Friday, October 1, 2010

A Little Testing of Detergents

If you just want to see my testing of detergents and not read my long and drawn out story of detergent issues ;) Just scroll down for a while, I'll be sure to mark my test section so you won't miss it ;)

So, one of the biggest issues I've faced with cloth diapering has been the never-ending detergent battle!

When I started cloth diapering I had read a lot about the use of detergents. Some sites suggested that you could use your normal detergent, but at a much smaller amount. Since my daughter has fairly sensitive skin, I thought I should probably choose a free and clear detergent. As I live in a very rural area and do not have access to a large selection of detergents, the closest one I could find (had the least amount of additives) was Green Works Natural Laundry Detergent - Free and Clear. I did find Bio-O-Kleen liquid detergent at one of my local stores, but the price was so outrageous I just couldn't see getting it. There are a few sites that list detergents and how well they fare with cloth diapers, The Diaper Jungle has one here. It's one that I have referenced many times and have seen people list on cloth diapering sites.

After a month or so of using Green Works, my daughter began to have serious rash issues. Of course with all the attention I had paid to detergent, I immediately thought we had a detergent issue - even though my son was having no rash issues. So I researched cloth diaper detergents again, and decided to go with one known for doing well on cloth diapers. I bought a bag of Charlie's Soap online. I switched detergents and was still having rash issues - but to make a long story short, we discovered that my daughter was having a sensitivity to strawberries! I kept using Charlie's without any issues once we discovered the strawberry issue!

Then I started running into posts here and there about people having rash issues after using Charlie's Soap for a while. Around the same time I was reading many posts where people were saying Rockin Green had been their cloth diaper laundry savior! So after a few months with no issues, I decided maybe I should try Rockin Green before I encounter any rash issues...

I got a couple of samples first to test it out. I was pretty impressed with the samples I had gotten. I think I used 1tbs on each load. And they came out smelling fine, and even that normal polyester fleece smell (not really a bad smell, but a fairly distinct smell) was gone. And my prefolds seemed brighter and cleaner...

So I took the plunge and joined the growing crowd of Rockin Green users!

Within 2 weeks of using RnG I had major stink issues. BAD. I contacted Kim of Rockin Green and she said that they had just switched to a new ammonia busters formula and that she would send some out to me. I expected that she would send me a new bag, but instead I received 3 samples. I was a little bit disappointed. The samples seemed to work fine, so I just went ahead and ordered a new bag (she said all the new bags going out were the new formula). Same stink issues. Nothing I did or tried seemed to work. A week or two after I had been using my 2nd bag was when the recall came. That explained it. I was wracking my brain and thinking there was something wrong with my laundry routine. I was glad to find out it was an issue with the detergent and not me! Both of the bags I got were from the recall time period.

So, in the meantime I had nothing to wash diapers in. I ordered some more Charlie's Soap, and got it much sooner than the replacement bags of RnG. But even that didn't seem to be working. I had washed for maybe a week in the Green Works detergent - but a much smaller amount... I think all that time of using the bad RnG really did a number on my diapers. I just feel extremely fortunate that it didn't cause rashes on my children. Many others did suffer rashes during this time. I think I didn't because I was using mainly prefolds and pockets/inserts - and once the few AIO's I had started smelling I lined them with inserts, so they weren't touching my kids' skin.

So when I got my replacement bags of RnG I did overnight soaks on all of my diapers. They seemed to be OK, but still had some lingering funk issues. Especially with the AIO's! I think I ended up doing 2 or 3 overnight soaks.

And here is where the fun starts!! ;) LOL!! So I was not quite sure how much detergent to use. I started out using 2tbs. Our water is naturally on the softer side. I wasn't seeing any suds by the end of the wash, so sometimes I would add another tbs... But that was with my prefolds and all cotton washes... which were usually pretty full loads (maybe total of 24 diapers including inserts). When I would wash just the polyesters I would get lots of suds with 2 tbs... that was usually a pretty small load - maybe a few fleece pockets, PUL pockets, a couple of AIO's and about 5 or 6 fleece soakers... So I figured that I was doing too many diapers in a load. I cut down on the amount of cotton/natural fiber dipes I did at a time. This still didn't seem to matter. With 2 tbs I just wasn't getting many suds, so I just assumed that I wasn't using enough soap. And I just couldn't see having to use 3tbs of classic rock with pretty close to soft water, though I was doing that quite often. In the meantime I had gotten some used dipes, AI2's with suedecloth inners. They started stinking, along with my still smelly AIO's and some of the thicker fitteds...
I decided to just give up on the Rockin Green and go back to Charlie's Soap.

I have been getting tons of suds with Charlie's. To be honest, I never really checked too much before the whole RnG episode, so I'm not sure how many I was getting before when I used Charlie's. I did check in the rinse though and pretty much the suds were gone in the second rinse. And the diapers were smelling fine (though still somewhat light lingering odors in the AIO's, thicker fitteds and the suedecloth)

I have been using Charlie's exclusively for 2 weeks now, and yesterday I pulled some dipes out of the wash and smelled them - and a few of them about knocked me over with stink!!

I have been obsessively checking for suds these days. Have been getting tons of suds in the wash, still some in the first rinse, and still some in the second rinse (and these have been cold rinses).

My first instinct when pulling out the stinky dipes was to throw them back in the wash with more soap. But then on second thought, I put them through another wash on hot with no detergent. Suds. Quite a few. It took about 5 hot washes before the water was pretty clear of suds!! I was shocked!! So it was a buildup issue!!

But now I have to wonder which soap is the culprit! Had I been using way too much RnG? Is it the Charlie's??

My best guess at this point has to be buildup from RnG. I know I wasn't overdoing the Charlie's. And both are supposed to be clean rinsing.

My plan at this point is (now that my diapers are pretty much stripped!!) to continue with Charlie's unless I continue getting suds from hell in the rinses...

The other day on Facebook, Charlie's Soap posted a picture of glasses with their soap mixed up with some water and some other unnamed "green" detergent - to compare solubility. Charlie's dissolved completely and the other "green" detergent had sediment. Of course they didn't name the other detergent, but I (as well as many others) strongly suspect it to be RnG.

And I remembered when I was researching RnG they have a video on their homepage where they did a little test for clean rinsing with a competitor (assuming Charlie's?)...

So I decided to do my own little test. Now, mind you, this is not really scientific! And there is some room for error! ;) I tried as best as I could to treat each test object equally. After I got the stinky dipes yesterday, I purchased some Ecos Liquid Free and Clear because I have seen it recommended a few places and it is now available at a couple of my local stores (easy to get! especially in a hurry - and cheaper because no shipping involved). It is also completely green - no enzymes, phosphates, brighteners, whiteners etc... no bad stuff! All natural. But you do have to get the Free and Clear - if you buy one of the ones with fragrance it has fabric softener added - a huge no-no for cloth diapers!

So on to the testing.
I measured out equal amounts of Charlie's and RnG - 1/2 tbs of each, which is half the recommended amount for a load of cloth diapers. I had a little trouble with the ecos, as it was a liquid and I ended up measuring too much. If I were using it in a load of cloth diapers I would use halfway to the 1st mark (for HE machines). And that's exactly how much I ended up putting in the bowl - so in reality it was twice as much soap as the Charlie's and RnG... that being said (yes, that was the biggest error in this test!!)

Here are all the soaps measured out into clear bowls. Hard to see the liquid, but it's there ;)

And here are all 3 soaps with pretty much the same amount of mixing. I tried to mix them up pretty good. And notice how cloudy the RnG is?? I'm certain that this is the one that Charlie's tested for solubility. Notice how clear the other 2 soaps are?

Sorry for the mistake in labeling! LOL! This is all three soaps with a washcloth put in and swished and squished quite a few times. The RnG looks pretty nasty. Is it nasty stuff coming out of the clean washcloth or the soap?? And where are the suds?
After I washed each washcloth in the soap I squeezed them out and rinsed out the bowl so there wasn't any residing soap in the bowl. At this point I noticed that all 3 soaps felt pretty slimy. But the Ecos felt less slimy than the other 2.

This is the first rinse. I swished around the washcloths and squeezed them a bit again. Still quite a few suds from the Charlie's and Ecos. And still murky water with the RnG, but not really many suds. When I squeezed them all out and rinsed the dishes for the next rinse I again noticed that the Charlie's and RnG felt pretty slimy. But at this point the Ecos was not slimy at all.

Here is the 2nd rinse. There are still a slight amount of suds in the Charlie's, none in the RnG (but still cloudy) and some in the Ecos (but also remember it had twice as much soap!)

At the 3rd rinse there are pretty much no suds left in the Charlie's, none in the RnG (but still hanging on to some murky water there) and just a few left in the Ecos. When I squeezed them out this time the Charlie's and RnG had pretty much lost their slime (though the RnG seemed to still have just a touch of slime to it).

No suds and pretty much clear water.

No suds, but still a little cloudy.

Still a few suds, but I'm guessing if I would have used less soap (as I did with the others) there wouldn't be suds left.
So my conclusions?
I really just don't know what to make of the RnG. Why was that water so cloudy and the others were pretty much clear the whole time? Does RnG really pull out the funk? Or is it some kind of gimmick?
The fact that it was slimy makes me ponder the suds issue. Clearly there was still soap there while there weren't any suds. So I probably really was overdoing the RnG in my loads. For RnG suds just really aren't an indicator of how much soap is in there. The suds just disappear pretty much right away while the slimy feel of soap is still there.
But the slimy soap feel pretty much went away with the Charlie's and the RnG after the 3rd rinse.
But now I'm really considering using the Ecos - very little slime after the wash, almost none after the first rinse.

And how did they all smell after the washing?
With the Charlie's there was a definite scent there. Not very strong, but definitely a scent.
With the RnG - nothing - no scent at all.
With the Ecos - nothing - no scent at all.
All of the washcloths had been washed in the same load the last time I washed them (and it was with either Charlie's or RnG [can't remember which I used!] and a little bit of bleach).

I think I will probably stick with the Charlie's on the diapers for now and see how it does, but I think I will test out the Ecos on all the other laundry and see how it performs there first.

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