Dealing With Hard Water and Getting Your Laundry Clean

If you want a further understanding of hard water, what it is, and how it occurs, you will want to read our document on hard water, found here “What is Hard Water?“. To find out if your water is in fact, and how hard it is, see our page “Testing Your Water Hardness.” In this document we will discuss what to do about hard water in your laundry.


Most regions of America have hard water to some degree. Often, the only way we notice it is when we are scrubbing mineral deposits off our sinks, showers, or faucets. Many people don’t think about how it affects their laundry, especially if they are already using a good detergent with built-in water softeners. Some are not as concerned with this as others. A dingy shirt here or there is no big deal to some. Others may take this as a personal affront to their efforts towards clean laundry.


As mineral deposits build, they trap bacteria. That buildup leads to stink issues and may irritate some people’s more sensitive skin. Hard water deposits can greatly impact the absorbency of certain types of laundry. For example, towels or cloth diapers. Many people mistake hard water buildup with detergent buildup (which is a myth) because they notice suds in their water long after the detergent itself should be gone. The good news is that no amount of detergent will keep fabric from properly absorbing, but when hard water traps residue, it can hold on to detergent like it does everything else and release residual suds. What you’re actually seeing is the effect of hard water on the fabric, and if it’s holding on to detergent residue, you bet it’s holding on to bacteria as well.


The solution is the proper amount of detergent, and added water softeners. Hard water is not your friend, and you need good wash routines to deter its impact. Using too little detergent on a heavily soiled load can be dangerous.


Powdered detergents contain more built-in water softeners than liquids do, and it typically rinses cleaner, especially in HE machines. Often in hard water, even those built-in softeners won’t be enough. In heavily soiled laundry, the detergent often needs a boost to work effectively. While some homes have water softener appliances, many find that even those aren’t able to cut it without help.


The best water softeners to add to your wash routine are Calgon or Borax. Both can be found in the laundry aisle. Add one of these to the wash cycle with the detergent: either 1 capful of Calgon or 1/2 cup of Borax. Which you decide to use is up to you, some people find one works better for them than the other depending on how hard their water is and what machine type they have.


A BIG no-no when dealing with hard water is extra rinses or using too much water for your load size. While it may be a popular tactic in cleaning, it’s actually very detrimental to in hard water, as well as a waste of resources. When you run rinses after the wash cycle is complete, you redeposit all those hard minerals that the detergent just worked so hard to keep away. It is never necessary to run an extra rinse on your laundry unless it FEELS slimy or there are still suds present *on* the fabric after the wash cycle is complete. This is rare, and typically happens in soft water situations with HE machines. By using too much water for your load size, you weaken the detergent and let the hard water minerals overpower everything else and then build up inside the fabric.


Use the water level appropriate for your load size (i.e. small load, small water level.) If you have a standard top-loader, you want your clothes to look like they are in a stew. They need friction to properly clean each other, and if they are floating free in too much water, they will not properly clean.


Read How to Remove Hard Water Mineral Buildup Here:
Strip, Deep Clean, or Sanitize?


Read About Water pH Here:




By Kinsey Marie with adaptation by Amanda Perez