If there is one chore in everyone’s home that is never finished, it is the laundry. No matter how often you do it, it seems there is always more. So for a job that is never done, you want it to at least be easy. Just throw your dirty clothes in the machine, and they should just come out clean again, right? But that’s not always the case. Sometimes you throw your dirty clothes in, and they come out with stains that were not there when you started. They may have grey or white streaks across them that you know were not there to begin with. Your whites may appear dull or even a yellowish-grey. What is that about? Well, you may have hard water laundry stains.

What is Hard Water?

Hard water is when you have an excess of minerals, typically calcium, iron, or magnesium in your water. It is naturally occurring, and some places deal with more of it than others. Unless you do something to treat your water for these minerals, then they eventually build up and leave your fabrics feeling rough and scratchy and not looking their best. So what can you do?

How to Deal With It

Hard water causes quite a few issues with laundry.

  • Stiff fabrics
  • Weakened fabric fibers
  • Fabrics wear out quickly
  • The clothes need more laundry detergent to look clean
  • The clothes need higher temperature water to look clean
  • Hard water stains

Most powdered laundry detergent ingredients will bond with the water minerals and be rinsed away rather than cleaning your clothing, so you will need to increase the amount of powdered detergent you use, in some places by as much as 50%. And you will also need to increase the temperature of your wash cycle. But this can lead to mineral deposits forming, which will quickly clog up and wear out your machine faster than normal. You could use a liquid laundry detergent, as these tend to not bond with the minerals as much, but you will need to make sure that you are using a heavy-duty detergent either way.

One simple solution is to add borax to every wash load, as the borax has water softening properties, allowing your laundry detergent to more efficiently do its job. Instead of using more and more detergent or higher temperatures of water for your laundry, you could install a water softening system and enjoy the benefits of soft water throughout your home, not just in your laundry.

What About the Stains?

If you already have hard water stains on your clothes, there is still something you can do to help remove them. Fill your washing machine with the hottest water recommended for your fabric type. Add four times the normal amount of detergent that you would use for your load size. Yes, four times the amount. Run your machine just long enough to get all the clothes fully saturated. Pause the cycle and let it soak overnight. In the morning, drain and spin that cycle. Then without adding more detergent, run the load through a normal cycle, this time with a water conditioner which can be found in most grocery stores. Repeat this step until no more suds appear in the rinse cycle.