My Go-To Natural Laundry Booster

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I’ve been a big fan of cloth diapers for the past three years. Using them has helped save us money, reduce waste, and avoid any potential chemicals found in mainstream disposable diapers. Plus, they look darn cute!

Cloth diaper on baby and toddler

(We’re still using diapers over here because I’m not about to attempt potty training my toddler while also caring for a newborn.)

While our cloth diapers worked amazingly well for us from the start, many of them eventually developed an overpowering “fishy” odor every time they got soiled. They’d smell just fine right out of the washing machine, but it was almost embarrassing to take my son out in public because the moment his cloth diapers got wet they would smell terrible– even if he had only been wearing a fresh diaper for 20 minutes.

I had read about “stripping” cloth diapers when they developed an ammonia smell (since residue can build up after so many wears), but a number of methods called for using blue dish soap or bleach, and I didn’t love the idea of using chemicals on clothing that would be touching such sensitive skin. I have also read that stripping isn’t necessary if you have a proper wash routine in the first place, so I knew there had to be a better way.

What I found worked best for us at eliminating this terrible odor, was adding washing soda occasionally to our pre-rinse cycle.

washing soda added to washing machine

If you’re not familiar with washing soda, it’s a natural cleaner that is 100% fragrance and phosphate free. (The only ingredient is sodium carbonate, which is similar to baking soda, but with a higher alkalinity.)

It helps neutralize and eliminate odors without the use of perfumes. If you’ve ever tried making your own laundry detergent at home, you’ll notice that many all-natural recipes call for washing soda because it’s effective at removing ground-in dirt and cutting through grease.

Isn’t the simplest answer almost always the best?

I can’t tell you how many other expensive, all-natural cloth diaper “enzyme cleaners” I tried before just adding a 1/2 cup of washing soda to my washer’s soak cycle. If you have the luxury of not doing multiple loads of laundry in a day, I like to pause my washing machine’s pre-rinse cycle so that it stays full of water with the washing soda dissolved in it. Then I can add my diapers to it as I go, and rinse them all at once each night.

Update: I’m also very impressed with the oxygen booster from Branch Basics. We add a scoop of that to every load of laundry we do in our house, and it seems to keep odor away without any added fragrance.

The soaking helps remove residues that smell when they become damp, and then I don’t have to deal with a bag of soggy diapers later. You don’t need to use the washing soda for every load, either– I usually only do it once or twice a month to keep the odor away, so one box lasts a really long time! (I also use it for gently scrubbing residue off of my kitchen sink and getting grease stains off of our white couch… it’s a miracle worker.)

In case the washing soda isn’t enough to help get rid of your cloth diaper odors, you might also try:

  • Adding 1/2 cup of white vinegar to your pre-rinse cycle
  • Drying your diapers outside in the sun

For more cloth diapering tips, including my favorite essentials to help get you started, check out what I think are the easiest cloth diapers (and my post tells you exactly what you’ll need to get started!)

Reader Feedback: Do you have any other favorite natural cleaning tips to share? Tell me in the comments below!

Note: This post was originally sponsored by Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda in 2016, but has since been updated.

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I always add vinegar to our laundry if it is especiallly gross. Gets rid of that body odour gym smell or if my son got especially dirty. I have never used the washing booster but see recipes for diy laundry detergents that call for it. That and fels naphtha and Borox. It’s been on my Mind to try to make cause it’s an apparantly amazing and dirt cheap. Duggars family (I know… duggars… eye roll) would talk about it a lot since god knows how much laundry they’ve had to do…

    Laura ~ Raise Your Garden

    And I use vinegar in my toilet to clean it and whiten it! But then it grosses me out when my husband uses it on his fries =) Ewwww. And I laughed out loud at the Duggars comments. Oh my. Help. Any, I will have to try this detergent out, I could make my own but quite honestly, I just don’t have the time right now!


      It only takes about 15 min to make your own (duggar family) detergent. So worth it!

Victoria Johnson

Microwave sliced lemons in a bowl of water for about 4 minutes, then you can wipe it down easily and it smells great! You can use the lemons to rub on the kitchen sink to shine it then toss down the drain for a fresh smell.


I was hesitant to try using vinegar because of the smell, but I can’t NOT use it anymore. It gets all the smells out.

Paige c

If my workout clothes smeelll really bad I soak them in vinegar

Melissa K

I use baking soda and water to kill grass in the cracks of my cement walkway. I just mix 1/2 cup baking soda in a 32 oz spray bottle and spray on a hot sunny day. Just make sure it’s just getting the weeds as it will kill everything.

    Megan Gilmore

    Ooh, that’s good to know!

kendra mcbride



I use vinegar or pink solution for almost everything! Plink solution is great for the scales in the tub.

Brittany S.

Great advice! Thank you. I use Charlie’s Soap laundry powder. It is all natural and has removed every stain from my three children’s clothing (including newborn blowout stains….it’s amazing stuff!). I also use it to make a carpet cleaner solution that removes anything from your carpet. I am going to get some of the Arm & Hammer powder you recommend. I bet it would work wonders on stainless steel and showers.


I love to use super washing soda and vinegar to wash my cloth diapers. I also love to add 5 drops of lemon essential oil for fresh scent and stain fighting.


I use white distilled vinegar and baking soda to get out stains on pretty much any hard surface!!! It works really well. I don’t have a baby but think it’s great to use cloth diapers. My nephew goes through so many disposable diapers!!!


Always using vinegar!


This po Is just in time! Im still experimenting with different mixtures like vinegar & baking soda as I just started cloth diapers. Thanks


I LOVE to use a mixture of water and essential oils (I like lemongrass, orange, lavender, eucalyptus and tea tree mix) for an antibacterial “lysol type” spray. Whenever anyone in our house has been sick I spray all the door handles, remotes, furniture, pretty much everything with it and it really must kill the sick germs because usually no one else will get sick! (even with the stomach flu!) plus it smells great and you can customize to your liking! Old apple cider vinegar bottles and any old spray nozzle work great for this!


I use vinegar in place of fabric softener in my laundy and add peroxide for any blood stain (son gets bloody noses occasionally). Also use a 1:1 ratio of water and vinegar with essential oil (tea tree, lemon, peppermint) for almost all of my cleaning. And use baking soda and water paste for tile grout.


    The most effective way to get blood stains off (preferably while it’s fresh), is just plain cold water. The molecules don’t bind, otherwise hot water binds them therefore the blood sets in. Hope this helps!

Alexandra robertson

I love that stuff! I love to clean my toilet bowl with vinegar and baking soda to soak then scrub clean.

Alexandra robertson

Check out @alexandrairob’s Tweet:


Thanks for the tips! I clean the kitchen sink by sprinkling baking soda, a spray of white vinegar, letting it soak, then scrubbing.


Mix 15 drops of essential oils with 1 cup of Arm and Hammer baking soda for a natural carpet deodorizer, sprinkle on carpet and leave for 20 mins, then just vacuum it up.


Thanks for the great tip! I would love to use cloth diapers for my next baby.
Love using vinegar and baking for all kinds of cleaning 🙂


I really enjoy natural cleaners, but my husband hates the smell of vinegar, so I use a Thieves all-purpose cleaner as my go-to.


I love having a safe “go to” for our cleaning! All the comments are great & helpful too! I use Dr. Bronners, tea tree oil, baking soda, apple cider vinager and vinager in various ways from shampoo, conditioner to all purpose cleaner! Thank for the great tips!


I use vinegar, borax, laundry detergent and a hot water soak. Works miracles and leaves it smelling so fresh and clean!

I also love a combo of dish detergent and vinegar for getting soap scum and grime out of the bathroom! :9 good!


I like to mix a few drops of essential oil with water, rubbing alcohol and baking soda. It works great as a scrub! The essential oil makes it smell great!

Lori Farrell

I’ve used vinegar for cleaning around the house but never for laundry. I’ll give it a try. I also like vinegar and Dawn to clean soap scum in the shower.


Baking soda + hydrogen peroxide + Dawn is my go-to stain remover. I’m definitely getting some of this booster at Walmart!


I love to use vinegar in the laundry and also to clean in the bathroom and kitchen.

Brianne Megerdichian

These are all such great tips. I just used baking soda to clean kid puke out of hubby’s new car. Sigh. It worked!


I like the A&H washing soda! love the other ideas to use vinegar and essential oils as well. Thx for your great blog.


I use this too!!!


I’ve been making my own laundry soap for years now…and LOVE the washing soda! I use the “re-useable” puppy pads for my lil poodle, and vinegar instead of fabric softener…and it works great! Thanks for all your hard work, and sharing such great tips with us…you ROCK! 🙂


My ‘natural’ cleaning tips include seventh generation products and recycled paper towels. Reading these tips are great! I never knew you could clean so thoroughly with a basic product like Arm and Hammer. I can’t wait to use it all the ways that have been suggested— especially on the carpet with essential oil and in my laundry! I had no idea that Arm and Hammer wasn’t just for the back of the fridge!


I use vinegar mixed with hot water in a spray bottle to clean my guinea pig’s pen! It works really well for dried on urine. I just make sure to give it a wipe with plain water and let the scent die off before I put her back in!

Christi Lee

With two guys in the house generating smelly workout clothes and socks, baking soda has been my secret laundry weapon for the last several years. About six months ago I also switched to using white vinegar in the rinse cycle (in place of fabric softener or dryer sheets), and this has made life (and my nose!)even happier.


I use a combination of baking soda and vinegar in my washer when I wash towels. They come out fluffy and fresh smelling.


I use vinegar to clean wonders!
Thanks for the tips!


I just want to share that I used cloth diapers also with my first two kids. And I used A&H baking soda in the rince cycle to deodorize and sofen them. They were always fresh and clean without using bleach. Sometimes if I didn’t have baking soda I would use vinegar. But didn’t use them together because they can have a reaction to one another. Not a POISONOUS one though, just a foaming one.


Thanks. I’m going to try this!


Dr Bronners actually works better than laundry detergent at getting the poopy stains out of my daughter’s clothes! I just wet them with water and put the Dr Bronners on it and then leave it to soak til I am ready to do the laundry.


Microwave a lemon half with a bowl of water, for four minutes, it’ll dissolve all the gunk stuck to the sides. Just wipe it down with a sponge and good to go!


Wow! This sounds like an awesome natural product. I’ve never heard of it before but I am excited to try it! Thank you for sharing 🙂

Ruth jeppson

This is also great to use every once in awhile on towels. It keeps them smelling fresh too.

Jane Fowler

Thanks for the great info. I look forward to trying it!


I usually uSe vinegar, can’t wait to try this out ❤️


Recently our dishwasher stopped working. So one thing: squeeze all water out of sponge, fill with sufficient clean warm water and lots of soap, microwave for 30 seconds. Then rinse and squeeze until it’s good as new, relatively.
Have a variety of cleaning tools. If you’re disabled like me, one product might not work for you that works for everyone else. So if magic erasers aren’t your thing, try copper scrub brushes or bristles brushes or even bottle brushes or those plastic square scrapers. There’s tons of stuff out there, and some of it can be found cheap at dollar stores or thrift shops.
If things are clogged up, it can help to do an empty rinse cycle – this goes for dishwashers and washing machines. It may help to use vinegar in this process. In some cases baking soda can help. Both vinegar and baking soda have ridiculously versatile cleaning abilities.
Lemon juice for getting rid of stains like marinara sauce on plastic containers. Oddly enough, sunlight can help the bleaching process, too.


My tip is to take some washing soda, add a little water to make a paste and then use it as a scrub to clean anything and everything! But to make it even more enjoyable (assuming cleaning can be enjoyable) is to add a drop or two of your favorite essential oil to add scent naturally!


I love using baking Sosa and vinegar to clean my toilets. I am very excited to try the washing soda!


I love using vinegar and washing soda for an extra cleaning boost! I also use vinegar as my dishwasher’s rinse aid. No harmful chemicals needed. ?

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