Hard water can be a significant issue in certain areas. Issues such as dull laundry, white stains, and bad odors on clothing are only some of the problems you could be dealing with (1).
Washing your laundry in hard water can be tricky since some detergents don’t react well with the minerals, causing scum to form. To combat this issue, we’re here to help you find the best laundry detergent for hard water.
How Does Hard Water Affect Laundry?
Hard water is high in minerals such as calcium and magnesium. The hardness is measured by how many minerals are present. Areas with hard water will experience several issues such as limescale buildup (2).
However, one of the more embarrassing effects of hard water is that you might begin to notice that your whites aren’t white anymore, but gray. Colors might start to fade, white marks will show, and fibers will weaken (4).
Choosing the Best Laundry Detergent for Hard Water
To successfully clean your clothes without trouble, you’ll need an effective product. The following factors all play a role in how well such a product will work for you.
One of the main issues with hard water comes into play when it’s heated. This can be seen in your kettle or even inside a water heater. As you heat hard water, scale forms, which can be identified by small, white specks. When you’re washing laundry, you can reduce this effect by using a low temperature.
We strongly suggest that you choose a detergent that can be used in lower temperatures. Not only can this help to keep hard water issues at bay, but it’s also better for the environment. A washing machine uses a significant amount of energy to heat the water; this can damage your laundry, not to mention raise your energy bills (5).
2. Liquid vs. Powder
This can sometimes be an issue no matter the condition of the water. Some people prefer powder detergents, while others prefer liquid. However, we’ll let you in on a little secret: liquids are better when it comes to hard water. This is because liquid detergents contain non-ionic surfactants.
Non-ionic surfactants don’t hold or cause electrical charges in the water. This makes them unable to react with magnesium and calcium ions present in hard water — making the detergent more effective without you needing to add more (6). Powder detergents require you to use more to achieve the same results (7).
When washing in hard water, you actually don’t need to choose a product that’s marked for hard water. However, look at the label for non-ionic surfactants, such as ethoxylates, for the best result.
3. Softening Your Water
Softening your water is the most effective way to avoid hard water troubles. There are a few ways to do this without having to invest in a large softening system:
- Borax: An effective way to combat hard water issues is by adding half a cup of borax to the load. Borax will raise the pH level of the water slightly, bringing it closer to neutral (8). Hard water is alkaline and, therefore, needs to be neutralized (9).
- Vinegar: Another way to do so is by adding vinegar. Add one cup of vinegar for each gallon of water. The acid in the vinegar will help to neutralize hard water and thereby soften it (10).
Best Laundry Detergents for Hard Water of 2020
1. Water Boy Liquid Laundry Detergent
If you’re looking for a laundry detergent to combat hard water issues, this could be your go-to. Its concentrated formula uses biodegradable surfactants and enzymes to reduce the effects of hard water, such as dullness.
This formula can be used in regular washing machines as well as high-efficiency washers. HE washers use less energy and water while washing; therefore, they require a low-sudsing detergent (12).
You’ll get two 1-gallon jugs with your purchase — each should last for up to 64 washes. Use two capfuls for a high-efficiency washer and four for a regular washer. If you wish, you can do spot treatments or wash by hand — use only one capful for hand washing.
We love the fresh scent this detergent leaves on the laundry. It isn’t as overpowering as other brands, yet it’s long-lasting.
One downside to this product is that it’s tricky to pour. The large opening can cause a few spills if you’re not careful. To combat this, we highly recommend pouring the contents into a measuring cup or the cap before adding it to the machine dispenser.
- Safe for all types of washing machines.
- Can be used in hand washing.
- Works in all water conditions.
- Tricky to pour.
|Number of Loads||64|
|Safe to Use in||Standard and HE washing machines|
2. Charlie’s Booster and Hard Water Treatment
Sometimes, our regular laundry detergent just needs a little boost to overcome the effects of hard water. This booster from Charlie’s Soap is both environmentally friendly and highly effective.
The formula contains an eco-friendly phosphate that removes stiffness and white marks caused by hard water. Some detergent boosters tend to leave an annoying residue on darker clothes; however, this product will rinse off completely during the wash.
You can use this booster in any type of machine, whether yours is an HE model, or a front- or top-loading one. All you need to do is add half a tablespoon to each load, and it will control the minerals present in the water.
What makes this product even better is the fact that it reduces limescale within your machine and pipes. Because the formula is non-toxic and soluble, it’s perfectly safe to use in septic systems as well.
- Safe in septic systems.
- Works for all types of washing machines.
- A little goes a long way.
- Reduces limescale.
- The main ingredient is phosphate, which puts many customers off.
|Number of Loads||Not specified|
|Safe to Use in||Not specified|
3. Purex Liquid Laundry Detergent
Purex is a well-known brand loved by many homeowners across the U.S. Although this formula isn’t made specifically for hard water, it’s still highly effective at reducing issues such as stains, due to the surfactants in the formula. They go deep into the fabric to lift and dissolve tough stains, such as white water marks.
You can use this detergent for every wash without worrying about wearing out color or fabric. The long-lasting Mountain Breeze fragrance will freshen up your laundry and eliminate bad odors caused by hard water.
It’s easy to pour the detergent into the dispenser using the spigot and cup. You get 300 ounces, which should last you up to 200 washes.
- Tough on stains.
- Safe for everyday use.
- Long-lasting scent.
- Easy to pour.
- Bottle tends to leak.
|Number of Loads||200|
|Safe to Use in||Standard and high-efficiency machines|
4. All Liquid Laundry Detergent
If you have young children, be very aware of which detergent you’re using. Strongly perfumed formulas can cause skin irritations for the little ones, so you should go for something milder (13).
All’s liquid laundry detergent is a hypoallergenic formula that’s recommended by dermatologists and pediatricians. It cleans effectively while leaving your laundry residue-free.
One of the main reasons we like this detergent is that it can be used in cold water. Washing laundry in hot temperatures can increase hard water issues such as white stains. As the minerals are heated, they form scale that adheres to the laundry, machine, and pipes (14).
A downside is that it’s unscented, so you shouldn’t expect any particular fragrance on your laundry. The bottles are also on the smaller side: you get two 46.5-ounce bottles that will last for 62 washes. In a large family home where laundry has to be washed daily, this won’t last for long.
- Hypoallergenic formula.
- Free from perfumes and dyes.
- Washes effectively at any temperature.
- Can be used in any washing machine.
- Small bottle.
|Number of Loads||62|
|Safe to Use in||Any type of washing machine|
5. Arm & Hammer OxiClean Liquid Detergent
The formula uses a combination of baking soda and OxiClean ingredients that keep whites white and colors bright. Ingredients include non-ionic surfactants that are highly effective at combating the effects of minerals (16). It’s also a low-sud formula that rinses off easily without leaving a residue, and is safe for both standard and HE machines.
Arm & Hammer claim the detergent will remove over 101 types of stains, and we don’t doubt that claim. Customers were very pleased with how thoroughly their laundry was cleaned compared to other detergents.
One downside to this product is its scent. It’s very pungent, and several customers found it to be too much.
Multiple customers also received a product that had leaked into the packaging, so this is something to consider as well.
- Contains non-ionic surfactants.
- Low-sud formula.
- Removes tough stains effectively.
- Safe for all types of washing machines.
- Very strong scent.
|Number of Loads||Not specified|
|Safe to Use in||Standard and HE machines|
6. Rockin’ Green Natural Powder Detergent
If you’re looking for a detergent that’s gentle on your laundry but tough on stains, this is it. This powder detergent is a strong but natural formula that’s popular with parents of young children.
When washing children’s clothes, be wary of strong products. However, because this is natural, it won’t cause any skin irritations or leave behind a residue — it’s also safe to use with cloth diapers.
A little goes a very long way with this detergent. It’s a concentrate and therefore contains no fillers or dyes to pump up the content. Rockin’ Green claims the 45-ounce bag will last up to 90 loads if used as directed.
There are no phosphates, parabens, SLS, brighteners or bleach in the formula. It’s a simple vegan, biodegradable, gluten-free, and animal-cruelty-free detergent.
Rockin’ Green has also reduced the pH level of the powder detergent to make it gentler on fabrics.
A major downside to this product is the price. It’s significantly more expensive compared to other products. Some customers also found that they needed to use more of it than instructed.
- Natural formula.
- Low pH level.
- Free of parabens, phosphates, and other harmful ingredients.
- One bag will last a long time.
- Excellent for kids’ clothing and cloth diapers.
|Number of Loads||90|
|Safe to Use in||All types of washing machines|
|Scent||Lavender and mint|
7. Persil ProClean Liquid Detergent
The Persil ProClean detergent is excellent for everyday use. It’s a powerful formula that consists of surfactants and enzymes. These ingredients lift and dissolve stains efficiently while brightening laundry that might’ve been affected by hard water.
You can use this detergent at cold temperatures as well. This will help to reduce the effects of hard water, such as limescale and white stains. As water is heated, scale is formed within the washer; this can linger on the machine, pipes, and laundry (17).
We also really like this because it’s a liquid detergent. It provides a deeper clean without leaving an annoying or skin-irritating residue behind.
This packet includes two 75-ounce bottles of Persil ProClean — enough for 96 washes. The detergent has a fresh scent that you’ll surely recognize if you’re a Persil fan.
Persil ProClean is safe to use in any standard or high-efficiency machine. But, if you’re doing a large load or dealing with tough stains, you might need to add a bit more detergent.
- Deep clean.
- Fresh scent.
- It can be used in cold water.
- Brightens whites and colors without damage.
- Scent isn’t long-lasting.
|Number of Loads||48|
|Safe to Use in||All machines|
|Scent||Original Persil scent|
Detailed Comparison Chart
|Product||Best||Size||Number of Loads||Safe to Use in||Scent||Form|
|Water Boy Liquid Laundry Detergent||Overall||1 gal||64||Standard and HE washing machines||Fresh fragrance||Liquid|
|Charlie’s Soap Laundry Booster||Booster||2.64 lbs||N/A||N/A||Unscented||Powder|
|Purex Liquid Laundry Detergent||Application||300 oz||200||Standard and high-efficiency machines||Mountain Breeze||Liquid|
|All Liquid Laundry Detergent||Sensitive Skin||46.5 oz||62||Any type of washing machine||Unscented||Liquid|
|Arm & Hammer OxiClean Detergent||OxiClean Formula||122.5 oz||N/A||Standard and HE machines||Fresh scent||Liquid|
|Rockin’ Green Natural Powder||Powder Detergent||45 oz||90||All types of washing machines||Lavender and mint||Powder|
|Persil ProClean Liquid Detergent||Deep Clean||75 oz||48||All machines||Original Persil scent||Liquid|
Washing your laundry in hard water can result in a few unwanted surprises such as white marks, stiffness, and dullness. However, by using the best laundry detergent for hard water, you can reduce or even eliminate these effects.
When looking for the right detergent, we recommend that you choose liquid over powder due to its non-ionic surfactants. These work efficiently against the effects of hard water and will give you a better result.