What difference does hard or soft water make for laundry?

So, what difference does hard or soft water make for laundry?

Well it does make quite a difference, and its why laundry detergents all have the dosing on the back of the packs as a table, to indicate the amount of detergent needed for hard, medium and soft water. You can end up using as much as a third more detergent to get the same wash results if you live in a hard water area compared to a soft water area.

So why is that?

When you look at water it looks the same, right? Its usually clear if it’s straight from your tap. Nevertheless, there can be a huge difference in the water from one household to another. We’re not talking about germs, we are talking about the minerals and rock that is present in the water supply for the area you live in. The greater the amount of dissolved rock means a harder water supply.

Essentially, if you live in a hard water area, it means that water has travelled through rocks, collecting minerals and dissolved salts before entering the water supply. It is not considered harmful for drinking, and in many cases is considered a bonus to our diets, as the extra calcium and magnesium are beneficial, plus taste great.

These deposits are mainly calcium and magnesium,

A great way of understanding it is to look inside your kettle. If you live in a hard water area you can see a residue that is left behind when you boil a kettle, as lime-scale/calcium deposits. This is similar to the hard yellow blobs you see on your shower-head after a period of time or sometimes crusting around a hot tap. We refer to this as ‘temporary hard water.’ Bicarbonate minerals, which during the process of boiling become a carbonate, separating out from their dissolved state to the calcification we see in the kettle. Chlorides or sulphates cause permanent hard water and can be softened, but not by boiling.

However, even temporary hard water has obvious implications for our kettles, dishwashers, washing machines, iron’s and even household boilers too, as the hard water makes them more prone to being furred up with calcium deposits.

Kettles have filters these days, to help filter out the sediment caused by boiling and prevent it going into your cup of tea, and irons are built with a calc clean function to help eliminate the particles and stop them making a mess of your ironing. Certainly one very easy way to reduce the amount of cleaning you need to do with an iron is to fill it using pre boiled water, although check your irons instructions as the latest models advise simply tap water is best as they have been designed that way.

Tap water isn’t pre boiled, so the water that fills the washing machine and dishwasher will contain more of these deposits if you live in a hard water area, and the implications for your laundry are thus:-

Firstly, you will need a little more detergent to achieve the same wash result for really dirty clothes, (it’s the same when you shower, regarding soap and shampoo). It can actually be up to a third more detergent that’s needed, compared to a soft water area, but please refer to the recommended guide on the reverse of the pack. Nothing replaces common sense in laundry, so if you wash your clothes and they come out feeling at all soapy and your machine is not faulty, then you are definitely overdosing for your water conditions.

Secondly, if you regularly wash at extremely hot temperatures you are more at risk of the heating element being affected. This can reduce the machines heating efficiency and add extra wear and tear.

But there are easy things you can do.

There are several washing machine cleaners aimed at de scaling your washing machine. Supermarkets tend to have their own label ones, which makes it extra affordable. Some people choose to install water softening systems to their homes, or simply add a little extra salt, such as washing soda, to an empty hot clean cycle once in a while and makes it acidic enough to help dissolve the calcium deposits.

Beware, please do not wash clothes at the same time as adding a lot of extra sodium or salt to the machine in order to clean it. Most washing formulas are slightly alkaline in nature in order to be better for our clothes – an acidic wash is not recommended for normal garments. Also, don’t judge whether you have hard or soft water based on the amount of lather you see as the wash spins round. Some formulas such as ours are classed as low sudsing, so you wouldn’t ever see a large amount of foam.

On the matter of salt. Have you ever wondered why you put so much salt in the dishwasher? Well it’s purely to help your dishwasher clean effectively and encourage the transfer particles in hard water and prevent the heating elements getting clogged, and also to prevent the rinsing water leaving unsightly lime-scale marks on your glasses.

So all in all, if you live in a hard water area your water will taste great and be doing you good, but it will be causing more wear and tear on household appliances and it will definitely mean you will use more detergents..

Personally, most people just adjust their detergent use accordingly and live with it. It honestly doesn’t cause a huge problem and I live in a hard water area and as you can imagine, machine-wash a lot. Though you can buy domestic water softening systems it isn’t overly necessary. If you own a professional laundry, it may be worth the expense.

If you live in a soft water area, you need far less soap or detergent to achieve the same washing results, so be especially careful not to overdose.

How can you test how hard the water is in your area?

As a domestic customer you really shouldn’t need to go to the expense of scientifically testing the water in your area and professional testing tends to be quite pricey. There are lots of online maps relating to each country around the world that give a great indication of how hard or soft the water in an area is. You can use the government advice map if you like for the UK. (20151110)

General indicative factors of hard water would be if you regularly get soap scum as a residue left on your bath, or after a long soak, can even see residue left on the skin?

We hope that answered most of your questions but if you have any more please don’t hesitate to ask. As the UK is made up of a lot of hard water areas we use some elements in our formula to help aid the softening and which also eliminates the need to use a separate fabric softener.  We hope you’ll try us out and see – Shop Now.