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How Does Your Water Affect Your Laundry?


The answer is in the water's softness or hardness. Soft water aids cleaning. Hard water poses some obstacles to cleaning.


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Hard water contains minerals (mostly calcium and magnesium), which react with soap to form a curd. This soap curd can show up on clothes as a white powder, make fabrics feel stiff and attach to the inside of washing machines. The forming of the curd uses up some of the soap and reduces its cleaning power.

Detergents are less sensitive to the hardness minerals in water; therefore, they perform better and do not form a curd. Because of these features, detergents, instead of soaps, are used for laundry products.

However, if you are doing laundry in hard water, even a detergent needs some help. Add slightly more detergent than the product label directions recommend. The extra detergent will help soften the water and allow the remaining detergent to do its cleaning job. You can also add a water softener or detergent booster to the wash water to increase cleaning power.

Your local water company, public utility consumer service department or Cooperative Extension Service office can provide this information or refer you to someone who can. You probably have hard water if:

  • There's a "ring around your bathtub."
  • Soaps and shampoos do not lather easily.
  • White residue forms around faucets and drains.
  • Fabrics feel stiff, not fluffy.
How Does Your Water Affect Your Laundry?:  Created on January 6th, 2005.  Last Modified on January 21st, 2014


About ACI

ACIThe American Cleaning Institute‚?† (ACI - formerly The Soap and Detergent Association) is the Home of the U.S. Cleaning Products Industry® and represents the $30 billion U.S. cleaning products market.  ACI  members include the formulators of soaps, detergents, and general cleaning products used in household, commercial, industrial and institutional settings; companies that supply ingredients and finished packaging for these products; and oleochemical producers.  ACI and its members are dedicated to improving health and the quality of life through sustainable cleaning products and practices.