It should come as no surprise that babies produce lots of dirty laundry, but what makes the best detergent in which to wash them? Washing your baby’s clothes with specialized baby detergent is the best way to protect your baby and their sensitive skin from irritation. 

After extensive research, our top pick of baby detergent is Babyganics. Not only is it pediatrician-recommended, but this plant-based formula is also hypoallergenic, free from irritating chemicals and suitable for sensitive skin. Read on, though, to find out more about our top pick and check out our other recommendations.

  • Plant and enzyme-based cleaning power
  • Sulfate, optical brightener and fragrance-free
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Pediatrician and dermatologist tested
  • Triple concentrated, HE compatible
  • Three pack: 3 x 60 fl oz/3 x 60 loads

  • Specially formulated for newborns
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Suitable for HE and standard washers
  • Pediatrician-recommended
  • Two pack: 2 x 50 fl oz/2 x 32 loads

  • Double concentrated formula
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Dermatologist tested
  • Suitable for HE washers
  • Two pack: 2 x 82.5 fl oz/ 2 x 110 loads


Our overall favorite baby detergent is this naturally sensitive formula by Babyganics.  

This gentle detergent uses plant and enzyme-based cleaning power to provide you with excellent cleaning results that won’t cause irritation. Importantly, it’s free of optical brighteners and sulphates, a common detergent ingredient that can irritate the scalp and skin. What’s more, as it is fragrance-free, you can be sure that there are no unlisted added chemicals.

Perfect for your baby’s fragile skin, you can rest assured this detergent is high-quality and has been approved by both dermatologists and pediatricians. Available as a three pack, with a total of 180 loads, it works out great value for money. As it is triple concentrated, though, you may need to add on an extra rinse cycle. The bottle could also be easier to pour; the slight indent makes gripping it rather tricky, so you’ll need to be careful it doesn’t slip from your hands.

Pros

  • Gentle plant-based enzyme cleaning power
  • Sulfate and fragrance free – less likely to irritate very sensitive skin 
  • Low-price for pack of 3/180 loads
  • Dermatologist and pediatrician tested

Cons

  • May need an extra rinse cycle
  • Bottle could be easier to pour

Specially formulated for newborns, Dreft Stage One is our classic baby detergent pick. 

This two pack bundle offer 64 loads at a medium cost per load. This popular, well-known detergent is specially formulated to care for baby’s sensitive skin. The hypoallergenic formula is compatible with both standard and high-efficiency machines, as well as being pediatrician-recommended, so you can be sure that it will be suitable for your baby. In fact, a 2016 pediatrician survey found that Dreft was the number one recommended baby detergent. With its practical cap, you can adjust the amount of detergent to suit the quantity and dirtiness of your load. 

The biggest downside, though, to this product is its use of optical brighteners and fragrances. Even though optical brighteners are frequently associated with skin irritation in very sensitive babies (see our buying guide below), many users have claimed that this detergent caused no irritation to their baby’s skin. The scent is very strong, however, and while some users may prefer this, others find it a little overpowering. If your baby has sensitive, easily irritated skin, a fragrance-free detergent like our top pick may be a better choice. 

Pros

  • Pediatrician recommended
  • Gentle enough for newborns
  • Hypoallergenic formula
  • Compatible for use with High-efficiency washing machines

Cons

  • Strong scent


Offering an impressive 220 loads per pack at a low-price, our top budget pick is Purex 2x Concentrated. This baby detergent formula provides powerful, double-concentrated cleaning power while also being hypoallergenic and gentle enough for baby soft skin. It is free from dyes and has been dermatologist tested for your peace of mind. 

Troublesome baby food and poop stains are lifted from fabrics in one wash with no detergent residue left behind. The formula is suitable for use with high-efficiency washers too. 

This low-cost detergent is perfect if you’re on a tight budget and have lots of laundry to get through. It should be noted, though, that this formula contains optical brighteners and a synthetic fragrance. While the use of these ingredients boosts cleaning results and gives a pleasant scent to freshly-washed clothes, they can be irritating for very sensitive skin.

Pros

  • Low-price
  • Great stain removal
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Dye-free and dermatologist tested

Cons

  • May not be suitable for sensitive skin

Comparison Chart

BabyganicsDreft Stage OnePurex 2x Concentrated
Volume (fl.oz)6050220
Price per Load$$$$$
Hypoallergenic
Fragrance-FreeXX
Plant-based XX
Dermatologist RecommendedX
Pediatrician RecommendedX
Contains Optical BrightenersX
Suitable for HE Standard Washers

Buyer’s Guide:

Baby Laundry Detergents

When you’re choosing a detergent for your baby’s fabrics, it’s all too easy to get caught up in the whirl of marketing hype. Here’s our guide to what to look out for before making your final choice:

Hypoallergenic

Contrary to popular belief, there aren’t any guidelines that a product has to fulfill in order to be classed as hypoallergenic. It simply means that the manufacturer claims that their product causes fewer allergic reactions than others. When it comes down to baby detergents, though, you can be sure that all of the popular household brands have conducted extensive research into making detergents that are suitable for sensitive baby skin. 

When you purchase a hypoallergenic baby detergent, it will have been specially formulated to minimize the risk of an allergic reaction. This means that it will contain fewer allergens and chemicals that are known or thought to have an adverse effect on sensitive skin.

Plant-Based

As opposed to petroleum-based detergents, plant-based ones are understandably more environmentally friendly. With fewer harsh chemicals, plant-derived baby detergents tend to be better for baby’s sensitive skin, reducing the risk of an allergic reaction, as well as redness, rashes, and discomfort.

As we are increasingly looking for ways to reduce our impact on the environment, eco-friendly detergents make a great choice that will help to leave the world a better place for our children’s future. Making a move towards more natural ingredients is also a great way to reduce the number of chemicals that your baby is exposed to during their first few weeks and months. 

Fragrance-Free

It’s well known that fragrances can irritate sensitive skin. Very young babies have fragile skin that is much more sensitive than ours. So, if you find that certain fragrances irritate you, it’s more than likely that they will have the same effect upon your little one. 

Another point to note here is that manufacturers are not obliged to disclose their fragrance ingredients, so a product could potentially contain over one hundred extra ingredients that may cause irritation. You can, however, find naturally-scented baby detergents which use all-natural substances to give a faint perfume to your laundry without irritation. 

When making your choice, be sure to pay attention to the difference between fragrance-free and unscented baby detergents. Fragrance-free simply means that no fragrance has been added, making it the better option. Unscented often means that a chemical has been added to mask strong smelling ingredients. 

Stain Removal Power 

While your baby’s comfort is of utmost importance, you don’t want to waste time, energy, and effort rewashing to get baby’s laundry clean. Time is precious when you have your hands full with a little one, but thankfully, today’s baby detergents are pretty good at getting moderate to tough stains out. 

Just be aware that our top pick, Babyganics, doesn’t contain optical brighteners. This means it is less-likely to irritate sensitive skin, but also that your laundry may look less bright. You can easily counteract this by pretreating stains before washing for best results.

It can be difficult to understand exactly what goes into your baby detergent, and a long list of scary-sounding ingredients hardly reassures worried parents looking to minimize their baby’s exposure to chemicals. Here’s the lowdown on some of the most common baby detergent ingredients and what they mean:

Surfactants

Surfactants are the main ingredient in detergents. Soap is the earliest example of a surfactant. Simply put, they function by breaking down oil and dirt from your laundry water. They contain a so-called “water-loving” group of molecules, combined with a “water-hating” one. This allows them to hold the removed dirt in suspension. 

In doing so, they not only lift it from your laundry, they also prevent it from becoming redeposited during the washing cycle. Surfactants can be synthetic, plant or mineral-based and are an essential component for clean clothes.

Optical Brighteners 

Optical brighteners are chemicals which are added to detergents to make clothes appear brighter and whiter. They are a ‘non-essential additive’ which means they do not alter or enhance the actual cleanliness of your garments. 

Optical brighteners remain within the fibres of your clothes after washing. While optical whiteners are not dangerous by definition, as they are a residue that remains after rinsing, they could potentially irritate anyone with sensitive skin. If you are worried about your baby’s sensitive skin, this is one detergent ingredient that you can avoid. Our top pick, Babyganics is plant-based and free from optical brighteners. 

Fragrance

Unless your baby has very sensitive skin, fragrance for the main part is a matter of personal preference. Some people don’t perceive their laundry to be “clean” unless it has a clean fragrance. 

Some parents find certain laundry scents overwhelming, so you can only imagine how they would overpower a newborn. What’s more, synthetic scents can contain a variety of chemicals that may not be in your baby’s best interests. While allergies to laundry scents may be fairly rare, it is something that you can cut out to minimize your baby’s exposure to unnecessary chemicals. 

If you like a light scent to your baby laundry, check out Babyganics which offers a plant-based, natural scent rather than a synthetic one.

Enzymes

Baby detergents containing enzymes allow you to save energy and resources by providing better cleaning performance at lower temperatures. Specific enzymes target particular stain types. Proteases remove proteins, such as milk and human waste, while amylases remove starches and lipases break down fats. You may want to opt for a detergent such as Babyganics that offers enzyme cleaning action to be sure that your baby’s clothes receive a thorough wash, especially once they get a little older.

  • Is baby detergent as effective as normal detergent?
  • Baby detergent formulas have made massive advances in recent years to provide you with a powerful, yet sensitive clean, but when tackling very stubborn stains you may find that you will need to spot treat or prewash to achieve a comparable result. It’s worth remembering that, as babies can be hard work, you may find that your washes are less frequent and stains are left to sit for longer, which can give the impression that baby detergents are less effective. Also, be aware that if you opt for a baby detergent without optical brighteners, your laundry will look less bright, although this will not alter the level of cleanliness at all.

  • At what age can I stop using baby detergent?
  • It all depends upon your baby and your lifestyle. Some parents choose to use baby detergent for just the first few months before returning to regular detergent. Others use it for several years. 

    As your baby will be spending a lot of time in your arms and against your clothes, a lot of families use baby detergent for the whole family. This can also be a lifestyle choice when opting for an eco-friendly detergent and in these cases, baby detergent is often used to replace a regular one indefinitely. If your baby has particularly sensitive skin, you may wish to keep using baby detergent for a few years, as changing suddenly may lead to an allergic reaction of breakouts or rashes.

  • How do I know if my baby has reacted to detergent?
  • If your baby wears a disposable diaper, the quick and easy way to check if your baby has had a reaction to detergent is to check and compare their torso to the area under the diaper where the clothing doesn’t touch their skin. Detergent-related rashes are often also worse around the arms and legs where clothing fits more closely to the skin and tends to rub more.

    Bear in mind that if your baby suddenly experiences a reaction out of the blue, several days or even weeks later, this could still be caused by a reaction to detergent. Allergic contact dermatitis, often noticeable as a red and itchy rash, may only appear a week or so later. You baby may also not develop a rash until they’ve been exposed to the substance several times.

  • Does baby detergent expire?
  • For the most part, detergents do not typically “go off” as such. They can, however, lose their cleaning efficacy during storage. It is recommended that you use a liquid detergent for your baby, as this will result in less residue. Liquid detergents tend to have a “best used by” date. This means that you can use them after this date; however, their performance will be better if used before. After this date, the ingredients could start to break down and you may find that your detergent develops a lumpy consistency. 

    Bear in mind that once you have opened your detergent, it is recommended that you use it within six months, regardless of the “best used by” date on the bottle.

Final Thoughts 

With their fragile, sensitive skin, most parents choose to opt for a baby detergent to minimize their little one’s chemical exposure. With so many excellent choices available, it can be tricky to work out which one to choose for your baby. 

Our overall favorite baby detergent is Babyganics. Pediatrician and dermatologist tested with great cleaning power, this plant-based detergent is also sulfate, optical brightener and fragrance-free, so you can be sure that it offers the very best performance and protection for your little one.

If you’re looking for a classic detergent choice, try out Dreft Stage One Baby Detergent. It offers great cleaning performance and is one of the top pediatrician-recommended baby detergents. Hypoallergenic and suitable for even newborns, this detergent makes a great trusted choice for your baby’s skin, ensuring their happiness and general well being.

If you’re watching your budget, then we recommend opting for Purex 2x Concentrated. This 2-pack offers 220 loads of double-concentrated cleaning power at a low price. While it may not be the best choice for very sensitive babies, the formula effectively removes stains without leaving any detergent residue, is dermatologist tested and free from dyes. 

Further Reading

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