    Question: Can you use the cloth diaper recipe for the rest of your laundry too? Whites and colors? I’m trying to find a recipe that will work for both cloth diapers and clothing.

    • says

      Yes, you can use it for all of your laundry. Once I run out of Fels Naphtha, I’ll just use the white powder. I will sometimes use a Fels Naphtha bar as a spot cleaner…just wet the bar a bit and rub it on the stain. I also use Shout for stains. You can just see how it works…but if it can clean dirty diapers, it can clean anything. =)

  35. says

    This is great! I’m about to be a first time mom to twins and we are going to cloth diaper them to save money. This will help so much! One question I do have is I recently bought some Imagine brand bamboo fitted diapers…would this be safe for those too? The main reason I ask is because their label says specifically NOT to sure homemade detergent…but I don’t see why not! Also, do you think it would be okay to add just a little Dr Bronners scented soap to this just to add a little scent?

    • says

      Yay! Congratulations on twins! So exciting. =)

      I’m not sure about the Dr. Bronner’s soap for diapers. I don’t like using a bar of soap for diapers because I’d worry about build-up, but I’ve never used it, so you might try it. I guess it depends on how sensitive your chil is. I think mine was allergic to the dryness of the Fels Naptha bar. I had to strip my diapers (pain) to get them to where he was not allergic and since then I’ve only used my cloth diaper powder. It doesn’t make sense for me to take that risk – contaminating all the diapers again with something that he might be allergic to, so I’m not going to try it. I think starting out with the most simple and gentle option is best, because you never know what your baby is allergic to until it’s too late.

      I have added essential oil to the water in the laundry. I notice that the smell didn’t stick like the scent does from a laundry detergent from the store. So to me, it was not worth the money throwing away the essential oils (basically). I think you will find, that after time, you will enjoy the naturally clean smell of your laundry and you will even start to really dislike laundry that smells to the high heavens of scents.

      As far as using my detergent on cloth diapers…yes, some cloth diaper manufactureres will say on the labels or their websites that you should not use homemade detergent. Bum Genius says that, but I have been washing mine for years. Here’s the thin most people/companies assume: They assume you are going by the directions on a baking soda box…which is something crazy, like using 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of soda to a laundry load! That is absurd!! Soda is harsh, which is why we only use the smallest amount possible to get the laundry clean. I use 1 TBS of my mix for a medium size laundry. I would never use more than 2 TBS for a HUGE load…and I mean…diaper stacked to the top of the washing machine. I wash mine before the load gets that big, so 1 TBS works great for me.

      Using 1/2 cup of soda in your laundry regularly would WRECK your fabrics…turn them into rags. Think of soda as sand…there has to be friction for cleanliness, but too much, and you ill wreack your stuff.

      So knowing this, I still use my stuff on all my cloth diapers. I don’t have any bamboo. I do have hemp. I’ve been using my recipe for 2+ years and my diapers are still in top shape.
      I hope that helps!

    • says

      Thanks for the reply! Another question I have is that some people that I know that have been CDing for awhile said this wouldn’t work because it doesn’t have surfactant in it. Apparently that’s what’s in detergents that actually pulls whatever soiled the clothing out of the fabric. They seemed to think by using something that didn’t have this, I’d just be swishing my diapers around in water that isn’t really cleaning them and could lead to rash. Obviously, you don’t seem to be having that problem but I just wondered about that.

    • says

      Lol, well, I’m not a scientist, but I know clean, and I am pretty sure that the diapers would smell like something nasty, if they were just being swished around in water. =) It’s been working great for us…no rashes for years…so I’m happy. =)

  36. says

    I was reading that borax can help with hard water, which I think is our culprit for our diapers not getting fully clean…what would you say about adding it to hard water with the mixture of the baking soda, washing soda and oxygen cleaner? We have been using that combo (without the borax) and our diapers seem to be full of ammonia when saturated with urine…
    I have an inkling that it is the hard water, so any ideas you might have would be much appreciated!

    • says

      I would not use borax. It is VERY harsh. Used to be used to disinfect hospitals. I would buy a little bottle of Calgon water softener. That is a real water softener and I have used it before. It is a bit expensive, but at least you could try it and see if it is indeed the hard water causing the trouble.

      You could always try borax, because maybe my son is very very sensitive..but it will also wear down your diapers quicker than a gentler detergent.

  37. says

    I have pretty hard water here (we use a cistern). I was wondering if there was anything you might suggest adding to help with this? I would love to make my own cloth diaper detergent, but hard water gives me problems.

    • says

      Julia, I have lived in TX and NE, both have hard water. You could add Calgon, but it is an expensive water softener. I have found that my detergent works well with hard water. The Washing Soda acts as a water softener.

  38. says

    as a new-to-be mom, just wanted to confirm some things. I am not using cloth diapers but am looking for a homemade laundry detergent for my babys clothes. Can I use the cloth diaper recipe and will the measurements of 1 TBS per medium load still be the same? Any advice you can give would be great.

    • says

      Yes, the 1 TBS per medium load will still be the same. Never use more than 2 TBS per load. Use the least amount you can and still get clean diapers. You don’t want to use too much powder in one load because too much of the powders can wear down your clothes over time. Since I ran out of my yellow powder and since the Fels Naptha soap can cause a little buildup in your washer (which doesn’t bother me, but it does bother some people), I have been using my cloth diaper powder for my regular laundry. My thinking: “If it can clean dirty diapers, it can clean anything.” =) And it does. =)

  39. says

    I love how active this post still is even after being written a couple years ago and that you’re still answering questions people post. My poor son keeps battling burns/rashes on his bottom. I’m about to strip the diapers to rule out ammonia and then I’m going to go buy the SUN Oxygen stuff (as I already have the other ingredients) and try out your recipe. I’m super hopeful this will do the trick. My husband has lost faith in cloth diapers since our son almost always has some blemish somewhere on his bottom. All the premade cloth diaper detergents are just too harsh for my boy’s skin!

    • says

      Dear JoyBelle, I’m sorry to hear about your son’s rash. That is so frustrating. I had to switch to disposables until I figured out my cloth diaper issue. Please don’t feel bad if you have to switch to disposables if that will clear his rash up while you’re working on your solution. I really hope this recipe works for you. I continue to have great success and I can’t remember a serious rash since I’ve started using it. He’s still in diapers! Potty training as soon as we are moved into our house, so then I’ll get a little break. =) Good luck, and thank you for your compliments. I do like keeping in touch with my blog readers. =)

  40. says

    Hello Elisa, I’m so happy to have found this recipe! I am cloth diapering my 4.5 month old daughter, and as a first time mom I’m trying my best to keep things inexpensive yet safe and natural for her. I’m just wondering if you use this on the babies clothes as well? I have been using free and clear type detergents for her clothes and a separate CD approved detergent for her diapers. I’d like to be able to just use one detergent for her clothes, our clothes and her diapers. Thanks!!

    • says

      Yes, I’ve actually gotten simpler over the years and just use the white cloth diaper powder for all my families laundry. It’s simple and easy. I figure if it can clean poppy, it can clean anything. =)

  41. says

    Thank you for posting this recipe! I have been looking for recipes to make my own laundry detergent that is safe to use on cloth diapers in order to save money now that I am a sahm. My only question is can I use oxyclean as an oxygen cleaner?

    • says

      Rachel, I personally have not used Oxyclean because I have a hard time finding out what their ingredients are. I’ve checked on the packaging and online and I cannot find a list of ingredients…so while it sounds like it should be a plain oxygen cleaner, I have my doubts, because it looks different and smells different. I have not used it. You could definitely make up a small batch and see. The only reason I don’t experiment much more once I’ve found something that works is because I don’t want detergent residue in the diapers that my child might then have a reaction to. I have always found Sun Oxygen Cleaner at Walmart and I think Target has it as well. Check your local grocery store, but do experiment on your own if you are daring, and let us know what you found out. =)

    • says

      I went to OxiClean’s website to find out what else is in the regular “Versatlie” powder and there are in fact fragrance and dye ingredients. They do sell a version called “OxiClean Free” which does not have fragrances or dyes, so you would be able to use that one if you can’t find the Sun’s version.

  42. says

    I typically add 1/4 cup bleach once a month to strip my cloth diapers. Have you tried adding bleach while using your detergent? If so, are there any bad reactions with the other ingredients?

    • says

      Jillian, I absolutely NEVER use bleach with my cloth diapers. I have heard of people who use bleach to strip their diapers. I wouldn’t even do it then. I would rather use the sun (sunlight kills everything), or perhaps a little Dawn dishsoap with 10 rinses. Bleach is so harsh in every way and about the worst chemical out there, so I would never want it near my baby’s bottom. I cannot personally recommend it. I cannot tell you about a reaction with the other ingredients because I have never tried it.

  43. says

    I am planning to cloth diaper for the first time with my 3rd child due in 6 weeks. There’s so much information out there that I haven’t even been able to decide which type of diaper to use let alone which kind of laundry soap ;) I have heard that borax isn’t good for cloth diapers so this recipe seems to be the best I’ve found so far. I was wondering for your regular laundry, do you substitute store bought fabric softener with something else?

    • says

      Hi Erin! I have never done much with fabric softener. I have heard that using wool balls helps with keeping static away in the dryer…and maybe that helps a bit with softer fabric after the dryer? You can use a bit of white vinegar in your wash that acts as a fabric softener, but I don’t feel a need for us. I have never liked the smell of fabric softeners, and I don’t feel like we have scratchy clothes. =)

      You are correct in that Borax is much too harsh for cloth diapers and really all laundry, unless you really trying to disinfect something. They used to use borax in hospitals before bleach became the norm.

      Hope that answers all your questions! If not, feel free to leave another note or email me. =)

      Keep in mind, this is just what has been working for my family for a few years now and many others enjoy this recipe as well. =)

  44. says

    What about using the cloth diaper recipe with cold water? I wash my baby’s clothes on a gentle cycle with cold water, and only want to have 1 laundry detergent. So would this still work washing with cold water?
    Thanks!

  45. Heather says

    Thanks for the CD recipe! I love that it is cheap, and my diapers come out smelling fresh and clean. Have you had any reports of cotton prefolds starting to fall apart after using this detergent? My Bummis are becoming holey and fraying, but I’m using just a TBSP of the detergent mix, so I don’t think I’m overdoing it. I did buy my diapers used (from a friend), and she did bleach them before passing them onto me. Most people online don’t seem to think that a single bleach job could destroy them, but I just can’t figure out why some of them are falling apart. I’m debating whether I need to try a mainstream CD detergent, but they’re so expensive by comparison!

    • Elisa says

      Hmm…I’m still using this laundry & cloth diaper detergent for our household and I have not noticed any crazy breakdown of fabric. I have noticed that my PUL covers last for about 2 kids…and then they start wearing out..but mostly on the velcro, which I can fix by sewing it up a little. Over-bleaching is not good for PUL, and I would expect it to break down the fabric more. Maybe you can experiment a little? I know my CD recipe doesn’t work for everyone, but I’m still very happy with it and we’re going on a few years of using it. Don’t think I’ll ever go back to buying the stuff w/ all the chemicals. Blessings!!

  46. alison says

    I’ve read so much that is clearly against using baking soda in the wash for cloth diapers & covers alike. In your experience, what covers have you used this diaper detergent on and how have they held up?

    • Elisa says

      I have been using this detergent (only 1 Tablespoon AT MOST per large load) for a few years now. I use it on prefolds, PUL covers & AIOs from Bummis and Thirsties, and have not had a problem with fabric breakdown. The dangers w/ baking soda is using too much.

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