Yes!!! You can do it!
I was e.l.a.t.e.d. to discover this. When it comes to adding anything to my laundry routine, I am a chicken to try it on my own. I wait for permission from some other brave cloth diapering mama. Then when it works for her, I dive in.
What is it that makes traditional fabric softener harmful to you, your child and cloth diapers?
For information on health risks associated with traditional fabric softeners check out this link.
In addition to that, Anderson Laboratories’ chemical analysis of the airborne emissions of five different kinds of commonly available fabric softeners was reported in the May, 2000, issue of The Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health. Their study revealed that the fabric softeners emitted toluene, styrene, phenol, thymol, xylene, and trimethylbenzene, among other chemicals, many of which cause acute respiratory tract irritation and inflammation.
Fabric softener causes cloth diaper materials to lose their absorbency. When microfleece is on the inside of a diaper it will repel moisture when rinsed in fabric softener. If your diaper cover is made of fleece this wouldn’t be a problem, it would actually enhance its purpose. However, the health risks still stand. PUL breaks down faster causing wicking to occur.
No one likes crunchy diapers though. Brand new diapers come to you squishy soft then after a couple of months of washing and using they become stiff and rough. Hemp, terry, cotton and velour are the worst at hardening over time. There are alternatives to chemical-laden fabric softeners.
The most basic household remedy for softening your cloth diapers is White Distilled Vinegar. Vinegar acts like a magnet collecting the free electrons that lead to static cling. Fabric is softened when these electrons are removed and the molecules are balanced. It can be added to a Downy ball and tossed in the washer. More is not better when it comes to using vinegar. (In my book The Ultimate Guide to Cloth Diapers I describe the other uses for this amazing household product.)
For a more fragrant softener the options are ever expanding. I am currently using Mrs. Meyers Lavender scented Fabric Softener. Other cloth diaper safe, “green” softeners include: Ecover, Simplicity (found at Walmart), or Seventh Generation. These use vegetable-based surfactants, salt, and natural ingredients (essences and essential oils) for scent.
I use fabric softener every other time with my fitted cloth diapers and inserts.
The best part of using fabric softener is having that new silky feel back in my diapers. My Goodmamas, Clovers and Loveybums all have that new silky feel to them. I remember using Kissaluvs on Paisley when she was a newborn. Then they got crunchy after a few weeks. How nice it would have been to have a healthy fabric softener to keep them softer longer.
So here’s your permission you’ve been waiting for. Try one of the softeners I listed. No more crunchy diapers!