Laundry Additives

Beyond your detergent there are a lot of products you can add to your washing routine to up your cleaning power.  It can be overwhelming though to figure out what may be best.  Here is a run down of some common additives and what issues they may help with when it comes to laundering your cloth diapers.

Many of these products will help depending on whether or not you have hard or soft water.  Soft water is simply water that has less calcium.  Calcium makes it harder for detergent to work.  Calcium is removed by making the water more alkaline.  If you live in the KC area you should know that IN GENERAL the Kansas side is considered to have hard water and the Missouri side is considered to have moderate water (not overly hard or soft).  If you have an in-home water softener that obviously changes things.

Washing Soda (sodium carbonate): Many grocery/big box stores sell this in the laundry detergent aisle.  It is just a stronger version of baking soda.  It will make your water more alkaline (less acidic) and is essentially a water softener.  So, if you have hard water and your detergent doesn’t seem to be getting your diapers as clean as you’d like, adding some washing soda with your detergent just may do the trick.  A quick tip as well: RLR is just very expensive washing soda.  Save yourself the money and go with the off brand.

Borax (sodium borate): This is a naturally occurring mineral.  When mixed with water it does two things: softens the water and creates a hydrogen peroxide solution that helps disinfect.  It is very important not to breathe in a lot of dust from it though or to ingest large amounts because it can be extremely toxic.  It should be added with your detergent.

OxyClean (sodium percarbonate): This product reacts with water to create hydrogen peroxide and sodium carbonate (washing soda).  It also helps lighten biological stains (aka poop stains).  It works great to both soften your water and disinfect your diapers.  It can be used either in a pre-soak or added to your wash routine with your detergent.

Vinegar: Vinegar has a few different properties that make it useful when doing laundry.  First, it will break down detergent that is clinging to fabrics and help them rinse away.  It can be used this way as a fabric softener for regular laundry or cloth diapers by being put in the fabric softener dispenser and used in the rinse cycle.  Vinegar is also a disinfectant and can break down uric acid that causes ammonia stink in diapers.  If you are having ammonia problems, soaking your diapers in a full washer with a couple cups of white vinegar can help.

Baking Soda (sodium bicarbonate): This product is slightly alkaline and will help soften your water.  It won’t be as effective as washing soda, but it will help a little.  It will also help with odor removal and should be added with your detergent if used.

Bleach: This product has a dirty name in much of the cloth diapering world.  But, some manufacturers recommend it.  It is a STRONG disinfectant.  It can also be very tough on delicate fabrics.  I would not recommend using it on covers.  But, particularly if you use microfiber inserts and struggle with stink, washing your inserts on hot with detergent and 1/2 cup of bleach can really revive them.  The tough fabrics of most inserts can stand up to an occasional bleaching.

Bac-Out: This is an enzyme product.  Enzymes are proteins produced by living things and help break up stains and soil in laundry so that they can be washed away.  Most commercial laundry detergents already contain enzymes, but many more natural detergents do not.  Bac-out advertises that they use more strains of enzymes than commercial cleaners and are therefore more effective.  It will help remove both stains and odor.  It can either be sprayed on the diaper immediately following use or in your prewash.  Some bottoms are more sensitive to enzymes than others and most natural detergents advertise specifically that they contain no enzymes as a selling point.

There are several other products sold as cloth diaper additives such as Funk Rock and Thirsties pre-wash.  They don’t give the formulas online, but judging by the descriptions, they are some combination of the ingredients above.

And finally, because I get asked often and have become a bit of a laundry nerd, here is my routine.

  • Cold rinse with no additives.
  • Hot wash with a scoop to the 1 line of Tide Free and Clear powder (Yes, I give money to the man.  But it works for us and I stick it back to him because I’m washing cloth diapers with it.) and a couple tablespoons of Oxy-Clean.
  • 2 warm rinses, the first with vinegar in the fabric softener dispenser.

Done.  I have no stink.  I have no ammonia.  I have no repelling.  So there you have it.

Try some things out and see what works for you!


About Elizabeth

Elizabeth enjoys life as a wife and stay-at-home mom to her two daughters, 3-year-old Evelyn and 1-year-old Annabelle. She is passionate about home birth, breastfeeding, cloth diapering, attachment parenting, alternative medicine, crafting, and healthy eating. She and her husband are in the process of a local trans-racial adoption.
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