Save Yourself the Stress: Washing Cloth Diapers With Tide

Because I have the Detergent Database, Stink Issues Chart, Stripping Diapers Tutorial, and the thousands of responses to the Washing Diapers Survey, I tend to get a lot of questions about cloth diaper stink issues and I LOVE answering them.

But I figured I could take a minute to write a post and talk about what I generally recommend to people. Whenever someone has a stink issue, I generally send them over to this chart before I give any advice, because water type, amount of detergent, and several other factors contribute to how good or bad your diapers smell. And so far, I am yet to have someone report that it didn’t work.

But even with that in mind, I keep finding myself saying the same thing: USE TIDE!

Cloth Diapering Shouldn't Be Stressful. Got Stinky Diapers? Try Tide.

I know, it’s taboo in this fluffy world. We worry about diaper damage…but in my opinion, the extra hot washes and stripping that many are doing to help fight a stink issue is causing more damage than just using Tide. Plus survey responses showed that using Tide made absolutely NO difference in the presence of diaper damage when compared with other detergents. Don’t believe me? Read here.

Now this may void a diaper’s warranty, so check on that. But I just think we are making cloth diapering 100 times more difficult troubleshooting a bunch of stink issues when Tide, for the most part, solves issues. The detergent has extra water softener, which is why it works for hard water users as well. In my water, I often need a little more of a boost than that, so I occasionally add 1 tablespoon of washing soda (available in the laundry detergent aisle of your grocery store).

Here is my Tide recommendation: TIDE Original (it may say “Ultra” on the box, that’s OK), the Powdered form, filled to the ‘1’ line

Some of you CAN’T use Tide because your baby has a sensitivity to the detergent. If that’s the case, the second best alternative that I personally have found is to use the recommended amount of Country Save plus one tablespoon of washing soda. You can also hop on over to the Detergents Database and see what survey respondents recommended.

If Tide or the Stink Issues Chart don’t work, please do not hesitate to contact me and I’d be happy to help you troubleshoot:

Please do not hold me liable for any diaper damage or health issues that you may encounter as a result of trying Tide or any other detergent. There is a recent study that shows small traces of dioxane in Tide (but still less than that mandated by the EPA), so use with caution.

Tara Porter

Tara Porter began using cloth diapers in 2011 when she felt that using disposable diapers was costing too much money. The problem was, a lot of the highly recommended diapers weren’t working for her baby. What she finally discovered was that her baby was skinny and a heavy wetter, and that diapers worked differently for those baby types. Because of her professional work with survey design and statistics, she designed Padded Tush Stats as a way to determine how different cloth diapers worked on different babies.

Tara moved on to other career endeavors in 2014 but can still be found online blogging about health and fitness at Fit Baby Steps.
  • Melissa

    I was having stink issues and I hemmed and hawed about using Tide. I wanted to use something more “natural”. I was doing all sorts of research, mostly by using your website (thanks!!) and finally, I ran out of Charlie’s Soap (which I hated but finished b/c I’m cheap) and had to get something right away so I bought some Tide. I am so glad I did. It solved all my problems. No more stink, no more rashes. No more stripping and extra rinsing. I’m loving the Tide.

  • Brittany

    Love this! I never really thought about all the extra the diapers go through when I could do that simple solution and use Tide. I use it for clothes anyway, so it’d be one less thing to have to buy. Thanks!

  • Rosa

    I just want to say thanks for all of your reviews and research. We’ve been cloth diapering for 3 months and haven’t ran into much trouble, but I like to read your site to educate myself, and I have actually been able to help others with their issues from things I’ve learned from you. I also think it’s very sweet that you are more than willing to have us contact you for any troubleshooting if need be. Also I’m always trying to find articles of yours and am glad you have a pin it button because I would have never thought of that lol.

    • Tara

      Thank you so much for your kind words!

  • Abby

    I just started using Tide ultra powder (filled to the 1 line) with hard water (although we do have a water softener) and a front loading HE washer. I have seen a lot of improvement in the smell of the diapers so I would like to stick with it. However, when I rinse I see TONS of suds! It seems like there is still a lot of detergent because I have to rinse so many times. Is this common with Tide?

    • Tara

      A few bubbles are fine…but a lot means that you likely are using too much.

    • Yardley

      I use tide and love it for 7 months now. No more stink or rashes. But lots of bubbles. I do an entire light wash and rinse with no soap on cold. After my actual hot water wash. This solved my issues

    • Melissa

      Abby, we have soft water and an HE machine and only do 2 Tablespoons of Tide, which is about 1/2 way to the 1 line. That seems to be just the right amount for the diapers to get clean but not need tons and tons of rinses.

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  • linn

    how many diapers do you put in one load? i’m having stink issues since baby started solids. so, until i figure this out, i’ve been putting him in disposables when i *think* he’s gonna go #2.

    i did wash a load of about 13 diapers and i put tide ultra to 1/2 line. there were TONS of suds so i had to rinse 3 times. i’m not really into using that much water! anyway, i did notice an improvement on the smell, but the pocket covers (bumgenius) still smell pretty bad. how many diapers are you washing in a full load when you use tide to line 1?

    i live in seattle i believe our water is on the softer side.

    • Carolyn Russell

      Hmm, softer water is completely out of my range of expertise (I’m more familiar with super hard water!) I tend to do however many diapers fit in our diaper pail (it’s a standard kitchen trashcan, whatever size that is!) bumGenius recommends using bleach on occasion, so you could try a little of that and it wouldn’t void their warranty (I THINK anyhow! Check before you do anything if you’re concerned about warranties!) I, personally, don’t see much reason to be concerned with suds – if there’s still a lot built up on the door of my front loader, then I might do an extra rinse. Otherwise I don’t pay any attention to suds. But again, I don’t have soft water, so I’m really not concerned about the detergent being washed out! You might want to post this question in the forums and hopefully some fellow soft water people will be better able to help you out! (

    • Bryanna

      I use to the 1 line for a “normal” load of about 15-20 diapers. The 2 line for a larger load. And even believe it or not all the way up to the 3 line when Ive been REALLY lazy and not washed for a few days and have an extra large load or an extra poopy load.

  • Ashley Hall

    Does it need to be the powder Tide?

    • Carolyn Russell

      It doesn’t have to be, but powdered Tide gets better reviews ( and has additional water softening agents in it. So for the purpose of most CD conversations, if someone says they use Tide, they mean the powder.

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  • Stephanie Virginia Lathrum

    I just got Tide free and gentle liquid. I have had a horrible time with stink and leaks. I have all different kinds of pockets, natural cotton and bamboo but mostly MF. I just washed them in the new Tide, and I have some Washing soda to use if it isn’t better at all. I am at my parents frequently (as now) and they have a front loader, I have a top at home. So I need to get original tide or is this ok?

    • Carolyn Russell

      Liquid Tide and Free and Gentle Tide both don’t rate nearly as well as the powdered Ultra do. I’d definitely try that if I were you. What kind of stink issues are you having?

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  • Christine Miller

    I’m a Tide believer! No more stinky diapers!

  • Rebecca

    Does Tide HE work as well as Tide Ultra?

    • Carolyn Russell

      Tide Ultra has a normal and an HE version, and our surveys don’t differentiate between the two. I use the HE with success, though :)

  • Terri

    Is there a natural method? This Tide rates an F on EWG. :-(

  • Stone

    Sounds well in good but everyone in my family is allergic to tide so it’s a no go for me. Any other recommendations hopefully something more natural?

    • Carolyn Russell

      You can check out the detergent database ( and see how other ones are rated. I believe Tara’s next favorite choice is A Happy Green Life, but I don’t have a next favorite (I never found one that worked, so I’ve stuck with Tide!)

  • veronica

    hello, since you use till the 1 line how many cloth diapers do u use for that amount ?

    • Carolyn Russell

      That question is hard to answer for two reasons. 1 – I don’t count how many diapers are in the pail, I just wash them when it gets full! And 2 – the number will be affected by what kinds of diapers you use (you can fit more Softbums inserts in a single wash than you can large flats or prefolds). Most people wash every 2-3 days, so the number of diapers you would accumulate in that time is probably a good guess. But mostly using till line 1 is a good place to start, and you can adjust from there as needed. I use more than that without issue, and I’ve heard of some people using less, but it’s something to try! :)

      • veronica

        Thank you, that was very helpfull :)

  • Crystal

    Do you find that Tide works better than Rockin’ Green? I just bought a bag of it but as soon as it runs out I think I will use Tide (that’s what we use on the rest of our clothes anyway–much easier to just have one detergent.)

  • Kellie Oke

    Im going to switch to tide very soon. I have only been cd for almost 2 months and have already had to strip multiple times to switch detergents that we just couldnt get the stink to go away with. I already feel like I am taking the life out of my diapers. One more strip and then we will switch to tide and hopefully all issues will be solved.

  • Tracie D

    I’ve been using tide for 9 months with great results. I have never had to strip, even with my hard water, my diapers are stain free and never stink! I use 2 good sized tablespoons per load, which is a little less than the 1 line.

  • laura

    Looooove Tide, and I can find it at discount stores, too. Resolved the stink issues.

  • Michelle Lee

    I love Tide for getting diapers clean, but I definitely have to double rinse after. Great stuff!

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  • Vicki Hall

    I just recently switched to Tide and I love it . My diapers looked and smelled so clean and fresh.

  • Catie

    What about tide ultra with actilift?

    • Ginny

      I couldn’t find original tide without the actilift! I’m trying it now, hopefully it will do the job.

    • Carolyn Russell

      Here are our findings about the new Tide with Acti-Lift from user surveys: I personally have started having trouble with the new formula and have been trying some other washing routines, but have yet to find one I would recommend :) Lots of people are using the new formulation without any problems, so it can’t hurt to try!

  • savannah

    I tried tide original liquid on my clothes to see how i liked it. My pregnant nose CANNOT stand the over powering scent! its awful! we put the sheets back on our bed late at night and it was so strong i couldnt stand to be in our room much less asleep on the bed. i seriously slept on the couch and then immediately the next morning ran them through a hot wash with no deter then gave the rest of the bottle to my dad. with how strong it smelled i cant believe it works for diapers.

    • Carolyn Russell

      Just like any other scented product, once you’ve used it for awhile your nose gets accustomed to it and you just stop noticing it! (Though pregnant noses might not ever get used to it! Pregnancy hormones mess with EVERYTHING!) ;) But if you wanted to try again in the future you might have an easier time with it after a while.

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  • Luljeta

    Great article I can relate! I use tide for my whole family.

  • sherry Blamer

    I’m glad I can use tide on my cloth diapers. I use tide everyday for laundry.

  • Catherine

    So what is the washing routine with Tide? Right now I do a cold water wash and then a hot water wash with the extra rinse cycle selected. Do I keep doing that with Tide?

    • Carolyn Russell

      The most common wash routine to start with is a pre-rinse (some people do cold because they worry about setting in stains, but warm or hot water will do a better job at rinsing away bodily fluids), a long hot water wash (whatever your most heavy duty option is, with the exception of a “sanitize” cycle, which will be too hot and potentially damage your diapers), and then an extra rinse (hot or warm if possible, though with a lot of newer machines the only option is cold). Then you can tweak as necessary :)

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  • Heidi

    Tide Original Powder is different than Tide Ultra. They have stopped making Original, which worked much better. After using Ultra for a while my ammonia problems are back!

    • Carolyn Russell

      And to further complicate matters, now we have Tide Ulta with ActiLift, which (for me, anyhow!) isn’t working as well as Tide Ultra used to :(

  • piacere68

    I bought a small box of Tide Ultra to try because I am tired of my hard water giving me ammonia and barnyard stink in my crappy old toploader. It didn’t come with a scoop! How much is the 2 line in tablespoons?

    • Carolyn Russell

      Hahaha, oh man, that is awful but hilarious at the same time! I would think the lines for different brands of powdered detergent would all be the same, but I have absolutely no idea! I’ll ask on our Facebook wall for you :)

      • piacere68

        Great! Thank you so much! I tried 3 tablespoons and a tablespoon of Calgon tonight, so we’ll see how that goes.

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  • Amber Rivera

    I have just now switched to tide professional because the tide ultra still gave me stinks. And I also use a half a cup of borax because I have extreme hard water

    • Carolyn Russell

      I’ve never even heard of Tide Professional! Where do you get that?

  • Liz W

    I’m going to CD as soon as my LO arrives in a few weeks, and after months of research the washing has been one of the most confusing things. Thanks for this post- I’m going to try this first, since I already use Tide for my other laundry.

    • Carolyn Russell

      There are plenty of people who never have any troubles washing their diapers, but for those that do, it can definitely be the most frustrating part :( Feel free to let us know if you have any questions down the line, otherwise, good luck with your impending baby! :)

  • Hannah

    Can this be used in HE machines?

    • Carolyn Russell

      Yep! There are HE versions of Tide powdered detergent (though sometimes locations only carry the non-HE powder, so check for the tiny symbol on the box).

  • Holli Gorveatt

    Do you know if they make small or sample size tide in powder form?

    • Carolyn Russell

      You know, I’m not sure. I wonder if you contacted Tide (maybe on their FB page?) if they could send you some, though? Or do you have any local friends who use Tide that could give you a few scoops for free?

    • brandi

      You can get very small boxes at the laundry mat usually one load size.

  • Sara

    So glad others use Tide, too and that it’s okay for my diapers! A few questions though: I saw one commenter mentioned free and gentle – I use the powdered form of this. My prefolds come out smelling fine, but sometimes I think the covers have a faint pee smell (my husband thinks I’m imagining this). Do you recommend Tide original powder over the f&g powder? Also you say you use washing soda as a booster. I’ve been using baking soda… should I be using washing soda instead, and why? Also I add vinegar to my rinse (I have an HE front loader, and hard water in our area, in case that makes a difference)

    • Carolyn Russell

      You can see from our detergent statistics that people do tend to prefer Tide Ultra to Tide Free ( but you might just need to try each and see which works best for you. Washing soda is used for softening water – baking soda isn’t as strong so while lots of people use it, it won’t actually help soften the water (which is what you need to help your detergent be more effective in hard water conditions).

    • Elizabeth

      I have read that vinegar can add to the smell and makes things worse if you have hard water.

      • Carolyn Russell

        I’ve heard that before, too, but I have super hard water and have used vinegar without any issues. I believe it has to do with the specific mineral content of your water, and in ours it hasn’t been a problem :)

  • Heather

    Does the tide have to be in powdered form or can I use liquid with the same results?

    • Carolyn Russell

      You can absolutely use liquid (heck, we think you should feel free to use whatever you want!) though you can see from our detergent statistics that people tend to rate the powdered version higher than the liquid version:

  • Caetiri

    So… I use prefolds, and I find sometimes that until they are entirely dry I can get a little stink, but once entirely dry I have none, so I haven’t worried about it (been using Seventh Generation, switching to Tide now). Yeah, I have some staining, but i don’t really need my prefolds to be pristine. I just need them to work.

    Which is all great… until my 6 month old got a yeast-y diaper rash that would not quit.

    I’ve done so many different things to try to deal with the rash, and i think we’re getting somewhere – but not in cloth diapers. When we switch back to the prefolds, it comes back. And yes, that’s after doing a strip. Onto strip #2 tonight (boiling, and biokleen natural bleach).

    Any recommendations? Anything I should do now vs. do on a regular basis?

    • Carolyn Russell

      Hmm, yeast can be difficult to get rid of : You might want to see if your doctor will culture the rash to figure out if it IS yeast or if it’s possibly bacteria. Are you still having the issue? (Sorry it took me so long to respond!) :(

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  • Catherine Wilke

    I agree, I have been cloth diapering for years and Tide is the best!

  • Joy Ried

    Right now I am using the Tide Ultra powder on a top loader. I’m planing on moving to a place where there will be a front loader. Is it better to switch to the liquid? Or will the powder work fine in the front loader? If so, is it a good idea to dissolve in hot water before putting it in the washer? Or just put the powder in?

    • Carolyn Russell

      Most people like the powder better, regardless of the type of machine. I just put it in the dispenser in my FL and that’s it!