Hard Water Can Be A Stinky Subject!

Hard Water and Cloth Diapers

Cloth diapers are great in so many ways – good for the environment, good for the pocketbook, good for baby, and so adorable!  But they don’t come without their challenges.  One of the biggest challenges cloth diapering parents have is finding the right wash routine. 

I thought I had found the right routine for us, but then it happened….that awful stink as soon as she peed.  Ugh!  I figured I just wasn’t rinsing the diapers enough, so I rinsed and rinsed and rinsed.  It didn’t help at all.  I would strip my cloth diapers, but the smell always came back.  I needed a better solution.

Nobody wants to deal with stink issues that arise from the wrong wash routine, and the first step to eliminating stink is to know your water type.  Hard water?  Soft water?  Somewhere in between?  How do you know which category you fall into and why should you care?  In the U. S., about 85 % of homes have hard water.  So, what is hard water?

Hard water is high in dissolved minerals, especially calcium and magnesium. 

Having hard water can lead to soaps and detergents not working well and leaving mineral buildup on clothing and cloth diapers. Your dishes will look dull from the residue left on them and your laundry will fade much quicker from the buildup.  You may also notice that your shampoo and soaps don’t lather like they should. The minerals from your water may block your detergent or soap from working.

The hardness of water is measured in ppm or mg / L.  Here is a breakdown to determine your water type.

  • 0-60 mg /L…….Soft water
  • 61-120 mg /L…..Moderately hard water
  • 121-180 mg /L…..Hard Water
  • 181+….Extremely hard water

How can you find out what type of water you have?  According to the 2nd Annual DiaperShops.com Cloth Diaper Pulse Survey (full results to be released soon) 42% of respondents know they have hard water; while 24% of respondents have no idea what their water hardness is.

The easiest way to find out is to contact the water supply company for where you live and ask.   You can also purchase a water quality test strip.  That is what we had to do because we have well water.  Luckily, we had some test strips on hand that we use in the hot tub.  Great, now you know your water type.  Now what?  You have a few options.

  1. The first thing you can do is install a water softener.  A water softener will act like a water filter for your home.  This is definitely not the cheapest of options and can be quite expensive, but will be worth it for your diapers, clothes and even your dishes.
  2. The other option you have is to use water softener additives like Calgon or RLR.  You simply add it to the machine with each load of laundry.  Short term, this is a much cheaper option, but you will end up using quite a bit of it and the cost will add up.
  3. You can also purchase a cloth diaper detergent formulated for hard water like Rockin’ Green Hard Rock.  I have found that Eco Sprout works really well for us also.
  4. Avoid Vinegar!  In your search online to find the answer, you have probably run across the use of vinegar.  The acid in the vinegar reacts and can actually make your diapers stink even more.

If hard water is what is causing your diapers to stink, a good place to start once you determine your water type is to strip your diapers.  Get them fresh and ready to go.  That way you will know if what you are doing differently is helping or if you need to try another option or continue suffering with the stink!

Don’t get discouraged if the first thing you try doesn’t fix the problem.  You may need more soap then you have been using, you may need less.  Maybe you need an extra rinse or are rinsing too much.  Trial and error will get you to a non stinky place if you know your water type and adjust your wash routine accordingly.

I know in my struggle to find the solution to our stink, I contacted Jared with Eco Sprout and he took the time to explain things to me and I soon realized that I was over rinsing my diapers.  I wasn’t aware that could cause stink, but with hard water, it can.

Here are some links to some more great articles on hard water and cloth diapers:

Here’s wishing you a stink free day but if that doesn’t work PLEASE contact us for assistance.  We’ll be happy to help resolve your stink via email, phone, or one of our many social media outlets like our Facebook Fan Page.

Guest Contributor:  This post was co-written by Shannon Stubbs (Mommy of One and Counting) and Calley Pate (DiaperShops.com).

This entry was posted in Cloth Diapering 101, Trouble Shooting and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Hard Water Can Be A Stinky Subject!

  1. Brittnay Urdahl says:

    Great article. I will be finding out how hard our water is here I know it must be hard. But as for
    The whole trial and error, it sounds so daunting. I have super stinky diapers. And I strip monthly. Drives me crazy. Do you suggest a specific routine. I rinse wash cold rinse warm rinse again is that too many?

  2. Sarah says:

    Wow! I never realized that extra rinses could be the problem. I always assumed the more rinses the better. But that does make sense if you have hard water..all of those minerals will just saturate the diapers. We do have hard water. Could you tell me how much you were rinsing before you figured out it was the problem and now how much do you rinse? I do two pre-rinses in cold water. Then a hot wash with detergent and an extra rinse. Thanks!