Chances are that in your research of cloth diapering you have come across the term hard water.
We here at Lil Helper are with you every step of the way on your cloth diapering journey and so we want to take a moment and address this possibly confusing matter.
Hard water is water that has lots of mineral deposits in it.
I know, probably not what you thought it was based on how normally water that is hard goes by another name (ice, ice, baby!). But in relation to cloth diapering, minerals mean something different here.
So what does this mean for cloth diapers?
Okay, I know what you're thinking. So what if my water has some minerals in it? Normally, minerally rich water doesn't cause too many problems but it can wreak havoc on your laundry, especially on your cloth diapers. Every time you wash something in water that is hard, some of the minerals are left behind and trapped in the fabric. For regular laundry (clothes, etc.) this causes them to look dull and dingy over time. But for cloth diapers, this can lead to repelling of moisture and diaper rashes, neither of which anyone wants to be dealing with.
What to do about hard water?
The first step is finding out if your water is indeed hard and what the relative level of hardness it is (slightly hard- extremely hard). Not everyone has this type of water (thank goodness!) but more people do then realize it. Even if you live in a city your water could still be hard. It all depends on where the water comes from. Most areas have localized maps with specific ranges for residents. Here is a hard water map for North America to give you a general idea of what we're dealing with. But don't just rely on a map.
For the sake of your child's bum and your stash of diapers, you should have your water tested. This isn't nearly as tedious as it sounds since most pet stores will test your water, FOR FREE! Another easy way to test your water is by buying test strips, just like the ones pet stores use so you could find them there. Most local hardware stores also carry them. Before testing your water, make sure your sample is from a source as close to the washing machine (if you can't get it directly from the machine) as possible. This is to ensure you are getting the right results since some homes have water softeners in specific areas of the house (fridges, showers, kitchen sinks). Testing is as simple as dipping the strip in your water and matching the colors to the key!
The results are in!
Once you know if your water is hard (and to what extreme) you can take steps to soften your water. Water softening is the removal of calcium, magnesium, and certain other metals.
There are different ways to soften water but one of the easiest is to add a water conditioner to your laundry routine. For water that is even a little hard, a water softener needs to be added to both the pre and main washes. The amount will be dependent on the softener you use and the level of hardness. Generally, more softener is used in the main wash than in the prewash. Two of the more popular conditioners out there are Calgon and Borax.
While Borax is notably easier to find (available in the laundry section of most major stores), there are more differences than just Borax being powder and Calgon being liquid. To keep it simple, they capture the minerals in different ways, and Calgon captures the minerals in two ways (versus Borax only one) which could be crucial for some.
Now, if you have been washing your diapers in untreated water and are experiencing leaks and/or rashes, adjusting the wash routine may not be enough to fix the problem.
BUT DO NOT FEAR!
We are here to help you get your diapers back to normal! Because each case is different, we can't troubleshoot everyone through this blog, but we can give you personalized help through our Delight Team. We are available to help with any and all issues you may be having, including how deal with hard water build up and adjust your washing routine. Just send us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org and someone who has experience with all things cloth diaper related will be there to walk (virtually) with you step by step in solving any issues you may have.
Just remember that for every problem, there is a solution. When it comes to cloth diapers, we are here to help you find those solutions!