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Charlie's Soap: The Debate

It's a heated game of "He said, She said"

Charlie's SoapThe debate rages on over Charlie's Soap and its use with cloth diapers. Haven't heard? Read on!

MOMS' SIDE: Some moms say that Charlie's Soap has caused burns resulting in blisters and, eventually, scarring on their child. Charlie's Soap claims that when their instructions are followed correctly, users will not encounter troubles. Moms are, understandably, bothered by the inference that they cannot read and follow directions on a bottle of laundry soap, and are, therefore, responsible for the pain their children have endured.

Mary, an irate mom, wrote the following to the Diaper Jungle:

"...My baby got terrible burns from this soap. All of our laundry, which has been washed in charlie's, is making us itch and my babies clothes turn her red. It's not a problem of sanitation or disinfection. It's a chemical burn. It's a big deal."

She continues, "...Charlie's website says: 'Follow the proper procedures.' Laundry Detergent should not do this, no matter how you wash. I now have to throw out all my diapers (prefolds), and probably my covers too. Before I bought the detergent I thought the same that happy-charlies-customers posting thought: "Oh, well some people just probably blew off directions." No. Cloth diapering parents aren't likely to be so careless with their babies' bums--if they were careless they would use disposable."

In closing, this frustrated mom continues, "Oh, and the stupid letter Charlie's gives for troubleshooting suggests that if you have poor water quality you should go to a paint store and buy TSP. Ridiculous. IMO if you advertise a laundry product, I should not have to go to a paint store to fix it. "

CHARLIE'S SIDE: Sutherland Products, the manufacturers of Charlie's Soap, is also understandably frustrated by the accusations being made about their product. The third party testing results shown on their website indicate their product rinses away completely after washing, therefore, nothing is left behind to irritate baby's skin.

Information from Charlie's Soap Website:

"Clean. Green. Safe. Rinses residue free. Flame retardant. Non-toxic. Great for stain removal. Certified safe for food preparation. Biodegradable. Environmentally safe."

The President of Charlie's Soap, Inc. recently wrote to the Diaper Jungle. Here is an excerpt from his email:

I was wondering if we could update the unfortunate warning that has been attached to our detergent on [your] site. Charlie's Soap has been clinically proven to leave zero residue so burns that people experience are from waste and bacteria that might not have been cleaned away, not by Charlie's Soap itself. We have available a down-loadable instruction sheet on cleaning with Charlie's Soap since the procedure is different from expected. Charlie's Soap works by removing waste material (as best as possible) while all the other detergents you have listed "work" by leaving behind a film of residues. These residues coat bacteria and human waste, and yes they keep them from the skin, but they don't actually clean it away. This is why you have to strip diapers that are washed in every other detergent. To wash with Charlie's Soap, one has to follow certain instructions which we provide. So I was wondering, if we could update the note to say: "Since Charlie's Soap leaves no residue, it cannot coat bacteria, so you must follow down-loadable instructions on diaper laundering for maximum effectiveness."

You decide!

Already tried Charlie's? Have an opinion? Share your story!

Positive Testimonials:

#1: My baby boy -Jayden- has extremely sensitive skin. Almost every product on the market, baby soap, baby lotion, etc., would cause his skin to peel and crack. My pediatrician said that he had extremely sensitive skin, and recommended switching to organic products and cloth diapers. I did extensive research before deciding what products to buy. After all, good cloth diapers do cost a lot of money upfront. After finding the best cloth diaper for our needs, we jumped into the cloth diapering world. The manufacturer's website said that the use of the wrong detergent could cause rashes, chemical burns, leaking and void the guarantee. I had used other detergents -Ecover and free and clear detergents- but they were just OK. After reading the many positive reviews on amazon.com, I decided to give this detergent a try.

I noticed the difference right away. The diapers were super clean and soft. His frequent rashes disappeared. He does not even need diaper cream anymore!

I started using Charlie's soap for the rest of my laundry too, and the frequent breakouts that my husband suffered on his back also disappeared! He was so shocked, and now refuses to buy any other detergent.

I have no idea why some users have had bad experiences. If they were not satisfied with the product, the company has a guarantee. They will buy back the detergent at the purchase price if you are not happy with it. I know very few companies that do the same. That speaks volumes about their quality and service.

Laura C.

#2: I have been using Charlies Soap for 18 months without a problem. The only time it has turned my baby's bottom red is if I occasionally use bleach as well... Which Bum Genius recommends to do occasionally. I love this soap!


#3: Different soups for different folks I would say. I have been using cloth diapers for over 6 years, continuously...oy! I've used a bunch of different detergents, soaps, etc. but always had to strip them until I found Charlie's. I really like it. I think it works great and the diapers smell fabulous. However, I supposed that has to do with my water, and washing practices... So sorry to hear of the painful tushes out there!

Kerri D.

#4: Nice to hear the negative feedback in case anything strange ever occurs with my next baby...I personally was getting ready to order the 5 lb. bucket tonight. We are big fans. Best of luck to others.

Amy H.

Negative Testimonials:

#1: I've been using [cloth] diapers on my daughter for over a year and a half. For the first year or so, I used All Free and Clear (Small and Mighty, HE version, front loader). The diapers got very clean, but eventually they began to develop a funky smell. So, I started stripping the diapers every few weeks. As time went by, I started having to strip them more often. So, I switched to Charlie's Soap on the recommendation of the owner of a [cloth diaper retailer].

I followed the directions, cleaning out my machine and washing the diapers several times with Charlie's before using them on my daughter. After [wearing] the first diaper washed in Charlie's, her [bottom] looked a little red. With each diaper change, she got redder and redder, eventually developing two blister-like sores. I stopped using the diapers and temporarily switched to disposables with a whole bunch of Aquaphor to heal the sores/burns. After she was healed, I switched back to cloth again. Same thing happened. I determined (through lots of testing) that the only way I was able to use Charlie's on her diapers without causing sores and burns on her bottom was if I used just a teaspoon of soap and triple rinsed. The one time I forgot to triple rinse, she got sores again.

I know that Charlie's claims that you have to use the full tablespoon in order to clean the diapers thoroughly, so I'm not following their directions to the letter. Charlie's claims that the burns are from leftover waste and bacteria. However, I really can't believe that leftover bacteria in the diapers is causing these sores. If that were the case, you'd expect my daughter to have MORE of a reaction when I use less Charlie's Soap, but in fact my daughter has LESS of a reaction when I use less Charlie's Soap. I've also tried switching back to All Free and Clear, with little success. She still gets the sores, so any coating of bacteria that All supposedly [leaves behind] doesn't seem to be happening.

All I know is that she was fine for over a year, got sores when I switched to Charlie's, and can't wear our cloth diapers anymore. Trying out Charlie's turned out to be a costly mistake not only is the soap expensive, my cloth diapers are now unusable and I have to buy disposables for my daughter to wear while she heals. (I know that Aquaphor and cloth diapers don't mix!)

Lisa E.

#2: Fortunately, I did not have trouble with Charlie's Soap causing my son any burns, but I would not discount mothers who say they have had a bad experience with Charlie's. Very weird things happened to my diapers and laundry when I used it.

First, I followed the instructions to a "t" and I have a brand new HE washer that heats the water to a sanitary temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit when I wash diapers on the sanitary setting. This should be the ideal washing system. However, when I used Charlie's I had all kinds of problems with stains. I constantly had to sun diapers to get out stains, and this was the newborn breast milk poop. And every time I used Charlie's to wash clothes, it turned most of my whites either pink or blue. The strange tinting never came out of those items and essentially ruined them. When I called Charlie's for help, they told me I should use Baby Oxiclean (but not regular Oxiclean) to get out the stains and didn't address the tinting. She also told me that my water may be to blame. I felt that was a cop out and the detergent should be able to clean in a variety of water "types." You can't buy Baby Oxiclean in normal stores, you have to special order it. In the end, I got frustrated with it and switched to Biokleen. I did try a few other detergents, but Biokleen worked the best for me.

I do not think Charlie's should market itself to cloth diaper users. They are too controversial and potentially dangerous. I don't think I have ever been more disillusioned with such an acclaimed product before. I say down with Charlie's!

Hollye L.

#3: I am very grateful that you posted the warning about rashes and burns on your site. We have been struggling with strange looking rash on our 3 month old son for 3 weeks now. Even went to a walk in clinic for the rash because it was so terrible looking.

We've been using Charlies for approx. 2 months now at the recommendation of our local cloth diaper retailer. When the rashes started breaking out everyone said the same thing. "Change laundry soap...he's allergic to something in the soap." I pooh poohed the idea since the labeling on Charlie's says certified non-toxic hypo-allergenic, and biodegradable. I guess I am a blind truster of labels!!

Our baby's rash has not cleared up, but your warning is hopefully setting us on the path to getting it cleared up. I have done the triple rinsing with CS with no luck. Still the rashes!! Trying ALL free and clear. Please do not remove your warning as CS has asked. Thank you for your site...it's helped me!

Rachel T.

#4: I've been using Charlie's Soap for my cloth diapers since my now 13 month old daughter's birth. We even switched to Charlie's for all our laundry needs. We've been very happy with it for our clothing, however...

My daughter has always gotten bad diaper rashes. We always figured she was just prone to them b/c she does seem to have sensitive skin like her father in other ways as well. Funny thing is, when we made a major move several months ago, we ended up using disposables for about 2 months. The entire time, she did not have any significant redness in her diaper area, let alone any rash. Even at times for some reason or other we'd neglected a dirty diaper for too long, still no rash. We finally were able to get back to cloth and she instantly had terrible rashes. She had deep redness that looked very painful and it developed into a couple blisters as well. She was in so much pain and I felt so sorry for her. I tried ointments, but they didn't do much.

I then received a free trial size of "Soap Nuts", a detergent alternative, with an order of covers I bought. I threw them in the wash with the diapers. For the 3 washes we got out of that trial she had no rash at all. When the trial was out, we went back to Charlie's (knowing this would finally tell us if it really was the Charlie's, or maybe just something she'd eaten!) Instant terrible rash again!

I ordered more of the Soap Nuts and bought a pack of 'sposies to hold her over until our order came in. I'm so happy we finally found out what was causing the painful rashes on my baby.

Charlie D.

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