A wicker basket filled with neatly folded cloth diapers in a variety of pastel colors and patterns, displayed on a wooden floor.
Laundry How To

Best Detergent For Cloth Diapers & How To Choose

Are you using cloth diapers for your baby? You’re not alone! It’s a more environmentally-friendly and cost-effective option for many parents. But let’s face it, dealing with dirty diapers can be a bit of a hassle.

Navigating the laundry aisle for the best detergent for cloth diapers may feel like a mini adventure. You’re on a quest for something that’s both kind on your little one’s skin and a champion against those inevitable stains.

The good news is that the world of laundry detergents is vast and varied, and ready to meet your checklist. Maybe you want to prioritize chemical free ingredients, or perhaps you need something with a bit more muscle for tough stains.

From household names like Tide and Arm & Hammer to the more eco-friendly Babyganics and Seventh Generation, there’s a detergent out there waving at you, promising to make those cloth diapers crisp and clean.

In this article, I’m going to list out the best cloth diaper detergents, as well as give you some insights into what to look for when searching for the right detergent for your baby’s diapers.

If you’re in a hurry, here are the top three laundry detergents for washing cloth diapers:

  1. Tide Ultra OXI powder
  2. Arm & Hammer Plus OxiClean Fresh Scent
  3. Foca’s laundry detergent


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Best Detergent for Cloth Diapers

The market is saturated with several laundry detergents to keep your cloth diapers clean. Here are the best options you can look out for.

1. Tide Ultra OXI Powder

The Tide Ultra OXI powder formula is a top choice for cloth diapers. It’s highly effective against tough stains thanks to its powerful ingredients.

It contains high-performing enzymes, surfactants, and pre-treaters that will efficiently remove all traces of dirt and strong odors from your baby’s cloth diapers.

According to Tide, you’ll want to rinse the diaper in cold water before pre-treating it with a soak of Tide Ultra OXI powder and water.

Then, toss it in the machine and key in the right setting according to your cloth diaper’s washing instructions. Finally, unload and allow them to stay out in the sun to bleach off any remaining stains.


  • Renowned detergent brand
  • Biodegradable packaging
  • Effectively attacks tough stains


  • The scent could be too strong

2. Arm & Hammer Plus OxiClean Fresh Scent

The Arm & Hammer Plus OxiClean Fresh Scent liquid detergent targets stubborn stains and strong odors. It’ll leave your cloth diapers brighter, whiter, and fresher.

The laundry detergent uses a patented OxiClean Stain Fighters formula to attack 101 types of stains, including soiled diapers.

You can use the product on High-Efficiency (HE) washing machines. You’ll only need one cap of the detergent to get a deep clean on your cloth diapers.


  • Uses effective stain-removing enzymes
  • Compatible with HE washing machines
  • Bleach and ammonia-free


  • Fragrance could be too irritating for sensitive skin

3. Foca

Foca’s laundry detergent is an ideal pick whether you’re choosing between a liquid or powder formula. Not only is this phosphate-free detergent’s packaging biodegradable but its surfactants and enzyme components are also eco-friendly.

The best feature of Foca is its versatility, where you can use it with soft and hard water.

Despite that, we don’t recommend using the powder version of the detergent with HE washing machines. Plus, it can get excessively foamy.


  • Biodegradable ingredients
  • Used with hard and soft water
  • Phosphate-free causing less skin irritations


  • It’s not as effective with HE washers

4. Gain Ultra Powder

If you’re looking for a budget-friendly option that’ll work just as well as other high-priced options, look no further than using the Gain Ultra powder detergent.

It has a low-sudsing formula, which is perfect for cloth diapers. It’ll incorporate more friction, which leads to higher penetration between the cloth’s fibers. In addition, you don’t have to use as much product with a low-sudsing detergent.

The main downside to Gain detergents is that they perform best with soft water. Depending on the water hardness of your machine, you might need to add water softeners for better results.


  • Low-sudsing formula
  • Higher value for money
  • Leaves a prolonged fresh smell


  • Works better with soft water

5. Seventh Generation Free and Clear

One of the unique selling points of Seventh Generation Free and Clear’s laundry detergent is its sustainable plant-based formula. 

Its ingredients are gentle enough for sensitive and allergy-prone skin. Despite this, the detergent is still strong enough to target dirt in your cloth diapers.

Seventh Generation’s detergent is also fragrance-free and holds a stain-removing triple-enzyme formula. Additionally, it works well with HE washing machines.


  • Fragrance-free
  • Triple-enzyme formula
  • Sustainable, bio-based ingredients


  • Pricier than other detergents in the market

6. Babyganics

If you don’t want to worry yourself too much with the ingredient list and need a safe option, you can rely on Babyganics laundry detergent. The fragrance-free detergent is primarily marketed for baby clothes, making it the perfect pick for cloth diaper loads.

The Babyganics product is also plant-based and cruelty-free. On top of that, compared to other gentle ingredient-made formulas in the market, this option is relatively budget-friendly.


  • Chlorine, fragrance, and dye-free
  • Cruelty-free
  • HE-washing-machine compatible


  • Doesn’t work as well at eliminating odors

7. Seventh Generation Ultra Power Plus

The Seventh Generation Ultra Power Plus packs are another excellent choice to wash your cloth diapers.

Unlike the brand’s Free and Clear variety, this one comes in packs that’ll dissolve in various water temperatures. The product is sustainably sourced and EPA Safer Choice Certified.

Another plus offered by the packs is their additional refreshing citrus fragrance. The scent is naturally sourced from essential oils rather than synthetic fragrances.


  • Natural citrus scent
  • EPA-certified
  • Comes in easy-to-use packs


  • Can be costly

8. Purex Free and Clear

The Purex Free and Clear formula is heavily marketed as the best hypoallergenic and affordable option. It offers excellent value for money while delivering clean and pristine results for your cloth diapers.

Even though Purex does boast exceptional features for those with sensitive skin, its cleaning properties aren’t as powerful as other commercial brands like Tide. For this reason, the laundry detergent is best used alongside a strong stain-removing pre-treatment.


  • HE washing machine-compatible
  • Ideal for sensitive skin
  • Dye and scent-free


  • Weak stain-removing properties

9. Dreft

If you’ve already been browsing through baby brands, you’ve likely seen Dreft. The laundry detergent line is specifically formulated for your baby’s skin.

Its hypoallergenic formula works well with hard water washing machines since it contains fabric conditioners. Subsequently, it’ll keep your cloth diapers soft. One of the main drawbacks to Dreft though is that it tends to give off a strong odor.


  • Hypoallergenic formula
  • Fabric softening ingredients
  • Works well with hard water


  • Isn’t cruelty-free

10. GroVia Mighty Bubbles Laundry Treatment

The GroVia Mighty Bubbles laundry treatment is particularly designed to clean cloth diapers. Its powder particles are specially formulated to slough off urine and poop residue from the fabric.

Now, this isn’t marketed as a detergent. Instead, it works effectively as a pre-treatment. All you have to do is toss a pod in the washer with the diapers and let it run for a regular hot water wash. Once it’s dirt-free, you can place it in with the rest of your regular laundry load using detergent.


  • Ammonia, alcohol, and phosphate-free
  • Specifically made for cloth diapers
  • Cruelty-free


  • You’ll need to use detergent afterward

11. Rockin’ Green Laundry Detergent

The Rockin’ Green laundry detergent is a cloth diaper-specific brand like GroVia. The difference is that the prior is an actual laundry detergent rather than a pre-treatment.

You can use this product guilt-free knowing it’s made primarily out of plant-based ingredients that are safe for your baby’s sensitive skin.


  • Bleach, paraben, SLS, and phosphate-free
  • Strong odor-eliminating properties
  • Ideal for hard water


  • Can leave some residue behind on clothing

12. Molly’s Suds Baby Laundry Detergent Powder

If you prefer powder detergents, you can’t miss Molly’s Suds baby laundry detergent. The formula is ideal for removing all cloth diaper residue, whether it’s spit, urine, poop, or breastmilk.

You can choose between a fragrance-free variety or the Sweet Shea Baby scent. You’ll only need a tablespoon of the detergent for each load. It has a highly concentrated ingredient list that’ll eliminate most stains.

Molly’s Suds detergent is also compatible with all washing machines, including HE, standard, and commercial types. One package will last 120 loads, giving you exceptional value for money.


  • Compatible with all washing machines
  • Fragrance-free
  • Formulated with earth-based ingredients


  • It may require a pre-treatment for tough stains

Bonus: DIY Cloth Diaper Detergent

If you’re looking for a budget-friendly option with natural ingredients, you can try making your own laundry detergent at home. This DIY detergent recipe uses simple ingredients such as washing soda, borax, and grated soap to create a powerful cleaning solution without any harsh chemicals.

To make this homemade laundry detergent, mix 1 cup of washing soda, 1 cup of borax, and half a bar of grated soap (such as Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap) in a large container. The recommended amount for homemade laundry soap is 1-2 tablespoons for each load of laundry.

Not only is this homemade detergent choice gentle on your cloth diapers and the environment, but it also saves you money in the long run.

Note: homemade detergents likely won’t create as many suds as traditional detergents, but rest assured it is still working to effectively clean dirty diapers.

Hand pouring blue liquid laundry detergent from a large bottle into a measuring cup, with a soft-focus background featuring a white towel and a wicker basket.

Finding the Best Cloth Diaper Detergent: A Buying Guide

Before taking your pick for your cloth diaper laundry detergent, you’ll want to consider factors like the component’s ingredients and type.

Powder vs. Liquid

One of the first choices you’ll have to make when picking is powder vs. liquid detergent. Now, both options have their pros and cons. People often reach for liquid because it’s less likely to clog the washing machine and stain your clothes.

Nonetheless, liquid detergents often come in non-biodegradable packaging. Plus, they use more water and contain additives that can irritate sensitive skin – a big no-no for your baby’s cloth diapers.

As for powder detergent, the component is much less wasteful for the environment, and it comes in biodegradable cardboard packaging. It’s also highly effective at sloughing off heavily soiled fabrics thanks to its higher pH level, making it the perfect choice for cloth diapers.

The downside? Some brands of powder detergent need a certain temperature to dissolve, which can be an issue if you usually use cold-water settings or have a HE washing machine.

Hard vs. Soft Water

If your washing machine water holds excessive minerals, it operates using hard water. Higher mineral content in water translates to more build-up in your clothes. It’ll impact the effectiveness of your detergent.

In other words, hard water will make the detergent stick to your cloth diapers, creating a barrier that makes it more difficult for the cleaning solution to penetrate.

Luckily, there’s a solution to this – and that is using detergents with higher surfactant content. The component breaks apart the stuck mineral deposits in the diapers.

In this case, powder detergents are the winner. Alternatively, you can pour in a water softener to demineralize the water used.

Surfactants and Enzymes

Enzymes and surfactants are the key ingredients you need to look for on the back of the detergent product. Surfactants are essential for breaking up the diapers’ dirt and allowing the water to mix well with the detergent.

Meanwhile, enzymes enhance the cleaning process. They boost whiteness and cleanliness while ensuring the fabric and color quality remain.

Cloth Diaper Material

The cloth diaper material also plays a role when choosing the right laundry detergent. Cloth diapers are usually either made up of plant-based or man-made materials. Some are made with a blend of both.

Plant-based diapers made of cotton, bamboo, or other natural fibers generally require extra prep before dunking them in the washing machine. Nonetheless, they respond well to more laundry detergent types than synthetics.

The latter typically wash better with commercial detergents and hot water. Synthetics are also easier to clean since they require fewer washes.

Fragrances and Softeners

Heavily scented laundry soaps are often infused with harmful toxins like acetaldehyde and benzene.

Try to opt for scent-free detergents, especially if your baby has sensitive skin. You’re more likely to run into fragrances if you choose fabric softeners and dryer sheets.

You’ll also want to lay off these washing solutions since they can potentially hinder your cloth diaper’s absorbability.


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Final Thoughts

What’s the best detergent for cloth diapers? As you can see from the above, this all depends on your needs. If you prioritize a cleaner and stain-free finish, brands like Tide and Gain are your best bet.

Meanwhile, if your child has sensitive skin and needs a less harsh formula, you’ll want to consider other brands like Seventh Generation and Dreft.

On top of considering these products, you’ll also have to take into account other factors like your washing machine’s water type as well as the cloth diaper’s material.

Afterward, you’ll be able to make the right call on which detergent will leave you with clean diapers and a happy baby!

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