Monday, February 17, 2014

Cloth Diapering Controversy

Recently, there has been a lot of drama and controversy over a certain cloth diapering help group on Facebook.  They claim most of the traditional cloth diapering advice is a money racket for cloth diapering companies, and that mainstream detergents and bleach are a must if you want clean diapers.   They frequently attack anyone who uses cloth diaper specific detergents, saying that having "clean" diapers is more important than whether or not a product contains chemicals.  They claim that they "would not put their children's' health in jeopardy by using natural detergent." They also attack cloth diaper detergent companies saying that they are only laundry boosters and do not, in fact, contain any detergent.

I have a few issues with this.  First of all I love cloth diapering for the good that it does for the environment and I feel better knowing I have less harsh chemicals in my house.  They shoot down any natural alternatives it seems most of the time.

Second, I want parents who choose to cloth diaper making informed decisions and it seems that these women that run this board have an all or nothing state of mind,  either you agree with them 100% or you're wrong and your opinion doesn't matter.  This can scare off cloth diapering newbies.

Third, I feel like they are hurting the small cloth diaper detergent companies run by moms and dads just like us by making these libelous claims.   Two of my favorite detergents, EcoSprout and Rockin Green, do not even expose their full list of exact ingredients, so how can these women, without knowing the exact ingredients, claim that these detergents are only boosters and do not clean diapers?   A frequent argument of theirs is that surfactants and detergents are different and that you need strong detergents to get fabrics clean.  At this point in time I am still researching this, but what I have learned so far suggests that in the absence of grease or oil, most surfactants behave as detergents in water, because when they do not bind with oils they bind with soil particles and wash them away.  I am, however, still in the research faze on this.  Detergents do not kill bacteria anyway, regardless of type of detergent.  Even Tide's website says this: "Our detergents can wash away some germs just by being in contact with water, but they're not formulated specifically as antimicrobial or antibacterial products. For high risk items (like soiled cloth diapers), we recommend you take these extra steps:

- Separate the heavily soiled items from the rest of the load
- Wash with the hottest water safe for the fabric
- Add chlorine bleach if garment's care tag says it's safe" (
If it is supposed to remove bacteria as these women claim, why does even the company say differently?

Lastly, they say that detergent build up is 100% a myth, and that detergents are made to rinse clean.  Anyone watching a detergent commercial can debunk this claim.  Detergents now are made to make your clothes look brighter and whiter and have a fresh perfume scent for longer and longer.  How in the world do they suppose that a piece of cloth smells like "mountain breeze" for "up to 12 weeks" (
without remaining on the piece of fabric?!  I do not understand this part of their argument at all.  All it takes is a black light and you can plainly see the optical brighteners left on fabric after washing with mainstream detergent.  While optical brighteners may or may not harm cloth diapers, they are a chemical additive that is left behind on the fabric.  It does not simply rinse away. 

Like I say in my post about my wash routine, the most effective way to clean something is by using the three different methods, thermal (hot water), chemical (a surfactant to allow the water to wash away soil particles), and kinetic (the rubbing of the items together to mechanically remove soiled particles.)

Ingredients in RNG and Ecosprout: