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
This 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.