Charlie’s Soap

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by Janelle Coleman/Holly Rhodes

The reason we don’t recommend Charlie’s Soap is two-fold:

  1. It is very dangerous and can cause serious chemical burns.
  2. It is ineffective especially at the quantities suggested.

Charlie’s Soap is dangerous: It is important to first distinguish the differences between a child having a sensitivity to a detergent, an allergic reaction to a detergent, and suffering chemical burns from a detergent. Charlie’s Soap lands in that last category. Chemical burns are in fact instances of skin being burned off when coming into contact with a particular chemical. This type of burning often requires medical attention, intense treatment and can leave scarring. The chemical in Charlie’s Soap that causes this is sodium metasilicate. Sodium metasilicate is most commonly used as a fabric scourer used in textile manufacturing to prepare fabrics for use, it is also used as a machine cleaner and a rinse aid. This ingredient is used in other detergents but there is one very significant difference between those and Charlie’s Soap. Sodium metasilicate is a very base chemical, it has a very high ph and requires buffering by an acid to bring the ph back down closer to a neutral level to be safe. In most detergents you will see citric acid used for this purpose. Charlie’s Soap ingredients are as follows: Sodium carbonate, sodium metasilicate, C12-15, and Pareth-2. No acid present to buffer, leaving the overall ph of Charlie’s Soap to be between 10.5-11. To give you a point of reference the PH of tide products range from 8.5-9.5 (each varying degree increases the alkalinity ten-fold) and undiluted bleach is 11.

All that being said, using Charlie’s Soap is a little like playing Russian Roulette. If you have highly acidic water, it may be enough to buffer the detergent for you, if you use too little to leave any residue you might be safe as well, if you rinse a half dozen times after washing with it, that might take care of the chances as well BUT the ph of your water can change substantially with the seasons, with water treatment, pipe maintenance, etc. So anytime that the ph of your water changes ever so slightly, you use a little too much or over/under fill your machine, don’t rinse well enough you’ve gone from cloth diaper bliss to a trip to the ER. It is that serious. It can happen after using it one time, after a week, a month, a year, 2 years. Every time you use it you are taking a huge risk.

The secondary reason that Charlie’s isn’t recommended is because it’s just plain ineffective.

Their suggested routine is as follows:

  1. 1 tbsp of the Powder
  2. Cold water rinse.
  3. Wash with Charlie’s Soap, disinfectant, and if necessary, a water softener.
  4. Wash with Charlie’s Soap alone and finish up with a double rinse.

For starters, 5 cycles every time you have to wash diapers is not only a waste of time, it is a colossal waste of resources, namely water.
They also recommend using a disinfectant every single time you wash diapers which leads to premature wear on your diapers and is very telling of the confidence they have in their product to remove the bacteria and soil. 1 Tbsp is not going to clean a full load of poop and pee filled cloth after being diluted in at least 20 gallons of water, No matter what it is.
For all of these reasons, Just Say No to Charlie’s Soap.

Charlie’s detergent ingredients:


NATURAL MINERAL INGREDIENTS: Sodium carbonate, sodium metasilicate (rinse aid formed by heating a mixture of sand and sodium carbonate).

BIODEGRADABLE INGREDIENTS: C12-15, Pareth-2 (Vegetable and mineral sourced surfactants)

– See more at:

From <>


NATURAL MINERAL INGREDIENTS: Water, sodium carbonate.

BIODEGRADABLE INGREDIENTS: C12-15, Pareth-2 (Vegetable and mineral sourced surfactants)

– See more at:

From <>

Sodium metasilicate content (powder only):


Sodium carbonate 75 – 85%HAZARD CLASSIFICATION: [Xi] Irritant


Alcohols,C12-15, 5 – 15% HAZARD CLASSIFICATION: None


Disodium metasilicate 1 – 10% HAZARD CLASSIFICATION: [Xi] Irritant

RISK PHRASES: R37 -MSDS available here

Total detergent pH:

powder- 10.5

liquid- 11

How Sodium Metasilicate works:

“It is very important to keep the pH at a high and constant level throughout the cleaning process. Acidic soils lower the pH of the cleaning solutions below that are required for optimum cleaning by the surfactants and other ingredients. Metso Sodium Metasilicate Pentahydrate is an excellent buffer and the effect of acid soil is minimized. Compared to other alkalis, with the exception of sodium hydroxide, Metso Sodium Metasilicate Pentahydrate keeps the cleaning solution at constant pH over an extensive loading of acidic soil, see figure below. A constant pH level contributes to the effectiveness of the silicate in cleaning functions involving emulsification of oils and grease and suspension of particulate soils. A declining pH will lead to a reduction of the overall performance of the cleaning solution.” (1)

The biggest issue with using such a strong alkaline as a large portion of a something promoted as a detergent is that the waste from the human body – sweat, body oils, urine, feces – are already alkaline. So essentially you are making an already alkaline solution even more so… Which is a large reason that chemical burns happen.

“Emulsification is the process of removing and suspending oily soils in water.

Metso Sodium Metasilicate Pentahydrate provides alkali that saponifies fatty and oily

soils to soap contributing to the emulsification of fatty and oily soils.” (1)

Stop and think about that… Sodium Metasilicate turns fats into soap. What other chemical does that? Lye.

Lye is known to burn through human skin in a matter of seconds. It is severely alkaline and extremely caustic. Lye is used in general soap making and is sold under the following chemical names:

– Sodium hydroxide

– Potassium hydroxide.

What Charlie’s is lacking:

All of this information can seem overwhelming, but essentially it all boils down to this – Charlie’s is selling you an incomplete “detergent” that lacks the needed components to balance out the pH. If they were to add an acidic compound, such as a phosphonate, then it could possibly make the product safe for use by the general public. Seeing as Charlie’s has not done this yet continues to make claims that not only does their product work but that it is safe I cannot and will not endorse or recommend the use of any of their products.

Links to Sodium Metasilicate:


Other ridiculous information about Charlie’s Soap: – using with hard water – soaking CLR

“It is possible to not realize how hard your water is. Other detergents’ chemical buildup can hide the symptoms. Charlie’s Soap will eventually remove those chemicals, but if your water is hard, a layer of lime or even rust stains could be revealed. Water conditioners only prevent this type of buildup but cannot remove it once it is in the fabric. To solve this problem, soak the garments in the washer for an hour or two with water and ½ cup of CLR. The acid will gently burn off the mineral residues. Drain the water and repeat. Then wash the garments with Charlie’s Soap for Laundry and the Booster to remove acid and any loosened detritus. Vinegar in the rinse water can prevent further deposition of minerals in the rinse water.”

CLR company specifically say NOT to use for fabrics. CLR is an acid and can destroy both clothing and skin. We DO NOT recommend using Charlie’s or CLR.