Cloth diapers are easier to use than ever, but choosing a cloth diaper friendly detergent can be confusing. Detergents usually contain enzymes, optical brighteners, bleach or bleach alternatives, fragrances, coloring, and other chemicals. In addition to the fact that most of these chemicals are not great for the environment, they can also cause problems with cloth diapers.
Cloth diapers can stop absorbing well if they are coated with fabric softeners or other chemicals commonly found in laundry detergent. This can lead to leaking. Laundry detergent residue in the cloth diaper fibers can also lead to odors that linger on the cloth diapers. Some babies are allergic to various ingredients in laundry detergent or they may have a bad reaction to the enzymes found in some detergents.
Fortunately, there are good cloth diaper friendly detergents that are becoming easier to find. Many families have good luck with plain old Tide, though it is not recommended by many cloth diaper manufacturers because some children have an allergic reaction to the enzymes in Tide. We found that Tide cause buildup and odor in our diapers, though it never cause a skin reaction.
We switched to using Allen's Naturally and I am amazed at how clean smelling our daughter's diapers are now. I use just two teaspoons of detergent per load, about 1/4 of an ounce. Allen's Naturally is recommended by most of the major cloth diaper brands including FuzziBunz, Happy Heiny's, and BumGenius.
You can read more about the various cloth diaper detergent options here, where you will find a chart showing the good and bad of the most commonly available detergents.
Allen's Naturally Detergent