How to Wash Cloth Diapers in Hard Water

Washing cloth diapers with hard water

The key to successful cloth diaper laundry is to ensure that the diapers are CLEAN and that there is NO remnant detergent deposited on the diapers. Hard water makes this really difficult!

  1. Hard water reduces the effectiveness of detergent - Hard water often contains calcium and magnesium minerals which react with your detergent to create something called ‘soap scum’, leaving behind less detergent to actually clean your diapers. So you may need to use more than the usual amount of detergent you would use with regular water or you’ll end up with unclean diapers or pee buildup.
  2. Hard water makes it difficult to rinse off detergent completely - The scum created forms a thin film that gets deposited on top of the fabric, which is difficult to remove. Gradually this forms a barrier preventing liquids from being absorbed effectively by your diapers. 
  3. Hard water results in additional mineral deposits on the fabric - If your hard water contains iron and other minerals, they form an additional deposit on your diapers, reducing absorption capacity further.

Problems in your hard water laundry typically surface a month or two after you start washing your diapers in hard water. You will find that the diapers start smelling after even a single pee, whites will start looking pale/grey, and the diapers’ absorption capacity reduces greatly resulting in leaks.

Don’t panic if you face the above issues! Help is at hand!

The only thing you need to change in your wash routine if you have hard water is - Add water softener in your wash cycle! There are many water softeners available in the market/online, for example - Blue oxy or Calgon.

Here is the wash routine to follow:

1. Knock solids (poop) into the toilet and flush.
2. Rinse the insert/soaker well in cold water and hang on the side of a bucket so that it gets air.
3. Collect all the diapers used over 36-48 hours together for laundry.
4. Pre-wash the diapers (inserts and shells) in the washing machine with quarter the amount of detergent you would use for the main wash. Discard this water. If washing by hand, you can soak the diapers for 30 mins in detergent and then discard the water.
5. Do main wash in the washing machine in a rigorous cycle (not quick/gentle wash, not sanitary/baby wash). Try to use the cotton setting in your machine. Main wash time should be at least 30 mins. Use your regular strong detergent without any softeners/bleach/optical brighteners. If washing by hand, soak in detergent water, agitate well for about 10-15 minutes using a plunger.
6. Rinse two times at least so that there are no suds (soap bubbles) left.
7. Spin dry.
8. Dry on a clothes line in your terrace/back yard/balcony.

    If your diapers already have pee/scum/mineral buildup, we suggest that you first wash the diapers for 2 times in hot water (about 60C, hot enough that you can touch), without detergent.

    Once your diapers are clean, use the above recommended wash routine.

    Washing with hard water need not be daunting once you have figured out how to deal with it. Just tweak the above routine until it works perfectly for your specific water conditions. Then forget about hard water and enjoy your baby's cuddles :)

    Happy CD'ing!
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    can we use dettol


    What about using soapnuts? Does this work well for hard water? I was using soapnuts for a while but I felt that my inserts started getting a little crunchy and dry. Any recommendations for what I could do right? Thanks!


    This was godsent! Many thanks!


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