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Best Cloth Diaper Detergents of 2022

Updated
Keep your baby's cloth diapers soft and stain-free.

In search of a detergent that’s safe for your cloth diapers and your baby? How do you know which is best?

Selecting the right detergent can be overwhelming, but it can go a long way toward making your cloth diaper experience more successful and enjoyable.

We’ve asked dozens of cloth diaper users for their recommendations and have tested many products to find the best cloth diaper detergents currently available. These products are not only effective poop cleaners, but they are also gentle on your baby’s skin and your washer.

Our Top Picks

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Image
Model
Product Comparison Table
Features

Product Image of the Seventh Generation Ultra Power Plus Laundry Detergent - 95 oz - Fresh Scent
Best Eco-Friendly
Seventh Generation Ultra
  • Plant-based ingredients
  • Light, fresh scent
  • Fewer chemicals
Product Image of the Tide Powder Laundry Detergent Original 102 Loads, 143 Ounce
Best Tide Detergent
Tide Powder Detergent
  • A little goes a long way
  • Exceptional cleaning power
  • Great option for hard water
Product Image of the Rockin' Green Natural Laundry Detergent Powder - Unscented Laundry Detergent for...
Best Bulk Pick
Rockin Green Natural HE
  • Gentle but deep clean
  • Multiple washes
  • Fragrance-free formula
Product Image of the Charlie’s Soap Laundry Powder (100 Loads, 1 Pack) Fragrance Free...
Best for Large Loads
Charlie’s Soap Powder
  • Eco-friendly, non-toxic formula
  • Super concentrated
  • Won’t leave residue
Product Image of the Tide Free & Gentle Liquid Laundry Detergent, Unscented, 1.47 L (32 Loads)
Best for Sensitive Skin
Tide Free & Gentle
  • HE safe
  • Convenient
  • Gentle on skin
Product Image of the Tide Laundry Detergent Liquid, Original Scent, HE Turbo Clean, Pack of 3 Smart...
Best Regular Detergent
Tide Liquid HE
  • Extremely cost effective
  • Phosphate free
  • Septic safe
Product Image of the Arm & Hammer Liquid Laundry Detergent Plus OxiClean, Fresh Scent, 70 loads
Best with Enzymes
Arm & Hammer Plus
  • Low-suds formula
  • Good choice for hard water
  • Budget-friendly
Product Image of the Gain High Efficiency Original Liquid Laundry Detergent, 146 Loads , Green
Best for Soft Water
Gain Liquid Original
  • Mess-free spout
  • HE safe
  • Prevents suds
Product Image of the Foca Biodegradeable (Pack of 2)
Best for Hard Water
Foca Laundry Detergent
  • Extremely cost effective
  • Phosphate free
  • Septic safe
Product Image of the Purex Liquid Laundry Detergent, Mountain Breeze, 2X Concentrated, Pack of 2, 252...
Best Budget Pick
Purex Mountain Breeze
  • Inexpensive
  • Phosphate free
  • Won't harm septic systems

Do I Need Special Cloth Diaper Detergent?

While you need to use a detergent that’s safe for your cloth diapers, you don’t necessarily have to use cloth-diaper-specific detergents.

Many of the detergents marketed explicitly for use with cloth diapers are weak and don’t do a good job of getting them clean. Some can even cause irritation if not rinsed properly.

You’re probably better off choosing a conventional baby laundry detergent off the shelf.

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What Do I Need to Know?

Detergent recommendations will vary based on your personal needs and your specific washing conditions, so there are a few things you need to sort out before shopping for a detergent.

Type of Washing Machine

Do you have a high-energy (HE) washing machine? If you do, you will need to be on the lookout for a true HE-safe detergent that will keep the suds at bay while maintaining cleaning power.

Plant-Based or Synthetic

Is using environmentally-friendly products important to your family, or do you just want a detergent that is convenient and works?

If Your Baby Has Sensitive Skin

If your baby has sensitive skin or if sensitive skin runs in the family, you will want a fragrance-free detergent that won’t cause irritation.

How Much You Want to Spend

If you’re on a tight budget, you will need to factor in detergent costs as you will be washing diapers at least once or twice a week.

Hard or Soft Water

You will need to test your water hardness before searching for a suitable detergent. You can purchase test strips in the fish or pool section at some stores, or you can take a water sample into your local aquarium store, and they will generally test it for you free of charge. If your water is between 0-60 parts per million (ppm), you have soft water. If your water is above 120 ppm, you have hard water and will need to add a water softener to your wash routine.

How to Choose a Cloth Diaper Detergent

Every detergent is a little different, but there are a few key factors that make a detergent great for washing cloth diapers.

  • Enzymes: Enzymes help break down stains and boost cleaning power. However, there is some controversy over enzymes and if they irritate sensitive skin.
  • Scent: Having a scent that you like that won’t irritate your baby’s skin will help you narrow down your detergent choices.
  • High concentration of surfactants: Surfactants should be at the top of your detergent’s ingredient list. This is the part of the detergent that softens and releases soils from fabrics. There needs to be a strong enough concentration of surfactants to sufficiently clean human waste out of your diapers.

The Best Cloth Diaper Detergents of 2022

Here are our top picks for cloth diaper detergents.

1. Seventh Generation Ultra Power Plus

Best Natural Detergent for Cloth Diapers

Seventh Generation Ultra Power Plus is a plant-based option that’s gentle on the environment but strong enough to sufficiently clean your baby’s dirty diapers. It contains triple enzymes to remove even the toughest poop stains.

This eco-friendly detergent is also free of dyes, optical brighteners, and synthetic fragrances, making it non-irritating to your baby’s delicate skin.

Just like with any plant-based detergent, you will need to wash your diapers in hot water for the main wash and probably use 1.5 to 2 times the amount of detergent recommended by the manufacturer.

We’ve found that our diapers come out clean and smell nice when using this detergent, and we haven’t needed to strip the cloth diapers even once.

We love not having to worry about any harmful chemicals against our babies’ skin or ending up in our environment.

Pros

  • HE safe.
  • Mild, fresh scent.
  • Fewer chemicals.
  • Environmentally responsible.

Cons

  • Not the cheapest option.
  • Not all major retailers carry it.

2. Tide Powder Detergent

Best Tide Detergent for Cloth Diapers

Many avid cloth diaper users swear by Tide Original Powder. In fact, many environmentally-conscious parents use Tide Powder for their cloth diapers because it does such an excellent job of cleaning them.

Tide Powder is sure to leave your diapers smelling good with minimal to no stains.

This super soluble detergent works well in hot or cold water and will leave your cloth diapers virtually residue-free, preventing buildup and leakage issues. Plus, it’s relatively affordable for most families.

Because Tide Powder has a built-in water softener, you don’t have to add an additional water softener to your routine unless your water hardness is over 180 ppm. This is great because it helps simplify your wash routine and reduces expenses.

If you’ve been having issues getting your cloth diapers clean, you may want to give this simple and traditional detergent a try.

Pros

  • HE safe.
  • Exceptional cleaning power.
  • Great option for hard water.
  • Packaging is environmentally friendly.

Cons

  • Potential to create suds in soft water.
  • Large, heavy box can be difficult to haul and store.

3. Rockin' Green Natural Laundry Detergent Powder

Best Bulk Pick

With cloth diapers, you’ve got a lot of laundry to do. You don’t want to be constantly running out to get more laundry soap. By purchasing a bulky detergent like this one, you’ll save both time and money.

It consists of a highly concentrated formula, so you get a powerful clean without any fillers, dyes, fragrances, or other harmful chemicals. Each bag contains 45 ounces of powdered detergent, which can clean approximately 90 loads of laundry. However, since you only need a few tablespoons per load, it lasts a long time.

The gentle yet deep clean is great for babies with sensitive skin, chemical sensitivities, or fragrance allergies.

This is a natural detergent and works best with soft to moderate water. It has also been formulated to be compatible with any washing machine. You won’t have to worry about residue or nasty buildups.

Pros

  • The natural formula provides a gentle but deep clean.
  • Bulk bag gets you through multiple washes.
  • Fragrance-free formula.

Cons

  • No laundry scoop or spoon is included.

4. Charlie’s Soap Laundry Detergent

Best for Large Loads

This laundry power provides a deep clean for a great price. You just need one tablespoon of detergent per large load. A single bag can get you through 100 loads.

There’s a lot of advantages to a powder detergent like this one. It sinks deep into the fibers of your cloth diapers but won’t leave any residue in your clothes or laundry machine. Plus, you can use it on a wide variety of fabrics, so it’ll work on more than just cloth diapers.

We also really like the eco-friendly factor. The formula surpasses the minimum standards for biodegradability and is non-toxic. This means it’s safe for your little one’s sensitive skin.

It also means you won’t have to deal with heavy fragrances.

With a lower environmental impact per laundry load than leading detergents, you’ll feel good about how you’re caring for both your baby and the environment.

Pros

  • Eco-friendly, non-toxic formula is safe for your baby’s sensitive skin.
  • A little bit of powder goes a long way.
  • Won’t leave residue in your washer.

Cons

  • It may leave white residue on black fabrics.

5. Tide Free & Gentle Detergent

Best for Sensitive Skin

Tide Free & Gentle is an excellent detergent option that is safe for cloth diapers. This is essential because you need to make sure your detergent is strong enough to clean your soiled diapers but gentle enough it won’t cause any irritation to your baby’s delicate skin.

The amount of surfactants in Tide Free & Gentle contributes to its amazing ability to clean and fight stains, while its lack of dyes and perfumes makes it an excellent choice for even the most sensitive of skin. Dermatologists even recommend it, so you can feel comfortable using it on all your baby’s clothes.

As with any free and clear detergent, though, it is somewhat weaker than its fragrant counterpart, so you will need to use 1.5 times the amount of recommended detergent in your main wash.

Pros

  • HE safe.
  • Convenient.
  • Gentle on the skin.

Cons

  • Some parents don’t like that it’s synthetic.
  • Out of the price range for some families.

6. Tide Liquid HE Turbo Clean

Best Regular Detergent for Cloth Diapers

Many households already use Tide liquid for their laundry needs, so why not use it for your cloth diapers as well? Many cloth diaper users have had great success with Tide Original Liquid HE Turbo Clean, and they love that they don’t have to buy separate detergents for their clothes and diapers.

All Tide liquid scents do an excellent job at cleaning cloth diapers. Tide liquid has shown to be effective against stubborn stains, cleaning efficiently with a small amount of water and minimizing suds in front loaders and HE machines.

The new HE Turbo Clean technology provides six times the cleaning power in half the time compared to leading bargain brands, allowing you more time to spend with your baby and less on dirty diaper laundry. It also cleans well in cold water, so you can save even more money and energy than you already do by using cloth.

Pros

  • Extremely cost-effective.
  • Phosphate free.
  • Septic safe.

Cons

  • Not HE safe.
  • Often sudsy in soft water.

7. Arm & Hammer Plus OxiClean

Best with Enzymes

Arm & Hammer baking soda is well known for its cleaning power and ability to eliminate odors, and you can trust that their detergent will do just the same.

Arm & Hammer Plus OxiClean contains enzymes designed to break down over 100 different stains, so you won’t have to stress over those pesky poop stains. It even works great as a spot treatment on stains.

Your diapers will be sure to come out smelling fresh with this detergent. Your white diapers will come out whiter and your colors brighter, but you won’t have to worry about dark colors fading.

This affordable detergent can be found at almost any major retailer and can be used for both your diapers and your clothes, so you won’t have to purchase two separate detergents.

Pros

  • HE safe.
  • Good choice for hard water.
  • Budget-friendly.
  • Removes stubborn stains.

Cons

  • Plastic bottle puts a strain on landfills.
  • Some parents find the scent too strong.

8. Gain Liquid Original Scent Detergent

Best for Soft Water

It’s easy to get your cloth diapers clean with Gain Liquid. Your diapers will be clean, residue-free, and come out smelling great, even if you have super soft water. Plus, it’s color-safe and can be used for all your laundry needs, so you won’t have to spend money and time buying two different detergents.

Gain liquid does an excellent job at keeping the suds at bay, even in super-soft water with sud-sensitive machines like HE front loaders. It also does an excellent job at removing stubborn poop stains.

If you have soft water and want a detergent that will get your diapers clean and smelling nice for a reasonable price, this may be the perfect detergent for you.

Pros

  • Great scent.
  • HE safe.
  • Convenient.
  • Prevents suds.

Cons

  • Not great for sensitive skin.
  • Plastic bottles aren’t environmentally friendly.
  • More expensive than some other options.

9. Foca Powder Biodegradeable Laundry Detergent

Best for Hard Water

Life should be easier with Foca powder as you don’t need to add an additional water softener unless your water hardness is over 150 ppm. If it is, you’ll need to add a half cup of Borax or one capful of Calgon to your main wash.

This will ensure your detergent is working effectively to get your soiled diapers clean.

Foca Powder also tends to rinse cleaner because of its built-in water softener, so you won’t have to worry about detergent residue, leading to absorbency issues. Foca powder also has a light and gentle scent, so you won’t have to worry about your cloth diapers smelling like chemicals, and it won’t irritate your baby’s delicate skin.

This is a very inexpensive detergent that requires minimal volume per load, so you can maximize your savings. However, Foca Powder isn’t considered safe to use in high-efficiency machines, so if you do have hard water and an HE machine, we recommend using Tide Ultra Powder HE or Gain Powder HE instead.

Pros

  • Extremely cost-effective.
  • Phosphate free.
  • Septic safe.

Cons

  • Not HE safe.
  • Often sudsy in soft water.

10. Purex Mountain Breeze Detergent

Best Budget Detergent for Cloth Diapers

Purex is an excellent option if your family is on a tight budget. You can use this inexpensive detergent on both your diapers and your clothes, so you won’t have to worry about buying two separate detergents.

You can even use this cost-effective detergent in hard water with the addition of a water softener.

However, Purex lacks enzymes, so if you find you’re dealing with stubborn stains, you may want to try Purex Plus Oxi or add an enzyme booster like Biz to your wash routine.

Purex also comes available in Free & Clear, Baby, and Natural Elements options, so you still have cheap alternatives if your baby has sensitive skin or if you want a more environmentally-conscious option. All these detergents are highly recommended in the cloth diaper world.

Pros

  • Inexpensive.
  • Phosphate free.
  • HE safe.
  • Variety of recommended options.

Cons

  • Lacks enzymes.
  • Some users find the scent overpowering.

What Should I Avoid?

When trying to find the best detergent for cloth diapers, these are some things you should avoid.

  • Fabric softener: Avoid any detergent that contains a fabric softener, as these will cause your diapers to lose absorbency and result in wicking and leakage.
  • Soap-based detergent: Soaps can cause films or residue on your diapers which can lead to repelling.
  • Pods: Due to the risk of accidental ingestion, it is best to avoid laundry pods if you have small children.
  • Coconut-oil-based surfactants: If you see sodium cocoate or saponified coconut oil on the label, steer clear as these tend to build up on fibers, trap soils, and cause repelling issues.
  • Bleach: We recommend you avoid using bleach on cloth diapers whenever possible. You should only use bleach when disinfecting previously-owned diapers or if your baby has had a yeast or bacterial infection. You should also avoid bleach if you have well water or hard water with a high iron content, as it can lead to rust stains on fabrics (1).

Can I Use Homemade Laundry Detergent?

Many parents are compelled to use homemade laundry detergent because it’s cheap and made with simple, natural ingredients.

Homemade Isn't Always The Best Option

Homemade detergent is not actually detergent at all but rather a soap. We don’t recommend it for cloth diapers, or any laundry for that matter.

Homemade detergents are usually comprised of water softeners, boosters, and soaps. Over time, the soap will build up and trap bacteria and other particles in the fabric’s fibers, so your cloth diapers will not get properly cleaned.

Soap residue is also known to stick to your washing machine and could cause irreparable damage over time.

If you were hoping to use a homemade laundry detergent to reduce chemicals, don’t worry, there are many other green options for washing cloth diapers.

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The Bottom Line

Being environmentally minded mommies ourselves, our favorite detergent for washing our cloth diapers is Seventh Generation Ultra Power Plus. It cleans our diapers sufficiently without exposing our families or our environment to harmful chemicals.

This is a perfect detergent if you’re planning to use cloth diapers and want to further reduce your exposure to toxins. After you figure out what type of water and washing conditions you have, finding a suitable detergent will be a breeze.

Compare all your choices, and determine what is best for you, your family, and your baby’s diapers. You’ll be a cloth diaper pro in no time!

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Headshot of Katelyn Holt RN, BSN, BC

Reviewed by

Katelyn Holt RN, BSN, BC

Katelyn Holt RN, BSN, BC is a cardiology nurse and freelance medical writer. Katelyn has 8 years of nursing experience inpatient and outpatient, primarily medical-surgical and cardiac. After having two children she has a passion for Women’s Health and Lactation teaching and support.