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Are Your Fabrics Gray and Faded? How Hard Water Affects Clothes

hard water affects clothes

You pull out your favorite sweater to wear on a cold morning and realize it seems to have a dull cast to it, and the color is fading badly. You’re very careful with how you wash and dry it, so why does it look like this? Gray and faded clothing can actually be a sign of a hard water problem in your home. If you’ve noticed some buildup around the drain of your sink or tub, this could just be another piece of the puzzle adding up.

What is Hard Water?

Hard water forms when it flows through areas with lots of minerals. Water loves to grab up everything around it, so the magnesium and calcium carbonates are dragged along with the flow. These minerals are then left as scale deposits in your plumbing, around your faucets, and on your clothing, hair, and skin when the water evaporates.

Luckily, there’s an easy fix for your hard water problem. A water softener works by trading out the magnesium and calcium for sodium, which is much less harsh when left behind. For more information, check out Advanced Water Solutions’ blog on hard vs soft water here.

How to Spot a Hard Water Problem on Your Linens

It’s not just that favorite sweater looking dingy that may alert you to a hard water problem. Your bed sheets will start to feel scratchy and all of your clothes and linens in general will become a bit harder to wash. This is due to the mineral buildup in your water that’s attaching itself to your fabrics! If you've tried everything to get your clothing clean and fresh but they just don’t have the right quality to them after a wash, you should get your water hardness checked.

What Can You Do to Reduce the Dullness?

A water softener will solve the problem quickly, but if installing a new water softener for your home is just not an option at the moment, there are a couple of things you can try for the time being to help reduce the gray dullness in your clothes:

  • Use a front-loading washing machine.
  • Use a liquid laundry detergent. (Liquid detergents have fewer hard crystals in the soap, making it less likely to add to the mineral buildup that’s already coming from your water.)
  • Use a brand of detergent that is specifically made for water softening.
  • Add vinegar to the fabric-softening compartment of your washer to help with the mineral buildup.
  • Add a sodium tripolyphosphate into your loads. (This is a sudsing agent that isn’t as affected by hard water.)

While these are all good options to try and may provide a temporary fix, they are just that - temporary. Over time, it'll be best not only for your clothes, but for cleaning your entire home as well, that you look into installing a whole-house water softener. Everything from your plumbing to your clothes to your hair will thank you for the update!

You can find more information on scale buildup here, and to see how hard water affects your skin and hair, click here!