Monday, January 12, 2015

When did #clothdiaper laundry become such a controversy?

I have to admit, I'm a bit disgruntled.  So much so, that blogging has felt more like a chore over the past few weeks than a fun pastime. Why would a blogger with so much history feel a bit down?  It's because some of my very wonderful blogger friends have recently been ridiculed by those with differing opinions over laundry.  Yes.  Laundry.  It seems like cloth diaper laundry has been the latest craze of mommy wars--if you are doing a different laundry routine, then you are to be belittled and scolded.  Shame on you! As a fairly mellow and non-confrontational person, I haven't had anyone personally attack my laundry choices.  However, when I see friends become sad and upset over something as silly as laundry, I feel the need to say something.  It's just not OK.

We have seen internet bullying over laundering increasing over the past year.  It isn't really one particular group (however, there have been some groups which are more laundry-centric among the cloth diapering community), it's more of a community-wide phenomena.  It's easy to assume that because you've been doing something for a long time, you're an expert.  I have a PhD in science and have been working in a scientific field for over a decade--but that doesn't mean I claim to know what detergent is best for your child.  I do know what's best for my child and today I'll share the story about why we switched to an eco-friendly detergent.

My family started cloth diapering in 2010 after our first child was born.  During that time, we were using microfiber pocket diapers and an all-natural cloth diaper detergent with coconut oil.  The detergent ended up being a nightmare with our hard water and we quickly switched to Rockin' Green and Tide.  This worked well for the course of cloth diapering in hard water and after our move to a location with soft water.  Then baby 2 was born.  Baby 2 turned out to be an entirely new adventure in cloth diapering and parenting.  By 3-months-old, he was diagnosed with severe eczema.  Cloth diapering him seemed to be almost impossible, but he reacted baldly to disposable diapers too. His eczema was covering the majority of his body when we were finally able to convince our doctor to refer us to a pediatric allergist and get him a blood test.  He was diagnosed with dairy and peanut allergies--along with an allergy to dogs.  I was nursing at the time, so I dropped all high-allergen foods from my diet and we gave up our family pet.  Although I hoped for immediate improvement, things were still slow-going.   I was about ready to give up on cloth diapers because he seemed to be reacting so badly to any detergent I tried (I had already tried several mainstream and natural detergents).  Through chance, we ended up getting a sample of Molly's Suds detergent and decided to try it for our clothing and cloth diapers.  This was a night-and-day change.  Baby's rash on his bottom improved significantly!  His skin was also much less itchy and a large patch of weepy eczema on his arm healed and he finally stopped itching at it.  Although things weren't 100% better (we still needed to use a steroid cream, regular bathing, and moisturizing), I was happy anything was working.  Before these changes, we were to the point of discussing diluted "bleach baths" with our physician (something I'd read is sometimes used in severe cases of eczema), so obviously we were willing to really try anything that could be beneficial and reduce the infections that open, raw skin can result in.

Because of my second child's poor reaction to mainstream detergents, I feel that he reacts badly to anything with scents or chemicals that can irritate the skin's barrier.  In people with eczema, the skin barrier is already compromised and it can be irritated easily or let infection in.  Before my second child, I never fully appreciated what eczema was and how terrible it could be.  I took on so much emotional pain on during his first year because I felt personally responsible for his suffering. Although there were many things we tried, it was probably a combination of all of them which really lead to the improvement.  The changes that made the biggest difference were ditching our mainstream detergent, moving our dog to a new home, and avoiding all baby's food allergens.

Some have argued that natural detergents are not getting cloth diapers clean enough.  Although this may be a concern, we have always laundered our natural fiber cloth diapers in water that is about 120 degrees.  The hot water kills yeast and the majority of bacteria.  We also don't let our cloth diapers sit and ferment--laundry is done every 2-3 days.  In hot weather, laundry may be done more often. In the unlikely event that our cloth diapers do not pass my sniff test after washing (yes, I do a sniff test!), I re-wash with a scoop of Oxiclean.  Oxiclean has not irritated my son's skin when used in moderation.  We have been using the same prefold cloth diapers for over 4 years and still have not had any issues with stinky diapers or a feeling that we aren't getting diapers clean enough.

So, the moral of my story is that some people use "natural" detergents for their cloth diapers and some don't.  We have a reason why we now avoid mainstream detergents, but I was a huge Tide user for the first 20-some years of my laundering life.  I think we should always be open minded about trying new things and not assume that just because something is working for the majority of people, it should be working for you too--in my case I had to completely change my wash routine from one child to the next!  And also, it's not fair to belittle people or feel the need to educate them and make them change their ways.  This community should be focusing on building each other up and helping families find their way to cloth diapers--that is something worth educating about!

This post is anecdotal and not intended to diagnose or treat a medical condition.  Consult your doctor for any medical questions.  This post is my personal opinion and the author supports you in whatever parenting choice you chose--including differing laundry routines!  One-sided comments that do not support a community mentality will be deleted.


  1. Love love love this! I think you offer a great perspective as someone who has made both ends of the detergent spectrum work - I scheduled a share this afternoon :)

  2. Thank you for this!! We have had different routines based on the water where we lived and the type of diapers we used (I was a serial stash changer until I found the love for flats). I have a big bag of Molly's Suds that I won, so we are using that now, though we use Ecos otherwise and it works for us. There are so many factors and once you find what works, stick with it. While giving advice when it's asked for is good, I hate when I hear "Oh, just use a cup of tide, it's the only thing that works" or "Use a teaspoon of organic fairy dust, otherwise you are poisoning your baby".

  3. I LOVE THIS! There's no one true way to do laundry.

  4. I liked reading your success story! So glad a more eco-friendly detergent ended up working for your family. I've had the best luck with mainstream detergents because of our super hard water but think it's wonderful that there are so many options when it comes to laundering.

  5. That's awesome! I love Rockin' Green Soap for my family, too. I just use it for all of our every day stuff and I love it when other people like it, too. I hope it continues to work well for you and your family!