The long-awaited laundry post. Since I started cloth-diapering, I've had a bit of a laundry odyssey, and I feel like I've finally come to a less adventurous stage of the journey and can breathe a little easier. Getting here was not always fun, but I sure learned a lot.
I first started washing the diapers in bumGenius cloth diaper detergent. It was the lowest priced cloth diaper detergent at my local cloth diaper store. It seemed to go well for a while, but after about a month, it seemed like the diapers were starting to lose their absorbency. I experimented with some of the pocket diapers and found that they were repelling. No! That's the opposite of what I want!
My first strategy was to strip the diapers. After washing, I washed them again on hot with a squirt of blue Dawn dish detergent and then rinsed until all the bubbles came out. This appeared to do the trick, but they were stinking and repelling again less than a month later. I did not want to have to strip the diapers once a month, since it took more than a day to do all the necessary rinses, not to mention the waste of water! I poked around a bit in the washing machine and upon opening the (never used by us) fabric softener dispenser, I found big globs of leftover fabric softener from the previous owner. Fabric softener is horrible for diapers! I was worried.
I researched a little and came across Charlie's Soap, which promised to strip washing machines of gunk as well as get clothes and diapers super clean. I ordered, received, and started using it. It got the machine sparkling, and the clothes and diapers seemed quite clean. The instructions said it would be pretty sudsy while it got old residues out of everything but that eventually it would be low-sudsing. I waited and waited and if anything, it seemed to get MORE sudsy. I started having to do multiple rinses on the diapers and they would still be shedding suds. Furthermore, stains on clothes and diapers alike seemed untouched. I was using Oxyclean on everything and was starting to feel adrift. What was I doing wrong?
Gradually, I came to embrace the great importance of one variable over which I had no control: the water. Though I live in the same town I've lived all my life, my address is now unincorporated and we actually receive water from a neighboring municipality. And it turns out, Chicagoland water is actually quite hard! And this neighboring municipality's water seems to be quite a bit harder than in the city proper. Detergents act differently when the water is chock full of extra minerals. That's why Charlie's still sudsed up like crazy; that's probably why the diapers would start repelling every few weeks.
Finally, I ordered a few samples of Rockin Green detergent, Hard Rock formula. I rocked the soak. I started washing the diapers full time in it. And? Months later, I have not had to do any stripping. Stains come out. The diapers never repel. They are just now starting to get a little extra stinky (the ammonia singes the nose hairs a bit), but I've been experimenting with water levels and rinses and they inadvertently got dried with a dryer sheet recently, so either of those could be the culprit. I expect a soak to knock out the stinkies, and if it doesn't, it's an excuse to try the new Funk Rock for ammonia stink.
I decided that this detergent is just a little too expensive to use on all our laundry, so I've gone back to liquid All Free & Clear with our clothes, as liquid works better than powder with hard water. I often use Rockin Green for towels and sheets, though, and they come out super fresh and clean. I'm considering using the leftover Charlie's to strip our machine from time to time, as it's gotten rather gunky again.
My laundry odyssey has made me more familiar with detergent, water, agitation, rinsing, stains, absorbency and stink than I ever thought I'd be. And I actually enjoy it way more than I ever thought I would. Your stains and stinks are no match for my arsenal!