To keep your laundry looking like it should, it’s best to take a look at the science. Most likely it isn’t the detergent that’s messing your clothes up—it’s your water.
Laundry and Hard Water
About 85 percent of the water across the U.S. is referred to as “hard water.” The dissolved calcium and magnesium minerals in hard water can cause a lot of problems around the house. The minerals in that kind of tap water leave cloudy spots on clean dishes and tough scale buildup on faucets. They even cause dry hair.
Washing laundry in hard water has similar unfavorable results. When you think about it—the laundry machine already does a pretty good job of beating up your clothes. The spin cycles are strong and work to throw items around to work up the suds. Unfortunately, the hard water minerals only work to agitate the fibers even more. They can leave clothes feeling dry and scratchy too. Because the minerals don’t wash out well, they end up sticking to the fabric of your clothing.
The other thing about our tap water is that it contains chlorine. The chemical is used as a disinfectant to keep bacteria and other contaminants out of our water as it travels through the pipes to our home. The problem though, is that chlorine is also the main ingredient in bleach. That’s right—your tap water might be slowly working to bleach the color out of your laundry.
Just like chlorine water in a pool damages and dries out the patterns on swimsuits, the same thing can happen in tap water. It just occurs at a slower rate. Over time, though, you’ll start seeing similar results.
How to Prevent Clothes from Fading
To combat these water issues, a lot of families decide to install a home water softener and refiner. These water systems simultaneously remove the hard water minerals in your tap water, as well as the chlorine. In doing so, your laundry water becomes a lot gentler on your clothes. The colors can start to last longer because they’re not being slowly damaged and bleached during every wash. Here’s how it works:
1. Wash with Soft Water
When you remove the calcium and magnesium minerals, water can work with soap and detergents a lot better. Studies even show that washing with soft water can save homes up to half of their laundry expenses on detergent. Once you have a softener installed, you can cut your detergent usage in half right away. (That extends to the bathroom too—you’ll find you can use less shampoo and conditioner because it lathers so much better in soft water!)
2. Turn Clothes Inside-Out
While this may not be important for every load of laundry you do, it can definitely help those special colors last longer. When you turn dark-wash blue jeans inside-out, you can protect those color-rich fibers from getting knocked against the washing machines spinning agitators, which in turn, helps those dye colors stay in your fabric.
3. Use Cold Water
It’s a lot easier to wash clothes on cold when your home has soft water too. Because detergents work better in soft water, you can cut back on energy costs by washing laundry at the coldest possible cycle. Darks hold their color longer when washed on cold, but it can be difficult to get dirty laundry truly clean when all you have to work with is hard water.
Having a water softener has benefits in nearly every room of your home. From the dishwasher to your shower water—using soft water that’s chlorine-free is just better on you and your home.
Are your clothes fading?