Many parents are putting their newborns in cloth diapers because they're less expensive than disposables. Hard water, however, can wreak havoc on cloth diapers, making them less absorbent and rendering them ineffective. If you're considering investing in cloth diapers, find out how hard your home's water is first. If it's hard, you may want to invest in a water softener so that your cloth diapers don't start leaking.
Hard Water Damages Cloth Diapers
It's difficult to wash clothing in hard water. As Bummis Blog explains, the mineral deposits that make the water hard bind with agents in laundry detergents. The active ingredients in detergents can't remove dirt from clothes, because they're first forming compounds with the minerals in the water.
While cleaning any clothing in hard water may be difficult, the effects of mineral deposits is especially noticeable when washing diapers. Diapers that are regularly washed in hard water may:
- remain stained
- begin to smell
- become less absorbent and leak
To prevent these issues from arising, the mineral deposits must be removed from the water. There are two ways to get rid of mineral deposits: you can either regularly strip the diapers or install a water softener.
Minerals can be Stripped
Stripping diapers removes minerals that build up on cloth diapers after the fact. Once cloth diapers begin to smell and leak, they can be stripped. Stripping involves:
- washing the diapers
- soaking the diapers for hours
- washing the diapers again
- rinsing the diapers multiple times
- drying the diapers
Water Softeners Remove Minerals
Water softeners provide a much more convenient way to keep diapers free from minerals. Rather than manually removing deposits that build up after they're already on the diapers, water softeners take minerals out of hard water beforehand. They turn hard water into soft water before it ever enters the washing machine. With a water softener, your diapers shouldn't stink or leak, because your detergent will be able to clean them properly during every wash cycle.
Check Your Water's Mineral Levels
Much of the United States has hard water, as the U.S. Geological Survey's data shows. Even if you live in a region with lower concentrations of minerals, however, you may want to have your home's water checked.
Checking your water's mineral levels is easy. You can purchase a kit from a hardware store that will test the mineral concentrations in your water. According to Fairfax Water, water that has:
- 1 to 3.5 grains per gallon is slightly hard
- 3.5 to 7 grains per gallon is moderately hard
- 7 to 10.5 grains per gallon is hard
- more than 10.5 grains per gallon is very hard
Alternatively, many companies that install water softeners will come and test your home's water. This service may be free, or there may be a nominal fee associated with it.
Install a Water Softener
Installing a water softener may be more affordable than you think. Do It Yourself Or Not's figure shows that the average cost of having a water softener installed was $821 in 2013. That may seem like a lot of money, but you can save more than that by using cloth diapers instead of disposables. Courtney Baker saved $400 in the first year she used cloth diapers, and she anticipated saving more than $1,000 by the time her child was potty trained.
If you find out that your home's water is hard, consider installing a water softener before you begin cloth diapering. It will protect your cloth diapers, which are not cheap, by removing minerals that would otherwise damage the diapers, and it's more convenient than regularly stripping them. The initial investment will more than pay for itself by the time your child is potty trained.