It is important to use detergents recommended for use with cloth diapers. Look for detergents that DO NOT contain the following additives:
- Fabric softeners. These are relatively easy to avoid as added fabric softeners are normally clearly marked on packaging. These will cause wicking and repelling on most waterproof fabrics- actually on all fabrics, including cotton diapers!
- Brighteners. Sometimes the only indications that these have been added are words like “brighter, “whiter,” or “cleaner”. These are normally optical brighteners. Optical brighteners, also called optical bleaches or fluorescent whitening agents, are fluorescent white dyes (sometimes referred to as crystals) that absorb ultraviolet light and emit back visible blue light. This gives the impression that clothes are brighter and cleaner. In actual fact these can cause leaking and wicking as well as skin irritations. MANY detergents contain this nasty additive, which has also been identified as being toxic to fish and other aquatic life. Some are also capable of causing mutations in bacteria. They are also very slow to biodegrade into their less harmful component parts and can cause eye and skin reactions in humans. Research is being conducted to determine the extent of optical brighteners in the environment and their subsequent damage to animal health.
- Stain Guards. Again these are usually (but not always) easy to find, as companies often list them as an advantage. Mentions of stain “repelling”, “protection” or “guards” are clear warnings that this additive is present. They too will coat fibers.
- “Natural”Additives. Natural additives are most likely in the form of oils. Like chemical additives, they do not always cause a problem- but with time, the oils can build up, leading to wicking, leaking and repelling. Examples include orange oil, citrus extract, grapeseed extract and other oils.
- “Natural” Soaps. In actuality all soaps are natural, which is what sets them apart from detergents. The problem with soap is that the minerals in water react with those in soap, creating an insoluble film. This film can leave a residue and turn clothes grayish. Dr. Bronners is an example of a natural soap that can cause a residue problem.