With more than 30 years’ experience in the residential and commercial water treatment space, Mark Nelson is a Class 1 Drinking-Water Operator and a CBWA (Canadian Bottled Water Association) Certified Plant Operator. As founder and president of Nelson Water in Ottawa, Mark focuses on dealing with challenging water treatment system designs for problem water. He also heads the largest water bottling plant in the city of Ottawa with a delivery network throughout the Valley.
Hard water is a common water quality issue, and it can cause a number of problems around the home. One of the most frustrating is laundry problems. Hard water minerals can not only interfere with laundry detergent, but it can also allow scale accumulation to accumulate inside the washing machine compromising the appliance lifespan. Washing laundry in hard water can leave clothing looking grubby, towels losing water absorption capability and fabrics appearing prematurely worn. The most obvious solution to resolve these issues is to install a water softener, but you will need to make some adjustments to your laundry practices to ensure the best results. Fortunately, there are some laundry tips to help you following your water softener installation.
Reduce Your Detergent Use
The first thing you will need to adjust following your water softener installation is to reduce the amount of detergent you use in your wash cycle. It is quite common for hard water users to gradually increase the amount of detergent used to try to get the best laundry results. So, when you have installed a water softener, you will need to adjust the amount of detergent used, as there will no longer be hard water minerals interfering with the lathering process.
Once you start using softened water to wash your clothes, you should start to see that you don’t need to use massive amounts of detergent to achieve clean, fresh laundry with each load. Research has shown that you can wash laundry with less detergent and on a lower temperature cycle to achieve similar if not better results.
Using too much detergent in your wash load will mean that you waste money, but it could actually be detrimental to your washing machine. If you use too much detergent in your load, it may cause your machine to flood or lather up so much that your machine may struggle to rinse the laundry properly. So, don’t rely on your hard water laundry instincts and consult the detergent manufacturer’s recommendations for amounts needed for soft water.
Reduce Your Washing Temperature
As we touched on above, you can also wash your clothing at a lower temperature to achieve the same if not better results using softened water. Since you’ve eliminated the hard water minerals, they will not adhere to your clothing during your wash cycle. This means that you won’t need the hottest wash temperatures to try to rinse this residue from your clothing. So, you should be able to reduce your wash temperature dramatically, saving energy and money.
Don’t Add Salt
Many homeowners may add a pinch of salt to their wash to try to prevent colors bleeding during the cycle. Although this may be beneficial when using hard water, it is not necessary when you’ve switched to soft water. Water softeners typically rely on salt for the ion exchange process, as the hard water minerals are exchanged for sodium ions. This means that you should be able to enjoy vibrant, colorful clothes without needing to add anything to your wash.
Consider Your Laundry Additions
Some people automatically add supplementary detergents and stain removers to their laundry loads, but this may not be necessary now that you’re using softened water. In most cases, these additional laundry products are used to compensate for the effects of hard water, so you may find that they are no longer needed. While it is not likely to cause damage to your washing machine by adding these products, in a worst case scenario, the harsh chemicals may cause damage to your clothing, or at the very least, you could be wasting money buying these potentially costly products.
Descale Your Washing Machine
Since you’re likely to have been using hard water in your home for some time, your washing machine, and other water using appliances are likely to have developed a scale accumulation. While you’re not likely to get any further scale accumulating, since you switched to soft water, the existing scale could still be compromising performance and efficiency. So, it is a good idea to take a little time to descale your washing machine. This can be accomplished quite simply by running an empty hot cycle with a cup of white vinegar in the drum. White vinegar is highly effective at dissolving hard water mineral scale, so this will allow the solution to reach most areas of your washing machine. Once the cycle has finished, wipe the drum down to clear any residue.
Monitor Your Salt Levels
While your water quality technician will have explained the importance of a maintenance routine for your new water softener, it is important to note that you will only continue to enjoy superior laundry performance and efficiency when your softener is functioning correctly. If you allow your softener salt levels to drop to below minimum, the device will not operate correctly, and you will lose all the fantastic laundry benefits.
Don’t Forget Your Other Appliances
Finally, don’t forget that hard water will not have just impacted your laundry routine and there will be other appliances and chores around your home that may require some attention now that you’ve switched to soft water. For example, your dishwasher should also offer improved performance and efficiency, but you may need to adjust your dishwasher habits. As we mentioned above, you should find that you no longer need to use the hottest wash and additional detergent to get your dishes clean. Again, it is also worth cleaning and descaling your dishwasher to remove any hard water scale accumulation that may have formed before you installed your water softener. This can be accomplished by running an empty cycle with a dishwasher safe cup of white vinegar in the top rack.
A water softener is a great investment in any home with a hard water supply and can offer some fantastic laundry benefits. Nevertheless, it is essential to make some changes to your laundry routine to make the best use of your softened water for excellent laundry results and improved energy efficiency.