Water is water and laundry is laundry, right? Put your clothes in the washing machine, dump in some detergent, press a few buttons and everything gets nice and clean.
If only it were that simple. The truth is, the type of water you have in your home can have a huge impact on laundry.
You may be blaming your appliances or the detergent you use, but the problem likely starts outside your home.
Hard water is everywhere. It’s not just something people living in rural areas deal with, municipal water can have hardness as well. It’s an established fact that 85% of the water in the United States is considered hard. That means it contains minerals like calcium, magnesium, manganese, and iron.
Those dissolved minerals can cause a laundry list (see what we did there?) of problems for your clothes, sheets, and towels. People with hard water may find many of these issues to be quite familiar.
Clothes Aren’t Getting Clean
Soap and detergent simply don’t work as well in hard water. Those dissolved minerals hamper the effectiveness of many cleaning products.
That’s because minerals like calcium and magnesium prevent water from mixing with detergent to form a solution. As a result, soap scum gets left behind. The same white, chalky substance in your sink and shower gets on your laundry. Sometimes, the stuff that sticks to the fabric is referred to as “detergent curd,” which sounds even more disgusting.
The result is dingy looking clothes that don’t feel completely clean after they come out of your dryer. The residue on your clothes will even attract and hold more dirt as you wear them.
Clothes Become Dull or Discolored
The soap scum and mineral residue on your clothes can also negatively affect their appearance. Your favorite outfit could wear out before its time and get ruined because of hard water.
Hard water can cause your dark clothes to fade faster than they should. Blogger Heather Solos, of the site Home-Ec101.com, explained the idea of hard water and fading clothes to one of her readers who’d moved to a new home and suddenly saw a change in her laundry.
Do you find mysterious yellow or reddish brown stains on your clothes after they come out of the wash? That could be hard water’s fault too. You get those stains for the same reason you get similar-looking stains inside porcelain sinks and toilets – iron in the water.
Household water containing a lot of iron may leave those stains on your clothes. It’s even more likely to happen if you use chlorine bleach to wash your whites. That’s because when iron particles combine with bleach, it creates iron-oxide, also known as rust.
Towels and Sheets Feel Hard and Scratchy
Hard water not only ruins the appearance of laundry; it also makes a difference in how it feels against your skin.
We all want those fluffy soft towels and comfy sheets, but you may need to soften the water in your home first. Thanks to hard water, your favorite flannel shirt may not feel as soft as it should either.
Mineral buildup leaves your bath towels feeling stiff. The hard water literally makes them hard. Not only that – the residue that collects on your towels will make them less absorbent over time.
Washing clothes in hard water may lead to irritated skin – especially if you already have sensitive skin or a dermatological condition like eczema.
Carrying around a residue of detergent curd on clothes and bed-sheets that contact your skin could lead to an increase in redness, chafing, and dryness.
That’s why some people with irritated skin try all sorts of lotions, creams, and special soaps, but still can’t find relief. Their skin is constantly in contact with irritating residue!
More Detergent is Needed
When you have hard water, much of the detergent you put in ends up being used to soften the water. That means you’ll need to use more laundry detergent and hotter water to get your clothes clean. But more detergent means more residue, so it’s a vicious cycle.
Detergent usually contains synthetic chemicals that aren’t environmentally friendly. Adding more detergent means you’re contributing more to water pollution.
Using extra laundry detergent also means you’ll need to buy it more often. Plus, using more hot water will affect your utility bills. True, the impact may seem relatively small, but it all adds up over time.
There are special detergents you can buy and water conditioning products you can add to soften water for washing clothes. However, if you do have hard water, your problems extend beyond laundry. That’s why you should consider investing in a water softener for your home.
- Read about other hard water problems
How a Water Softener Can Help You Have Amazing Laundry
Soft water is ideal for cleaning. And installing a water softener is the most permanent solution to laundry problems from hard water in your home.
Water softeners remove or deactivate the minerals that lead to those annoying, and potentially costly issues. During the water-conditioning process, calcium and magnesium ions are replaced with soft minerals (such as sodium or potassium ions).