Fabric Softener on Cloth Diapers *gasp*

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!


About Autumn Beck

Autumn is a wife, mother, homeschool teacher, friend and most important a follower of Christ. She began cloth diapering in 2005 and has experienced many joys and trials throughout the years. You can read more from Autumn over at https://www.facebook.com/beautifullyblessedlashes.

View all posts by Autumn Beck

31 Responses to “Fabric Softener on Cloth Diapers *gasp*”

  1. Susanne Says:

    How about ECOS Lavender with a coconut oil softener? We always loved their Free and Clear and recently bought the lavender on accident via Amazon. I love it for our clothes! And would love to be able to use it on occasion for our fitters and prefolds. Anybody used it successfully?


  2. Christin Says:

    Just wanted to thank you and let you know your old posts are still helping people on their cloth diapering adventures.


  3. Miranda Says:

    I have a mix of fitted goodmamas some pockets with mf aio amps and tots bots easy fit minky bamboo ect. Can I use mrs Meyers on all my diapers even the pockets about once a week ?


  4. Lauren Says:

    I just wanted to comment to say that I just tried Seventh Generation fabric softener on the crunchiest Kissaluvs ever, and it worked AMAZINGLY. I had tried vinegar, which did almost nothing, but the Seventh Generation stuff worked really well! I was very worried about repelling, and also concerned because the bottle says something about not using it on fluffy cotton-based fabrics (???) – and that is exactly what Kissaluvs are made of. But I figured I had nothing to lose, because as they were I would never have put them on my newborn – way too scratchy!

    Anyway, they are now just as soft as my new and hardly used Kissaluvs, and there is ZERO repelling! I am thrilled! Thank you for this post! (and yes, I know it is very old:)


  5. Amy Says:

    I’m glad I came across this, my diapers are stiff but not horribly so – however the rest of our clothes need fabric softener! I was concerned that residue left in the washer would cause a problem.

    I have 4 dryer balls and they were working pretty good but it seems after just a few months they are losing their touch… I looked them up online and it says they are suppose to last 3-5 years! Well… not in this house! I may try the 12 tennis balls next.

    oh and before using vinegar or anything you should probably read the instruction booklet – my washer says not add too much soap (must be careful with the dawn and stripping) and NEVER use vinegar as it will ruin the machine… I don’t know how true this is but I don’t have the funds to test the idea.


    • Ophelia Says:

      Rest assured it is NOT true. I have used vinegar as a fabric softener my whole life due to sensitive skin & in 40 yrs have yet to ruin a machine or have any issues with gaskets or seals like manufacturers “warn” against.

      I have seen posts where people say a repair man told them that he “knows” when he sees a home that uses vinegar due to damage. I call B.S.

      I’ve had 4 machines in 40 yrs. The one my mother used for me as a child, that she is still running (go mom) & 3 of my own. 1st I had for 6 yrs, came to me used (ancient) & I left it behind when I moved as my 1st home came with a 10 yr old used set (modern to me at the time). The 1st set was running fine when I left it. The 2nd set that came with my house was 10 yrs old when I got it & I used it for about 10 yrs. So 20 yrs old when I got rid of that set because I was offered a 6 yr old set with a front loader that had more features. The old set is still running. I know who I gave it to. I have been using the “6 yr old front loader” for 5 yrs now – 11 yrs old. I have kids. I run on average at least 2-3 loads a day, particularly when I have diapers going on. These machines have taken a beating & done fine.

      I have had one repair on a washer for a failure to drain/pump motor replacement (that was pre-kids when I ran about a load a week in the ancient machine). I have never had a problem with a gasket or seal (what they claim vinegar damages) ever. I am not careful about how much I add. I add a full cup to regular laundry & 1/2 to diaper loads, give or take.

      Some of my lack of repair needs is luck I think. I’ve known lots of people with machine breakdowns. If vinegar is harming my machines you’d think I’d see it by now. I wonder if using typical soaps & fabric softeners breaks machines…since I’ve never used those (again due to sensitive skin) and I have had such little issue with my machines.

      And if my machines craps out right after posting this I am going to be mad I ever wrote it. That would so be my luck. :P


  6. Cherry Says:

    Hi! My bamboo terry and cotton velour diapers are so hard now that they are leaving red marks on my babies skin, so I do not use them anymore. The problem is that I do not have a tumble dryer and a place to dry outside, so the only way to dry my diapers is to line dry them inside. I have tried to use white vinegar or baking soda but this did not help, they are still very hard. I even risked to use a little bit of Amway fabric softener but it made my diapers to leak. I have a HE washing machine and the water here is average hard. I really do not want to stop using cloth diapers but I simply do not know how to soften them without harming them! Can anyone give me an advice? I am from Europe and not all detergents you mention there are available. I can get Ecover softener here but am afraid to use it on my dipes. Does it really work without harming the cloth diapers? Help!


  7. Amanda Says:

    Hi! I love, love, love your site! Thank you for all your insightful, experience based information on everything cloth diapering! I have a question re: Mrs. Meyers fabric softener….I see that you use it & seem to have great results. Is it safe to use her dryer sheets versus liquid? I’m so nervous to try it! Your thoughts/experience (and anyone else’s) would be great =)


  8. Kim Says:

    Is it safe to use a cloth diaper safe fabric softener, such as Ecover or Mrs. Meyer’s, on your Bum Genius AIO or microfleece liners?


  9. Leanna Says:

    I just purchased an all-natural laundry detergent that contains a soy-derived fabric softener. Do you know if this is safe to use on my cloth diapers? Thank you!


  10. Rosanne Says:

    You can use Wool Dryer Balls to soften diapers (and all other laundry) without softeners! They even cut drying time saving you money, time and energy. They are the only way to dry/soften my son’s diapers and clothing because of his eczema reaction to softeners. For more information or to purchase please visit at http://www.WoolDryerBalls. com


  11. Gilli Says:

    I just pulled my BumGenius diapers out ofthe dryer and discovered (to my horror) that a dryer sheet was in with them. My guess is that it was left over from the previous load. Is there anything I can do to reverse the effects of fabric softener on my microfleece diapers?


  12. Malinda Says:

    My goodness I hope this helps us!! Our pre-folds are rough and pilling after a few months of use. I’ve always been told they are supposed to get softer with time, but despite using dryer balls and extremely hot water they’re like sand paper. I stripped them over the weekend and I think they’re even worse! Thanks for helping me feel like I’m not going crazy!


  13. lilly Says:

    That is amazing. ur effort is quit remark abale


  14. erica Says:

    thank you. just to share with everyone – i used a whole cap full on my cricketts hemp/cotton fitteds, Goodmama’s and Muttaqins and they are unbelievably SOFT! just like when i first got them in the mail! i can’t believe it! hopefully using a whole cap full won’t inhibit the absorbancy but we shall see.

    can i use it on my cotton prefolds too?


  15. Autumn Beck Says:

    Erica, I think that is a personal decision. I personally do not use the full amount because a full diaper load is no where near the size of a full load of clothes. I usually half it and the diapers are soft.


  16. erica Says:

    should i use the reccomended amount on the ecover package? or should i half it like i do with my detergent?


  17. Brenda Cooper Says:

    I’m going to Haiti on a mission trip Oct. 29. Would love to be able to take some diapers for the babies there. None of the babies there have diapers. If you or anyone else you know would be willing to donate some for me to take it would be wonderful!!

    Thanks, Brenda Cooper
    1749 S. Dick Creek Rd.
    La Fayette, GA 30728


  18. Autumn Beck Says:

    Fabric softener shouldn’t be used on microfleece. It can cause it to repel which will cause leaking. I would wash the diapers together a full cycle, take out the pockets and do a second rinse with the fitteds. Add the fabric softener to the second rinse.


  19. Andrea Says:

    So I just went to wal mart and bought some of the Simplicity fabric softener…I just wanted to check before I did anything. It can be used on the cotton and velour diapers…but can I use it on pockets with microfleece inners or not? Thanks!


  20. alexisyael Says:

    I want to second the dryer ball comment… I was using the dryer balls from Bed Bath and Beyond (they’re available other places) and those were fine… but then I switched to using 12 — yes 12! — tennis balls in my dryer and WOW. What a huge difference. Everything is coming out softer, not just diapers, but everything. Towels are fluffier, it’s been great!

    I’ve been seeing other diapering mavens suggesting green fabric softeners in the past few months, but I can’t quite bring myself to try it… I may still, but I’m pretty happy with how the tennis balls are working!


  21. Jennifer Says:

    I just wanted to pass on this information that I recently found.. 7th Generation and Method products both have been found to contain detectable levels of carcinogens. They didn’t specify their fabric softener, but Method did come out and say that they say they are naturally DERIVED but are not necessarily natural or organic, so I would beware purchasing Method products.



  22. Autumn Beck Says:

    and the post she’s referring to at the end:



  23. Autumn Beck Says:

    Virginia, after tons of research I found this review to be the most helpful:



  24. Virginia Brown Says:

    What about Method? They make softner and dryer sheets? They are vegetable based and I would think if the others are safe these would be too?


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