Lets not make this any more difficult than it has to be, I mean easy is best, right? There can be some SERIOUSLY conflicting information out there so I’m gonna give it to you straight, and save you some time from my own trial and error.
Hard water isn’t as effective as soft at cleaning cloth diapers because hard water contains minerals. These minerals make a good clean more difficult to achieve. Laundry detergents are not as effective in hard water (without an adjusted routine) because they waste cleaning agents. When you add detergent to hard water some of the detergent binds with the calcium and magnesium minerals and sinks to the bottom of the machine where it drains without cleaning your clothes. In order to get a proper clean with hard water you just need to tweak your routine.
First of all, when you have hard water – DON’T use the overpriced “made for cloth diapers” laundry soap. I made this mistake already. Couldn’t understand why my diapers didn’t smell as clean as they should after a good washing. Turns out it was my detergent. Most brand name laundry soaps contain built in softening agents which bind to the minerals in hard water, allowing the actual cleaning components to focus their fight against dirt, stink, and stains. Many cloth diaper friendly detergents contain very little, IF ANY, of these important ingredients which can result in issues getting a good clean. So basically if you don’t intend to use a water softener or a water softening product, you will get a better clean with a commercial detergent and hot water.
So what should you use?
Tide. Plain ‘ole Tide. If you ask the veteran cloth diapering mamas, they will agree – Tide is best. Ignore all the people who tell you to use Rockin’ Green or Laundry Tarts or other brand of “cloth diaper safe” detergent. Tide will do the job for a third of the price!
What do you do? Well first of all you do a cold rinse. This gets the nasties off the diapers and prepares them for their hot wash. Use cold water because hot water can set the stains. Once you are ready to do a regular wash, you will need to use a bit more soap. Remember that some of the detergent is binding to the minerals which means you’ll need more left over to clean as you intended. Unfortunately there is no way to figure out the amount of detergent you will need besides trial and error. But one thing to keep in mind is try not to have any more than 24 diapers in your wash. Once you have completed your wash, do a hot rinse and then a cold rinse. Check for bubbles in the middle of your final rinse and if there are none, you are good. If there are still some bubbles you may need to decrease the amount of detergent you are using because 3 rinses is excessive. You shouldn’t have to do more than 2, because even 2 is a lot! I add the extra in for good measure. If you find one is enough, go with that!
Dry inserts in the machine and hang the diapers.