Below is a question from Sara about washing cloth diapers with very hard water and it is an appropriate time to address this question with the launch of another hard water specific detergent last week by Rockin’ Green Soap.
I have really, really hard water and recently started using the new Thirsties pre-wash and wash. I wash every other day, about 15 diapers or so. Do you know if I should use a little more detergent due to my hard water? When I first started cding 2 1/2 years ago we lived somewhere where the water was not as hard, I never stripped my dipes, and I rarely had any residual smells (used Charlie’s soap). Now I find with my second baby and hard water I have to strip at least once a month. I’ve tried Allen’s naturally and now the Thirstie’s. Major pro for Thirsties though–no more diaper rash!!! My dd kept getting diaper rash all the time with the Allen’s and now I know its because they weren’t getting disinfected and there was a lot of residue. Another question, do you wash pre folds and covers with pocket dipes and inserts?
First, I will answer your second question by stating that I wash all of my diapers together, regardless of the style or fabric. As long as you are using a cloth diaper safe detergent and are not using additives (i.e. vinegar) this is perfectly fine and I personally recommend it. If you are using other products (i.e. bleach with your prefolds) that are not cloth diaper or manufacture approved, you are making cloth diaper laundry a lot more complicated than it needs to be, because there are many cloth diaper detergents on the market that disinfect, naturally brighten and are safe on all of your cloth diapers (i.e. Thirsties Pre-Wash and Super Wash).
Stay away from additives (whether in your detergents or used separately) as much as possible, although it shouldn’t do any long term damage if used infrequently and in moderation. Some manufactures like bumGenius even recommend a monthly dose of bleach with your cloth diapers, but note that a very small amount should be used and you will need to be extra careful when you add it to the load of laundry (make sure there is plenty of water present to avoid heartbreak!). Vinegar, another popular additive, can weaken elastic so should be used sparingly and, like bleach, should only be used on a periodic rather than regular basis.
This brings us to the issue of hard water. Even if you are washing all of your diapers together with a great cloth diaper detergent the detergent cannot do its job properly without the proper “ingredients”. Regardless of the hardness or softness of your water, using more detergent is not necessarily the answer. I would say that using less detergent is typically the answer to most detergent issues (note: there will be exceptions to this depending on the washer, detergent, etc.), but hard water is not necessarily an issue of the amount of detergent you use. The amount of detergent is mainly determined by the type of washer you own, the size of the load and the wash cycles used. The issue hard water poses is that the minerals in the water can block the detergent from being able to clean effectively, so increasing the amount of detergent may not solve this issue.
I would recommend using a hard water specific detergent such as Crunchy Clean hard water version or Hard Rock (by Rockin’ Green) as they also have disinfecting ingredients, but I have also had luck with soapnuts (I prefer liquid versions) if you want a more organic or liquid option. My water is moderately hard and I have also had success with the Thirsties detergents, however, this and other non-hard-water-specific detergents may require a water softener like Calgon on very hard water like yours. If your water is extremely hard this would be something you’d probably want on hand for your regularly laundry as well and it can be used to help strip your diapers of mineral build up as well.
Here’s some great info regarding Calgon from Kelly’s Closet:
Simply put, hard water has a lot of minerals in it, namely calcium and magnesium. These minerals, if not properly rinse away, can lead to a mineral build-up in your diapers which may cause offensive odors!
If so, hard water can sometimes lead to stinky diapers because:
1) The detergent is not able to work as effectively in hard water
2) The minerals from the hard water are being deposited back onto the diapers
Many detergents don’t work as well in hard water because they have to work at softening the water rather than cleaning. Therefore we recommend using a separate water softener, such as Calgon Water Softener (NOT Calgon bath products). Calgon Water Softener is considered safe for use on all types of cloth diapers.
Calgon can also be used for stripping diapers, especially for areas with especially hard water. Just wash clean diapers 3-4 times with hot water and Calgon (no detergent). As always, be sure to rinse thoroughly!
Use ½ the recommended amount for a top loading machine and ¼ the recommended amount for a front loading machine.
Since it sounds like you already have some detergent on hand you’d like to use, Calgon may be your best bet. Once you’ve used the detergent you currently on hand, and if the Calgon is solving the issues you are having, you can continue to use it, try your luck at another detergent with Calgon or switch to a hard water specific detergent. Make sure you use Calgon in the same way you would use a cloth diaper detergent: 1/2 the recommended amount for top-loaders and 1/4 of the recommended amount for HE washers. Lastly, always read the labels when switching to or using a new detergent since each detergent is a slightly different formula or concentration.
Not sure what type of water you have? Pick up some Rockin’ Green Water Quality Test Strips and leave all guessing and experimenting behind.