Just Add Cloth
Aug 162011
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I am not a detergent snob. Not really. I prefer mine to be as natural as possible while still performing well, but I don’t care what other people use. I have eczema and so does my son, so I try to use whatever detergent has the fewest ingredients and rinses clean so as not to bother our already ragged skin.
I have never tried Tide. I have nothing against Tide, but it was always the most expensive brand on the shelf, so I never bothered. I also stayed away from powdered detergents for years because I ignorantly thought it didn’t rinse out. Turns out I was just using a really crumby washing machine and too much detergent. One of the very first HE machines and a top loader. I hear they have improved. I don’t care to find out.
For years I stuck with Arm & Hammer Sensitive, since it worked and it was cheap. And it was sold at Target. But I was becoming increasingly itchy. Then I had a baby and decided to cloth diaper. Maybe I have become a little snobby about detergent since then. Maybe a touch.

I started with Tiny Bubbles. The washing soda smell reminded me of my childhood. I think it worked quite well since I had no idea what I was doing and was using a horrible washing machine at the time. Then Rockin’ Green came out and was all the rage. I have a feeling the water coming from the pipes in my ancient pre-war brownstone was much harder than the little map claimed. Rockin’ Green was not so rockin’ for me at that time. They have since come out with Hard Rock and Remix, so I am curious to try it again. I soon discovered Biokleen and my search for the time being ended.

My favorite go-to detergent for the past 10 months has been Biokleen Powder. It has plant based surfactants and grapefruit extract. It is suspected by some cloth diaperers to lead to repelling, but I’ve used it 10 months with out any issues. I love it. It cleans well and rinses easily.
I was using about 1.5-2 tablespoons per load on ALL of our laundry. Just that small amount was adequate for bedding, cloth diapers, and even the grossest pile of rags. I paid $15 for a 10 pound box. It lasted over eight months. So don’t let the usual $20 per box fool you. This is cheap detergent. (You can buy it by the case on Amazon and save even more with subscribe and save.)
One day I ran out. The upscale grocery store down the street wanted $38 for my $20 box of detergent! So I headed to soap.com. They offer free shipping on orders of $39 or more, so to my $20 Biokleen I added a bottle of Vaska Herbatergent and a bottle of Sun &Earth. It was time to branch out, right?

I liked Sun and Earth at first. It’s fruity citrus scent. It’s mysterious sudsy bubbles. I’ll admit, I like bubbles. Sudsy bubbles tell me when the detergent is completely rinsed out. Without them, I’m never quite sure.
I use a Kenmore super-capacity top loading machine. It uses quite a bit of water, but it rinses well. The super wash cycle is only 14 minutes before it drains though, which I find inadequate. I pull out the knob to stop the machine and let everything marinate in the detergent for a while (20-45 minutes) before resuming the wash on heavy duty agitation.
With the elongated marinating, the 14 minute super agitation, and two full water rinses, my cloth diapers are usually able to get clean with even very mild detergents. (I hand rinse inserts individually before they go in the wet bag so I usually skip any pre-wash settings.)

I’m about half way through the small bottle of Sun & Earth. I’m just not loving it. If I use the suggested amount, I will be rinsing for three days to get rid of suds. Copious amounts of suds. The washer drains into the laundry sink and the nozzle will literally be belching piles of suds, even on the third full rinse. If I use less, nothing gets quite clean. My husband’s t-shirts smell like cologne straight out of the wash, along with some funk-O-the-armpit. My diapers smell like ammonia out of the dryer. And not faint ammonia. I have never had ammonia issues before.
I’m am honestly surprised. With my wash routine, I thought I could probably avoid ammonia without any detergent at all. Not so.
I was starting to think all the stink and repelling issues other people had were false. They just needed more absorbency or better fitting diapers. They weren’t used to the smell of plain fabric without chemical perfumes. I’m sure this is true for a lot of those cases, but obviously not all.

Anyway, I am retiring Sun &Earth from my diaper laundry and clothing. It will be relegated to towels until I run out. I am tempted to rip open my beloved box of Biokleen, but I still have that huge bottle of Vaska taunting me from the closet shelf. Vaska has a lot of good reviews. And a lot of bad ones.

It apparently isn’t too shabby. Here is a nice little article citing ALMET.

One issue is it doesn’t contain any peroxide. Some people don’t feel their fabric gets as clean. Vaska sells a liquid oxygen bleach to go with the detergent to meet your preferences. I use an oxygen bleach powder(Biokleen) in every diaper load anyway. I started adding a tablespoon to diaper loads when we moved and the water was a little different in our new place.

I will be starting Vaska this week and I will give it a full month before evaluating my experiences. Which means I need to go strip my diapers in order to start fresh and give a fair review.

Hopefully no one will walk in on me this time while I am sniffing all the pits and crevices of our laundered clothing.

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  5 Responses to “Detergent Wars”

  1. Have you ever tried Sun Free and Clear? I am just curious. I know that All Free and Clear doesn’t get the funk out of my hubbys gym clothes and Purex Free and Clear is pretty good, but can leave a residue on clothes sometimes. I hear Sun Free and Clear is plant based which is why I ask.

    • I have not tried Sun F&C. I used ALL f&c for a few months without problems, but I only used it on diapers a few times. Those were newborn diapers though, which I find easier to get clean.
      Vegetable based surfactants seem to be hit or miss for some people. I guess it will depend on extracts used and water mineral content.

    • Sun Free and Clear is AWESOME! IT works great. Actually it is a recommended detergent by some cloth diaper manufacturers. And best of all it is inexpensive.

  2. Just a random note on Tide: I never buy it because you’re right, it’s expensive, but when we bought our washer/dryer set, we got a 30-coupon booklet for free 32-load liquid tide. 5 years later, I still have some! Granted, we are only a family of 3, but we also have 3 dogs, which makes everything messier. 🙂 And it has cleaned my diaper stash pretty well – no repelling, no residue or build-up – and I even have hard water. But just for fun I’ve been using a homemade powder detergent recipe. Also working really well.

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