Just Add Cloth
Sep 062011
 
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For the past three weeks I have been using and evaluating Vaska Herbatergent as part of my natural detergent project. I purchased the 64 load bottle of Vaska with light lavender scent from Soap.com for around $16. I know it can be found for cheaper elsewhere, but I was ordering several detergents for free shipping and it was more convenient. I generally like to use detergent a full month before giving my full opinion, but I am compelled to move this review up a week in order to gather other people’s experiences.

About Vaska from the Vaska website:

Herbatergent liquid laundry detergent uses real lavender and potent botanical cleaning agents to clean your clothing and linens effectively, but without harmful chemicals. Available in Light Lavender or Scent Free, Herbatergent uses natural herbal cleaning agents to remove soap residue that damages fabrics and causes skin irritation. Laundry stays brighter, lasts longer, and feels softer. Herbatergent Scent Free has been recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Design for the Environment program as safe for people and the environment.

Benefits

  • Hypo-allergenic – ideal for babies and people with sensitive skin
  • Safe on colors and all natural and synthetic washable fabrics
  • Softens fabrics naturally
  • Extends fabric life – no chemical damage, less lint
  • Reduces static electricity
  • Fresh, natural lavender fragrance (Light Lavender only)
  • 2x concentrated
  • Biodegradable
  • Graywater and septic tank safe
  • Formulated for high-efficiency (HE) and standard washers
  • Not tested on animals

While both the lavender scent and the scent free have lavender extract, the scented herbatergent smells much stronger. I chose the scent because I wanted to see if it was as strong as some people claimed and I just love lavender.

Unfortunately, the ingredients list is very vague.

Plant-based surfactants, vegetable conditioner, water-soluble degreasing agent, lavender extract, lavender scent (Light Lavender only), and filtered water are the only ingredient list available without calling the company.

However, it has been considered a cloth diaper friendly detergent for quite some time. It is listed on the PinStripes and Polkadots detergent chart as safe and was carried by FuzziBunz for a short time.

I used Vaska on all of our laundry including cloth diapers. My cloth diaper collection consists of pockets with microfleece and PUL, fitteds with natural fibers and a few with synthetic fibers, cotton prefolds, microfiber inserts, cotton flats, and a sprinkling of bamboo. My wipes went into the wash while soaked in either plain water or a mixture made with soap bits or Dr. Bronner’s with essential oils. It must be noted that I hand rinse inserts, prefolds, flats, and fitteds before placing them in the pail.

For my wash routine I use a Kenmore super capacity top loader. I use the same routine with each detergent I try. I set the machine to large load, warm wash, warm rinse, with an extra rinse. I add the detergent, usually with one tablespoon of Biokleen Oxygen Bleach powder, to the basin and then add the diapers. Once the machine is filled and has agitated for one minute, I pull the button to stop the machine. I let everything soak in the detergent water for up to 45 minutes. I do the detergent soak each time because the longest wash cycle on my machine is only 14 minutes and I find it does not last long enough to get things clean. After the soak time, I restart and let the machine finish the washing and rinsing. When the washing machine finishes, I sniff and inspect several diapers and inserts to ensure cleanliness. I either line dry on my porch or run the dryer on medium.

Since my machine has a large drum, I used one and a half caps of Vaska detergent. The detergent is fairly concentrated, so the cap is small compared to most commercial brands. It has a fairly strong lavender scent. I like lavender so it doesn’t bother me at all. I hear the unscented has a slight lavender scent due to the bit of lavender extract.

Vaska does not contain any peroxide. Many people prefer having peroxide or adding it as a laundry additive. Vaska sells a liquid oxygen bleach that can be used with the herbatergent if you like the boosting properties of peroxide. I did not use any oxygen bleach powder for the first two weeks because I wanted to give the Vaska a fair shot without it. Despite being a low sud-sing detergent I found it created plenty of bubbles in the beginning.

 

I followed my usual washing routine for cloth diapers. After the soak, wash, and two rinses, I pulled out my inserts and sniffed. They were super fresh with just the slightest hint of lavender. Everything seemed clean. The bigger test however, is how they smell out of the dryer since the dryer concentrates any odors and residues left over. After a 30 minute tumble on medium, I sniffed again. Everything smelled….fresh. Clean. I was surprised. I tend not to trust liquid detergents.

I really like this detergent. I love that is is cloth diaper safe and has a nice fragrance. I like that the ingredients are fairly benign as far as detergent goes. I like that it gets our clothing clean.

Pros:

-Cleans well
-Smells nice
-Rinses clean
-Low suds
-Non-toxic
-Cloth diaper friendly

Cons:

-Scent can linger even when no suds are left
-Can be pricey per load depending on your machine
-Can react with other natural products
-The cap is a very cheap material and was cracked when it arrived causing the bottle to leak.

My one complaint: Some ingredient in Vaska’s vague ingredient list had some reaction with the simple soap, water and essential oil solution I use for my cloth wipes. It caused my non-colored items to develop strange fuchsia stains.

I don’t really care about stains on my wipes, but some irreversible discoloration also happened where the wipe solution and Vaska touched on one of my Thirsties Duo Fitteds.

I am pretty annoyed about my Thirsties diaper being aesthetically ruined. I cannot be sure what ingredients didn’t mesh well, since the detergent is not Specific. I do not even own a bottle of chlorine bleach so that cannot be the culprit. This has never happened before with any laundry products. In fact, I think my ingredients for my wipe solution should be very similar to the Vaska detergent ingredients. It seemed to only cause issues on natural fibers and not synthetics. After a few loads with the mystery stains, I started back to adding oxygen bleach powder to my laundry loads and while the stains didn’t go away, no more new ones appeared. I think the lack of hydrogen peroxide in the detergent might be an important factor here. So my advice is to also buy the Vaska oxygen bleach or another oxygen bleach brand to add to the laundry. I will continue to add the oxygen powder since I don’t want any more discoloration from hand soap or deodorant.

Unfortunately, even though I really like this detergent, I do not think I will buy it again. I just cannot afford to risk forgetting laundry additives and having my fabrics ruined.

Has this happened to anyone else?

It is very important for companies to be more specific in their labeling. Especially when claiming “natural” ingredients. We may think we can use several natural products in a single day, but without clear labeling how will we know what two products might react to each other or cause problems?

On a scale of 1-5, I give Vaska a five for cleaning power, but my overall rating would be a three based on the vague ingredients and obvious reactions with other benign cleaning agents. I think it would be an excellent detergent for a simple diaper stash of prefolds and flats where discoloration can be mostly cured by the sun. I would not fully trust this detergent on bright colors or expensive garments though.

Have you tried Vaska detergent? What were your experiences? What other detergents would you like to see evaluated at Just Add Cloth?


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  One Response to “Vaska Herbatergent”

  1. I have always used Vaska with my newest little guy’s diapers, and have never had an issue, aside from a few that needed to be sunned due to a big baby mess. I’ve never had to use any sort of oxygen bleach, either. Luck, I guess?

    I also wasn’t crazy about the vague-ness of the ingredients.

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