There are so many benefits to cloth diapering—they’re less expensive, they’re more eco-friendly, they can help potty learning go faster—but how do you keep them clean and stink free when you are battling hard water?
Well, first what is hard water?
Simply put, water hardness refers to the mineral content in your water and the harder the water the high the PH (alkalinity).
Why should I care?
Hard water can affect the way your detergent works. Hard water doesn’t react with soap the way PH neutral water does and you need to use a lot more soap to get things clean. What’s worse is that the minerals in the water deposit on the cloth diapers (or other clothing) making them hang onto nasty stink and dinginess.
What kind of water do I have?
If it takes a lot of soap to get a lather, your clothing or cloth diapers are stinky or you have mineral deposits on your sinks, toilets, dinnerware or glasses you probably have hard water. You can find out just how hard your water is by testing it.
I have hard water and don’t have a filter or softening system, so how do I wash my cloth diapers?
It’s not a lot different than you would with neutral or soft water. The key is to lessen the time your cloth diapers are in hard water without a softening agent. RLR and Calgon work well as water softeners but can get pricey, especially if you have really hard water (and need to use more softener). To lessen the impact on your wallet I would suggest using washing soda as a water softener in the soak and/or wash and then adding Calgon or RLR to the rinse. Because washing soda works by bonding to the minerals so that they can be rinsed away (instead of by actually changing the PH of the water) it’s really important to rinse, rinse, rinse!
How to wash cloth diapers daily:
- Soak diapers in cold water overnight or for at least a few hours. Make sure to add a softener to this step! Since the diapers are in contact with the water for a long time it is imperative to add the water softener so that the diapers don’t take on minerals.
- Drain the washer in the morning and refill with hot water and more water softener. Add about half the detergent you would normally use on the same size load.
- Add more water softener to the rinse cycle for best results but if you miss the rinse cycle once in a while (or more) you should still have pretty clean and stink free diapers.
If you need to do an entire wash without a softener once or twice that’s ok. Just make sure to add the softener back into the washing routine as soon as you can so that you (hopefully!) won’t have to strip the diapers. This will also depend on exactly how hard your hard water is.
How to strip cloth diapers (remove mineral and detergent buildup):
- wash as described above (no need to dry in between).
- wash as described above but without detergent.
- repeat step 2 until there are no suds or as many times as you think is necessary depending on how badly your diapers have buildup/stink.
How will I know if I need to strip my cloth diapers?
Oh, you will know. As soon as baby pees you will smell the ammonia. Probably from across the room.
A note on detergent: I use a homemade laundry detergent and it works great. Here is the recipe I use. I have also used Sun & Earth with great success. Here is a list of other detergents that are safe for cloth diapers.
I prefer my homemade detergent because having hard water means I have to use about twice the amount of detergent I would use otherwise. Since homemade detergent is so cheap my expense goes from $.07 a load to $.14 a load. I think I can live with that!
About our guest…
Mindy Wood writes about living her most authentic life through simple living at PurposefullySimple.com. Wife, mother and chicken wrangler, she is always learning new skills and striving to make the world a more sustainable, healthy, and happy place to live. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.