How to Combat Hard Water Residue in Your Laundry
When the tap in your home is running hard water, the signs are nearly impossible to miss. Every sink, faucet, and toilet are marked with that awful chalky residue and no matter how many times you scrub it off with vinegar, it always comes back. Of course, hard water isn’t just on your shiny bathroom and kitchen surfaces. It gets in your hair making it dull and limp, it gets onto your skin potentially causing breakout and, perhaps most noticeably, it runs in your washing machine. The effect hard water has on clothes can be devastating, especially if you’ve lived with it for more than a year or two. If your clothes have started to get dingy, stiff, discolored, it’s time to take a stand.
What Hard Water Does to Clothes
Hard water is defined as ‘hard’ because it’s full of extra minerals, but not in a way that will make you healthier. Calcium and magnesium are the primary culprits and hard water is so full of them that it leaves mineral deposits behind on absolutely everything. This is that chalky residue that’s always on the sink and, unfortunately, it’s in your clothes as well. Washing with hard water is especially difficult because the minerals prevent soap from forming suds, significantly reducing its cleaning power but when it comes to laundry it’s much worse.
As the mineral deposits build up on the fabrics, it clogs the weave and makes it hard for even the weakened soap and water to get through. This is why when you retrieve your laundry from the dryer it may seem like it’s still dirty, smells sour, or is stiff and harsh to the touch. Hard water can also cause gray or yellow discoloration, gray streaks on the fabric, and even weaken the fibers until they tear.
Fighting Back Against the Hard Water
This harmful effect on your laundry is unacceptable. Here we are in the 21st century with automatic home washer and your clothes are somehow getting dirtier with every wash. You and your laundry don’t deserve this kind of treatment. The best way to take back your life from the hard water is to install a water softener but until that can happen, there are a few steps you can take to bring back some of the cleanliness and fabric quality of your wardrobe that you may remember before the clothes were exposed to months of hard water washing.
Use Very Hot Water
Every article of clothing has its own individual washing instructions. Most of us ignore them and throw it all in on ‘perm press – warm’ every time but when you’re dealing with hot water, you need every advantage you can get for a more effective cleaning. Wash everything in as hot a temperature as the fabric can stand (it may be time to finally read the tags). This will enhance the cleaning power of your washer as best it can and discourage the deposits from settling.
Liquid Detergent and Borax
If you use powder laundry detergent, unfortunately, this is only making the matter worse. The ingredients in powdered laundry detergent tend to bond with the minerals instead of cleaning the clothes. Go figure. Instead, use a powerful liquid detergent, as these contain non-ionic surfactants. Without an ionic charge, scum will stop forming on your clothing fabrics. On another interesting chemical note, half a cup of Borax per load will act as a decoy, bonding with the minerals and neutralizing them so they can’t invade your clothes or interfere with the soap.
Restoring Hard-Water-Damaged Clothes
To restore your clothes from a previously hard-water-damaged state, run everything on extra hot and use four time the amount of detergent along with one cup of water conditioner, which you can usually pick up at the grocery store. Agitate just long enough to wet the clothes, soak overnight for about 12 hours, then drain and spin without agitating. Finally, run the washer like normal with no detergent another cup of water conditioner. If you’ve still got hard water stains, try a vinegar soak.
The effects of hard water are especially troublesome for clothes, but you don’t have to let it ruin your wardrobe. With enough soap, hot water, and Borax, you should be able to keep your clothing soft and nice-looking even when the hard water is doing it’s worst. Of course, if you’d like to put the whole problem behind you for good, contact us today and we’ll help you find the right water softening solution for your home. Your clothes will thank you later.