Hard/Soft water & cloth diaper laundry

I often get the e-mail asking “how do I know what type of water I have? It isn’t like I have a chemistry set sitting around ;)”

The two easiest ways I have found, when you scrub your bathroom and faucets, if you notice a white “powdery” film on the shower head or faucets, this typically indicates soft water. If you notice orange, red, brown or even black “rocky” looking mineral deposits, this typically indicates hard water. If you don’t notice anything, you are most likely somewhere in the middle.

How this affects your diapers is how the water interacts with your detergent. Soft water users require less detergent, the minerals don’t inhibit the detergent, and typically you will quickly see buildup in the diapers by using more than a few teaspoons of detergent. Hard water users have a tough time, it can be very hard to find the balance between too much/too little detergent, enough to get the stink out of the diapers, but not too much where you have buildup. Soft water users usually solve the problem very easily by using less and less detergent (or an HE detergent if you have a top loader, this is safe to do, just don’t use a *regular* detergent in the front loader. HE detergents create less suds, and are easier to rinse out). Hard water users can try a few things:

-Adding Calgon water softener to the wash routine (you can find this at Wal Mart, Target, grocery stores)
-Adding vinegar to the rinse cycle (or in a Downy Ball to slow release)
-Using more detergent to get the=2 0stinks out of the diapers
-In some cases, moms have installed a water softening system either just in their washing machine lines, or in the whole house. This is very expensive though, and while worth it for the drinking water and cooking water, just for diapers it can be a bit much.

I would be happy to try and work with you if you run into these issues, hard water users may also need to experiment with different detergents, to find the formula that works for you.


September 16, 2010. cloth diapers, Wash routines.


  1. Jill replied:

    You can also just call your water company and ask if they soften the water and what the rating in gpg (grains per gallon) is and how ‘hard’ that is. They should be able to tell you within a week or two of the current date, as frequent testing is required.

    Ours is so hard that I had to switch to Tide. It just takes an extra ‘wash’ instead of a rinse, but worth it not to have a baby with a bleeding butt.

    • abbyslane replied:

      Yikes! I am glad you got it figured out, poor baby 😦

  2. Cupcake & Baby replied:

    This was soo helpful!! We have been having trouble with stinkies—& now I know we def. have hard water!!! I am going to try vinegar first, and add a little extra hard -rocking green…. yess!!! Maybe ill finally smell some good diapers when I am done.

  3. Christine replied:


    I live near you, in Annandale. I have a utility sink that my washer drains into. When I turn on the faucet of the utility sink, sometimes the water comes out brown/orange for a few seconds before running clear. Do you know if that is due to water hardness or something else?


  4. freecleanwater replied:

    I’m having the most difficult time with my cloth diapers. They leak so much that we literally are changing our daughter every 30 minutes. We have soft water. I only use 1 teaspoon of pure Castille soap per load. I’m having to strip the diapers once a week. They just keep repelling. Any advice?

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