HIGH EFFICIENCY DETERGENT CHOICES

Finding a compatible detergent for diaper laundry is a fun and exciting task! Add your new and improved, high-efficiency front-loader into the mix and now it is a whole new spin.

What characteristics are important in a detergent working well in your HE washing machine.
  1. Low-sudsing - a proper detergent for an HE machine will be low-sudsing.
  2. Quick Dispersing/Dissolving - the detergent needs to diffuse quickly throughout the water in the machine and needs to dissolve quickly in a much smaller quantity of water.
  3. Concentrated - with a lower amount of water a higher detergent concentration is needed to aid the water in penetrating the fabric effectively and trap dirt and loose dyes.

Issues with fragrance, dyes, optical brighteners, and even enzymes are going to shrink but not always disappear when using an HE washing machine. HE washing machines have faster, efficient spin cycles which removes more water and will in turn help to remove more of the problematic additives.

If you are just starting your cloth diapering journey, I can not emphasize enough how advantageous it is to choose a really good detergent. Remove as many obstacles as you can at the beginning to ensure your success. If you want to experiment with your favorite detergent down the road, do so, but only after you are successfully cloth diapering so you know what normal is.

Recognize that washing conditions, such as machine and water supply, do vary from person to person. However, by eliminating known problems you should find success in washing your diapers more easily.


KEY TO DETERGENT CHART

Considered a great choice for diaper laundry.

Easy Tip:

A green background highlights detergents that are recommended; an orange background highlights detergents to avoid.

A good choice for cloth diaper laundry.

An average detergent. Not the best for cloth diaper laundry.

Not recommended for diaper laundry.


Detergent does NOT have this offending ingredient

Should not be used for cloth diaper laundry.


Detergent does have this offending ingredient

HE Detergent Chart for diaper laundry success

updated March 2008

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Rating Detergent Image Detergent Brand Enzymes Fabric Softener Brighteners Scents Dyes

good average avoid

all Small and Mighty

Free Clear HE

HE Certified

all Small and Mighty

Fresh Rain HE

HE Certified

Allens Naturally Laundry Detergent

-Liquid

-Ultra Concentrated Powder

Standard and HE compatible

Personal note: Results for use in high-efficiency machines is often considered better than when used in the same water supply with a top-loading machine.

Manufacturer's note: "For high efficiency washers use ¼ of the recommended amount."

Arm & Hammer HE

HE Certified

Rating Detergent Image Detergent Brand Enzymes Fabric Softener Brighteners Scents Dyes

good average avoid

Bi-O-Kleen Laundry Powder

Standard and HE compatible

Personal Note: This brand of detergent has repeatedly caused repellency issues with pocket diapers.

Bi-O-KleenPremium Plus Laundry Powder

Standard and HE compatible

Personal Note: This brand of detergent has repeatedly caused repellency issues with pocket diapers.

Bi-O-KleenLaundry Liquid

Standard and HE compatible

Personal Note: This brand of detergent has repeatedly caused repellency issues with pocket diapers.

Rating Detergent Image Detergent Brand Enzymes Fabric Softener Brighteners Scents Dyes

good average avoid

Caldrea Laundry Detergent

Standard & HE compatible


natural essential oils

Charlie's Soap

Powder

Standard & HE compatible

Personal Note: There is great controversy over this detergent. Fact is: some (not all) babies have a severe skin reaction to this detergent.

Manufacturers Note: "We have found that by followingproper procedures with our detergents... we have remedied nearly all the problems. We know there can be a problem with hard water with our detergents" -Charlie Sutherland

Charlie's Soap

Liquid

Standard & HE compatible

Personal Note: There is great controversy over this detergent. Fact is: some (not all) babies have a severe skin reaction to this detergent.

Manufacturers Note: "We have found that by followingproper procedures with our detergents... we have remedied nearly all the problems. We know there can be a problem with hard water with our detergents" -Charlie Sutherland

Cheer

Ultra HE

HE Certified

Cheer

Ultra Free & Gentle HE

HE Certified

Country SavePowder Laundry Detergent

Standard and HE compatible

Manufacturers Note: Independent lab results for this product http://countrysave.com/announce.php
Rating Detergent Image Detergent Brand Enzymes Fabric Softener Brighteners Scents Dyes

good average avoid

Eco-Max

Standard and HE compatible

ECOS

Free and Clear

Standard and HE compatible


ECOS

Laundry Detergent with Soy Based Fabric Softener

Standard and HE compatible

Personal Note: This detergent can act more like a soap and leave a residue in hard water conditions.

Manufacturers Note: For HE front loader, use half the above amount.


Ecovantage

HE Certified

Era HE

HE Certified

Equator

HE Certified

Rating Detergent Image Detergent Brand Enzymes Fabric Softener Brighteners Scents Dyes

good average avoid

Method

-Fresh Air

-Lily and Aloe

-Sweet Water

Standard and HE Certified

Method

Free and Clear

Standard and HE Certified

Method

Baby

Standard and HE Certified

Mountain Green

Free & Clear

Standard and HE Certified

Mountain Green

Free & Clear Baby

Standard and HE Certified

Mountain Green

Original Citrus

Standard and HE Certified


natural essential oils

Mountain Green

Ultra Baby

Standard and HE Certified


natural essential oils

Rating Detergent Image Detergent Brand Enzymes Fabric Softener Brighteners Scents Dyes

good average avoid

Nature Clean All Natural Laundry Liquid

Standard and HE compatible

Nature Clean All Natural Laundry Powder

Standard and HE compatible

Nellie's

-All natural Laundry Soda

-Laundry Nuggets

Standard and HE compatible

Rating Detergent Image Detergent Brand Enzymes Fabric Softener Brighteners Scents Dyes

good average avoid

Planet

Ultra Powdered Laundry Detergent

Standard and HE compatible

Planet

2x Liquid Laundry Detergent

Standard and HE Certified

Purex HE

HE Certified

Rating Detergent Image Detergent Brand Enzymes Fabric Softener Brighteners Scents Dyes

good average avoid

SA8

-Liquid

-Sensitive Detergent

-Premium Powder

-Plus Powder

Standard and HE compatible

Sears

-Stain Fighting

-with Oxi Clean

-with Bleach Alternative

Standard and HE certified

Sears

Ultra Plus Detergent Dye and Perfume Free

Standard and HE certified

SensiClean

Standard and HE compatible

Personal Note: This detergent works well for many people. However some babies will develop a severe rash to this detergent. The manufacturer has been reluctant to investigate what could cause these problems.

Seventh Generation

-Baby Laundry

-2x Concentrate

Standard and HE certified

Seventh Generation

Natural Powdered

Standard and HE certified

Seventh Generation

Delicate Care

Standard and HE certified

Rating Detergent Image Detergent Brand Enzymes Fabric Softener Brighteners Scents Dyes

good average avoid

ShakleeFresh Laundry Liquid Fragrance Free

Standard and HE compatible

Sportwash

Standard and HE compatible

Personal Note: This detergent works well for many people. However some babies will develop a severe rash to this detergent. The manufacturer has been reluctant to investigate what could cause these problems.

Sunlight HE

HE Certified


Sun and Earth

Standard and HE compatible

Personal Note: Ingredients in this detergent are problematic for build-up/repellency issues with cloth diapers.

Rating Detergent Image Detergent Brand Enzymes Fabric Softener Brighteners Scents Dyes

good average avoid

Tide

-Original

-Clean Breeze

-with Febreeze Freshness

-with Alternative Bleach

HE Certified

Tide

Free HE

HE Certified

Trader Joe'sCleanliness is Next to Godliness Liquid

HE Certified


soy based


lavender oil

Rating Detergent Image Detergent Brand Enzymes Fabric Softener Brighteners Scents Dyes

good average avoid


Wisk HE

HE Certified



Why Does HE Matter?
Two voices seem to dominate this arena. The first voice states that a standard detergent in a lesser amount, (often in the tsp to tablespoon range) will work in your new HE Washing Machine. However, although the lesser amount of standard detergent won't produce an unwanted quantity of suds, will the detergent be able to allow thorough cleaning?

The second voice is stating more and more clearly that it is important to have a specific HE detergent for use with your HE washing machine. This voice is even stating that "HE compatible" detergents may in fact not be suitable for use with HE washing machines.

Using a load sudsing detergent is important. The HE machine cleans your diapers by lifting them up and then dropping them down into the water. Remember that water is the number one ingredient in cleaning your diapers. Detergent helps water penetrate your clothing more effectively to loosen particles and then traps the particles in the water so they are not repositioned on your clothing. If too many suds are formed on the top of the water, the dropping action of the clothes into the water will be inhibited. If the clothing cannot hit the water properly, it cannot be cleaned properly.

HE detergents are generally more than just low-sudsing. Most are designed to quickly travel throughout the water and quickly dissolve. The detergent doesn't have the 20+ gallons of water to dissolve in like a traditional detergent. HE detergents also are designed to combat dye transfer (a dye from one fabric transferring to another fabric) and soil redepositing (dirt from one item transferring to another item) both of which are more problematic in a smaller quantity of water.

Debate over a liquid vs. a powdered HE detergent is hot. It seems that your particular HE washing machine, your water supply, and your laundry loads will play a significant role in how each performs.
Evaluation Process for Detergents
This work is an elimination of detergents for cloth diaper laundry based on problem ingredients and a compilation of known detergent complications with cloth diaper laundry. Even from the recommended detergents all of the detergents may not be compatible with your water or washing routine. At least you will have fewer detergents to experiment with. Best success in your real-life chemistry adventure. Please let me know how I can help.

A product with a red star has known problems that make it unsuitable for cloth diaper laundry. Examples include Arm and Hammer Fabricare which has been known to cause severe reaction due to its enzyme content. Ivory Snow, Dreft and Zero which are just too mild of a detergent for diaper washing. Environmentally friendly detergents may fall into the orange coding when they have ingredients that may act with hard water poorly and create a residue. Detergents with built in fabric softeners are all included as unsuitable. Biokleen has caused trouble with pocket type diapers but may work fine with prefold or fitted cloth diapers.

?A product with a question mark just hasn't had enough research done to honestly evaluate it. I just don't have the information yet to evaluate the product.

- A product within this ranking includes a potentially problematic additive as is viewable from the detergent ingredients. A detergent that has dyes and/or fragrance may not be suitable for baby. Some diapering momma's do not feel chemical exposure is an issue, and prefer the "clean" illusions they get from their fragrance detergents or the super cleaning they get from enzymes. My opinion just differs.

  1. Dyes are unnecessary ingredients added to detergents with the potential of being left on the cloth diapers.
  2. Fragrances are unnecessary chemicals left by the detergent on purpose, which may irritate baby's skin and overload baby's sense of smell. Mothering Magazine has a good article on Infants and Smell in their Jan/Feb 2010 issue.
  3. Enzymes are unacceptable because they can irritate baby's skin. I can not with good conscience recommend enzymes when I know from experience that many babies do experience, the bright red markings indicating enzyme irritation. The enzyme group that is problematic is called protease, most detergent manufacturer's will not release what enzymes they use and thus have to be considered problematic. New detergents are being developed now in early 2010 to use good enzymes as aids in sanitizing.
  4. Optical brighteners are chemicals added to a detergent to be attached to the fabric and not rinsed off. Optical brighteners make your diapers appear cleaner by looking "whiter" through the refraction of light. These chemicals if loaded into the detergent can also compromise a cloth diapers ability to absorb and make covers, pocket diapers and AIO's leaky.
  5. Detergents with optical brighteners do leave chemicals on your cloth diapers. However, these products may end up being more acceptable for your cloth diaper laundry than other readily available detergents. Note: optical brighteners have been identified with causing problems with several diaper brands performance so check with your manufacturer's instructions.

- A detergent in this categories may be a great choice for your cloth diaper laundry. You will have to determine which detergent in this category works best with your washing machine and your water supply, but you are on the right track to a great laundry routine. Do consider any notes of caution presented with the detergent and always seek to follow your manufacturer's instructions.

Citrus? Yes or No?

Is your baby sensitive to citrus? After your toddler eats oranges or you eat citrus fruits if nursing, do you notice a red diaper rash form around the anal opening? If so, you need to consider avoiding citrus ingredients in your diaper detergent as well. This is more of a concern when choosing a natural detergent. Sodium Citrate, Citrus Oils, etc.