Wash and dry at normal temperatures in washer and dryer. Please avoid fabric softeners, chlorine bleach, or any other whitening agents
Detergent residue can lead to problems with your diaper covers. Please review this information by Bummis if you are having problems with your covers or if you would like to prevent problems.
What is Detergent Residue?
residue is a film left on fabric by detergent. Detergent residue builds
up on all items that are laundered - clothes, bedding, etc. But usually
you will notice it only when dealing with a fabric that is supposed to
be either waterproof or absorbent. Bummis has been making cloth diaper covers
for almost 20 years now, but the problem of detergent residue is a new
one. Over the past year, it seems that more and more detergent
manufacturers are adding extra ingredients to their formulas in order
to differentiate their products and brands. This has led to a surge in
the number of calls we receive from those who use our products, about
wicking and leaking that ultimately end up being the result of
detergent residue. This is a widespread issue throughout the cloth
So how do you
pick a detergent? If you are lucky enough to have packaging that lists
the ingredients - the shorter the list, the less chance that the
detergent contains problematic additives. Price is not an issue, as
some cheap detergents work better than their more expensive
counterparts. The focus is to find a detergent that does not leave a
residue. We recommend detergents that have been shown to leave no
residue including Charlie's Soap, Sensi-clean and Countrysave. These
detergents contain virtually no additives and will not leave a residue
even when you use the amount they recommend or more!
Knowing which detergents are not good is a bigger problem. Manufacturers are changing their formulas
all the time. Differences in water quality and washing machines can
affect the performance of diaper covers and make it difficult to
isolate the culprit. For example, some additive ridden detergents will
prove problematic for one family, but seem to pose no issues for the
next. The amount of detergent used may be different, as may the ratio
of detergent to water; they may have used more water, softer water, or
harder water you get the idea! There are so many factors that can
influence whether a detergent leaves residue or not and to what
degree. Cautionary words that can warn you of additives include "brighter", and "whiter". But if you choose a detergent with no residue,
you know you are safe! Check out these two sites for more information
about residue studies: www.charliesoap.com/research_5.htm or http://countrysave.com/announce.php
What additives should I look out for?
there are so many additives (both natural and synthetic) that can cause
problems with fabrics, it is impossible to list them all here. However,
here are some to look out for:
- Fabric softeners.
These are relatively easy to avoid as added fabric softeners are
normally clearly marked on packaging. These will cause wicking and
repelling on most waterproof fabrics- actually on all fabrics,
including cotton diapers!
Sometimes the only indications that these have been added are words
like "brighter", "whiter", or "cleaner". These are normally optical
brighteners. Optical brighteners, also called optical bleaches or
fluorescent whitening agents, are fluorescent white dyes (sometimes
referred to as crystals) that absorb ultraviolet light and emit back
visible blue light. This gives the impression that clothes are brighter
and cleaner. In actual fact these can cause leaking and wicking as well
as skin irritations. MANY detergents contain this nasty additive,
which has also been identified as being toxic to fish and other aquatic
life. Some are also capable of causing mutations in bacteria. They
are also very slow to biodegrade into their less harmful component
parts and can cause eye and skin reactions in humans. Research is being
conducted to determine the extent of optical brighteners in the
environment and their subsequent damage to animal health.
- Stain Guards.
Again these are usually (but not always) easy to find, as companies
often list them as an advantage. Mentions of stain repelling, protection or guards are clear warnings that this additive is
present. They too will coat fibers.
- Natural Additives. Natural additives are most likely in the form of oils. Like chemical
additives, they do not always cause a problem- but with time, the oils
can build up, leading to wicking, leaking and repelling. Examples
include orange oil, citrus extract, grapeseed extract and other oils.
- Natural Soaps.
In actuality all soaps are natural, which is what sets them apart from
detergents. The problem with soap is that the minerals in water react
with those in soap, creating an insoluble film. This film can leave a
residue and turn clothes grayish. Dr. Bronners is an example of a
natural soap that can cause a residue problem.
What problems can a detergent residue cause?
The list is long and includes the following:
- Wicking and leaking
- Repelling beading of liquid
- Stinky diapers or covers
- Skin rashes
- Yellowing of white fabrics
can happen quickly if the diapering products are washed with high ratio
of detergent to water right from the start... even within a couple of
weeks you can see a problem. More commonly, it will take a couple of
months before you experience any problems
WICKING & LEAKING: Wicking is the spreading of fluid across a fabric. How does that residue cause waterproofing to wick?
There are two ways that residue can cause wicking.
way is that the detergents leave a film on the cover which works as a
transport for the liquid to travel along the inside of the cover, along
to the edges then across the front. It appears like the fluid went
right through the cover but it actually went around!
- The second way is that a cover
with a laminate works by not allowing a whole water molecule to pass
through the membrane and one possible way this is done is through water
tension. The water molecules bind to each other and do not penetrate
fabric. Detergents have wetting agents that break water tension, which
allows the detergent to dissolve and disperse and allows clothes to get
cleaner. When residue from detergent is left on the covers, the fluid
loses its water tension and can saturate the fabric. This appears as a
general wetness of the cover, not a specific leak like at the thighs or
tummy. Unfortunately, most people will assume their covers are worn
out or defective before realizing that they have a detergent residue
problem; a problem that can usually be remedied!
This is an issue for diapers. If cloth diaper fabric fibers get coated in
detergent residue they will begin repelling the urine like a duck's
plumage repels water. Residue is not the only culprit here, but it is a
common one that can be remedied.
There are numerous causes of stinky cloth diapers or cloth diaper covers, detergent
residue being among them. This is because the residue will trap or bind the odor to the fabric. With our diaper covers, detergent
residue is the number one reason that the product may smell. Luckily,
residue can be removed- in a process you might hear referred to as stripping.
As can be expected, if your cloth diapers are covered with a chemical
residue, they can be expected to cause skin irritation in babies with
YELLOWING OR GRAYING OF WHITES: Notice your whites aren't very white any more? The most common cause is detergent residue...
So what do I use... or not use?
Bummis recommends using detergents that are additive free and leave zero
residue and can be used at the recommended amount. These include
- Charlie's Soap (www.charliesoap.com).
This is not actually soap but a detergent. The liquid leaves zero
residue and is cost effective. The powder has not been tested.
- Sensi-Clean (www.atsko.com). Also sold as Sports Wash.
- Country Save - tested in powder form (www.countrysave.com)
- Detergents made up of mainly sodium carbonate or soda ash.
- In Canada, use Claudia's Choices without optical brighteners.
regular detergents when used in moderation will cause no problems for
the majority of people who use them and the products they wash with
them. The key is to use less detergent (at most the recommended
amount) and more water. Usually the really inexpensive detergents do
not add so many additives because they increase the cost of the
detergent. Thus they are less likely to leave a residue. Examples
would be Sun, Clout, Windfresh and most generic no-name basic
Detergents that have shown up often in our troubleshooting efforts as possibly causing residues are:
- All Free and Clear. The free and clear actually refers to dust mites -
and as such the detergent has a ton of additives to rid the fabric of
- Some versions of Bio-Kleen.
- 7th Generation
- Dreft and other baby detergents, including Ivory Snow.
- Dr. Bronner's and other soaps with certain natural additives.
Help! I have detergent residue on my diaper covers! What do I do now?
good news is that products that have been damaged by detergent residue
can usually be saved! If the residue is not too extensive, it can
often be resolved by doing a couple hot water rinses with no detergent,
then throwing the covers in the dryer.
If this does not resolve the issue, a more intense stripping may be necessary. Repeat the following process twice:
- Run your covers and diapers through a wash with only hot water (if allowed by manufacturer's washing instructions).
- Run a second wash using 1/2 cup baking soda and 1/2 cup vinegar in this second wash.
- 1/2 cup vinegar again in first rinse cycle.
- Run a second rinse cycle with plain hot water.
- Dry cloth diaper covers in dryer.