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Detergents, Free&Clears, and Purex

post #1 of 224
Thread Starter 
I'm not a regular poster, (or even reader) so I feel a little like I'm invading, but a customer emailed me a link to a couple of threads and asked if I could elaborate (just for them), and after reading around, thought I could offer something helpful. And thought a new thread might be more efficient than answering on 10 different ones.

There are a few threads simultaneously discussing which detergents are okay, particularly with pocket diapers, discussing whether free & clears are okay, and confusion about whether or not Purex is on the "black list".

The biggest problem with most detergents and pocket diapers (and Bummis covers) is a fairly new additive, brighteners. Sometimes called UV enhancers, brightening agents, brightening dye... It's a sort of dye made to stay on fabrics after washing and drying (so extra rinses don't help) and bend the reflected light toward the blue end of the spectrum, making clothes look brighter even though they aren't any cleaner than usual. If you look at your diapers or the detergent under a blacklight, there will be a bit of a UV glow, even.

ALL free & clear used to be the big one that had it. A patent on it must have just run out, because suddenly, in the last few months, it seems EVERY major brand has added it to their detergents. So any information more than a few months old may be outdated.

Purex Free & Clear used to be one f&c that didn't use it. It's what I used myself. But VERY recently they've added brighteners to, it appears, every version they make, including the free & clear. It's not that anyone was wrong about it or gave misinformation, it's just that they make these changes so FAST that it's nearly impossible to keep up with. And they aren't required by any law to list their ingredients, so you may not even know just by looking at the ingredients. But most companies, if they bother putting in there, will advertise on the front of the bottle/box "Brightens colors! Whitens whites!"

1. So Purex was okay, may not be any more.
2. Free & clears are only bad IF they have brighteners, but most do.
3. You can't trust ingredients lists, but avoid any detergent that claims to brighten colors.

I hope that cleared up some questions instead of creating more!

post #2 of 224
Very helpful. Thanks!

Do you know if 7th Generation detergents have it?
post #3 of 224
7th generation is listed on the no-no list on her website.

Oddly enough, Ecover has stated on the back of the bottle (I just went and looked after all of this.. lol) that it does not contain optical brighteners though I think because it is a natural soap (it is plant based) that it will eventually lead to build-up.

I think i'll just be sure to use the Allens on the Fuzzi Bunz when the time comes, though all this talk has fascinated me really. I had no idea the stuff that goes into laundry detergent....

Thanks SunshineDiapers for coming here and clarifying, I found your website both beautiful and helpful.
post #4 of 224
Very helpful post. Thanks
post #5 of 224
Thread Starter 
Good. I had hoped it was helpful.

pfamilygal, 7th generation is loads better than any of the commercial detergents, and they don't have brighteners or any of that really industrial stuff. It's been labeled as a bit of a troublemaker because of the plant oils. Like other lipids (like fabric softeners and soap) they'll build up. But it's much, much easier to remove than the stuff in commercial detergents.

woodsy, I honestly don't know about ecover. It may be similar to 7th generation in that the plant oils will build up, more like soap than like the brighteners. But I don't think the effect would be like that of using something with lots of industrial strenght additives, and it may also depend on your water.

I started doing lots of research and calling the textile schools and residue-free detergent makers when, after 6 years of selling Bummis and a couple of years of selling pockets, people suddenly, this year, started saying they were wicking through. That had never happened before. I knew the diapers hadn't changed. It was the same time the brighteners hit the market on a wide scale, which coincided with what I was hearing from the "experts" I talked to about camping and hunting gear (much of which is waterproof) being affected. But I'm not yet an expert on all the brands...
post #6 of 224
I think that Ecover would be similar to 7th Generation (it is entirely plant based), though I have to say, I think Ecover is a little more soapy (it reminds me more of castille soap than the others..). I use the liquid stuff, though I see their website lists enzymes in the powder version. I used to be a 7th Generation user, but I found that I ended up liking Ecover better (actually their toilet cleaner is amazing.. lol).

The diaper site I purchased my diapers from had listed it as one they recommend, so I'm guessing that others have used it without too many problems. Interestingly enough, Ecover's bottle stated "*no optical brighteners – research has shown that optical brighteners bind to the skin irreversibly" which if true, would definately turn me off to optical brighteners, diaper build-up or not!..
post #7 of 224
so, the HE All I bought for my front loader contains "brightening agent" - it's no good?

the Sun Ultra I bought only has "anionic and/or nonionic surfactants" - no brightener, brightening, enhancer, nothing like that

the Sun one would be better then?
post #8 of 224
Sounds like the Sun would be better Thorn. I've had a front loader for a few years now... i've always been told that those HE detergents are just watered down versions that cost more. You should just use 1/2 (or even 1/3) of the regular stuff.
post #9 of 224
What about method? I haven't heard anything about it one way or the other.
post #10 of 224
So is there any Free and Clear out there that does not contain brighteners??? I just bought some Purex and was surprised to see that it said it brightens and whitens, yet it does not list brighteners on the ingredients. That is very annoying...

And do these brighteners affect cotton? Or is it more of a problem with microfleece? Why are pockets a particular concern?
post #11 of 224
Thread Starter 
It's me again. I've done so much research in the last few months!

Amber, the pockets seem to be more affected because it seems to affect waterproofing and the synthetic inner faster than cotton (more explained below). Totally what pockets are made of. It affects covers, too, but unlike covers, pockets are washed after every use, so you see the effects much faster. So far the ONLY free & clear that I've seen without it is our store brand, Publix (a southern chain). Purex was free of it until late 2005. And yes, it's very annoying that they aren't required to list it! Even more annoying that brighteners are really a dye, and free & clears claim to be "dye free".

It's very long, but here's some excerpts from my research that might answer some of your questions:

"How important is this "residue" problem? Most important for your pocket diapers and covers. It will not affect your cotton diapers as much as your waterproofing and fleece/synthetics. According to studies done on detergent residue by Clemson University's school of textiles, 8 washes with Tide leaves enough residue to make a garment 2% heavier (they tested Dreft, too, which also left residues). The study was done mostly as a response to the effect that hunters and campers were seeing on their waterproof gear aftrer washing in commercial detergents. They were comparing residues of commercial detergents to some residue free detergents (they tested sensi-clean, wonderwash, Charlie's, none left residue.)

Much of that residue is designed to break water tension (which helps get clothes cleaner in the wash). Normally our covers depend on water tension to keep water from getting through the holes that allow a little water vapor to go through, but should not allow water through. That residue clogs those little holes and spreads out over both sides of the waterproof layer. When water (urine) reaches this residue on the inside, it loses its tension that would normally make it bead up, spreads out and soaks into that layer of residues, which acts like a wick and carries it right through those holes into the outside layer of residues. The result is a slow wicking wetness over the covers. With fleece and suedecloth, the residue slows down water's passage through, what we know as repelling."

"The new additives - they aren't required to list their ingredients, so they may not be listed at all!:

Orange oil, citrus extract, grapeseed extract: These are just a few - look for similar additives. "Natural" detergents are more likely to have these plant-based oils, which will build up on diapers over time. That's not a problem on regular clothes, and sometimes it's not a problem on diapers, but eventually these oils build up. The effect is especially pronounced on fleece - it becomes impermeable and won't let wetness through, and on waterproof fabric. The nice thing is that these are much easier to remove than those industrial additives listed below. Look for these in 7th generation, ecover, and similar natural detergents.

Brighteners: This is fairly new to detergents. Since it's "proprietary", it's not listed the same way on every bottle. Sometimes not listed at all. Look for "optical brighteners", "brightners and whiteners", "UV enhancers" or anything that suggests it "brightens clothes!". It's a chemical dye designed to stay on clothes even after washing and drying. It bends the wavelength of light reflected off of clothes toward the blue end of the spectrum, which makes whites seem more blue than grey, and colors seem more vibrant (in fact, if you put the detergent or white clothes under a blacklight, it will glow.) It's designed to stick to fibers and is difficult to remove, so those extra rinses won't do a thing. Nor will you see any suds if you rewash them (so that advice about wash them in plain water and see if there are suds - won't help with these new additives that are designed to stay on through it all.) It seems to have the greatest affect on pocket diapers and covers, causing a water-wicking layer in waterproof fabrics and making stay-dry liners less permeable. But as with any residue, you may get rashes and odor retention on cotton diapers."

Stain guards/antiredeposition agents: It's also "proprietary", and so not always listed. But the detergent will probably indicate somehow that it "repels stains" or "guards fabric". Like brighteners, it's designed to stick to fibers in order to keep working even after washing and drying, so those extra rinses won't do a thing and they will continue to build up, causing the same problems as all residues: odors, rashes, and wicking covers.

A note on "Free & Clear": It doesn't seem quite fair, but the term "free & clear" only means free of perfumes and clear of colorants. They can and usually do have all sorts of other additives, many of which can be just as irritating to skin as perfumes and dyes. I find it quite insidious, and take offense that detergent makers do this. But don't assume that "free & clear" means that there's nothing harmful. Actually, every brand that I've seen has brighteners added.

And because people ask me to be more specific on this, I'll name brands that seem to be cropping up as troublemakers:

ALL Free & Clear and many other "free & clear" formulations
Some versions of Bio-Kleen
7Th Generation
Dreft and other "formulated for baby" detergents
Soap products like Dr. Bronner's and Fels-Naptha
Any major brand that claims to whiten, brighten, or guard against stains

So what detergent DO we recommend?
Our list gets shorter as detergent makers keep adding the latest and greatest new chemicals to their ingredients. Things I recommended just 6 months ago I've noticed have joined the UV brightener bandwagon. And other diaper sites still recommend brands that were fine a year or two ago, but they aren't up-to-date on how these additives affect the new fabrics being used for diapers. I most highly recommend residue-free detergents that were developed for campers, hunters, and sportsmen when they began to realize that regular detergents were making their waterproof gear less effective.
These include:

Sensi-clean also sold under the name Sportwash, made by Atsko
Charlie's Soap (they use the word "soap", but it is soap-free) - www.charliesoap.com and www.drugstore.com
Wonder Wash - in Canadian stores - http://wonderwash.net/page4.html
Allen's Naturally - www.allensnaturally.com
Granger's G-wash - www.grangersusa.com
Oxy-prime from Natural Choices - www.oxyboost.com
Other detergents that are labeled "residue-free", often found in sporting goods stores
A home-made detergent: while the washer is filling add 2 Tbs Simple Green and 1/4 Cup Washing Soda. Nothing else needed. This is what I use.
Cheap warehouse brands or store brands with nothing but detergents/surfactants (like Sam's Club, Publix)

Besides my own formula, I found Sam's Club and Charlie's to be the most cost-effective. You do not HAVE to order any of these special detergents to wash your diapers, but I think you will run into fewer odor/rash/wicking problems. Many of those listed above are sold in Whole Foods markets and other natural food stores. It is more important if you are using all-in-ones, pocket diapers, and Bummis covers. They will build up on cotton diapers, but the effect won't be as dramatic as it is on waterproof materials and fleece."

So far the Washing Soda/simple green is working for me, but I'm too cheap to buy specialty detergents... It also seems that some people have fewer problems with the commercial detergents because they use very little of it at a time.
post #12 of 224
Thank you Brenda for the excellent information!

I am wondering though...what is "washing soda"?
post #13 of 224
&%^%&*^&*! Now I am so mad!!! I have been contently using Purex F&C on ALL of our laundry - so happy to have found a cheap choice for everything. Dangit! Why did they have to go and ruin it? I use mostly pockets, so this is a concern for me. . . I live in a small town and can't get the natural ones here (not that i could afford them anyway . . .).

Shoot, shoot, shoot. Just when I had things all figured out.

Well, thanks for the heads-up on this!!
post #14 of 224
BrendaW, thanks so much! I am very impressed with your research and thanks for taking the time to explain it to us. Wow, I am so mad that they are now adding dyes to make our clothes look clean, but that are in fact coating our clothes with nasty substances... That is a bunch of bull, and I can't believe that it is allowed, esp. with them not listing it on the ingredients...

Makes me mad I just bought that huge bottle of Purex. Does Costco's store brand have any of these additives? And how do you tell if they don't list it? I guess you have to see if they say anything like "brightens, whitens, repells stains, etc."?
post #15 of 224
ITA with daceysmomma!!! I thought I'd finally figured it out, and to be honest, the Purex F&C was working nicely. Of course, I had also found washing soda and have been using a bit of it along with the Purex, so maybe that's what has been helping.

Did it go along with a bottle change? The first bottle of Purex I bought, there were some white bottles and some darker bottles, with the same label. Now I only find the white bottle; I wonder if the brighteners were added and the bottles changed to white, to go along with it?

"A home-made detergent: while the washer is filling add 2 Tbs Simple Green and 1/4 Cup Washing Soda. Nothing else needed. This is what I use."

That's all, eh? When you say Simple Green, don't they make several products? Can you be as specific as possible, so that people like me, whose eyes cross when she gets into the cleaning product aisles, don't make a stupid mistake by buying the wrong thing? Washing soda is SO cheap, it would be great if something that simple could help!

I also wonder, since you seem to really be researching this, I wonder if this could be a "sticky", and you could update it as you find the products change again?
post #16 of 224
Such great information! Thanks a lot.
post #17 of 224
Many thanks for sharing your research I've been digging into this too, for the first time in four diaperlings we have build-up issues. With two kiddos allergic to dyes we've only used free and clear detergents for the last several years.
post #18 of 224
Anyone know if Kirkland's Free and Clear is OK. I've been using it for a couple of years with no problems but typically use cotton dipes with alexis covers. I just bought a bunch of Magic Alls and would hate to damage them.

Kirkland is Costco's store brand.

Nevermind...the label says it does contain "brightening agents" Darn,.
post #19 of 224
Can someone tell me what washing soda is? What kind of Simple Green to buy if there is more than one?
post #20 of 224
Really quick (fussy hungry babe in arms) here's a really helpful link for info on washing soda (with a pic) http://www.pinstripesandpolkadots.co...basics.htm#RLR

and last time I bought simple green, you could get a bottle of the concentrated basic formula/gen purpose cleaner, not in a spray bottle, not for any special/specific job. However, it's been a couple of years since I bought any... it lasts a looong time!

hth! off to nurse again (every hour today yikes!)
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