Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Hard Water and Washing

I get lots of questions on hard water and how to most efficiently/effectively wash diapers/clothes, so I thought I'd devote an entire blog post to hard water.

First off - what IS hard water?
According to wikipedia, hard water is the type of water that has high mineral content. It consists primarily of calcium, magnesium and other dissolved compounds.

How do you check for hard water?
The simplest way to determine the hardness of water is the lather/froth test: soap, when agitated, lathers easily in soft water but not in hard water.

Why is hard water a problem?
The hardness minerals combine with some soils to form insoluble salts, making them difficult to remove. Soil on clothes can introduce even more hardness minerals into the wash water.
When you combine cloth diapers and hard water, it takes approximately twice as much laundry detergent to clean clothes in hard water as opposed to soft water. So the problems with cloth diapers and hard water becomes obvious. It is difficult to rinse cloth diapers and hard water effectively, so soap scum remains on the diapers.

What should I do to help?
There are several ideas to help, but depending on the hardness of your water, some may help and others may not - its sort of an experiment to test out what works best for you.
CrunchyClean will not leave build up on your diapers, BUT if you have minerals in your water, the MINERALS can leave build up on your diapers which can cause stink problems.
You can try:
  • adding RLR to strip your diapers of the build up and help clean better
  • adding extra detergent to counteract the minerals in your hard water (start with twice what you have been using)
  • add a water softener - calgon, for instance, helps block the minerals so CrunchyClean can clean better. Most moms find they don't need to add this to every wash, but maybe every 2-3, depending on your hardness level. (This can be found at most major stores).
  • get a water softening unit to soften your water - this can be pricey, but some people with hard water opt for this option

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