So you saw the pictures...I was surprised myself. Is that not a little gross? The first picture (clear) is Rockin Green detergent, and the other (murky) is Tide. I have to admit, I have loved Tide for a long time and I love the smell of "clean." I was pleasantly surprised when I got married that Lee preferred it as well (it's the small things in life). We've never used anything different. It wasn't until I starting researching detergents for cloth diapers that I ever even considered switching. If it weren't for that I can guarantee you that it would not have been one of my babysteps anytime soon. After our Tide runs out (yes, I'm still using it up), I guess Lee and I need to have a heart to heart ;) I think I'm also going to have to run some stain tests before he'll be convinced that the "green" detergents actually clean as well. Here is what I have learned thus far...
Most commercial laundry detergents, like Tide, contain enzymes, whiteners, and brighteners. Sounds clean, right? Where it starts to go bad is that they are not required to list specific ingredients. Some of the unlisted ingredients are phthalates (harmful to wildlife in lakes and streams) and 1,4-dioxane (a petrochemical carcinogen). 1,4-dioxane is not easily removed from water. See this excellent article which also provides of a list of products that contain the most and least 1,4-dioxane: http://www.naturalnews.com/028846_laundry_detergents_dioxane.html.
My favorite diaper detergent is Rockin Green (RnG). Here is a list of their ingredients: sodium carbonate , sodium percarbonate, natural chelating agents, sodium sulfate, biodegradable surfactants, natural fragrance oils (if scented is chosen).
Seventh Generation also does a fantastic job of listing the specific chemicals that they use and explaining what each does. Charlie's Soap and Bio-Kleen are some of the other green favorites in reviews.
I have to admit I'm still researching this babystep. It makes sense to me why you don't want whiteners, brightners, and enzymes coating your clothes like the murky water in my cup. Basically they bind to your clothes and make them reflect light, add colors to cover up dirt, and cover odors. However, I'm fully aware that just because a label says natural and eco-friendly doesn't not mean that it's entirely safe nor does it mean it will clean well.
I do know that most of the enzymes, whiteners, and brighteners will bind to cloth diapers and repel moisture instead of repel it. Most detergents can also build up and cause stink issues so it's extremely important to use a low-sudsing, clean rinsing detergent on diapers. It makes me feel very good to see how RnG dissolves in water in my cup. So for now, it was an easy babystep to use RnG on the diapers.
This are the two best detergent reviews for cloth diaper detergent comparisons: