Cascade for Stripping Diapers

Lately there’s been a trend: when someone asks about what to do for mineral build up, a suggestion to use Cascade for stripping diapers is offered.

Why Cascade for Stripping Diapers is Suggested

People often suggest using a product like RLR for stripping diapers of build up, stink, and other issues.  According to Cadie’s MSDS for RLR, it is 100% pure sodium carbonate… which is washing powder.  Prior to getting the MSDS, I would liken it to “washing soda on steroids.”  This is still essentially correct, as Arm & Hammer washing powder is 85% sodium carbonate.  RLR is roughly $2 per pack.

That’s where the idea to use Cascade for stripping diapers comes into play.  According to Proctor & Gamble (which does disclose their ingredients), the first ingredient in Cascade dishwasher detergent is sodium carbonate.  Sodium carbonate is just washing soda, which is what the world at large thinks that RLR basically is.

Cascade for Stripping Cloth Diapers? (Cloth Diaper Addicts)

Bad Idea?  Good Idea?

I  started this post with the idea that Cascade for stripping diapers is a bad idea.  Don’t get me wrong; I used to love Cascade.  It worked just fine on my dishes in my dishwasher.  I did eventually switch to a lower cost, equally effective, more environmentally friendly option.  But on my diapers?  My precious, beautiful fluff?  I’d rather not.

Yes, washing soda is a great thing that I love.  But let’s go through the other ingredients.

Sodium Sulfate: Sodium sulfate is an ingredient that is essentially a filler.  Cascade calls it a “processing aid.”  I’m not sure what process it aids in, but I’m comfortable with it because it’s an ingredient in Country Save detergent.  (Country Save isn’t my detergent of choice, but at least I know that it’s okay.)

Sodium Silicate: According to Proctor & Gamble, sodium silicate is a cleaning agent.  I can see it being effective in dishwashing agents because it’s an anti-corrosive.  No one wants their stainless steel to actually stain.  It’s included in laundry detergent, I guess to protect the drum.

Sodium Percarbonate: That’s good stuff.  I’m not going to get into chemistry, formulas, and boring stuff, but in a nutshell, when mixed with water, it becomes a combination of hydrogen peroxide and soda ash.  It’s the main part of dehydrated oxygen bleach.  I heart oxygen bleach.

Modified Polyacrylate: According to Cascade’s ingredient sheet, it’s an antiredeposition agent.  Okay, that’s awesome on my dishes.  I certainly don’t want the peanut butter that Eudora smeared on her high chair tray to coat my other dishes.  And it sounds like something I’d want in a diaper detergent because, well, I don’t want poo in the water to end up back on my diapers.  But it’s also nothing I’d ever heard of… so I looked into it.

Wikipedia explains sodium polyacrylate as “Sequestering agents in detergents. (By binding hard water elements such as calcium and magnesium, the surfactants in detergents work more efficiently.)”  That makes sense, too.  But is it something that’s already present in my beloved cloth diaper detergents?  I don’t know enough about this, as there is no MSDS sheet available for whatever modification that Proctor & Gamble uses.  I don’t feel comfortable using that on my diapers.

Alcohol Alkoxylate: Cascade lists it as a wetting and anti-foaming agent.  That would make definite sense in a dishwasher.  I remember when I was young and stupid and living on my own for the first time, I was out of dishwashing detergent for my dishwasher.  I tried putting a little dish soap in.  My entire kitchen floor was filled with suds.  Oops.  Alcohol alkoxylate would have prevented that little disaster.  Some looking around tells me that it’s a very common ingredient in dishwasher detergents… but not in laundry detergent.  It’s not linked to any suspected health issues.

Okay, great, so it won’t kill you.  But how does it interact with textiles?  Does it rinse cleanly?  Will it linger?  Or am I supposed to hope and trust that the modified polyacrylate that I’m already suspicious of will make sure it doesn’t redeposit in the fabrics?

Polyethylene Glycol: Cascade calls it a “processing agent.”  However, polyethylene glycol does exist in laundry detergents as an anti-redeposition agent.  If you choose your detergents on how friendly they are to the environment or cloth diaper for environmental reasons, you may not want to use a detergent with this ingredient: it’s a synthetic material that does not break down quickly. 

Hydrozincite: Hydrozincite is listed as an “etching inhibitor.”  Well, that makes perfect sense.  I don’t want my china to get scratched and ruined if when if I’m lazy and run it through the dishwasher.  But my diapers?  I’m not really concerned about my snaps scratching.  So is this something that I want on them?

It turns out that, no, I absolutely do not want hydrozincite coming in contact with my diapers.  Here’s the thing: it’s suggested that hydrozincite is quite irritating to the skin.  With that in mind, there’s no way I want to take any chance with it not being completely, 100% rinsed away.  Keep in mind what happens in diapers: they get wet.  They are a perfect place for bad things to happen, particularly to delicate skin.  After all, isn’t that why you’re cloth diapering in the first place?  To keep that delicate skin as safe as possible?  I know it’s certainly something that I take into consideration, anyway.

Then there’s also the environmental impact.  Hydrozincite is toxic to aquatic wildlife, and quite frankly, I’d rather not kill Nemo.

Amine Cobalt Salt.  There’s not really a lot of info floating around on that particular item on the ingredients list.  Cascade describes it as a “bleach catalyst.”  Okay, great, so it helps the bleaching agents work either faster or at a lower temperature.  But what will it do in textiles?  Catalysts themselves are defined as a thing that is unchanged while sparking a reaction in something else.  It’s a salt.  Great.  How does it rinse or dissolve?  Is it one of the salts that are irritating to the skin?

Protease Enzyme.  It’s a cleaning agent.  I’m not going to say that enzymes are awful and horrible… but I will tell you that some diaper companies suggest not to use them (and doing so will void your warranty) while others encourage the use of them.  The issue isn’t with enzymes themselves being terrible.  They aren’t.  They have a place.  Protease in particular is used in digestion for breaking down proteins.  That means that, in laundry applications, protease will be great for removing protein based stains.  In a nutshell, they break the amino acids of proteins down into smaller chains called peptides.  That sounds great, right?  Something that will remove things like blood stains, grass stains, and other ick?  Yeah!  Except when it’s not.  I would be concerned about the impact of enzymes that attack protein based biologicals when my child’s biological rear end is in the diaper, redepositing wetness to activate that enzyme.  Will using Cascade for stripping diapers lead to my child’s rear looking like a Google photo for flesh eating disease because of the protease enzyme?  I doubt it.  Do I want it left behind, anyway?  No.

Amylase Enzyme.  This enzyme is listed as another cleaning agent.  Amylase in particular is used for breaking down starch-base stains.

Perfumes.  Okay, great.  Perfumes.  What are these perfumes?  Are they natural?  Are they synthetic?  Will they aggravate my asthma?  Either way, I don’t use fragrances in my cleaning if I can at all help it.  I don’t want them to linger in my clothes and mix with things.  I certainly don’t want them against my child’s bottom.

Will I Try Cascade for Stripping Diapers?

When I started going through the list, I was starting to be swayed.  Maybe there was something to this Cascade for stripping diapers idea.  A lot of the ingredients are things that I already feel comfortable using.  When I got down to modified polyacrylate, I was reminded of why I’d opposed the practice in the first place: there are too many things that are not tested for textile use, and I’m not going to test them on textiles that will go next to my child’s reproductive organs.  Why use Cascade for stripping diapers when the documentation states that it is a skin irritant?

Just Wash it Out!

Someone who has already decided that Cascade for stripping diapers is the best thing in the world is rolling her eyes and saying, “Duh, Suzi, just rinse it out.”  I’m going to counter with the fact that one would not be investigating the possibility of using Cascade for stripping diapers in the first place if she already had a perfect wash routine that finished with absolutely nothing left behind.  With that in mind, I am even less comfortable in suggesting to someone that she use a product that is not intended for textiles and can be left behind.

Additional Rebuttals

Since I first published this post, I’ve heard that some think that my logic of picking apart each individual ingredient is flawed.  Okay, fine.  If you don’t agree with my reasoning, then you’re not going to.

“Oh, whatever.  If it’s fine for my dishes, it’s fine for my diapers.  Soap is soap.”

No.  Just… no.  Your dishes are a non-porous surface.  Your dishes do not absorb your child’s urine and feces.  (And if they do, please let me know so that I never eat dinner at your house.)  Diapers are porous.  How you use them is like comparing apples to oranges.  Sure, they both get used, both last a long time, and both need to be washed, but that’s pretty much where the similarities end.

Not only that, but here’s an email that another mom received from Cascade for stripping diapers:

cascade is bad

That sounds like a “No, we don’t think that Cascade for stripping diapers is a good idea” to me.

Will unicorns lose their horns or diapers disintegrate if you start using Cascade for stripping diapers?  I doubt it.  But why chance it when there are already products available that will work for stripping cloth diapers without the questionable ingredients?

 

Sources:
1.) Cascade Powder Ingredients List, Proctor & Gamble, 12/30/2013
2.) Sodium percarbonate, Wikipedia, 12/30/2013
3.) Sodium polyacrylate, Wikipedia, 12/31/2013
4.) Alcohol Alkoxylate Guide, Good Guide, 12/31/2013
5.) Detergent Ingredients Glossary, Diaper Jungle, 12/31/2013
6.) Hydrozincite, Environmental Working Group, 12/31/2013
7.) MSDS, Cascade, Proctor & Gamble, 12/31/2013
8.) Protease, Wikipedia, 12/31/2013
9.) Cloth Diaper FAQs, Kanga Care, 1/1/2014
10.) Customer Support, bumGenius, 1/1/2014
11.) Wang, Nam Sun (n.d), Enzymes in Laundry Detergents, University of Maryland.  Retrieved Jan 1, 2014. http://www.eng.umd.edu/~nsw/ench485/lab2.htm
12.) RLR MSDS, received through personal correspondence with Cadie.  Retrieved Jan 9, 2014.
13.) MSDS Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda, Household Products Data Base.  Retrieved Jan 9, 2014. http://householdproducts.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/household/brands?tbl=brands&id=3005022

Updated on January 10, 2010 with MSDS information from Cadie and Arm & Hammer, along with new objections.

 

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.

Comments

  1. Anastasia says:

    RLR at 1/8th a cup = 1 CUP of washing soda. So while it IS, it also ISN’T. I think the process is the secret & that if it were just plain Washing Soda, people wouldn’t buy it. Still saving money…………….

    • Thanks, Anastasia! I didn’t know what the exact ratio is… so I just said “No, I’ll just use RLR.” I do wish, though, that Cadie would disclose their MSDS…

      • It turns out that it’s easier to get the Cadie MSDS for RLR than I thought. I called and asked for it, and now I have it.

  2. I am blown away by this recommendation. I don’t even know what to say other than WHAT?! Thankfully I have only had to strip my diapers twice in over 2 years but if I have to do it again I won’t be doing it with Cascade. Yikes
    Regan recently posted…Manage ADHD and Medication Refills Easier at WalgreensMy Profile

  3. Awesome article, and excellent points you made about the questionable ingredients.
    Melissa Mendez recently posted…The Ultimate Calendar for Blogging Organization: CoScheduleMy Profile

  4. I remember reading one of your previous posts mentioning some people were trying to strip in the dishwasher. This reminds me of an episode of Home Improvement when Tim tried to cook a fish in a dishwasher… dish-washing products = for dishes. Laundry washing products = for laundry. Personally I love Strip It! by Laundry Tarts! Thanks for the research in this!!!
    Lindsay recently posted…Cuddle Up Day $50 Nicki’s Diaper GiveawayMy Profile

  5. I appreciate you citing my post about stripping diapers with RLR! I’m not interested in starting a science experiment with fabrics that touch my baby’s skin. I agree that if you’re not getting the diapers clean enough, adding an untested product to the mix isn’t going to help anything. Thanks for the interesting summary of ingredients.
    Nissa recently posted…Cuddle Up Day $50 Nicki’s Diapers #GiveawayMy Profile

  6. Our cloth diapering ended 6 months ago as our youngest is now a preschooler and using the potty, but if I was shocked when I read the title! People thought of that?? As a good idea? I know I’m a little more particular than some when it comes to ingredients because my husband had cancer – testicular cancer at that, so I surely wouldn’t take chances with what may be in the diapers!
    Emilee recently posted…School Stickers ReviewMy Profile

  7. Anastasia says:

    Well here I am yet again putting in yet another coffee pot to wash that’s had Coconut oil in it & wondering how on EARTH am I gonna clean this without killing my pipes. Guess what I reach for? (well duh, of course) but as many times as we’ve had to tell mamas over & over again about the enzymes alone & how why yes your baby’s delicate skin has fat in it & the enzymes to take out grease will also try to attack the skin……….HOW DO PEOPLE USE THIS STUFF! (face palm) Sometimes I wanna quit with this whole educating people thing, & then I realize after 16 years, I’m in too deep. I’ll stick to the RLR & the Dawn if you please!

  8. How do you know that RLR isn’t using the same ingredients when they won’t disclose them? Is it better to use a mystery substance labeled for stripping diapers? Ignorance is bliss, I guess.

    • Hi Becky,

      Ignorance is no longer bliss. I contacted RLR and they emailed me a copy of their MSDS. I’m good with using pure sodium carbonate.

  9. When the company that makes the product tells you not to use the product for some off-label use, you should probably listen. No Cascade on cloth diapers!
    Heather Johnson recently posted…‘Duck & Goose, 1, 2, 3′ Book ReviewMy Profile

  10. Stripping in the MACHINE is not the same as using the cleansers. It’s about using the hotter temperatures (perhaps as a rinse) to sterilize the dipes. But yes all I can think of is Tim’s dishwasher cooking too, lol.

  11. So glad I’m not the only one who thinks it’s kind of crazy to see all these ppl suddenly jumping on the cascade for stripping bandwagon. Definitely not putting that stuff on my diapers…

  12. What a very thorough post! I’m out of the cloth diaper game now, but I can;t say that I would have felt comfortable using Cascade to strip mine
    Jordyn @ The Suitcase Diaries recently posted…Zaharoko’s Ice Cream Parlor and Museum in Columbus, INMy Profile

  13. I must admit that I used to strip using a dishwashing liquid. That’s what I have read in a group of cloth diapering moms here. Though they said it’s an alternative option only, my fault was I don’t check the ingredients before going on with stripping. Anyway, your post enlighten me, thank you.
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  14. Excellent info! Wow! I personally have never heard of using cascade to strip my diapers. Thank you for all the information. Now I know when I hear of this what I will do!
    Chelsea recently posted…$10 Pay Pal Flash GiveawayMy Profile

  15. Suzi I would have to agree with you. While many products I feel are interchangeable products such as baking soda, I don’t think that products made specifically to do one job are interchangeable. I also wouldn’t be willing to bank my idea on the bum of my baby.
    Winter recently posted…It’s Dangerously Cold – Stay Safe – Keep Pipes From FreezingMy Profile

  16. Wow, I am really impressed with how you went through each and every ingredient. AND how you went through all the common arguments! While I am still debating whether or not to cloth diaper, if I do I will NOT strip them with Cascade!
    Rachel recently posted…Breastfeeding Photos and FacebookMy Profile

    • Do it. (Cloth diaper, I mean.) It’s so rewarding. I’ve made a lot of great friends through my local cloth diapering community. Not to mention the cuteness of the fluff!

  17. Nope! And I won’t use Cascade for my diapers. I spent money on it and I am afraid I would ruin it. Plus, it just doesn’t sound like something good for waching clothes. Or else, they would have put that on the back of their product? Anyway, thanks for sharing this one. RLR is something I have known to use for stripping, but so far I have only stripped all the cloth diapers twice.

  18. Anastasia says:

    Someone just brought this up on the Cotton Babies Flash Mob (on FB) cascade is not Dawn liquid, ugh! So I posted this for you Suzi!

  19. Anastasia says:

    Some of the more interesting rebuttals are about The Grovia Mighty Bubbles just basically being overpriced cascade (which the ingredients lists do not match more then 3 ingredients) So I also wrote Grovia as well. Jeez………………….

  20. I have never heard of this. But I like how you shared the educated info about using Cascade to wash diapers.
    Colleen Busch recently posted…Does your immune system need a boost during cold and flu season? How about Airborne?My Profile

  21. Wow, I never would have thought of using chemicals meant to clean pots & pans on diapers! I’m passing this on to my Sister-in-Law who uses cloth diapers! Thank you!
    Gigi – My Fab Fit Forties recently posted…Sweeps Sunday – Gift Cards, Gift Cards, Gift Cards!My Profile

    • Here’s hoping that if/when she hears that special tidbit of information, she decides that she’s not going to do it!

  22. Wow, awesome information. great that you contacted the company too.
    Michelle F. recently posted…Dr. Oz 2 Week Rapid Weight-Loss Plan – Day 3My Profile

  23. This is an interesting post. This is my first time hearing of Cascade being used in this nature.
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  24. I never even heard of this concept before. Of course my kids are grown and I used pampers but this was very interesting to read.

  25. I had never even had that thought to run through my mind. Dish washing detergent for clothing? Sounds like something my ex would had done without learning the facts first. I’m glad I read this. I do have five children and NEVER done anything like that. I also now know NOT to. Thank you for more insight to their health!
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  26. I guess with all those ingredients, I wouldn’t think to wash my child’s diapers in them, either. I would feel much safer using bleach…and for ME that’s saying something! I just used vinegar soaks, and it worked for us…
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  27. Wow this is an eye opener! Very interesting.

  28. I use RNG to strip diapers that had buildup after I was in San Diego. I had already tried everything else, but had never heard the popular logic of using dishwasher detergent.
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  29. What?! I would never, ever, EVER use this on my cloth! I would be worried about not only lessening the performance of my diapers, but also hurting my baby. No. Just no.
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  30. I learn something new everyday! Thanks for all the tips for new cloth diaperers like myself.
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  31. I had seen this on the cloth diaper compendium fb page. Women were showing before and after pictures and how great it was to get out build up from hard water. This was interesting to me because I recently moved to a place with very hard water and a bit at odds about what to do. I decided to Google for other experiences, and I’m glad I did. I’m not comfortable even trying it now.

    But now any advice about what to do? Our water has a lot of iron and sulphur, staining clothes and tubs and toilets and not really making anything clean. I’ve also had leaks multiple times a day, several blow outs, and a bad rash that only went away with disposables. I assume its because of the water since nothing else has changed.

    • I’d guess you’re in Florida? My sister has well water out that way, and it’s just horrid, exactly like you’re describing. RLR (which is pure sodium carbonate and the first ingredient in Cascade) is great, as is washing soda. Ultimately, you’ll find that your best bet will be to put a water softener and filtration on. It sucks, unfortunately, but it’s going to be your best bet at not having a brown shower (and clean diapers).

  32. I prefer sticking with my Dawn dish soap for stripping. I haven’t had to go the RLR route yet though.
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    • Dawn isn’t going to be effective for everything. It’s actually only recommended to remove oily build up, such as repelling due to using improper barrier creams.

  33. Storm Duncan says:

    Thank goodness this myth finally got busted 🙂

  34. Donna-Lynn Craig says:

    Never heard of people using Cascade to strip diapers. After reading this article, I will definitely not try it lol. I’ve had to strip my diapers once because of stink. I used the RLR and was happy with the outcome. I’ve now changed my wash routine and use Tide detergent. So far no stink issues. Hope it stays that way.

  35. Melissa E says:

    That was incredibly comprehensive! I actually had no idea what the ingredients were for Cascade. Interesting!

Trackbacks

  1. […] with chemicals that may harm the materials. Cloth Diaper Addicts has given us the rundown on why a Cascade cloth diaper strip may not be the best […]

  2. […] Dish detergents are not formulated to wash textiles. Plain and simple.  Here’s a post analyzing the ingredients in Cascade, along with a screenshot of an email from a Cascade rep saying that Cascade can be irritating to […]

  3. […] touch my baby’s skin, either.  I thought it was another crackpot theory up there with using Cascade until I looked around and thought about it […]

  4. […] Dish detergents are not formulated to wash textiles. Plain and simple.  Here’s a post analyzing the ingredients in Cascade, along with a screenshot of an email from a Cascade rep saying that Cascade can be irritating to […]

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