Homemade Laundry Detergent Safe for Cloth Diapers

November 15, 2011

Budget, How-to, Washing Cloth Diapers

Keeping expenses low is a priority for many cloth diapering parents.  After all, for many, saving money is the reason they chose to cloth diaper.


One quick way to blow the budget is to overspend on detergents that promise a lot and under-perform.  Even if many detergents are worth the price, most families don’t have the extra cash to experiment with every brand until they find the one that works best for their environment.

Thankfully, it isn’t necessary to commit a large portion of your budget to cleaning supplies.  Vinegar is cheap and can clean pretty much everything.  And you can make your own laundry detergent!

After scouring the web for homemade laundry detergents safe for cloth diapers, I realized they were all almost identical.

** Before using this detergent on your cloth diapers please realize that for some they experience zero problems, while for others repelling does occur.  If you are using natural fibers you shouldn’t have a problem.  However, synthetics can develop a buildup.** Check our Recommendations page for suggestions of what we like to use.

Recipe for Homemade Laundry Detergent

  • 1 bar of soap (Zote, Dr. Bonners, goat milk soap…)
  • 1 cup 20 Mule Team Borax
  • 1 cup washing soda (usually found right next to the Borax on laundry aisle)

Dr. Bonner’s is available in scents which makes it easy to scent the batch.  You can also add a few drops of Tea Tree Oil or essential oil.

Another recipe I found substituted 1/2 cup Oxiclean for the soap (Sisters n Cloth).

If you prefer a liquid detergent follow these instructions provided by Rachel of The Cupcake Sprinkles In Life:

-1 bar of Dr. Bronner’s Lavender, Citrus, Peppermint, Almond or Baby soap
– 1 dry cup of Borax
-1 dry cup of Arm and Hammer Washing Soda
-opt. a few drops of tea tree for disenfecting (esp. good for cloth diapering)*grate soap into sauce pan- add 2 cups of water- stir, dissolve.
*into a five gallon bucket add Borax, washing soda and tea tree if using.
*dump melted soap liquid into bucket and stir quickly
*add water to about 3/4 of way to top- stir and put lid on.
*set overnight- measure out 1/2 cup of liquid for light loads and 1 cup for normal.

There’s something invigorating about creating your own detergent or anything for that matter.  We live in such a convenience consumer driven society that we’ve almost completely lost the art of simplicity.

I’m guilty. My simplicity is buying the product with the fewest number of ingredients (and realizing I could make that myself!) and feeling good.

I think we owe it to our children to teach them the basics in life.  Basic skills that now get you a raised eyebrow if you “brag” about your accomplishments.

I applaud mothers who refuse to give in to convenience 100%.  Perhaps that will be my 2012 resolution: Back to the Basics.  My translation of “basics” being to live more simply, live on less, choose natural.

What better skill can we pass on to our children than self-reliance, especially in an age where children aren’t being taught how to provide for themselves but to rely on others?

What types of “basic” skills do you/ have you taught your children?

I’m diligent about teaching our children to pray and read the Bible, avoid medicine except in emergencies, breastfeed and birth naturally at home.  We plan to grow a garden in the spring.  We buy raw milk, grassfed beef, organic produce and explain why this is important.

Explaining the why to our children is just as important as the how.  Without the knowledge of why you do something they will easily conform to society’s ways when they leave the home.

Parenting is a great and heavy responsibility.   There are so many ways I can improve my parenting and family lifestyle.  I look forward to learning a lot from you as your comments come in.

(I have to share my husband’s comment to my resolution idea: “but you can never live more simply in 2012 and buy Toms. Those two things are mutually exclusive.” Duh, doesn’t he realize that TOMS are the epitome of simple??)


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

84 Responses to “Homemade Laundry Detergent Safe for Cloth Diapers”

  1. Stephanie Says:

    This is not a proper way to clean diapers of all the nasty germs and bacteria from your child’s urine and poop. What you are making is just a soap and in no way can be referred to as detergent because there is nothing in this that cleans like a detergent does. Using these homemade soaps on your diapers will eventually lead to very bad build up that will not only cause repelling issues but will also cause a million different types of horrible rashes on your babies skin. Please do proper research. This article makes me so sad for all the babies that will be getting hurt from diapers being improperly cleaned. I know I will get a lot of people telling me this isn’t true but that does not bother me in the slightest.


    • Jennifer Reinhardt Says:

      Thank you for posting. I agree that homemade recipes don’t work for many people. However I know that there are also people that have used them successfully for years. This is not a route for everyone, myself included. but there are indeed a few babies who made it through without horrible rashes.


    • Misty Says:

      I have been clothing diapering for 4 years and using homemade detergent for all that time. I strip my diapers in various ways (including using conventional detergent from time to time) every 1-2 months and wash every 2-3 days. My 3 kids have not had diaper rash issues. The only time they had rashes is if I didn’t realize they had pooped and they sat in it for too long. Even then, within 24-48 hours it cleared up without rash creams or special treatments. While I don’t suggest that homemade is the way to go for everyone, it works for us, our clothes and diapers look, smell and feel clean. Your comment is rather derogatory.


    • Gemma Says:

      Wow, Cloth Diaper Compendium much?


  2. Chandler Santiago Says:

    I used homemade detergent until joining a fb group founded on the science of cleaning diapers, I realized that the rash my child kept having was ammonia burns and that my diapers weren’t getting clean by the homemade “detergent.” Please read this document explaining why homemade can be SO HARMFUL to babies’ bottoms. I am in no way judging anyone who uses it, but I think if people knew how ineffective it was it would help… This is the info that changed my view on using homemade…

    The Bad, The Worse, and The Ugly;
    Why We DON’T Use Homemade “Detergents”
    by Melinda Wendland

    So WHY are we calling this ~The Bad, the WORSE and the Ugly~ and why is Detergent in quote marks? Homemade concoctions are most often combination of water softeners (borax, washing soda, baking soda), boosters (oxi) and soap (grated or melted of various brands and types). Some go so far as to not include any cleaning agent at all. Let’s go over the fallacy of using this combination to wash LAUNDRY (and this really goes for ALL laundry, but most especially laundry which needs to be absorptive, cloth diapers and towels).

    It doesn’t rinse clean! Bar soap is just that, SOAP, it is not meant for laundry, it’s not intended to wash clothes in a washer, the bar soaps, even the ones in the laundry aisle, all say they are a pre-treater or booster, NOT a detergent. Over time soap scum (think bathtub ring) will trap particles of soil in the fibers of your clothes, because soap is oil based and does NOT rinse clean from cloth fibers. The physical bulk of most versions of homemade soap is made up of water softeners and boosters!These items do have a purpose, but it is NOT to clean, it is to allow the cleaning agent to function better at it’s job.

    The softeners, do just that, they soften hard water, which allows the cleaning agent to pull out and trap soil. Boosters aid the cleaning agent by providing a secondary ‘power’, like whitening and stain lifting. The problem with this is, the ratio of cleaning agent (soap) to a very large amount of softeners and boosters. You end up with little cleaning power and lots of softening and boosting power, which does NOTHING to clean poop, pee and bacteria out of your diapers (or everyday soils our of your regular laundry.)

    Here we come to the catch 22………Recommended Use Amount!

    Scenario 1: Most recipes are going to recommend a tiny amount per load. In the 1-2 Tablespoons range. The amount of actual cleaning agent (the soap) is a minuscule ratio of that tiny 2 Tbs by the time it’s mixed with all the softeners/boosters. Nothing is going to get clean, diapers or regular laundry, because there is very little cleaning agent present. Add to that gallons and gallons of water and you might as well not even be putting a cleaning agent IN! In fact, the total amount of actual soap given in this recommendation comes to 1/40th of a TEAspoon per gallon of water!

    Scenario 2: Either you throw the recommended use amount out the window (because it doesn’t make sense given Scenario 1) or your recipe is one of the very few which recommends more. Now you are using a cup or more of this mix, which is going to have a decent amount of soap in it. Over time soap scum and trapped soil, discussed above, will begin to cause issues with towel absorption or making your clothes dingy, but it will most likely eventually happen. In the case of diapers especially, it can cause repelling, barnyard, ammonia and/or rashes from the bacteria and scum left in the diapers. It may take months for it to build up and for a time you may think this stuff is the greatest thing since sliced bread……….it’s NOT, and it’s very, very likely you will have significant problems crop up down the line.

    WHY is SOAP so different than DETERGENT? Don’t they do the same thing?

    Yes and no. They do, in a sense, when they are used for their intended purpose. They are both meant to remove soils and bacteria when aided by friction and water. The difference is…………Soap is meant to be used on generally non-porous surfaces that have no nooks and crannies to trap soil. Detergent is formulated to work on cloth, a very porous and textured material, it is also formulated to trap soil and suspend it in water where it can be literally washed away. Soap and detergent work VERY differently and are formulated very differently for different purposes.

    If you would like to delve more into why soap and detergent are different please take a look at these links:

    Why is the use of Homemade Soap so prevalent and often recommended by others?

    It is viewed as inexpensive!
    Many people cloth diaper for budgetary reasons and there is much appeal in being able to use something you can spend less money on. This is understandable, and a good portion of CD mommas have fallen into the same trap of thinking it was an easy and effective way to save money………especially if they also fell into the well-laid trap of needing to use only so-called “Cloth Diaper SAFE” detergents and on ALL their clothes, not just diapers. That stuff is EXPENSIVE, so it’s easy to see the appeal of a cheaper option.

    It’s considered by many as CD safe!

    It’s NOT, as discussed above, and neither are many of the promoted and popular CD safe detergents (many of which have the same issues as Homemade varieties).

    It is viewed as containing no or fewer chemicals!

    Let’s begin with, ^^^ this is flawed logic………Everything is made up of chemicals; everything has a chemical makeup. It is much more accurate to say that some things are made up of dangerous chemicals, unnecessary chemicals or man made or altered chemicals. Some people have a priority to minimize their family’s exposure to those chemicals they are unsure of, and that is ok and it’s their prerogative to make that choice………..BUT there are options within that scope that do NOT include Homemade Soap.

    What are the alternatives?

    There are many!! ANY commercial detergent that does NOT contain fabric softeners is perfectly acceptable to use on your diaper laundry. Some work better than others and some work better in certain water and/or certain machines. If you are looking for a more natural or plant-based detergent, there are a few options proven to perform successfully (though usually more detergent is needed to get results). Those include: Seventh Generation (start with recommended amount), Kirkland’s Environmentally Responsible (start with recommended amount), Sun Triple Clean (start with 1.5x recommended amount), Ology (start with 1.5x recommended amount), Method (start with 2x recommended amount.)

    Always wash in HOT water with plant-based detergent and always use a water softener if water is at all hard, even mildly.

    If the draw of Homemade Soap was the low cost factor, there are several inexpensive options on that front as well. Purex and Foca have proven to work for many people and are far less expensive than many other well known commercial detergents.


    • Mya Says:

      I make my own and it works. Regardless of your opinion, its worked to give us all clean clothes for years! How do you think people got their clothes clean historically? soap :)


  3. Brandi Says:

    I’m a little upset. I tried to make the liquid recipe, spent money buying all the ingredients, and it’s just a watery mess. It’s certainly not the thick creamy liquid that I was told I would get. Just soapy water with a layer of scum on top. NOT happy. Anyone know how I can salvage this? :-(


  4. Brynn Says:

    I don’t totally agree with your article. Not everyone uses cloth diapers to save money. I want to use cloth diapers to keep my babies skin away from the syntheic properties and other chemicals put into making disposable diapers. Homemade detergent is not necessairly safe or the best method for cleaning your cloth diapers – your two main ingredients in homemade detergent – borax and washing soda are not only bad for your diapers they aren’t safe for handling either. Borax is toxic for you to inhale and breaks down the elastic in many cloth diaper covers it’s fine if you are using the old cloth and pin method though. Washing soda breaks down the diaper and elastic as well and can cause chemical burns. With this in mind you may be saving money on your detergent, but ultimately will need to spend more money on your diapers when they start to fall apart. I just recommend that everyone does their research when making a decision on the best detergent for them to use and be aware of all the facts.


    • Lauralee Says:

      Cloth diaper detergents that are sold on the market are using washing soda and borax the ingredients are listed under a different name. Many cloth diaper recipes call for baking soda which many brands of diapers tell you not to use along with vinegar.


    • faye Says:

      actually, i had made my own detergent for a few years, and after being sick, unable to make more, ran out and got some commercially made detergent. within the span of that time that jug has practically destroyed my diapers! and i line dry so no way its from the dryer. borax is not unsafe. most commercially made detergents have more than that in them.

      what do you use? just water and lemon juice?


  5. Brittany Says:

    Ok, hopefully someone can answer this. After looking through the chemical make up of oxiclean, wouldn’t it make more sense to just add your regular washing/baking soda mix and then a few spoonfuls of hydrogen peroxide?


  6. Malena Says:

    Great recipe for regular laundry, but coming from a company who makes liquid castile soap, I wanted to note a few things.

    Bar soap & Liquid soap can be used to make liquid laundry detergent; no worries there.

    However, we strongly advise against using soap as a detergent ingredient for cloth diapers.

    Soap leaves soap scum, which will cause buildup. It’s inevitable. Your water type / baby’s diet / etc. only makes the difference of how long this will take. There are always exceptions, which I & science can’t explain, but generally speaking, I would stick to detergents. Soap nuts are not the same chemical makeup as soap; so they are safe to use.

    Detergent & soap are NOT the same thing. Believe you me, I WISH they were, as we make soap & we cloth diaper & I use our soap on everything (dishes, regular laundry, shampoo, hands, body, floors, etc.), EXCEPT cloth diapers…it would be nice just to use it for this purpose, but it’s just not an option for us b/c of the conflict noted above.


  7. Rachel Says:

    I found a similar recipe that I just switched to, and I’m starting to suspect repelling issues. It’s 2 c castille soap (grated), 3 c borax, 4 c baking soda. I looked up the difference between baking/washing, apparently washing has a much higher pH, can cause skin issues and break down fabrics quicker. Hence the baking soda. I used Dr. Bronners Lavender. It seems to get really clean, haven’t had smell issues (also hang outside to dry). However, they don’t seem to be absorbing as well. Pockets w/ microfiber inserts. I started putting a little soda in the soak. The detergent I used before had clay powder and vinegar in it though, otherwise it looks the same in ingredients. Should I be doing an extra rinse, or use something different? I use 2 tbsp, thinking I’ll go down to 1 and see how that goes in the next wash. We have pretty balanced water, and haven’t had buildup issues in need of stripping. Been pretty lucky til I switched.


    • faye Says:

      i would def do an extra rinse. actually a soak then rinse.

      also, that sounds like a LOT of borax – did you also mean washing soda or are you using baking soda? baking soda just will not clean as well. its not the same as washing soda (sodium carbonite, and sodium bicarbonite. its compressed i think)


  8. cacye Says:

    Is there a reason why you cannot use the liquid Dr. Bronner’s soap?


  9. Charity Says:

    To those looking for a recipe without Borax for CDing. Here is a link to one.



  10. Courtney Says:

    Have you tried soap nuts? I just found out about them and they seem like the answer to all my “which is the best cloth diaper detergent?”


  11. Kimberly Says:

    To treat the poopy stains on cloth diapers just lay your diapers out flat in the sun after you have washed them. The sun not only sanitizes but also bleaches them white again removing all stains! It is amazing and EASY PEASY!! If anyone finds a safe homemade laundry detergent that does NOT use borax can you please post it, I have read to many things saying to NOT use BORAX on cloth diapers so I do not want to use this recipe on baby’s cloth diapers.


  12. Sara Says:

    So, I’ve gone through the comments ,but still have question. I see you list Dr. Bronner’s soaps, but is it okay to use a scented soap for cloth diaper washing? I think it would be fine for regular laundry, but don’t want to use anything to irritate sensitive baby parts. Also, would the Tea Tree formula of the bar soap offer any sot of disinfecting qualities I wonder?


  13. Barbara Says:

    Thanks for the information in regard to washing the Diapers. I will pass this information on to the Home in Liberia. The girls make ther own soap to wash clothes and to sell. But I think it might be too harsh for the diapers. They have asked me to send soap to wash the diapers in. The bottels are quite heavy.
    Perhaps the receipe for soap making might be genteler for the babies
    Thanks again


  14. Katy Says:

    Does anyone who makes this homemade recipe know how many cups you get out of a box of Borax and a box of Washing Soda? I’m pricing out the cost of the bar of soap plus the box of Borax and box of washing soda… Just wondering about how much this will actually end up costing me when it’s all made up. Thanks!


    • Rhonda Says:

      You can get around 8-10 cups from a 4 lb box of Borax and about the same from a 3 lb. box of Washing soda. You can actually get a 4 lb box of baking soda cheaper than the washing soda and make washing soda out of it by heating it in the oven (you can find instructions for doing that online).


  15. Rhonda Says:

    I was just wondering if you had ever tried any of the non-detergent laundry alternatives such as the laundry balls (the Eco Green, Greenwash and Wonder are a few I can think of) on cloth diapers. I have tried researching some reviews but they seem to be split 50/50 on whether they actually work or not. I’m frugal so I’d prefer not to spend $30-$40 on something unless I’m reassured by someone with experience that it will work.


    • Autumn Beck Says:

      Yes, search Laundry Ball on this site. Don’t waste your money.


      • Rhonda Says:

        I did the search on your site and found where you had posted about them. I noticed someone had posted that the ball needed to be placed in the sun and not left in the washer in response to a comment you made about the laundry ball no longer working after a period of time. However, when I followed the link to the webpage for the laundry ball it didn’t state any specific care info. I had actually not even seen the particular brand you purchased and it seems to be made differently and works differently than the other balls I had researched (the others are either ceramic/mineral filled or magnetized whereas the laundry ball you used contained an unspecified liquid.) The other laundry balls I researched all specified the care instructions of being “sunned” weekly to recharge which is where I assume the poster on your original thread got his information. In the midst of doing more research this morning I came across an article about 1,4-dioxane (carcinogenic byproduct) being found in numerous laundry detergents (even some claiming to be all natural)….the main culprit being Tide Free & Clear. http://groovygreenlivin.com/2012/02/tell-tide-to-remove-a-cancer-causing-chemical-from-its-detergent/ (this link also contains a link to a petition requesting P&G to strip that byproduct from it’s detergent). Anyways, in all that I decided to give the Eco Green brand laundry ball a try. It turned out to be relatively cheap (like $15 for two). There are 10 in our family (will be 11 in August) and I average going through a 150 load box of detergent every 2 weeks which comes out to be around $20.00 every 2 weeks. So, I figure even if the laundry balls only last a month apiece that’s still going to be a savings for me of almost $30 a month. Of course the clincher will be whether I am actually pleased with it’s initial performance. Hopefully so!


  16. Heather Says:

    Hey Autumn I was reading about Borax on wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borax) and under the toxicity tab it said something about maybe causing developmental issues especially with the testes. Do you know anything more about this? I was researching because I am wanting to make some detergent to use on my diapers but this has scared me, even though I have a daughter. Let me know what you think. Thanks so much!


  17. Annie Says:

    So… what are (is) TOMs?

    me from Canada…Annie


    • Autumn Beck Says:

      shoes…according to my husband overpriced gauze.


    • Jennifer Says:

      TOM’s is an “all natural” line of soaps, toothpaste, etc. Normally you can find them in a natural food store, but grocers are starting to carry them as well. I remember seeing some in Target once too.


  18. Sheena Says:

    I love this idea of making my own detergent. I had read that Borax can break down elastic, though. Is this true?


  19. Leisel Says:

    Wondering if you can help… How do I wash to rid the diapers of yeast while treating yeast rash on my baby? I think it’s there from letting her have some First birthday cake this weekend (bad mommy!). I’m using some clotrimazole on the rash and am ok with using disposables for a while. I know I need to baby for 3-4 days after rash is gone (and it’s tiny so hopefully soon), so do I just wash normal adding 1/4 cup bleach with each wash until 4-5 days after rash is gone? please help!


    • NICU-RN-MOMMY Says:

      I’m very new to cloth diapering so I don’t know much about that part but I do know that Tea Tree Oil is a natural anti-fungal. It is listed in the options to add to the detergent so obviously its safe for the diapers and your baby. Its very powerful and a few drops is plenty….I repeat…plenty. Good luck!


    • Sarah Says:

      You can also use a hot iron on the diapers. The extreme heat will kill the yeast. “I know when I was pregnant with our 4th I got a bad case of it myself and my midwife told me to iron all of my panties in combination with treating myself. It worked wonders! The dryer isn’t hot enough…needs to be an iron.


    • Bree Says:

      For yeast, I have found nothing better for treating humans anyway- than Grapefruit Seed Extract. Don’t know about diapers though.


  20. Kirstin Says:

    Does anyone know what to do when their baby has eczema? Somewhere I read that eczema is usually caused by contact with detergents, and he has it all over, as well as a contact diaper rash I can’t get rid of. I recently switched from Charlie’s Soap to Country save, but now I’m wondering if even that will help. I know I can’t use soap flake for my cloth diapers, so do you think one of these recipes is a good idea? Even if I wanted to switch to disposables, I can’t. I love my cloth diapers, but I must admit, they are becoming a headache :(. If anyone has any experience with this, input would be appreciated!


    • Crystal Says:

      My husband has dealt with severe eczema his whole life! We did reduce his reaction to it when we swithched to an all-natural deteregent (we buy Whole Foods brand). However, the thing that really made it go away completely was when he stopped eating gluten (the protein found in wheat, barely, and rye). Now the only time his eczema flares is when he eats something he shouldn’t. He can never hide it from me if he cheats!! Many people actually have a gluten intolerance and don’t know it. There are over 200 different symptoms/diseases that have been linked to it. Do some research online. Unfortunately, many doctors are not well informed about gluten intolerance versus Celiac disease, so doing your own research is the best way to go. Hope this info will you out!!


    • Casondra Says:

      I have eczema and my daughter has eczema. Hers started before she turned 12mths.
      I rarely have any flareup now that I’ve removed the use of all petroleum products from use on my skin. I use arbonne lotions/creams and the occasional sea salt scrub in the shower over the winter or in dryer climates.
      My daughter on the other hand (as an adult out of my home with her own baby now) is not financially able to buy the lotions that I use. So, she is having quite the time with eczema spots popping up. As well as my grandson now also showing signs of eczema spots. She tries using Burts Bees lotions on them both and says it helps mostly. And of course only uses natural soaps with essential oils.
      Arbonne also has a wonderful baby rash cream that I get for my grandson who is sensitive to paper diapers (so thats why grandma now makes cloth diapers..lol). One last place, which I also use. Carolyn’s Natural Soaps .com I only use her soaps. But, she now has body and face lotions!! (I call her when I mess up and use doctor recommended creams on my face and get an eczema spot that wont go away, she makes me a special essential oil blend to use and Wahlah! Hope this helps. And yes these detergents are safe..I make and use them.


    • erica Says:

      my daughter and I both suffer with eczema, we finally had to go to the dermatologist to get a special cream and and now she gets a flare up once in a great while, then we cream her and in a day or so shes all good. It was a 6 month battle to get the referral to the dermatologist, but oh so worth it!!


  21. Becca Says:

    Thank you for this post!! You practically read my mind I’m new to CDing with my 1st- he’s one month old & started day 3 with the cloth & LOVING it (even my husbands all in!) using a rental of cotton prefolds w/ assortment of 4 NB covers (those in dfw should check out Elisa with babiesbottomsandmore.com – her NB rental pckg was too reasonable to pass up- and she’s a wealth of information if you go by her in-home store.) NEways, I will be using predominately flips w/ flip microfiber inserts (synthetic?) along with some kawaii bamboo pockets (natural) and have been wondering this whole month if my homemade detergent would work . It’s doing the trick w/ the prefolds- no smells! I’m all about living simply… Hence the homemade detergent… I’ll have to see what I decide to use on my flip inserts-anyone have experience lemme know. I’ve been stashing any tide free&clear coupons if I decide to go that route.
    Autumn- you rock! And of couse the comments are so helpful for a first timer to learn from other mamma’s.


  22. Jessica Menon Says:

    I spend 80-90% of my time traveling internationally (to places like India, South Africa, and Jordan), and still try my best to commit to using my cloth diapers while traveling. The one thing I detest is lugging around cloth-diaper safe laundry detergent that I can’t find typically in those places, so I wonder if I could easily make my own detergent with these ingredients overseas? This would be a fantastic option! The only thing I am unsure about is how accessible/ available these items are in places like a small city in India. We’re heading back there end of December for three weeks, so I’m going to scope it out! If interested, please check out my blog about traveling with babies, including tips on traveling with cloth diapers, and this blog called “Saving India’s River’s from Diapers” http://gypsymomma.com/2011/11/09/traveling-with-cloth-diapers/


    • TG Says:

      Jessica, I know you’ve gone and been back from India, but for future reference. . . I’ve had trouble finding borax and washing soda overseas (Kenya). I can find tiny pouches of borax for very expensive. Since I live here, I went ahead and brought washing powder/borax back with me the last time I went to the US.


  23. Annie Says:

    Wow.. I’m more confused now than ever! I am in Canada, so first of all, I had to figure out comparable brands for making the “soap”. I made the soda/borax/IVORY BAR soap (liquid). Then I made the soda/borax/oxyclean (dry). My granddaughter is only 4 weeks old and so far her dipes are very stained but still smell clean. And they are always soaked when we change her, so I’m assuming they still absorb very well. I made organic bamboo diapers with PUL outers based on the “grasshopper” style. What should I be using??? dry or liquid? What indicates “repelling”? How do I get the stains out? or should I bother?


    • Kirstin Says:

      Annie, repelling=holding your baby and suddenly having a wet lap ;). If you don’t have those kinds of problems, whatever you’re using should be working. I would just strip (run a washload with hot water and no soap) every few washes. To get rid of stains, sun-dry your diapers once in a while – it works great.


    • Tracy Says:

      What stands out to me is the soap you are using. I wish I could remember why you can’t just use any ole soap, but you can’t. The ones she suggested are very good choices. I have made my own laundry soap in the past just for everyday washing. The soap I choose for that was fels naptha. Which you cannot use for washing cloth diapers. I hope this helps you in some way.


  24. laura Says:

    i have to say, after reading all the comments, i am possibly more confused! i literally just made homemade detergent (the borax, washing soda, fels naptha version) a week ago, and this morning ran into the newest blog post for our local natural family store saying that these ‘detergents’ were NOT safe for cloth diapers over the long run. then i saw your post, autumn, and was excited that i may not have to completely ditch my homemade efforts! but, like i said, after continuing on to all the comments, still not sure what to think:/ we use mainly unbleached prefolds with some goodmamas and sbish thrown in there, so all natural fabrics (no pockets, AIOs, etc)…so is it safe? or do i still risk build up over time? i chose to cd definitely to save money, but i made sure to invest in some of the best prefolds/fitteds i could because i would also like to have them for any little ones that i may be blessed with in the future…..so i don’t want to ruin my stash, basically (obviously;) i also am not about using a detergent that i think isn’t cd friendly on my other clothes, as the buildup still exists in the machine and transfers to the diapers anyway. what to do?! should i be giving away some homemade detergent for christmas this year? or just keep on keepin on with the diapers?


  25. Kristy Says:

    I was under the impression that real SOAP was not compatible with cloth diapers, esp with the new fabrics used in them these days (microfiber and such). I can understand it working on natural fibers/prefolds, but I think you need to use a DETERGENT on the other types as it does not leave as much residue. Even then, on the natural fibers, you’d still get a buildup of the soap, and I know that on my kids, this would lead to rash (my kids have very sensitive skin). I have been unable to use any polyester diapers (microfiber, microsuede, fleece liners, etc) secondary to skin sensitivity on both of my kids.

    I have used the following routine for my diapers in semi-hard water and a front-loader with much success. I have an assortment of natural fiber AIOs including cotton, hemp and bamboo mixes, as well as prefolds and bamboo fitteds:

    1) -warm water wash with 1 bucket extra water added (plus extra rinse setting on machine)
    -3/4 scoop (probably about 3/4 tbsp) Nellie’s laundry soda (you’d have to adjust for softer/harder water)
    -1 tbsp borax
    -1/4 cup hydrogen peroxide
    -1/4 cup vinegar in the rinse water

    2) -hot water wash with 1 bucket extra water added (plus extra rinse setting)
    – 1/4 tbsp Nellie’s

    I’ve never tried making my own laundry soap, but it’s something I’d like to do. I wouldn’t use it on the diapers tho’. I have used soap nuts, but I wasn’t pleased with the results. Has anyone tried making the soap nuts liquid and did you find it worked better than just using soap nuts in a cotton bag???


  26. Brandy Says:

    I love making my own detergent….and I love my TOMS!!!!


  27. Rachael Says:

    I was using 1:1:1 washing soda, borax and an oxygen cleaner, and we ended up with some major stink issues (diapers and laundry). We realized that the soap/detergent is necessary for its ability to grab the dirt and oils and hold on to them as they get washed out. I was reading that when washing dishes, if you find a soap scum line around your sink, you aren’t using enough soap. That there isn’t enough soap to grab all the dirt and oil so it can get washed away.

    I’ve gone back to using my All free and clear, but I have both zote and fels naptha bars to grind up and try. I’m planning to mix them 1:1:1:1 washing soda, borax, oxygen cleaner and soap. I love the idea of making my own detergent, but the stink isn’t worth it!


    • brianna george Says:

      I use that recipe too to wash my cds. I learned that to get rid of the stink it’s science…in the pre rinse cycle add 1 tblsn baking soda. This neutralizes ph. In wash cycle use the detergent. In tje 2nd rinse add a splash of vinegar. It adds the ph back in the cds that helps neuttalize lingering oders and restores natural ph of cloth so no rashes.


  28. Lisa Says:

    Does anyone know what I could substitute for the Borax? I am allergic to Borax and break out in hives! Thanks!


    • Kristy Says:

      As far as I know, there is no direct substitute for borax, but given that it iss antibacterial/antiviral , you would get these properties with oxiclean or hydrogen peroxide (oxiclean and hydrogen peroxide are basically the same thing in the laundry). For the softening and freshening properties, you could replace with good ol’ fashioned washing soda. So I guess that a combo of the two could act in a similar way to borax alone. Good luck!


  29. hannahmama3 Says:

    I make the liquid version of fels naptha, borax, and washing soda detergent. I haven’t used it for my diapers yet, just my other laundry. I have an HE machine and I use 1/2 cup for full loads. If I were to use it for diapers I’d probably only use a tablespoon or 2 per load. I think i have soft water because I’ve never had an ammonia issue (cding for 9 months). We love using the homemade stuff and I doubt i’ll want to buy store bought detergent (except for Thirsties super wash) again!


  30. Krystyn Says:

    I use this recipe, too (with Fels Naptha) for our regular clothes, but it seems like the Borax and soap aren’t supposed to be used on pockets, so I think I’ll use “CD safe detergent.”


  31. Heather Says:

    I have twin toddlers who have been CD’d since birth. I have a HE front loader and have made my own detergent for over a year, with one of the hardest grains of water around. At first we had a tough time with the ammonia, and then I realized I needed to strip my girls’ dipes regularly (every couple of weeks) due to the hard water issue. With hard water it turns the soap into curds and they do not clean your clothing or diapers. I was having the same results with rocking green as well. Now, new house, soft water, and I am still saving a bundle. If it wears my diapers out faster (which I have not seen yet 20 months into this) then I am saving more than enough money from not using the overpriced Tide and All from before to replace them as needed. Totally worth the time, effort and money to make your own. Oh, and by the way, if you dont want to take time to grate your soap, put it in a quart jar (glass) and pour boiling water over it the night before (or a couple hours before) you make detergent. The soap will turn to liquid and you will have one less step. :) :) :)


  32. Sarah Says:

    I agree with the poster who said this would be okay with cotton fibers, but not synthetic materials. I make my own laundry detergent (I use 2c borax, 2c. washing soda with one bar of grated Dr. Bronners lavendar soap. Mix it all up in the food processor) and only use it on our clothes laundry. I tried it on my microfiber pockets and it caused them to repel. I will stick with Planet powder, I’ve never had an issue. Only using 2T at a time does keep costs down. I can use a whole box for 6 months!!


  33. Mrs. Smitty Says:

    Since my stash is primarily pockets, fitteds and AIO’s, I’m not comfortable using my homemade detergent (with borax) on them. I do use it for all our other laundry through, even hubby is surprisingly happy with the result. He used to LOVE that awful heavily scented smell on diapers. Now we all recognize that a lack of scent indicates the best clean. It doesn’t irritate my girls (and my own) super sensitive skin and it’s extremely cost effective!

    Between homemade detergent, using vinegar as a softener and using the laundry line instead of the dryer, we save tons in laundry costs and we’re extremely environmentally friendly.


  34. Adrian Post Says:

    I tried making my own detergent once, it had several more ingredients in it though. It didn’t work out so well. I think after using my own detergent is when we ended up getting ammonia pretty bad. I went back to my tried and true cloth diaper detergent and we moved to a house with a soft water loop and the ammonia stopped. It will be interesting to see when I have my new baby that will be totally soft water washed how the diapers do since I’m making this one all new diapers.


  35. Jamie o'hare Says:

    I used one made of baking soda, washing soda, and oxiclean for diapers. My regular detergent had those ingredients plus grated fels naphtha, borax, and Calgon water softener. Then when I moved, it no longer worked in my water, and I never bothered to re-formulate it because I was busy settling us into our new life. It was fine, but not great before the move. I’d add Biz to the regular detergent now to treat stains for my family of 6.


  36. heather p Says:

    So if our basic home made detergent is so controversial, what ingredients are in the natural detergents that we buy?
    I just started using home made detergent myself, my recipe is 1 cup borax, 1 cup washing soda, and 1 cup grated fels naptha. I also put a few drops of tea tree oil in there. I also use bac-out in my prewash. So far I have had no problems, I just want to know what is so special about the commercial natural detergents, if anyone knows. Thanks!


    • Sarah Gesiakowski Says:

      The biggest difference is that detergents have synthetic surfactants in them. Detergents work better and leave less residue than soap in a hard water conditions. If soaps worked so great then detergents would never have taken over the washing industry after being invented. This sums it up well, “”In the 1920s, Americans used soap flakes to clean their laundry. The flakes performed poorly in hard water, leaving a ring in the washing machine, dulling colors, and turning whites gray…. Researchers discovered two-part molecules which they called synthetic surfactants…one (part) pulled grease and dirt from the clothes, while the other suspended dirt until it could be rinsed away.” source: http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/blsoap.htm


  37. Laurann Says:

    I’ve also read mixed reviews. It’s all so confusing. I have used the homemade detergent with my diapers (flannel fitteds/PUL covers) for the past 6 months. I used fels-naptha though. Over the last month, the ammonia smell has gotten pretty strong-my little girl is now 8 months. I realized I needed to strip my diapers (hot wash w/ baking soda and vinegar- more hot washes and lots of rinses). I think I let them soak with bleach in the water for awhile. I only did it a few days ago, but read so much that finally I just did something, but don’t remember the order.
    Anyway, there’s still a smell, but it’s not as bad.
    I didn’t seem to have any repelling issues, just the smell.


  38. Stacy Says:

    *IF* you use all natural fibers, this will likely not hurt your diapers. If you use stay-dry fabrics, pockets, AIOs… this detergent may coat your diapers.

    A bar of soap- it starts out in solid form. If it’s not washed out completely in the washer, it will leave a film on your diapers the same way bar soap leaves a film on your skin. Liquid body wash rinses more cleanly, and so does a liquid soap. That is, if you use soap on your diapers- I wouldn’t recommend it! Dr. Bronner’s, maybe… but I wouldn’t use Fels Naptha or Zote on my diapers.

    Borax, too, is a controversial ingredient for cloth diapers. Many manufacturers consider it to be too abrasive as an additive, and recommend against using it. Again, with prefolds or flat diapers, this wouldn’t be an issue. But if you have pocket diapers or AIOs, you may end up shortening the life cycle of the PUL/TPU and elastic. Just sayin’ is all! :D


  39. Mandi Says:

    Eight months ago I decided to make my own detergent for cloth diapers and for regular laundry. I, too, found that all the recipes seemed very similar, except everything I read online at that time said NOT to add grated soap to a cloth diaper version. The soap would cause build-up, leading to poor absorbency and stink, the interwebs said.

    So I mixed up two big batches, one with grated Fels-Naphtha for clothing and one without for diapers. They’ve both worked well, although if you use the dry detergent in a cold wash, make sure to dissolve it in a cup of hot water first before adding to the cold wash.

    For HE machines, use 1 Tbs of dry mix and 2 Tbs for regular machines. We are still not even halfway through the batches I made, and I think they will most likely last me an entire year (I do a load a day of regular laundry and a diaper load every 2 or 3 days).


  40. Sarah Gesiakowski Says:

    This article is a bit misleading in the sense that it is calling the recipe a Detergent. This recipe makes a soap mixture with water softeners and cleaning agents. It is still a soap and most cloth diapering manufacturer’s do not recommend washing in a soap product.

    Also, recognize that if you have any hardness in your water that is not perfectly softened by the washing soda and borax then you will get what used to be called soap curd (1950’s) left on your diapers. This would be the same ring around the tub we got when we were kids and washed with soap like ivory rather than these new fangled body washes which are detergents. Soap curd can cause chemical burns to skin.

    A detergent by definition will use surfactants. Surfactants make washing in hard water conditions less problematic.


  41. kristine Says:

    Beware if you have soft water! Both Oxyclean and Borax cause terrible buildup on cloth diapers! You will end up with stinky, un-absorbent dipes! If you do use a recipe with these, start by only adding 1 tsp. of detergent per load. Learn from my mistakes mamma’s……..


  42. Anna Says:

    Is this homemade detergent HE safe?


  43. Jessica Says:

    My Aunt makes homemade detergent and loves it. She says she saves a killing. She only does the liquid. How do you do the dry recipe? It seemed to have few steps and ingredients. Also, I have a high-efficiency machine. How does homemade detergent work for that kind of washer machine?


  44. Erin Says:

    I think you would like the book “Living More with Less” by Doris Jantzen Longacre. I ended up getting it by accident from the library b/c there is also a cookbook called “More with Less”. I didn’t get to read much, but it really was inspiring! It is filled with stories that were written in by people of various countries. It’s all about living simply. I liked the cookbook, too, but didn’t get to try any recipes (I have a 5 mo. old, 3 yr old and 5 yr old :). Almost all of them didn’t include convenience foods and were nutritious. The book was a LOT about nutrition and that sort of thing, too.


  45. Katie Says:

    I have used this recipe since beginning to cloth diaper a little over a year ago… I found though, that while it gets the diaper clean, and fresh smelling.. it eats velcro… I do have to say, I would rather replace a few diapers and get clean ones with this detergent, then have my diapers for multiple kids and not have clean ones.. :O) At the moment, I use other cloth diaper detergent brands for my diapers (as I have a blog and review several brands.. ) and the homemade detergent on my regular laundry. Still saves a lot of money that way..


  46. Lauren Says:

    I tried homemade detergent using borax, washing soda, naptha soap. It didn’t work at all! Diapers were stinky & stained so I’m sticking with Tide. I also read online mixed information. Some people say that homemade detergent isn’t good for cloth diapers.


  47. Heather Says:

    I am so happy to now have a way to make my own laundry soap that won’t hurt my cloth diapers. I was wondering if I would be able to put liquid Dr Bronners soap instead of the bar soap? I’m only asking because I have the liquid Dr. Bronners soap and everything else needed to make the liquid soap. I don’t want to have to make a special trip to the store if I can use the liquid Dr. Bronners soap.


    • Heather Says:

      yes, I have a friend who makes hers for her diapers and that is what she uses. She says then she doesnt have to add the extra step of essential oils, it is already in there! :)


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