DIY Cloth Diaper Detergent (and why it works)

There are dozens of recipes for Cloth Diaper Detergent out there. I have done tons of research over the last few weeks because I wanted to do it right. Also I wanted to know why you weren’t supposed to use certain things (because I’m that annoying kid that always asks why.)

**I am not a scientist** 
Nor have I ever taken a chemistry class. My final product is a powder detergent from other recipes I have slightly modified due to internet research I have done. 

Bar Soap: Bar soaps are made with oil and lye, both can attach to your cloth diaper and over time cause buildup that reduces the absorbency of your diaper. Also buildup can cause skin irritation on your babies sensitive bottom.

Borax: Great cleaning strength, breaks down well, not a great water softener. Breaks down into Hydrogen Peroxide which is a great cleaner.

Washing Soda: Very caustic, you should totally use gloves. Needs to be rinsed well, failure to do so can cause skin irritation of baby. But it is a great degreaser and great at softening hard water.

Baking Soda: Not as alkaline as washing soda, so no gloves needed. Not as strong as washing soda, but easily dissolves in water and washes clean. From my understanding it’s sort of like washing soda but half the strength.

Oxy: Breaks down into Sodium Carbonate + Hydrogen Peroxide. The breakdown in water brightens and removes stains. Similar to washing soda and borax.

However through my research I learned that Borax and Washing soda can both breakdown PUL and prematurely age elastic (both found in covers). Which would really make any home made detergent bad. But I found that store brand cloth diaper detergent like Rockin Green contains Sodium Carbonate (washing soda) so I don’t think it can be that bad, Sodium Percarbonate which is like sodium carbonate (washing soda) and Hydrogen peroxide so Oxy, which is very similar to washing soda and borax.  I know the chemical composition of the ingredients is different between mine and store bought, but they do all act in similar ways. 

One thing to be aware of when using store bought detergents, they are not all equal, you should be careful when using the same detergent as you do on your clothing, on your diapers.
Things to avoid:
Optical Brighteners, Fragrances and Dyes, Fabric Softeners  These can also deposit residue on your diapers that can irritate skin and reduce absorbency.
If you are a military, a military wife or a hunter you likely already avoid Optical brighteners and fragrances for your, and/or your husbands camo.

1c Borax
1/2c Washing Soda
1/2c Baking soda
1/2c Oxy

Sift all ingredients into a bowl and mix well.
Sifting ingredients created a bunch of dust and required me to not only clean all my counters again, but wash myself because I was covered in dust, mostly I think from baking soda, because it was the finest of the powders. 
I then sifted again into another container.
Poured into sealable container.

**HE Front Loader (although I don’t know a top loader would be much different)**
Run diapers & covers through a cold wash with no soap, or 1 tbsp detergent if they are super poopy
Run diapers & covers through a hot wash with extra rinse with 1 tbsp detergent
Remove covers and hang, tumble diapers low.
(Once it’s summer I will hang dry my diapers and covers outside, right now that would result in frozen diapers)
Updated 6/11/2013
I set my washer up on a Heavy Duty wash (HOT)
Set it for pre-soak (which is cold)
Deep clean (hot)
with extra rinse


I use about 3/4 tablespoon of detergent depending on load size, normal load is 3 AIO diapers and 6-8 prefold with 3 covers.

I hang dry or tumble in the dryer if I need a diaper ASAP, my covers don’t go in the dryer.

Got this nifty little rack at Costco

I have very hard water up here in Montana so I have to strip my diapers about once a month, I still have not found a perfect way to do this, Currently I wash my diapers as listed above, and when done set the washer for a normal wash with hot water and squirt a glob of Dawn dish detergent into the washer with an extra rinse. Then I smell test, if they smell fine they are good, if they smell fishy or like ammonia I do it again.

It should be mentioned that I use prefolds and a few bum genius AIO’s and I have Bummies and Thirsties covers. 

My Recipe for Laundry Detergent: First Try and Redux
Both (cloth diaper and laundry) detergents are safe on your clothing, but the Laundry Detergent has bar soap (fels-naptha) in it, so it is not suggested for your diapers. The Fels-Naptha makes a great cleaning soap though, great on dirt and stains of all shapes and sizes.

I don’t think my detergent is better than a store bought (well maybe a little). But it saves me money and it gets the diapers/clothes clean.


– Alana

About alanamarie26

Marine Wife, Mom, Student. Trying to keep a household running while going to school full time.
This entry was posted in cleaning, Cloth Diaper, recipe. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to DIY Cloth Diaper Detergent (and why it works)

  1. I'm definitely going to try this. I don't know why, but I've been having trouble with Jude's diapers leaking. They are the same diapers I used when Emma was smaller and I've been using the same detergent and never had any problems until now. Hopefully I can strip them and start anew. I would hate to have to buy all new diapers.

  2. I just got a sample of Rockin' Green and loved it, but this seems so much simpler (and cheaper)!

  3. Just to make sure I'm reading correctly, are you saying washing soda would break down PUL & elastic, but it's in Rockin' Green anyway, so…?

  4. I've a question….what else can I replace Oxy with….considering its not available here in India?

  5. AlanaMarie says:

    Honestly, I have no idea, I am sorry. You could try to just skip it and see how things work out.

  6. AlanaMarie says:

    according to some of what I read, yes washing soda can break down PUL and elastic, but since it's in commercial diaper detergents like Rockin Green I don't think it has a significant impact on the PUL and elastic.

  7. d says:

    What about Epsom salt for hard water? Have you tried this? I've tried a few recipes for diapers and I'm not in love with any yet. Going to try yours and hope it works. I like the nerdy aspect you put into your research ;-). Awesome job!

  8. d says:

    Have you tried using/testing with Epsom salt for the hard water? I haven't yet, and I haven't found a recipe I love yet for my diapers. So I'm going to try yours. I like the nerdy aspect and research you put into all this. Awesome job!

  9. Kelly Davis says:

    Are you still using this detergent? Any issues so far? I have been using Rockin Green and am wanting to find a cheaper option! I am mostly hesitant because I would hate to do damage when I have already spent quite a bit on cloth diapers.

  10. AlanaMarie says:

    I am still using this, been over a year and I love it.

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