Is Cloth Diaper Detergent Build Up a Lie? (Diaper Advice)

Everyone has their own twists on how they do their diaper laundry.  Some are religious about timing, others are all about the extra water, and some feel that their detergent is what makes or breaks their diapers.  Recently, though, I came across a comment on a diaper laundry post about how cloth diaper detergent built up is a lie.

“Detergent build up is a *myth* there is absolutely no such thing as detergent build up. Do you strip your clothes on a regular basis? No? Hum… That’s funny. Because they’re made of the same materials… Weird right?” – Brittany Malone

Is Diaper Detergent Build Up a Lie? (Diaper Advice) - Cloth Diaper AddictsThis is incorrect for a few reasons.  Yes, detergent build up absolutely happens.  It even happens in your regular clothes.  Don’t believe me?  Throw a load of your regular clothes in the washing machine.  Don’t put any detergent in.  Just run the cycle like you normally do.  Then sit back and watch.  Do you see bubbles starting to form?  Give it a few minutes.  Yes, if you’re using a front loading washing machine, some of those bubbles will be air bubbles from the churning of the drum.  Pause your cycle for about thirty seconds and wait for those air bubbles to pop.  What’s left is soap bubbles.  If you didn’t add any detergent to your clothing this time around, but you’re still seeing bubbles form, where do you reckon that soap came from?  Two choices: either it built up in your washing machine, or it built up in your clothing.

To test that hypothesis, I ran a quick wash cycle with no clothes in it.  No soap.  Just water.  Guess what?  No bubbles.  That leaves detergent build up in the clothing as the only remaining culprit.

As for manufacture materials of clothing versus diapers… I don’t use them for the same purpose.  I do not require my clothing be absorbent.  I neither defecate nor urinate in my clothing.  (Okay, fine, some of us have issues with leakage when we sneeze.  But still, the absorbency comment still stands.)  That means that detergent build up in cloth diapers can be an issue without being an issue in regular clothing.

So what issues can come up from cloth diaper detergent build up?

Reduced absorbency.  Diapers have a particular function: they are essentially fancy poop catchers.  They can only hold so much, and if they’re holding detergent build up and mineral deposits, then that leaves less room for catching urine.

Stink.  Cloth diapers can stink for a multitude of reasons, and that stink is one of the main reasons for stripping cloth diapers.  How your diapers stink will indicate how you need to strip… but your cloth diapers should not stink.  Detergent build up is not the only reason for diaper stink, but it can contribute.

Rashes.  A lot of us choose cloth diapers because we found that our babies got rashes when in disposables.  When diaper rashes show up in cloth, it’s just horrifying for these parents because they feel that they have no options left.  The simple fact is that baby skin is pretty tender and soft.  Even adults (think geriatric wards) can end up with severe skin issues due to incontinence.  Sitting in their own waste and having that waste mix with detergent chemicals can make a potential rash situation even worse.

I will say, though, that build up does not have to be a make or break issue.  It can be resolved with stripping methods.  However, one should not have to frequently strip.  If so, there’s something wrong with your cloth diaper routine.  Yes, that can include using the wrong detergent that leads to build up.

Have you ever dealt with detergent build up in your diapers?

Image by David V, stock.xchng

Edited to add: It’s very interesting to see the amount of feedback that this post is getting from The Cloth Diaper Compendium.  If you’re going to claim science is why I’m wrong, that’s great… but it’s been done and I’m bored with you now.  Either a.) share your sources or b.) go get your own blog.  You’ve grown tedious.  Profane personal attacks will not be approved, nor will posts that are perceived to be an attempt at bullying or harassment.  You are free to post whatever you want on your own forum, but this is mine and I will not be treated with disrespect.

Edited to add again:  Here’s some personal experience with dealing with detergent build up.

A local mom washed her diapers with Baby Purex.  She’d heard that I could fix anything and had been known to resolve diapering issues for a donation to Cloth for a Cause.  She was desperate.  If she’d put her cloth diapers on her daughter, she would instantly get a severe rash.  When I opened the diapers, they smelled strongly of perfumes from the detergent.  One could literally feel the detergent’s oily residue in the diapers.

That is the very definition of build up.  Yes, it occurred because her diaper routine was ineffective.  Yes, there were multitudes of suds from those diapers without anything being added.  Not air bubbles, but ginourmous, fluffy suds like you’d find in a bubble bath.  Guess what?  I stripped her diapers with RLR, OxiClean and Rockin’ Green.  It took a lot of soaking, some scrubbing, and a significant amount of work, but the stink was resolved.  Therefore, this is more experimental (though not accurately photographed) evidence.  Further comments that are just stupid or irritating to me will be deleted.  I’m bored with you now.  Go troll elsewhere.

And I will never join The Cloth Diaper Compendium because of the absolute lunacy that some of the members displayed here.  There were some truly disturbing comments left and not approved because, quite frankly, I’m not going to give a forum to feed into the insanity.

About Suzi

Suzi is an American ex-pat living in British Columbia. She's a cloth diaper addict, wife, mom of three, and President of the Prince George chapter of Cloth for a Cause.


  1. When I first started cloth diapering I was using Vaska liquid and apparently too much of it. My diapers started to stink to high heaven! After reading from some well known and reputable sources, I decided that maybe I had build up and ran a wash without detergent. I had bubbles everywhere! I needed to run 4 wash cycles sans detergent to get all of the bubbles out and when that happened, no more stink. So yeah…build up absolutely happens.
    Regan recently posted…Challenge the ADHD Mind and Rock 9th Grade Like a Boss. {Yesterday’s 504 Plan Meeting}My Profile

  2. As a mother who has cloth diapered for nearly half a decade…I know that detergent build-up does exist.

    Every few weeks or so I notice that my kid’s diapers have a filmy or greasy feel about them after taking them out if the dryer (and when they wet the diapers, there is a horrible ammonia smell…and rashes follow). We don’t use fabric softeners on any of our laundry, so it only means that the detergent is the cause of the problem.

    To prevent this from happening, I clean my washer (every few weeks a magical ring of soap residue around the top up the tub that would be present during the last rinse cycle if I didn’t clean it) and strip the diapers…problem solved!

    • I guess I used the wrong term…I did not mean “soap”, I meant detergent. However, something is leaving a ring of gunk in the washer tub. Tried upping the detergent usage which didn’t seem to work…

  3. Detergent build up absolutely happens. The only reason that build up doesn’t matter on clothing is that you are not using your clothing to absorb moisture. If you were, then build up would matter on clothes. I notice that my rags become less absorbent over time because of this. Furthermore, using as little detergent as possible is better all around. Duh!
    Heather Johnson recently posted…Sweet Pea Buttons Diaper: Daily DiaperMy Profile

    • I would like to know.. if detergent can build up in your reg clothes as well as diapers and cause them to not absorb..then how come this never happens to my towels.. that i use to dry myself off when wet? how is using less detergent to clean anything better???

      • It actually *does* happen on towels. In fact, I recently read an article about how Americans use too much laundry detergent. I need to pull that out. (Oh, and I see things on stripping towels floating around the web periodically, too.)

        • Well. I have never in my entire life ever had anyone.. friends, family etc.. complain that their towels stopped absorbing and started repelling liquid. If I was to ask friends and family had they ever heard of stripping their towels they would not even know what the heck i meant by stripping. I have had my towels for about 4 yrs now and not once have i thought about stripping them.. nor have i had any issues with them repelling and not absorbing liquids. I have used several different types of detergents on them and lots of fabric softeners.

          • That’s great. But I’ll point out that even fabric softener manufacturers point out that fabric softener causes problems with absorbency. Chances are that they don’t notice because those towels are not against their rear end with the purpose of absorbing urine. They don’t have the same function.

          • No they are not using them to absorb urine.. but i have used my towels to clean up major spills, and have not had absorbency problems.. and my mom does use her towels to clean up dog urine, which she has no problem doing and she has had her towels around 10 yrs.. and has never stripped them.

          • That’s great? Really, though, I don’t think that you’re going to get the same level of accurate anecdotal results with a towel as you get with a diaper because of that different function. At the end of the day, though, you’re not changing my mind. I’m not changing yours. I’m just getting bored.

  4. I just wish there was a way to click like on this post and the comments 😉
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  5. No if you are using the right amount of detergent, then no you will not have buildup. also chemistry wise very unlikey to happen. If it does, you need to change your washing routine.

    • Bingo! If your routine is adequate, you should not have build up. But this very comment that you’ve made acknowledges that build up is a possibility.

  6. I. also bleach my diapers once a month so I have never had barnyard smell.

  7. Brittany Malone says:

    glad you felt the need to quote me.
    but please show me your scientific proof detergent build up exists. Detergent build up is IMPOSSIBLE. Detergent was invented because soap was not clean rinsing and was causing problems so some scientist sat down in a lab and formulated detergent. Just to be CLEAN RINSING.
    If you’re interesting visit me and another 4000 women who don’t believe the nonsense over at The Cloth Diaper Compendium.
    Also funny, Rumparooz agrees with us 😉
    Have a great Day
    Brittany Malone
    The Lady you “quoted”

    • Of course I quoted you. Had I not quoted you and cited you, then it would have been intellectual dishonesty. Show me your studies. 🙂

      BTW, BumGenius also agrees with me. 🙂 Enjoy your day, too.

    • Why did you put the word quoted in air quotes, Brittany? She actually did quote you, legitimately. If you can’t handle being called out when someone disagrees with you, perhaps you should disconnect your internet.

      Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one. Suzi has a *right* to hers, just as you have a *right* to yours. And Suzi also has a right to call you out and say she thinks you are wrong. But rallying your FB group to come and bleat on about how butthurt you all are that someone has a different opinion than you? That doesn’t actually help your cause, it just makes you look like a group of petty, vindictive women who can’t handle life when people disagree with them.

      Honey, you made the comment, you attributed it to yourself. Live with the consequences.

    • Ditto: Please show your scientific evidence that buildup does not exist.

    • Kate Shaw says:

      Brittany, I will NEVER join your group. Know why? Because you people are crazy. If this is how you handle it when someone disagrees with you, you and your group of sycophants are clearly in need of psychological help. If the bubbles aren’t soap, then what are they? Where’s your science?

    • Emily Taaffe says:

      Brittany Malone– That is a lie. Detergent was invented in post-WWI Germany due to a fat shortage after the war. Back then, fat was the only acid used to manufacture soap. Detergent are NOT any more clean rinsing than soap, as you claim. They are, however, more effective in fighting stains and take less time to produce (soap, on average, takes 4-6 weeks to cure. Get your facts straight, honey.

    • Oh, hey, I was researching for another blog post… and Proctor & Gamble, a detergent manufacturer, explains that optical brighteners do, in fact, leave deposits on clothing as part of their function.

    • To my knowledge…Rumparooz recommends not using additives (including bleach).

  8. you do realize that this ‘study’ is not all scientific in nature and therefor invalid in terms of reliability?

    • Okay? Science is not always done with a microscope and a mass spectrometer. Observation in and of itself is a huge part of the scientific method.

    • Suzi’s experiment is absolutely scientific in nature. She had a hypothesis: there is such a thing as detergent build up. She had a control: the washer, when run with nothing in it, did not show evidence of detergent use in the form of bubbles. She had 2 experiments: diapers with detergent, diapers without detergent. Both made bubbles. She also tested other variables: were these bubbles merely agitation bubbles? Stop midcycle, wait a certain amount of time for the agitation bubbles to resolve, and then are there still bubbles (this would mean that those remaining bubbles are soap bubbles).

      Just because she didn’t have a million dollar government subsidy to determine this doesn’t mean it wasn’t scientific.

      • I would say this experiment showed that perhaps all the detergent had not been rinsed out–that ther was residual detergent left behind. Not really that there is ‘build-up.’ Build-up assumes that the substance increases in the fabric over time, such that with each consecutive washing of the fabric more detergent would be added to the fabric than was on the fabric before. THAT is not a viable conclusion that can be drawn from the experiment. The other aspect of ‘build-up’ that is assumed is that this in-question ‘build-up’ contributes to stink and repelling. The aforementioned experiment also does not address whether this ‘stink’ or ‘repelling’ can/does occur due to the assumed ‘build-up.’

        • What do you think build up is? It’s crap left behind, and if you consistently do not rinse out the detergent and consistently pile more on, it’s going to build up. How do you expect it to rinse out the crap that was already left behind when more and more of it is piling up? And, again, how do you explain the diapers that I had to spend several DAYS getting out the leftovers?

          • So are we arguing semantics?
            You had to spend days getting out what leftovers…detergent? You mean you rinsed for days? What problems did you have with the diapers that led you to spend days rinsing? All I know is I wash a SMALL load of diapers every two days, with line 1 of Tide (recently bought Gain or Sun or something cheaper) and do one extra rinse (one day I didn’t even do the extra rinse) and I haven’t had any problems. My water is ‘medium’ — not hard, not soft.
            Which part of the detergent is supposed to cause trouble in diapers if it is not rinsed? I’m talking function (not potential allergies that some people skin has to some detergents) or bacteria remaining behind leading to stink?

          • I think we are arguing semantics, actually. I had a similar conversation with someone on a group recently, and after about ten minutes, we realized that we were saying the exact same thing.

            The diapers that I rinsed (well, repeated hot washes) for days weren’t mine. It was a service that I provided for someone else. She used Baby Purex. The diapers were caked with detergent. You could feel it, you could smell it. The problem that she was having was that as soon as the diaper hit her kid’s bum, the kid ended up with an ugly rash.

            Since she brought her diapers to me, she’s had no further problems.

            What builds up? 1.) The detergent itself. 2.) Urine. 3.) Feces. 4.) Minerals in the water. If the wash routine is sufficient, none of these will be building up.

            What can cause problems? Bacteria remaining behind. Skin reactions due to the combination of how urine, feces, detergent, and trapped bum in a diaper.

            At the end of the day, though, if your diapers aren’t causing skin problems and your diapers aren’t leaking, I suppose it’s not going to matter if they smell. At least, if it’s not a problem for whomever has to smell them.

          • I don’t tolerate a poopy or ammonia smell because to me it is clear evidence that my diapers are not getting clean. When I first considered cloth several years ago a friend lent me hers. I tried them but found the reek of ammonia upon changing my child to be highly offensive. It was just horrible. When I finally got rid of my ammonia funk (after switching to cloth this summer) by a bleach water soak and switch to Tide I could not believe that I had been putting not-quite-clean diapers on my child for several weeks! And to think there was leftover pee remnants in the cloth I had borrowed. Yuck. My child what I’m pretty sure was a slight ammonia burn that went away as soon as I bleached and then switched to Tide — no problems since. I do one extra rinse and don’t check for suds.

            Is there any research to show which, if any, of the lingering detergent particles would actually cause repelling (perfumes, dyes, optical brighteners, surfactants)? Because I haven’t had any issues in this department and neither I nor my children are allergic to whatever Tide might leave behind (perfumes, for instance). Though I’m using Gain at the moment…same difference.

          • A lot of people have different fragrance sensitivities that can cause issues. Right now, I think it’s all theoretical and “kitchen chemistry” experiments since there’s not exactly a lot of (any?) funding going into researching cloth diapers in a lab with people in white coats.

            I’m glad that you had your issues resolved. I don’t tolerate stink in my diapers either, but I do use different methods than bleach to fix. I don’t like bleach for a variety of reasons, and not just for diapers.

            But I will absolutely, 100% agree with you that the important part is that your diapers are working and your kid’s tush is happy.

  9. I like how there’s no science to back up your claim, yet Brittany has science to back up hers. If you do have some scientific explanation for detergent build up, please share!

    • Where? She’s yet to show any. Not here, not on the blog post that she left her initial comment where I pulled her quote.

      • Kate Shabanov says:

        Hi Suzy!

        My name is Kate Shabanov, and I’m the founder and head administrator over at The Cloth Diaper Compendium, the 4,000 members strong (and counting!) group that Brittany Malone mentioned above. As the head administrator, I’m going to have to respectfully ask that you remove her quote and citation from your blog. Your usage of her quotation and name, without permission, is unacceptable to us. Furthermore, your usage of her quotation and name has made Brittany, myself, and the other administrators uncomfortable in many aspects, not the least of which being your attempts to discredit a single comment–used without context and with no scientific rational–while pandering to your “popular-science” tripe (much of which is woefully misconstrued, misused, or flat-out wrong).

        If you’d like more information on how detergent actually works (based in scientific fact and not single-user observation and speculation–one person does NOT equal a sample-size), why it cannot “build-up”, the differences between soap and detergent, and the science behind agitation bubbles vs. detergent bubbles, please feel free to contact me, either via personal e-mail or through The Cloth Diaper Compendium group.

        I thank you for your prompt handling of this matter.

        Kate Shabanov

        • Hi Kate, unfortunately, you have no standing to make this request. Brittany Malone made the comments referencing The Cloth Diaper Compendium. I did not. Brittany Malone made her statement in a public forum that you do not control, in another blogger’s comment section. Fair use guidelines also allow me to quote the portion that I have quoted and require attribution.

          If Ms. Malone would like to make the request that her name be redacted, I can certainly do so. However, she would have to be the one to make that request because of those fair use guidelines that I’d mentioned above. I have to wonder, though, why she would want to have her name redacted at all if she stands by those words. If she truly believes in what she has to say about build-up, then why hide her words? Have a pleasant day.

        • Hi Kate –
          I have to admit, I am curious about your professional credentials. What make you more of an expert on detergent than Suzi? Are you a ‘scientist’? What field do you work in? What company do you work for?

          The reason I ask is because you came onto Suzi’s blog to defend your friend (which is noble of you), but in your attempt to discredit Suzi’s expertise, you’ve offered your own expertise as proof of Suzi’s lack. I would prefer you actually provide peer-reviewed journal articles regarding how detergents work specific to how they work on synthetic fibres.

          Because otherwise, all you’re doing is starting a pissing match. And I think as all of us on here are mommas with babes in diapers, none of us have time for your butthurt about Suzi having a different opinion than one of your disciples.

          In short, if you want to discredit someone, don’t come on their blog and whine about how you own the entire internet and make demands that names be removed. Provide the actual empirical studies to support your claims. And please, for the LOVE OF GOD, stop sending your minions to create more drama. They are woefully unequipped.

        • You guys over at The Cloth Diaper Compendium are such a hilarious group of girls. You approve posts that have nothing to do with cloth diapers to start drama. To whine about how stupid everyone is and then go on your power trip of blocking anyone who disagrees. It’s pathetic. I’m sorry if you were picked on in school or not the prettiest or the smartest or your little sister got more attention than you or whatever it was that made you all so catty, rude and mean. But be honest with yourself for a minute…. Is being a total weinie online *really* making you feel better? I bet not. It is my hope that one day you become truly happy about who you are as a person ,because right now you’re not. Your nastiness online shows that. And how do you expect anyone to follow advice from someone who won’t even put her own picture up… None of us believe you are Bettie Page, Kate. xD
          So many of the “resources” listed on The Cloth Diaper Compendium’s documents are from EHow! No, no you are not reputable. Not even a little bit.

      • Brittany Malone says:

        It’s funny because that blog actually wrote me an email thanking me for opening her eyes. LOL. You instead blast me on the internet without even letting me know.
        But I don’t need to post claims. Why? Because its scientific fact.

        • I’m not blasting you. I don’t know you. You’re operating under the assumption that this is somehow personal when it’s just a simple disagreement of ideology. And I know for a fact that the owner of Thinking About Cloth Diapers did not email you to thank her for “opening” her “eyes.” Or, to be less tactful, Brittany, that means that you are a liar.

          You keep saying this is scientific fact… but something is not a fact just because you say it is so. Sources?

        • Brittany, this is an inaccurate claim. I did not thank you for opening my eyes. I too, believe in detergent build-up. I did, however, indicate that I welcome feedback on my article, however irrelevant they may be to the content of said article.

      • Kate Shabanov says:

        It’s a shame that the Science in the Box isn’t a reputable source. 🙂 They’re far too biased for me to consider them remotely legit.

        • It’s interesting because I would EXPECT Science in the Box to be biased because it’s owned by a detergent company. When Proctor & Gamble is saying that yes, in fact, their products DO build up, that should mean something.

  10. I think that quoting someone without even contacting them is wrong. Not only that, you used her comment in a slanderous manner. That’s extremely rude and unprofessional. If you want people to take you seriously you shouldn’t be so catty. Second, show me your science. I’ve been washing my diapers the way I wash my laundry and haven’t had a single issue. Its amazing to me that power of suggestion holds more water than scientific fact. Have a good night.

    • Huh? How on earth did I use it in a slanderous manner? Do you know what slander means? According to Merriam-Webster: “to make a false spoken statement that causes people to have a bad opinion of someone.”

      1.) It was not spoken, it was written. That would make it libelous.
      2.) It was not false. It was not taken out of context or anything else.

      What would have been wrong would have been for me to quote without attribution. What was catty? Someone left an opinion. I disagreed with it and itemized how I disagreed. Period. It’s interesting, though, that you’re using your own anecdotal feedback to tell me that my anecdotal feedback (which was actually done with the same level as an elementary school science project) is wrong.

      Where is your science? Where is ANYONE’S scientific performed in a lab proof?

    • A couple of things:

      You clearly are unaware of what the word slander means. I know Suzi defined it for you, but in case you didn’t understand that either, let me clarify: Suzi didn’t make Brittany look bad. Brittany made Brittany look bad.

      You also seem to be unaware of what the word professional means, with regards to your suggestion that Suzi was unprofessional in her posting this article. Unprofessional means “Below or contrary to the standards expected in a particular profession”. Now, Suzi is a blogger by profession, which really means she is a writer. An opinion-journalist, if you will. She read a comment that was made by someone who chose to link to her facebook profile, thus acknowledging authorship of the comment. She took a quote from the comment and then fully attributed that quote back to the author of the comment, and wrote an opinion piece based on it.

      That’s not actually unprofessional. That’s completely appropriate to her profession as a blog writer.

    • Quick aside here,
      I am an English major studying Professional Writing. This means I study the appropriate – and legal – ways to write, both academically and professionally. By citing her source (i.e. the quote) she removed all chances of being accused of plagiarism (the uncited use of someone else’s thoughts or ideas). By doing this, she has not “slandered” or been “catty.” Quite the opposite, she has exibited the traditional and accepted use of composing an argument. Through this, she used an opposing opinion the demonstrate the need for her opinion. Whether or not her opinion appeals to you, she has used the proper technique to convey her thoughts. In short, find a new argument because the quote was necessary and correctly used.

  11. Casey Duer says:

    Well its one thing to say its science that someone made detergents to be sudz free and not build up, its another to say it works all the time and equate diaper build up to a fallacy. Think of the fabric that diapers are made up of, if that fabric is ment to absorb mass amounts of liquids, then in the wash its also absorbing detergents weather or not its soap like or not, then if it dosnt get rinsed properly over time that once absorbent fabric will turn into your kitchen sponge that no longer smells like daisies and is probably making you dishes dirty when you wash them. So rinse the issues out no big deal, and if you have no problems congratulations on getting the washing right, I for sure have not mastered that in the two and a half years I’ve been cloth diapering.

  12. I must say… this kind of advice is what caused myself and hundreds of other moms I know so many issues :/ I almost gave up several times, even though I was doing everything “right”! The fear of the All-Mighty Detergent Buildup has people washing in teaspoons of detergent (or none at all), wasting water and energy and wearing out their diapers by rinsing 58 times, and so freaked out that they are reduced to tears thinking they have ruined their diapers if they accidentally use the “wrong” detergent or forgot to rinse for the 5th time.
    Can’t we just keep it simple? Can’t we acknowledge that we can, in fact, treat our beloved fluff like the other fabric we wash on a daily basis with no ill effects? You use the example of your detergent built up clothing not needing to be absorbent, but you probably rely on your towels, wash cloths, and cleaning rags to be, right? Do you ever hear advice to only wash those in 1/4 or 1/2 the recommended amount of detergent and rinse multiple extra times to preserve the absorbency? Are there ever rashes or detergent residue transfer happening from toweling off or using a washcloth on your face? I don’t know about you, but I have never in my life treated my towels, microfiber cleaning rags or mop pads (multiple layers) any different than normal laundry, and those suckers can hold a ton of liquid, even years later.
    Ever since my stink and ammonia issues with my diapers, I did a lot of research on laundry and how detergents work, and how to properly clean waste, disinfect, prevent ammonia, etc, and it was so enlightening and changed my whole outlook. Laundry detergent these days is chemically designed to be clean rinsing. It’s attracted to soils, fats and minerals, not fabric. It’s also designed to be used in certain concentrations to be effective, so it can get in there and do it’s job (if there’s enough of it), and then carry away all the fats, soils and minerals with normal rinsing. If it tended to be left behind in fabrics after a normal rinse, it wouldn’t be nearly as effective as it is, because our towels would be stiff and soapy, our cleaning cloths would be funky smelling, and we would have all this talk of “less is more” and “run another hot wash to get all the soap out”. So, why are diapers so different? Why are thousands of moms having great success with just washing in regular detergent, using a regular amount, in the appropriate amount of water, and not excessively rinsing? Well, it’s because normal detergent, used appropriately *works for heavily soiled items, too!* These chemists who have been developing these formulas for decades, have it right! It really does perform correctly, and rinse out, when using the recommended amount and number of rinses (so, about 1).
    How are we ever going to help moms get their diapers clean and bacteria free and in good shape, when detergent “build up” is so feared that we’re going so far as to *not use enough* (or none at all!), or put our poor diapers through 2-3 whole extra wash cycles rinsing detergent that isn’t even there anymore? It’s ludicrous, and we see the horrible consequences every day in almost every cloth diaper group you can find. For some reason, the CD community has everyone convinced it’s better to use barely enough detergent (or a very weak one) to clean a pair of socks, let alone a whole load of diapers with urine and feces in them, than to encounter the “detergent build up” boogeyman, which is physically impossible unless you have a huge imbalance of detergent-water ratio.
    The Cleaning Institute has a great article on detergent that really helped me understand I could let go of the stressful, ineffective washing methods that had been drilled into my head. I’ve never been so satisfied with my laundry 😀

    • Wow. This is such a long comment that it borders on tl;dr. Have you ever considered getting your own blog so that you’ll have your own forum to share your opinions?

      Have you not ever noticed that over time, towels do lose their absorbency? Or that laundry can become stiff and crunchy when dried outdoors. I’ve already written a post about how one’s diapers are not ruined over some deviation… but think about the things that are in your normal laundry detergent: fragrances. Optical brighteners. Those things work by their very nature by leaving some of themselves behind on the fabric they wash. While towels are required to have some absorbency, they are not expected to absorb two cups of liquid waste over a very small area.

      I am, however, very glad that you’ve found something that works for you.

    • It’s a shame that the Cleaning Institute isn’t a reputable source. 🙂 They’re far too biased for me to consider them remotely legit.

  13. To those individuals who keep saying ‘I don’t need to be careful about my cleaning rags and they are just as gross as a diaper’, I have a couple things to say.

    First, you’re not putting a cleaning rag on your babies ass. So stop comparing the two.

    Second, if I don’t bleach the everloving eff-bomb out of my cleaning rags at least every other week, water hits them and they are VILE, so actually, yes, this is an issue with cleaning rags too.

    And all you really need to do is look into the history of soaps and detergents and understand that clean is big business, and there are HUGE amounts of advertising money that goes into making laundry detergent that will make a consumer want to buy it without a whole lot of science to back up why the shit is good.

    Have you ever wondered about the crazy crunchy hippy chicks who make their own laundry detergent? We use a tablespoon per load because a tablespoon of homemade detergent is JUST AS EFFECTIVE as a 1/2 cup of Tide, at a fraction of the cost. Actually, it’s better than Tide.

    There are other commercially-made detergents on the market that are formulated the same way as crunchy hippy homemade laundry detergent. Like Nellie’s, which is what I use for all my laundry. You don’t need a lot of it because it’s ridiculously well-designed for what it is intended for – it is JUST as good, if not better than, 1/2 cup of tide. And cheaper because you aren’t paying for hocus pocus, scents, colour, etc.

    Soap bubbles up because people WANT to see bubbles. Detergent bubbles up because people want to see bubbles. They are scientifically developed to bubble because that makes the consumer happy. Chemists who work for detergent companies are being paid to make a detergent with very specific guidelines, and one of those is that it will sell – hence optical brighteners, enzymes, colours, scents, and lots and lots of bubbles. A good detergent will barely bubble at all, and will rinse clean. But a good detergent will also only require a tiny amount because when you have the chemistry right, you don’t need LOTS of it. Tiny amount = HUGE effect.

    Okay, I’ve wasted enough time, feeding your trolls, Suzi, I have crunchy hippy momma stuff to take care of now. Good luck. The trolls seem to be more dense than usual today.

  14. Wow, I totally believe the soap build-up thing and did before this post, but I never thought to run a “plain” cycle to prove it! Good on you!

  15. Jennifer St. Clair says:

    The way that detergent is formulated, molecularly, it is impossible for it to “build up”. However, detergent can leave residue if you do not use enough water or you do not rinse enough–Not to say that one should use less detergent or more water or rinse 1,000 times.

    Detergents contain surfactants which are crucial to cleaning dirty fabric. From a molecular standpoint, surfactant molecules contain a tail-end that is attracted to oil/dirt/grease (which is hydrophobic, meaning it is not attracted to water) and a head-end that is attracted to water (or hydrophilic). This means that the detergent used removes the “dirt” and washes away with water. Whatever detergent is added will clean the fabric to the best of it’s ability. Insufficient detergent will not clean effectively, too much detergent will clean sufficiently and if there is insufficient rinsing only detergent is left behind (not build up) and not dirt or bad smell. This left behind detergent will rinse away in the next wash, though; and, if more detergent is added than needed, that detergent will be left behind, yet the previous left over detergent will have rinsed out.

    Here is a great explanation on how detergents work:
    And a decent YouTube video on how soaps/detergents work:

    In saying that, detergent build up is a myth. Detergent residue happens with insufficient rinsing and does not cause bad smells, repelling or leaking.

    Also, agitation causes bubbles, soap and detergent are not the only things that make water bubble.

    • It’s Thanksgiving and family time, so I’ll have to reply to this more in depth later… but I’d stated in the blog post “Yes, if you’re using a front loading washing machine, some of those bubbles will be air bubbles from the churning of the drum. Pause your cycle for about thirty seconds and wait for those air bubbles to pop. What’s left is soap bubbles.”

      Your insistence that all of the leftover detergent will somehow magically wash away before the new detergent is added just hasn’t proven true when I ended up taking care of the Baby Purex stinky diapers. And, oh, my but those diapers most certainly did smell horrid. And the build up was so strong on those diapers that touching them to put them in the wash (which then yielded great big huge puffy bubbles like a bubble bath) was just gross. That detergent residue does, in fact, build up through insufficient rinsing and improper washing.

    • Am I the only weirdo who now has the song “She Blinded You With Science” now stuck in her head? 😉
      Nobodysperfick recently posted…Mama timeMy Profile

    • So, I looked into the Clean Institute link. It’s essentially a page that lobbies for detergent companies. I liken that to expecting reputable information on lung cancer and its relationship to smoking from R.J. Reynolds. Credibility fail.

    • Here’s something better: Proctor & Gamble explains that their product does linger in optical brighteners.

  16. Blogs from a Single Mom says:

    First of all, I love this post. Its informative, and ACCURATE. Cloth diaper buildup does exist. Detergents leave residue! That’s point of many detergents, actually. They want to leave residue, so your clothes smell ‘fresh’. On clothing it doesn’t matter. On diapers, it does.

  17. It’s really just diapers. I don’t really have any thoughts on the issue because I just troubleshoot when I have an issue occur. I will say, however, that since switching from cloth diaper-specific detergent to TIde, I’ve not had any problems with stink at all (4 months and counting). At the end of the day, does it really matter if you’ve found a routine that works for you?
    Lauren S. recently posted…Fall Back into Babywearing MEGA Carrier Giveaway Event!My Profile

  18. Jennifer A. says:

    I found this article very interesting! As I’ve been learning about cloth diapers, I was surprised to hear I had to use special detergent, and of course immediately wondered if that was really necessary. Your post helped clear that issue up! Thank you!

  19. I have experienced detergent build up on my personal clothes. I was in a very heavy rain storm in which I wasn’t able to get out of, and my blue jeans started foaming. Though I was moving around, I do not think they were agitation bubbles, unless my mood influenced my pants. I try to use less then the recommended detergent for all my laundry before this incident happened and I still had detergent bubbles. Detergent build up can be an issue if you are having smell issues with your diapers. If you aren’t then you have a good wash routine, that suits your water type, washing machine, detergent and cycles you use. Unfortunately, there is no perfect wash “routine” that works for everyone.

    Detergent companies make their product to make money $$$$$ (lots of it). The more you use, the more often you will have to buy more. Most people wouldn’t even realise that they use too much detergent then needed for regular laundry as the situations that point it out don’t happen often (eg my situation).

    Thank you for another great blog post. I’m glad to be part of your 6000+ cloth diapering community 🙂 Keep up the great work!

  20. It’s crazy how controversial this has become lately! Too bad we all can’t agree to disagree!

  21. I know my high energy machine uses less water so my diapers don’t get rinsed and there is definitely left over residue on my diapers. Same as my clothes. It is very irritating and means i have to wash things for a couple extra cycles. While not everyone may experience buildup- bleach can help but it can also damage diapers and flats- I have a ruined diaper and flats because of that advice,
    Ashleigh Swerdfeger recently posted…GMO Mini Summit 2013My Profile

  22. Christina Howell says:

    I liked this article. Interesting debate going on here 🙂 I have never had a build up with my cloth diapers. I think it is due to the fact that I use the correct amount of detergent and I use a more natural detergent without all the added brighteners, perfumes, etc.

  23. Michelle F. says:

    wow so much great tips and advice.

  24. Wow, it’s crazy how everyone gets so mean and defensive. It’s not a big deal either way. Either you believe it’s real, or you don’t. Why does there have to be so much hatred and negativity??

    Let’s all just hug, and wash diapers. 🙂

  25. I knew this could happen with regular clothing, but never even considered it with cloth diapers. DUH… I’ve pinned his post to refer to once I start. Lord knows I’ll be too tired to think at that point, so this will be a great help. Thanks

  26. Danielle F says:

    Thanks for the info, i am going to start cloth diapering and im doing some research. this is good to know!

  27. Wow. I cloth diapered my children and handwashed all the diaper. I didn’t use bleach because it ate away at the diaper. I was not aware of all the controversy I discovered this evening.
    Janeane Davis recently posted…Be Thankful For The Job Interview: It’s A Chance to Dress Up and Get OutMy Profile

  28. I used to have a top-load washer, and I never had a problem with our diapers. Recently we got a HE front-loader, and I definitely noticed that I had to use less detergent! My son was getting rashes and even blisters on his bottom, and I think it was from soap in the diapers. I did a strip, and have been using like, one drip of detergent, and it seems like that has taken care of the rash 🙂

  29. I didn’t see in your post what the right method is to use. Do you use a detergent at all? I used a wash ball for a while but my diapers eventually started leaking and some other friends said it was ammonia buildup. So I “stripped” the diapers and started using “CD safe” detergent. I just want to find the right balance!
    Rena (An Ordinary Housewife) recently posted…Countdown to Black Friday Giveaway ($1k Gift Card)My Profile

    • I’ve written other posts on “the right method” and linked within the post. The basic wash is cold or warm pre-rinse, extra long hot, double rinse. Of course a detergent is used. I use Rockin’ Green. Others use different detergents, including Tide. I, personally, hate Tide, but others like it. 🙂

  30. Using the wrong detergent is one of my fears when it comes to cloth diapering. I, unfortunately have no washer, only have access to one about one time a week, have no local cd store and very few people that know anything about cloth. Pretty much I try to cloth when I know I will be washing soon but even still I’m afraid I’m not washing them correctly. It’s overwhelming when you know only what you can find online!

  31. We dealt with build up issues when we lived in Arizona and had very hard water, we were using Charlie’s Soap and it just wasn’t a good fit with our water and diapers. Sometimes it takes some trial and error and no one solution works for everyone. It doesn’t have to be crazy complicated, but some tweaking may need to be done. One thing that frustrates me is when people think they can get diapers clean with a tablespoon of detergent!

    • I would say if you have really, really soft water or are washing small loads, sure. But in mine? Nope. 2-3 tbsp. 🙂

  32. I am afraid of not using enough detergent, so I always use too much and add extra wash cycles to rinse out all the extra suds. I don’t know if this creates build-up or not…

    • If you’re washing everything away, then you shouldn’t have build up issues. Build up comes from things not being rinsed away and then more and more of it being piled on top. 🙂

  33. That CDC group is completely insane and attacks just about everyone. I saw that they told people to bleach their natural fibers (hemp!) and I about died.

    Your post is informative and correct as far as my own cloth diapering experiences have shown. I love how people try to tell you that the sky is green, not blue!

    • It’s good to know that the blogger experience with them isn’t unique. 😛 But I’ve decided to make good use of their notoriety. I bought Cloth Diaper and am using it to put together a list of resources for all things cloth diapering. And it won’t be focused on shoddy science.

      • You are an evil genius and if you ever need a trusty sidekick, I’m IN!!

      • Kate Shabanov says:

        Thank you for the increased notoriety!

        Unfortunately, The Cloth Diaper Compendium name, in whole and in part, is pending Trademark. So, that may backfire on you. Thank you for the free publicity, though!

        Yours in antagonism,
        Kate Shabanov

        • Cloth Diaper Compendium has not been trademarked. Anyone can do a search to find that information. Lying makes you look bad and further discredits anything you might say.

        • Hi Kate,

          It took all of two minutes to verity that you are a liar. The name is not registered in the US or Canada. I own the domain. You have no rights to it. If you wanted it so badly, you should have bought it yourself. Or, you know, offer me a pile of cash. Then I might consider it. Because I don’t want you to have it, you’d better think six figures.

          In short, grow up. You’re coming across as unhinged. You wonder why people think you are running a personality cult?

          Edited to add: Go ahead and get your trademark if you want to spend the money to register it. Any lawyer worth his or her salt will tell you that you cannot do anything, because I’m in a foreign country. That took two minutes to find out.

        • Hi Kate. We have some mutual IRL acquaintances in common however none of them are in my husband’s circle. He is a scientist and has worked with many in CT either directly or indirectly. Where is it that you are a chemist again? The stories are starting to become difficult to keep track of.

  34. Holy bubbles! Love the blog, and the comments! Of coarse detergent companies are there to SELL! and Tide has its place in my house to wash other peoples laundry lol I did actually use it once to get a tarish/bonfire stain out of my sons favorite shirt but rinsed like 82 times to get the stuff out we are soooo allergic to it, I’m guessing theres a reason for that! and how could we have an allergic reaction if the soap was completely rinsed out of our clothes?? Magic I guess is what some people are thinking! Thank you Suzi for giving me a tool to help inform!!

  35. Why is it hypothesized that detergent build-up (or residue as I’d call it since) would cause poo/pee/ammonia stink when detergent aroma has no resemblance to either poo or pee or ammonia? I do know that I was washing my cloth diapers in Country Save and my diapers smelled to high heavens of ammonia as soon as my LO would pee in them and I felt overwhelmed by ammonia smell when it was time to pull them out of the wet bag for washing. But since I bleached them and started using Tide…I get NOTHING. No ammonia even out of the wet bag. I also had barnyard stink in most of my MF inserts and now every great now and then one will smell poopy but hardly ever (and it was a regular thing in my Country Save days). What is it about detergent that suggests it could lead to stinky diapers? The stink origin is urine and excrement, isn’t it?

    • Erm, I wouldn’t actually hypothesize that those things are necessarily caused by detergent leftovers. I generally suggest that if you’ve got barnyard stink, you’re not using enough detergent. That being said, though, detergent leftovers is a distinct possibility, but not the first place that I’d look.

      I go with smell + feel to determine detergent build up.

      • Stink is listed in this blog as a possible result of detergent build up. So I was asking why this would be.

        • Chemical reaction with what’s left over.

          I do, however, maintain that people are more likely to use “not enough” than “too much.”

  36. Sarah Black says:

    I’m not typically an avid reader of cloth diaper blogs.. I scan them for info every now and then (mainly this one) but I did see that and immediately smelled a rat. And it was getting shared around like no one’s business. She’s supposed to be taken as fact? She’s …. a blogger. Sorry, but a difference in opinion and “Weird, right?” is NOT proof of anything! Definitely smells funky to me.

    • Sarah Black says:

      Ha.. smells funky.

    • Brittany Malone and Kate Shabanov aren’t bloggers. They just have a Facebook group and like to try to tell other people what they can do with their websites. 😛

      At least, they aren’t as of the time of this post.

  37. I know that detergent buildup exists. Someone bought me a bottle of Dreft and i used it on my diapers. C’mon! There’s a cute baby on the bottle! It MUST be safe for diapers. Babies use them! Well…it has brighteners and perfumes. I never had ammonia issues until I was about halfway through the bottle. A little bit of urine in a diaper led to a major stinky issue.

    After stripping my entire stash in hot-ass water with some vinegar, I decided not to use Dreft anymore. NO ISSUES SINCE. Coincidence?

  38. I use Rockin Green, I have for nearly 4 years now. I ran out once and couldn’t get to my local store to get some for a few days so I grabbed some Tide. Guess what cold full wash, hot wash with Tide, 2 full hot washes after and still BUBBLES! Did one more full cycle and called it done. Put the diaper on my kid and she had a severe reaction and couldn’t sit down the second she peed. All the diapers in that wash stunk. Grabbed my trusty Rockin Green as soon as I could and never used anything else again on diapers or regular laundry. I do have diapers that were washed in regular detergent and bleach before I learned, the PUL is gone, the elastics went sooner than others and the inserts are almost paper thin, but some I have had for almost 4 years washed in Rockin Green have good elastic, thicker inserts, PUL is fine and I have no leak issues…. so do tell me how that is possible except for the difference in products used to wash them.

    To add…… My mother in-law uses Tide, Gain or whatever detergent is on sale on our towels as well as bleach, they are washed 2-3 times a week. Guess what, got out of the shower put the towel on and saw suds and they sure were not from me. Went to pull the towel a bit and it just about tore in half and was paper thin in some areas. So now let’s imagine someone who is on a very limited budget and can only afford a daily supply of diapers, if they are washing 7 days a week with bleach chances are their diapers won’t last a few months let alone to potty training.
    Karine Traverse recently posted…On the Go giveaway eventMy Profile

    • Nobody that I know is advising to wash diapers in bleach regularly. I’ve used bleach on an as-needed basis (when my cloth safe detergent wasn’t getting them clean and I wanted to kill bacteria and when I have bought used diapers) and I haven’t had my diapers, PUL or inserts ruined in the slightest.
      I’m glad your routine works for you…that’s all anyone wants.

    • I just don’t think it is a fair comparison. Towels washed with bleach 2-3 times a week and diapers that are stripped with bleach once if used or once if wash routine has been found to be lacking in the getting-clean department and diapers are stinky and need to be rid of bacteria. Cleaning to kill lingering bacteria (that is leading to stink) should be a rare event if wash routine is cleaning them adequately. Obviously, constant washing with bleach is going to deteriorate fibers. But a well diluted bleach-water solution will not ruin microfleece, microfiber, microsuede, PUL or natural fibers like cotton, hemp, or the semi-natural bamboo.

  39. TCDC drives me bananas…if you disagree with them at all they attack you like no other. Where is the sisterhood? No wonder women get a bad wrap…we should be supporting one another and celebrating our differences and uniting and a gender. Not cussing someone out because they don’t agree with you. Apparently Kate has an organic chemistry degree or something like that. Well, hell, so does my sister also an inorganic minor and she couldn’t tell you a flip about how to wash cloth diapers. They didn’t (don’t) study detergent in college. Her minions drive me crazy. They blast everyone and troll blogs and Facebook groups. The worst thing about it is “members” post to the group page making fun of other women and what they do or say in OTHER groups. I have a huge problem with that. Why waste time posting and their posts have to be approved by an admin. How can the owner allow that to happen. Making fun of other women is crap in my book. Taking time away from your family to post and make fun of other women is crap. The amount of time these women spend commenting on posts are time that should be spent with children . There is not a doubt in my mind their children aren’t begging for their attention…hanging on them, having tantrums all in an effort to get them to put the phone/computer down and show them the attention they deserve. What do they say? Not now honey, I’m having to make fun of this other mom and her wash routine and tell everyone how psycho she is. But don’t call your brother a doodie head. How hypocritical. Sorry for the long winded post. This just really bothers me.

  40. As a user of soap nuts and mostly natural cleaning methods, I thank you for this! I was recently told by a certain Facebook group to throw away my soap nuts use commercial detergent on my diapers. I left the group shortly after. It was a bit too anti-natural cleaning for me!

  41. It’s really funny how this has become such a controversy! Seriously people.. If you feel like you’re stash needs some help, figure it out! LOL! But I personally can’t attest to whether build up exists. I know that I have to strip my diapers every few months simply because my very very thick inserts begin to smell – perhaps I’m not running enough rinse cycles.
    Bianca @ The Pierogie Mama recently posted…Under Construction: Counters (sorta) and the pellet stoveMy Profile

  42. Kara Worden says:

    I also agree that detergent buildup happens.. possible we don’t see it as much in clothing since the material is far thinner than most diaper items are and our clothing wasn’t made specifically to absorb and hold on to liquids.

  43. Have any of you ever made your own liquid laundry detergent? I found this recipe but I am not sure if it will work.

    • I’m not a DIY kind of person, but there are others out there who have used homemade detergents with varying degrees of success. 🙂

  44. So after joining TCDC and being told everything I was doing was wrong I needed to do research. Low and behold I found your blog and completely agree. Then I went even further and looked into BumGenius, Applecheeks, AMP, Rumparooz, Bummis etc… All of these companies AGREE that detergent can build up and cause repelling problems along with stink issues. Please explain to me why these companies would warn people and tell you how to solve the issue. I also don’t believe that you should soak diapers in bleach, never would I ever soak other materials in bleach. Add them to the wash? Sure but not on a regular basis just when needed.

    • The whole problem is the insistence that their way is the One True Way. It’s not. If they were willing to allow discussion, it could be a very valuable group… but since they don’t, it’s more of a danger IMO.

  45. I hesitated to even add to this post, but I’ve been using cloth for two years now (measly compared to others I know) but I do love it. I’ve been working in a cloth diaper store for a year and heard about the CDC from customers. I added and could not believe how awful and mean some of those ladies are. While I’ve read through some of their posts and did find some things valuable, others are just completely asinine. They cannot take criticism or merely a difference of opinion either. It’s very sad when we should be an accepting community since many people already try their best to make us feel “odd” or “weird” for not going mainstream. I would never put an opinion on any of their posts, it’s just not worth it. I’m trying to reduce the amount of chemicals in our household and cleaning products are a major part of that. While, that’s working well for us & we feel good about it; I know others could care less and that’s all right as well. We’ve come across several friends who have been diagnosed with cancer at the ages of 30-33 and that’s not all right. There is definitely a correlation between how we are living our lives and the diseases that are coming about at earlier stages. Working in the medical field I’ve seen scientific research first hand and those running the CDC made posts and resulting nasty comments to moms who are trying to make a difference in their own lives. I just don’t understand the negativity generated over there. I find it amusing that in a basic high school science course the scientific method is one of the first things you are taught and, generally, asked to perform. How do they think any research starts? By someone like yourself and your washing machine 🙂

  46. Kate,
    You are delusional. Do you stay up all night thinking of new lies? You have zero credibility. Seriously bipolar!

  47. I literally laughed out loud when I read this article. I JUST got attacked on the Cloth Diaper Compendium for having the audacity to suggest that someone had detergent buildup on their diapers. I was skinned alive and left for dead. I was told repeatedly that it’s ‘scientifically impossible’ for detergent to buildup.

    The hilarious thing is that I’m a masters level analytical chemist. It’s my JOB to analyze trace amounts of stuff in other stuff. It’s extremely rare that ANYTHING is completely removed. Their argument is circular and ridiculous. If you add extra rinses to remove detergent when you wash, why is it so crazy to think that if you don’t rinse enough that detergent is left over? And if you need to strip your diapers because of buildup, what is building up if not detergent? Oh, and they suggest RLR soaks to strip. RLR was specifically designed to remove buildup of *detergent* and mineral deposits!!! Clearly though it’s not detergent building up because that’s ‘scientifically impossible.’

    But I digress, I clearly have no idea what I’m talking about because I believe in the fallacy of detergent buildup. I’m going to shred my masters, quit my job and switch back to sposies, It’s only right after my transgressions while trying to help someone with their wash routine.

    • You’re not the only one to see the crazy. And, clearly, your chemistry degree is useless, particularly in the face of someone’s “degree” that she refuses to answer questions about. 😛 (Yes, that was major sarcasm.) I hope you find a group that’s not lunacy. They are out there. 🙂

  48. Oh yes, I’m a member of several ‘normal’ CD groups. I only joined this one because several of my friends were members and I figured what the heck. I was not aware of their reputation (apparently people on several other web sites complain about how viscious they are). I saw the post come across my newsfeed and thought I’d chime in to help. I had no idea I’d be attacked by a pack of rabid diaper moms.

    I’m actually considering designing a ‘scientific’ experiment in my lab using actual chemistry instruments to disprove this insanity. I will let you know if I do so. I just need to get clearance from my boss (so I don’t get fired) and to design a bullet-proof experiment. The nice thing is that I have brand new inserts to use as controls. I also use Tide, the detergent of choice in that group.

    Oh, and no need to point out sarcasm, I’m fluent. It’s my first language with English being a close second. 😉

  49. I’ll definitely let you know. 🙂 BTW, I got kicked out of that group in less than 24 hours. Apparently telling someone to boil an insert to see if the water turns gray is a unforgivable transgression. I was labeled a troll. The admins were called. People freaked out and before I knew it I was banned. I cried into my pillow that night. How could I have allowed myself to do something so horrible?! I mean, telling someone to investigate what their issue might be nearly destroyed the fabric of the group. Clearly I’m a terrible person and had to be removed. What other choice did they have?


  50. Anastasia says:

    I can’t seem to find this one in the comments either Suzi. Those of us that are military families CANNOT use certain types of Detergents on our uniforms BECAUSE they leave behind residue. Specifically those optical brighteners that glow in the dark, kinda ruin the point of camo, lol. Last time I checked, my baby isn’t going to a disco! But if the MILITARY says it’s wrong as well, well then……………

  51. yes optical brighteners do leave behind a residue, a permanent one at that!… military uniforms are not supposed to be washed with detergents that contain them. if i recall what husband said correctly, the optical brighteners can and do show up VERY well with nightvision. below is a link with a great photo comparison

  52. Rachel DeMaria says:

    As a former member of that group…they are freaking looney. Thanks. They attacked me for saying that it is ok to use vinager for cleaning your house. Seriously. My child isnt inhaling bleach fumes. I disinfect the floors where she crawls with stuff that is safe so that she isnt getting sick but the kid has just now gotten her second cold. The other once was right after we got home last year. So two times 1 year I think we are doing pretty good for ourselves. We use homemade detergent because I have eczema and so does my oldest child. It seems to work better on our skin. It also seems to help with our diapers. We like it alot better. I had been skeptical about the girls in that group from the start. I only joined it cause they were doing the cascade thing. I wouldnt do it on my diapers but I did do it on my sheets. They got build up from Belgium. They are truely horrible people.

    • The ingredients that made the difference in the Cascade thing are sodium carbonate (washing soda) and sodium percarbonate (part of OxiClean powder). You can use those safely on your laundry to bring out build up the same way. 🙂

  53. I joined when I had stink issues. I had actually heard about them from another cd group. When I posted my question, someone all but BEGGED me to join the group so I wouldn’t take the dumb advice of all the other ladies there. “It’s HUMAN WASTE!!!!!!!! You have to use a REAL DETERGENT to clean up HUMAN WASTE!!!!!! Don’t listen to all this BAAAAAAAAD ADVICE!” I should have known better after reading that woman’s post.

    But I joined anyway because I need help and would try anything. Fortunately, their advice worked and my diapers are clean. However, I had to wade through comments bashing women who use recommended detergents, asking for links to forums where people were giving out “bad” advice so they could go in with their guns blazing, or to go laugh at them.

    The best is when they all work themselves up on the use of the word “chemical.” They make fun of people relentlessly for using the word chemical when referring to a toxic chemical in causal conversation. “You know what else is a chemical?! H2O!!! Dummies!” They literally spend their time making fun of people over semantics.

    I’ve been members of many forums over the years and can handle myself just fine, but this was just plain lunacy. And now it’s just all a shit storm of pure crazy over there.

    But hey, at least my diapers are clean.

    • You know, some people were helped… but were helped with advice they’d have gotten elsewhere without the vitriol. Even a broken clock can be right twice a day.

  54. I actually had this happen to me recently. We bought a new washing machine, and I *first* noticed that my diapers weren’t getting good and clean and that there was still soap in the diapers when I hand rinsed them. Then I started noticing that my kitchen towels weren’t absorbing when I needed to sop up messes (which is pretty frequently.) My daughter splattered half her sippy cup all over the kitchen table, and my kitchen towels would just push the water around and not absorb. It was about this time I figured out that my new machine’s rinse cycle wasn’t working properly, and there was still soap in every single diaper, sheet, towel, and article of clothing I’d washed in the last month, which I could tell by hand rinsing and watching all the suds build up and go down the drain.

    Just because you’ve never experienced it personally or because no one you know has ever had a conversation with you about how well their towels absorb doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.
    Katie recently posted…It’s been a while…My Profile

  55. Kate has subsequently been proven a liar and a fraud who has deliberately conned and manipulated people to steal their money. She has even confessed.

  56. Kate Shabanov is a confirmed liar & fraud

  57. JamieLynn says:

    I’ve never even considered the idea of detergent building up on towels, but it makes perfect sense. I’ve often noticed towels I’ve had for a while (especially very fluffy, thick towels) tend to eventually take on a strange, almost plastic stale smell, even when fresh out of the dryer. And, yes, they do still absorb liquid, but a thick, fluffy towel with reduced absorption is still a big, fluffy towel. Duh. I’m going to go strip my towels now!

  58. Hi Suzi! Thanks for the post! I totally agree with you about the detergent build up! So this is what happened to me…… maybe you can shed some light on my situation! 🙂 I love my cloth diapers! But after 2 months of use (in my HE front loader), my pocket diapers (Applecheeks, AMP, Blueberry) were all repelling BADLY!! I wash using Rockin’ Green, and I use Earth Mama Baby Bottom Balm and CJ’s BUTTer (both safe for cloth diapers) on my little guy’s bum. I thought that my diapers may have been repelling due to the oils in the creams, so I *tried* to strip with with blue Dawn….. soaking and scrubbing with a soft bristle brush……. well I guess I made things worse (more detergent built up?), because they started repelling even more. So this is what I have recently tried to do…….. I soaked the diapers in super hot water in a tub, with 3 scoops of Rockin’ Green, scrubbed them with a brush (both sides of the microfleece), and then hot washed them and rinsed in my HE Frontloader about 10-12 times, until I was sure there were no bubbles. I tested the absorbency with a weighted glass on top of the diaper, and 3 of them (that’s all!?!?) worked just fine…… the rest of the diapers EVENTUALLY absorbed the warm water, but it took over a minute, and I had to apply pressure to the glass and move it around on top of the diaper to get it to soak in. Needless to say, I don’t think my problem is completely solved. I was wondering if you could help me! I LOVE my cloth diapers, and I don’t want to give up on them, but I have been at this for almost a week now, with my poor little guy in disposables, and I’m not sure what else to do? Please help!! 🙂


    • My best suggestion at this point? Try the Blue dawn again on *one* diaper. Rinse it like stink and see how it goes. Or other idea: give The Laundry Tarts Strip It or RLR a try.

  59. Charlie’s gave my ids a rash, too. The issue for us was pH. A vinegar rinse took the basic Charlie’s back to acid.

  60. Melissa E says:

    I’ve been reading a lot about stink issues to prepare myself for troubleshooting when I go to cloth. This is some sensible information for me to keep in mind!

  61. I belong to cloth diaper groups on Facebook (a group for local moms, not the infamous CDC) and on I have noticed a few people posting that ‘detergent build up is a myth/lie’ stuff lately. I know that is poppycock but I wanted to find out where this was coming from so I Googled which brought me here. The post is great and the comments are well worth the read too! I love that you used (as you mentioned in a later comment) elementary school science to prove that detergent build up is not a myth. And there a lots of supporting facts and links in the comments for people who want more proof.

    And now I am going to share this lovely piece of internet on the Facebook group I mentioned. 🙂

  62. I know that this article is more than 4 years old, but I’m here looking for info on how to make my problem of detergent build up go away. I’ve done upwards of 5 heavy duty hot water cycles in a row sans detergent and I still get a sink full of bubbles. My washing machine MAY need to be replaced (it’s 10 years old), but honestly it seems like it functions the way that it should. Water goes in, things get agitated, it spins the water out, and nothing appears to be in the machine afterwards. I clean the machine twice a month (with two in diapers, once a month isn’t enough). Often times, I will do a quick wipe down the weeks between. Diapers don’t stink when peed in, but they do often smell like detergent coming out of the wash. I’ve even tried switching up what detergent I use and how much I use, and nothing is helping me. I’m so ready to just throw in the towel and hope I can find a disposable that will allow my baby’s rash to clear up. 😭

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