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Hard Water = Laundry Problems

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Hard Water = Laundry Problems

Hard Water Damage to Laundry

Photo: Lesley Tellez

Hard Water Laundry Symptoms

  • Dinginess or graying, yellowing
  • General soil build-up
  • Stiff, harsh feel to fabrics
  • Weakening of fibers causing tears
  • White or gray streaks on colored fabrics

What is Hard Water?

Hard water is found in 85 percent of America. Hard water is usually defined as having high levels of calcium and magnesium; the greater the concentration of these minerals, the harder the water.

Making It Softer

In hard water much of the detergent used goes to soften the water instead of to clean the clothes. Soap does not perform satisfactorily in hard water. This means that more detergent must be used at a higher water temperature than in soft water. Softening water by using more detergent has two drawbacks; it is expensive and if the detergent contains phosphate it can add to water pollution.

So rather than using more detergent, water may be softened in the washer with nonprecipitating ion-exchange water conditioners, commonly sold in grocery stores simply as water conditioners. Water softener systems which exchange sodium for calcium and magnesium may also be connected to the water supply lines. However, those on sodium-restricted diets should consult their physicians before adding a water softener system to lines that supply water for drinking and cooking because the sodium content of the water will increase.

Fixing the Laundry Problems

To remedy problems that have already occurred, fill the washer with the hottest water appropriate for the fabric. Add four times the normal amount of detergent and one cup water conditioner. Agitate just long enough to wet the clothes. Soak overnight or for about twelve hours. Drain and spin without agitating. Launder, using regular cycle, no detergent and one cup of water conditioner.

If needed, repeat using one cup of water conditioner and no detergent until no suds appear during the rinses. In order to remove all dinginess it may be necessary to launder with one cup water conditioner and a bleach which is safe for the fabric, following package instructions.

Chlorine Bleach and Hard Water

Many times hard water contains iron particulates which when combined with chlorine bleach produces iron oxide or rust which can stain clothes. Learn more about about how to handle this type of hard water and how to remove the stains using a rust stain remover.

Specific questions? Just ask here.

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