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.

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.