woman holding laundry basket

Hard water can impact many areas of your home - and laundry is certainly one of them. If you live in a hard water area, the water that is supplied to your home has higher levels of minerals, particularly calcium and magnesium. These minerals can leave deposits and cause a variety of issues for your washing machine and laundry.

Ways Hard Water Impacts Laundry

There are a number of ways that hard water can affect your laundry, potentially leading to damage to your clothes and washing machine:

  • Detergents are less effective, and more may be needed.
  • Washing machines can be damaged over time.
  • Clothes can smell after washing.
  • Clothes can become stained after washing.
  • Clothes can become stiff after washing.
  • Clothes can fade after washing.

Hard Water Makes Detergent Less Effective

Hard water minerals can react with the soap particles, making it hard for the detergent to mix with water correctly, in turn making your detergent less effective at cleaning your clothes. You may need to use more detergent to get your clothes clean. The detergent itself may also leave stains on your clothes.

Does Hard Water Affect Washing Machines?

Hard water can have an impact on washing machines over time. The high levels of minerals in hard water can cause scale build-up, with scale deposits accumulating on the heating elements, pipes and internal components of the washing machine.

This scale buildup can reduce the efficiency of the heating element and restrict water flow, leading to decreased performance and potentially damaging the machine over time.

Can Hard Water Make Your Laundry Smell?

Hard water can contribute to a lingering smell in your laundry. The minerals present in hard water can interact with the components of laundry detergent and create a build-up that is difficult to rinse away completely. This build-up can trap dirt, bacteria, and odours, leading to clothes that may not smell fresh after washing.

Additionally, hard water minerals can make it more challenging for detergents to fully dissolve and activate, reducing their effectiveness in removing odours from the fabrics. As a result, the laundry may retain a musty or unpleasant smell even after washing.

Does Hard Water Stain Clothes?

Hard water can cause staining on clothes after washing. The minerals present in hard water, such as calcium and magnesium, can react with the dyes and fibres in fabrics, leading to discolouration and staining. These mineral deposits can become trapped in the fabric and create visible stains that are difficult to remove.

The stains caused by hard water are typically characterised by a yellowish or greyish tint. They may appear on both coloured and white garments. On darker fabrics, it may appear as white streaks. If you’ve started to notice unsightly stains on your clothing that weren’t there before washing, they are probably caused by hard water.

Does Hard Water Change the Texture of Fabrics?

Hard water can make fabrics feel stiff and rough, as the minerals in the hard water bind to the fibres in the clothes, creating a coating that reduces the softness and flexibility of the fabric.

It can make clothes feel less comfortable, and the coarser texture can cause more wear and tear when wearing and washing the fabric. Further, the coarseness of the fabric can increase the rate at which it pills and forms lint, as the rougher fibres can cause more friction.

Does Hard Water Fade Clothes?

Hard water can contribute to the fading of clothes over time in a couple of ways. The minerals in hard water can reduce the effectiveness of detergents, forming soap scum or insoluble mineral deposits, which can prevent the detergent from properly washing your clothes.

This means a detergent residue may be left behind after washing that can contribute to fading. Likewise, the clothes may not be washed sufficiently, with remaining dirt and stains leading to faded fabrics over time.

Finally, as hard water makes clothes feel stiffer and rougher, it increases friction during the washing process, which can contribute to the wearing down of the fibres, leading to accelerated fading and loss of colour vibrancy.

How to Do Laundry With Hard Water

There are a few ways that you can reduce the impact of hard water on your washing.

Use a Water Softener

Consider installing a water softener to reduce the hardness of the water supplied to your washing machine. Water softeners work by removing the excess minerals from the water, reducing the impact on the washing machine and improving the effectiveness of detergents.

While a water softener is an initial investment, by softening your water, you can reduce longer-term costs, such as repairs or replacements from limescale damage to your washing machine and detergent usage.

If you don’t choose to install a water softener, you may need to follow these tips:

Descaling Your Washing Machine

If you keep washing your clothes with hard water, you will need to regularly descale your washing machine to remove any accumulated mineral deposits. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for descaling or consult a professional if needed.

Use More Detergent

When washing laundry with hard water, you will need to adjust the amount or type of detergent you are using for an effective clean. Choose detergents specifically formulated for hard water, or use water-softening additives along with your regular detergent to enhance its effectiveness.

How to Soften Hard Water For Laundry

If you live in a hard water area and would like to reduce damage to your clothes, linens and washing machine, then get in touch with us at Kinetico to speak with an expert about how our water softener systems can help your home.