Tide New Formula – Possible Diaper Washing Issues?

So lately Carolyn and I have received several questions from readers about Tide formulas being advertised with new terminology and looking a little different, with more blue flecks in it than usual. This got us thinking, since we both have had some issues with our diapers lately and we both use Tide. (Carolyn has had issues with damage and stink, and I have had issues with stink and rashes on my son).

We got into a discussion about it on our Facebook page and found several other people were having issues with it.

We asked Tide about the blue flecks on their Facebook page. They said: 

“The small blue specks are a formula change and they are the ‘acti lift’ ingredients.”

They went on to recommended using Tide Free and Clear, though we can see from our Detergent Stats that it doesn’t perform as well as the Ultra.

Based on our own experience and those stories related to us by our followers, it seems that this reformulation occurred PRIOR to them changing the packaging. In other words, your box may say “Tide Ultra” when in fact it does have these new Acti-Lift ingredients. (Note: We have asked Tide about this on their Facebook page as well. We will update if/when we receive a response).

What’s so interesting about all this was that I was having issues with stink but didn’t think for ONE minute that it was the detergent, since I bought my usual “Tide Ultra” that hasn’t done me wrong for years. I tried sunning to help with stink—heck, my diaper pail even got banished to the garage! Now I know that crazy things happen in the hot summer months and diapers can really stink, but to be honest, I have never had that issue. I thought it was because I was going longer between diaper changes, but the problem has persisted despite me changing to smaller loads.


To help us get to the bottom of this, we released a survey to all Tide users. Now, let me be VERY clear—we did this survey fast because we are asked for diaper washing advice on a daily basis and we didn’t want to give wrong advice. Really this survey needs more responses to be valid–and for more people to be attentive to the fact that they have a new formula. Plus, the fact that many of the boxes don’t SAY they have Acti-Lift in them made it difficult to collect data.

At this point, here is what we have found.

Of the 110 survey respondents, 39 had noticed some bright blue flecks in the detergent, 31 did not, and 36 had not paid attention.

Tide Acti Lift Cloth Diapers

For the purposes of this study, we can only look at those who have the change in blue flecks, as that ensures that they are most likely to have the Acti-Lift (again, we would like to update this further down the road with more survey responses).


We asked survey respondents who had noticed more rashes on their babies in the last month, and just over a third of those who have the blue crystals noticed more rashes.

Tide Acti Lift Rashes

Update: Here are the stats if we compare them with those who did not have extra blue in their detergent:

actilift rashes


Of those who had the Acti-Lift crystals, there was actually very little additional damage witnessed in the last month. However, of the forms of damage, holes/tears were observed the most. I am most curious about that statistic, since Carolyn has just recently started to get holes in some of her inserts. Again, these are early-stage statistics and we need to keep looking at this.

Tide Actilift Damage Preliminary

Update: If we compare the presence of holes/tears in people who have diapers with Acti-Lift versus those without, we see a slight difference. But again, this amount is still very small.


Damage on Certain Types of Diapers

We also wanted to see if damage was more common among different diaper types. Most damage was seen in PUL/TPU covers and Pocket Diapers, but very uncommon in flats. (Remember, these are just preliminary findings).

Tide Acti Lift Damage by Diaper Type



Here is where we see the biggest difference. Of those that have the blue flecks in their detergent, a third experienced cloth diaper stink (NOTE: each respondent could have experienced one or more types of stink, so there could be more than a third with stink issues if respondents had different kinds of stink).

Diaper Stink with Tide Acti Lift

Updated: after the release of the article, we had a reader ask that we compare these numbers with those who indicated that they did not have Acti-Lift in their detergent:acilift comparison


Obviously there are many limitations with this. We lack the controlled environment that researchers with more resources have. We would like more responses to our Tide Survey (please fill it out if you have tried the new detergent). We just feel that we need to at least give preliminary findings since some people (including us!) are very panicked right now.

We have also not included other variables in this analysis. Our survey asks questions about water type, as well as recent changes in conditions (for example, changing a washing routine, line drying, etc). In a future analysis, we hope to consider all variables–but at this time there are not enough responses to do so.

If you want to switch from Tide temporarily, until we get more concrete data, I recommend A Happy Green Life. That is the closest I’ve gotten to Tide. I also recommend using the GroVia Mighty Bubbles Laundry Treatment with any detergent you are using. It is a great product to use once every couple of weeks (I’ve been using this a LOT lately to fight cloth diaper stink…possibly because of Tide drama?)You can also see what other cloth diaper detergents work well by visiting our Detergent Database, which lists scores for detergent performance based on water type and machine type. If you have other detergents that you’ve tried and loved/hated/been indifferent about, be sure to fill out our Washing Diapers Survey so that we can have as much data as possible to refer people to if they choose to stop using Tide Ultra.


  1. margaret says

    I am an adult who has used Tide Free always and for several months I have been have eye tearing and itching on my body which I finally tracked to my Tide Free. I am convinced that the formula in all Tide has been changed without notice. I am now trying
    other laundry products.

  2. meljc says

    DS is now basically potty-trained, but we finally cracked open our new box with Acti-Life and now he has a rash on his entire body :-( Sadly we use coin-op so there’s no extra rinse option for us. I picked up some Tide Free liquid which I would say is “acceptable” for clothes, but does not get even normal toddler stains out as well as Ultra powder. I think when DD is born we may have to use Ultra for her diapers (which get a second wash as a rinse) and Free for everything else. Such a disappointment!

  3. Kendra Hennessy says

    We were using Tide Ultra powder for about 18 months with great success. We just finished our first box of the new acti lift formula, and our diapers have a strong ammonia smell as soon as DD pees. I’m not sure whether to get another box of Tide and try to tweak our routine, or if we should just switch detergents entirely. Frustrating!

  4. Cassandra Draper says

    I’ve been using Tide F&G (the liquid HE detergent) for nearly TWO years and started having problems a month ago when DD2 switched to formula. I stripped my diapers right away and they already stink! I didn’t have a single problem for those nearly two years and I finally made the connection I opened up a brand new bottle of Tide around the same time I noticed the problem. My daughter is getting horrible rashes now (she hasn’t had rash problems at all until that new bottle was opened) and the stink is awful. I’m super disappointed that it is no longer working for us. It took almost a year to get a great detergent with my oldest that worked well and now it doesn’t :(

  5. Reads Alot says

    Sorry, I meant to say Acti-Lift. Wish your site had a way to correct my mistakes. Btw, my clothes were very clean looking with the flecked Tide and it did remove a tough stain as a pretreatment. Some front load HE machines develop mold around the door sealing and behind the seal. This has nothing to do with which detergent is used, but can be affected by residue from any of them.

  6. Loves to Read says

    Hi, I was looking on the web to see if anyone had an odor problem with powdered Tide this summer. I happened to still have 1/2 box of Tide without blue flecks in it and opened new box with flecks by mistake. I had. Shirt with a tiny food stain on it and happened to rub the flecked tide and a little water on the stain and let it sit. I noticed the stain was gone and I was pleased. I liked on the flecked box and noticed the Ultralift on it. I used up my older box of Tide without flecks and had NO ODOR PROBLEM. I started the new box and washed a few loads and noticed a terrible odor in my washing machine. I checked my machine with a level. LEVEL. I ran the machine full load empty with hot water, then I ran with two cups white vinegar in hot water. Odor almost gone. I ran another 1 cup vinegar, hot water. Next day I ran two plain hot water washes. Then I ran I hot water with one cup chlorine bleach. All odor was completely gone and I washed my laundry with the new flecked tide and odor returned. I leave washer open after use. I will now go through the process of cleaning my washer again. I have a non HE top load machine. I have no babies, but I have a strong science background. I know that the newer formulation is responsible for my odor. Ladies try cleaning out all residue from your washers. I will now switch to another detergent. Many have protease, enzymes, to remove protein based biological staining. I found a list of detergents which do not contain any enzymes. I wish Tide would have kept their older formula. I was satisfied with it. Good luck to all you moms.

  7. Melissa K says

    Thanks for the heads up. I have the formula without the Activlift and I am getting low. Do t think I want to try the Activlift. :( I contacted the company to tell them how u happy I am with the change. Might try the Kirkland Tide. What does it look like?? Just want to make sure I get the right stuff.

  8. meljc says

    Thank you so much for bringing this to my attention before I buy a new box of Tide! I tried the Vivid White formula about six months ago, thinking it would be even better than Ultra, and found that we had increased stink and rashes. The only visual difference is the presence of blue flecks in Vivid White (“flavor crystals” as my husband calls them).

  9. Amanda Duke says

    I just moved in June and bought a small box of Tide to try out. I had used it in the past and it worked great. It gave my daughter rashes and I have been battling ammonia since. I knew the rash was from the Tide but didn’t realize it was a formula change. Don’t you hate when companies try to fix something that isn’t broken!

  10. Regan says

    I’ve heard that Ariel is the same as Tide but is made for customers in Mexico. It’s not available in all states but for those who have it available may be able to try it as an option. I just bought a new box of Tide and saw some that said Acti Lift on the box. Mine didn’t but if there is blue in it I may try Ariel. Thanks for the heads up. My son is very rash prone

  11. Kelly Crow says

    I’ve heard people having great luck with the costco/kirkland version of tide. I’ve had the best luck with the pods (hard water) but to each their own

    • Tara at Padded Tush Stats says

      Carolyn JUST bought the Kirkland one and is giving it a shot. We’ll have to see what she finds out!

        • says

          Hey there! I haven’t been using it long enough to draw any conclusions (we have a large stash and then I was out of town, so I can’t say for sure which diapers have been washed in the Kirkland versus the Tide, and I like to give things a really thorough test before saying anything specific!) I’ll keep everyone posted though! :)

            • says

              I seem to have better results if I add a scoop of Oxy to my full/heaping scoop of the Kirkland detergent (I was having a funky smell before the Oxy, and after the smell went away I tried dropping the Oxy from the routine and the smell came back. Now I’m experimenting with how much Oxy is necessary to keep the smell at bay). So, I preferred my old Tide routine with no additives, but this seems to be working reasonably well (and doesn’t require me to purchase a specialty detergent online).


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