Works for Me Wednesday: Finding Diaper-Friendly, Earth-Friendly Detergent

I remember the day we made our first eco-friendly Trader Joe’s detergent purchase. We loved the smell of our fresh laundry and basked in the green glow of our new standby.  While the large plastic container was an environmental downside, the price was reasonable and the lavender essential oils gave it a crisp, clean scent.


 Roscoe helps with the laundry

We wanted to switch to a greener detergent for our family’s health and the environment. Green brands don’t contain optical brighteners, chemicals which bond to the skin with traditional detergents. We also liked the fact that scents are often plant-based rather than petroleum-based, which tends to cause less skin irritation. As if that weren’t enough to convince us, natural detergents biodegrade easily in water and don’t contain phosphates, which are very harmful to aquatic wildlife.

Overall, we were utterly thrilled with ourselves for our ethical and thrifty laundry detergent decision.  But that was until we noticed the smell. Even when Roscoe had wet diapers, they reeked of rotten garbage.  At first we thought he had been sneaking asparagus in at snack-time, but then our daycare provider noticed as well.  She recommended stripping our diapers by washing them in several loads of hot water without laundry soap to remove the residue causing the foul odor.

After further research, I found that eco-friendly detergents with essential oils or mainstream brands with petroleum-based scents can coat cloth diapers, making them non-absorbent and causing them to smell, even when wet.  There are several suggested remedies for this stinky conundrum, including using vinegar in the rinse cycle, adding baking soda to the laundry soap, and doing an additional hot rinse after each load.

The problem with all of these options is that they require more time and/or effort from our already busy family.  Instead, we’ve looked into switching to a diaper-friendly detergent and saving the rest of our Trader Joe’s stuff for our non-diaper laundry.  The list below includes some recommended choices. 

I’ve heard that Charlie’s Soap is the ideal diaper laundering product. According to the company, each load of laundry requires just one tablespoon of soap and leaves no deposits on clothes.  Many cloth diaper aficionados have informed me that there is no stripping required with Charlie’s Soap and you can buy it at some natural baby stores, such as Mother Nature’s in Portland, Oregon. 

Since Portland is two vast hours away and I’m too swamped to order Charlie’s Soap online, I opted for Biokleen’s Free and Clear Laundry Powder.  There’s no plastic container, it’s safe for high efficiency washers, it’s fragrance-free, and it’s available at my local grocery store, a mere five minutes from home. 

It’s amazing how something as simple as laundry soap can be such a challenge for a busy family trying to go green.  Then again, solving that dilemma has been a huge triumph and relief.  We’ll keep you posted as we set our eyes on future eco-friendly hurdles.  They may not be overcome with grace, but we’ll keep stumbling greenward!  For more Works for Me Wednesday tips, go to the blog carnival at


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