The tap water we enjoy can be either hard or soft, depending on where the your water comes from. Hard water describes the presence and concentration of minerals including, calcium, magnesium and iron. These minerals won’t adversely affect your health, however, they will affect your laundry and other household appliances.
Water hardness differs from region to region. Our water, in North and East Yorkshire where we are based, is hard, as it has been held in limestone or chalk. Over in the west of Yorkshire, where the water comes down off the moorlands, it tends to be softer.*
If you notice a brittle, chalky white buildup on your taps and shower heads, or perhaps a reddy brown buildup (in the case of greater amounts of iron) you’ve got hard water. Also described as soap scum, the calcium and magnesium in the water stops the water and detergent mixing to create a good washing solution. In this way you’ll probably find that you are using more detergent or washing up liquid to get a nice foamy wash. Your washing machine, along with your dishwasher, radiators and the water pipes that serve them, will suffer, over time from a build up of mineral deposits and you’ll need to do a little more maintenance on them to keep things flowing smoothly. Your laundry too will suffer.
How does hard water affect laundry?
In hard water areas the detergent has to work twice as hard. First it is helping to soften the water before it even starts getting to work on lifting the dirt out of your clothes. The minerals also will contribute to hard, stiffer more scratchy towels as the minerals attach themselves to the surface of the fabric. Your once bright colours may also begin to lose their lustre and appear duller. Mysterious yellow or reddy brown stains could also be the result of iron – the same reason you get similar-looking stains inside ceramic toilet bowls and where taps have been left dripping on bath tubs. Hotter washes are needed to get rid of stains, where someone in a soft water area is able to wash at much lower temperatures.
Laundry tips for hard water
If you are in a hard water area here’s what you can do to help keep your laundry, fresh, bright and clean:
- Use a liquid detergent, these contain nonionic surfactants that are resistant to water hardness, this helps avoid soap scum buildup on fabrics.
- Use a good quality, heavy-duty brand that offers the most cleaning ingredients over a bargain brand.
- Add 1/2 cup of laundry borax to each load to help the water softening process.
- Use a cup of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) in your wash, which is a natural fabric softener.
The ultimate answer to hard water is a water softener that you can install in your home. It works by removing or deactivating the annoying minerals, replacing them with ‘soft’ minerals, such as sodium or potassium**. Having a water softener means you’ll also use less detergent and be able to wash at lower temperatures to prolong the life of your clothes.
Here at Monarch Laundry, to ensure we launder your clothes properly and achieve the very best results, we have a water softening system that goes through one metric tonne of salt tablets per month. This ensures that we have around 10,000 litres of soft water available at any one time to feed our washing machines. This means we can ensure your clothes are not just clean and fresh, but also looking good wash after wash.
Live in Yorkshire, UK? You can find out the hardness of your water on the Yorkshire Water website here.