Tackling Cloth Diapering (When You Have Hard Water)

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Before I began cloth diapering, I never really gave much thought to water. For instance, I had no clue that there were such a thing as hard and soft water. Did you?

It wasn’t until I moved to my new home, out in the “country,” that I realized what hard water was and pretty quickly rather! Hard water is caused by compounds of calcium and MAGNESIUM. The greater the concentration of these minerals, the harder the water!

Hard water affects more than 85% of households in the US. Hard water is a normal occurrence across North America. But don’t give up! The good news is that you can manage all but the hardest water conditions with a few simple changes to your laundry routine.

How do I know I have hard water?

There are lots of clues around the house that will help you determine whether you may have a hard WATER challenge. For example, your dishes and glasses may have spots on them even when you’re your taps may have white deposits on the edges, and your toilet probably has a ring of mineral at the edge of the water.

You can also call your town water supplier and ask them if hard water is a concern. And if you are interested in understanding your own water quality, you can also obtain TEST STRIPS to test for water hardness and water test kits for more complete water analysis.

US Hard Water Map - cleaning cloth diapers

How will hard water affect my laundry?

Wateris a critical part of any washing routine-especially when you are cleaning your cloth diapers. Water passes through the fibers of fabric to do much of the work of releasing dirt. Detergents break the surface tension of water molecules, allowing the water to penetrate the fabric more easily, and freeing up the dirt.

Hard water is not as effective at cleaning cloth diapers as soft water, because hard water contains minerals that make a good clean more difficult. In hard water, laundry detergents are not as effective because they waste cleaning agents. When you add detergent to hard water, some of the detergent binds with the calcium and magnesium minerals and settles to the BOTTOM of the washing machine, where it washes down the drain without cleaning your clothes.

Hard water is rough on your clothes because the calcium and mineral DEPOSITS in the water stay in the fabric, causing them to wear faster and fade. The same mineral deposits also trap dirt and soap in the clothing, leaving them looking yellow and dull. Deposits on fabric have been shown to damage fibers and shorten the life of clothes by up to 40%. Wonderful, right?

How can I overcome hard water?

There are a few ways to tackling hard water.

First and foremost-and possibly the most costly way-you can install a water softener.

Secondly and most commonly, you need to select the correct detergent. 

In the past, powdered phosphate detergents were recommended for laundering in hard water because phosphate builders tied up hard water minerals minerals and held them in solution until they could be rinsed away. When The Clean Detergent Act was launched in 1987, manufacturers were required to eliminate the phosphorus used in detergents.

Today’s commercial detergents (such as Tide and GAIN) do not contain phosphates, but they do have a high concentration of surfactants (surface active agents) which contribute to their cleaning power and are less sensitive to water hardness.

Commercial detergents usually also contain built in softening agents, which can bind to the hard water minerals, allowing the actual cleaning components of the detergent to focus on fighting dirt and stains. While many cloth diaper manufacturers recommend cloth diaper safe detergents, according to Padded Tush Statistics’ diaper detergent SURVEY, one of the most popular cloth diaper detergents good ol’ Tide.

Honestly, I have used Tide for years on my cloth diapers and never chose anything different. Most eco-friendly detergents always left some residue of a smell. Rockin Green is another good brand that I love to use as well!

Image result for hard water cloth diaper

Other ways to tackle hard water while laundering your cloth diapers are:

  • Usingmore detergent than you normally would.
  • Using a water conditioning additive.
  • Using liquid detergent versus powders.
  • Limiting the size of each load that you wash.

No matter what, you CAN cloth diaper in hard water. This obstacle is super common and easy to overcome.

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