We’ve all had it happen- you’re enjoying a cup of coffee when some of it accidentally gets on your shirt. If anything, this goes for all foods from ketchup to pizza- they can all leave unsightly stains on your clothes.

But did you know that water can also stain your clothes? Not just any water, but hard water.

What is hard water? It’s water that contains high levels of minerals such as calcium and magnesium. Not only does it taste better but it has a number of health benefits as well.

For one thing, it can help improve digestion, heart function, and blood sugar. Not only that but the calcium also helps with the growth of teeth and bones.

hard water stains

However, these minerals can also leave deposits on your clothes. For example, they can cause your white shirts to look dingy. Other clothes may develop chalky white or rust-colored stains.

The good news is they’re not permanent- you can wash them out so you don’t have to throw away your clothes just yet!

Removing Hard Water Stains From Colored Clothes

White vinegar is highly effective at removing hard water stains. A mild acid, it will physically break down the mineral deposits on your clothes so that they’ll look new again.

Start by filling the sink with cool water. Mix in one cup of distilled white vinegar and combine to create a solution. Once it’s thoroughly mixed, lay your colored clothes in the sink so that they’re completely immersed in the liquid.

Let them soak in the vinegar-water solution for 30 minutes. After soaking, transfer them to the washing machine and run a normal wash cycle. By the end of it, any white residue on your colored clothes should be gone.

Removing Hard Water Stains From Other Garments

Fill the washing machine with water. Make sure to use the hottest possible water setting. Once the tub is filled up, add one cup of fabric softener. Next, add your laundry detergent- you want to use four times the normal amount.

Add your stained clothes and make sure the fabric is completely saturated with the detergent solution. For the best results, let them soak for at least 12 hours.

Drain and spin the clothes afterward. Add one cup of fabric conditioner and run a normal wash cycle. There’s no need to add any laundry detergent.

Check to see if there are any suds during the rinses. If it’s still soapy, run an additional cycle.

Alternatively, you can use cream of tartar and hydrogen peroxide. The two will work together to break down magnesium and calcium, whitening your clothes in the process. If anything, it’s especially effective for white and yellow stains.

Start by adding hydrogen peroxide to a small bowl. Mix in the same amount of cream of tartar and you should end up with a thick paste.

Using your fingers, cover the stained area with the paste and wait 20 to 30 minutes. From there, gently rub the paste into the fabric before rinsing it with clean water.

Launder with a normal laundry cycle afterward.

Protecting Your Clothes Against Hard Water Stains

Wouldn’t it be great if you could prevent the hard water stains from happening in the first place? Why deal with them when you can stop them altogether, right?

Well, as it turns out, you can! In fact, there are several things that you can do to keep them at bay (other than filling your wardrobe with shades of gray and yellow so that you won’t be able to see the stains).

Use White Vinegar Regularly

Add 1/4 of a cup of white vinegar to the tub every time you do the laundry. That’ll dissolve the minerals and prevent them from building up inside the machine. That way, they’ll be less likely to get on your clothes.

It’s also a good idea to run an empty load with 2-3 cups of white vinegar every now and then. For the best results, use the hottest possible water setting.

Clean Your Washing Machine Regularly

Ideally, you want to clean your washing machine at least once every 3 to 4 weeks. That’ll prevent mineral deposits, grime, and soap scrum from building up inside, all of which can stain your clothes.

active washing machine cleaner

While you can use baking soda and other DIY options, it’s much more effective to use a commercial product- something like ACTIVE Washing Machine Cleaner.

They’re designed to remove odors and are capable of penetrating residue and grime buildup. What’s more, is that they’re safe for septic systems and are compatible with all washing machines, including HE models.

Simply add one cleaning tablet to the washer and run a normal cycle with hot water. The tablets will automatically work their magic when exposed to water.

Our Top Pick
ACTIVE Washing Machine Cleaner Tablets
$21.20 $16.95 ($0.71 / Count)

ACTIVE Washing Machine Cleaner is specifically designed to clean the internal parts of a washing machine like inside the drum where odor-causing grime builds up. It is formulated to work with all types of washers including top-load, front-load, and HE. The enzyme formula removes residue from dirt, detergent, softeners and more.

Cleaning Power:
Ease of Use:
Our Review: ACTIVE Washing Machine Cleaner has earned its spot as our best cleaner for washing machines thanks to its powerful cleaning action and great value with a 24 count of tablets. It's simple to use and easy to stay on schedule with a cleaning calendar inside of the box.

Not only that but they’re also eco-friendly and safe for the environment. For one thing, they’re septic-safe. They also use less packaging compared to other washing machine cleaners. The fact that they’re tablets also eliminates unnecessary messes and waste. During our testing they weren’t only our top pick overall but they also came in as our best front load, top load, and our best eco friendly washing machine cleaner!
Type: Tablets
Amount: 24 Tablets
Number Of Uses: 24
Cleaning Frequency: Twice Per Month
Scented: No
Safe For HE Machines: Yes
Safe For Septic: Yes
  • Free of fragrances
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  • Each pack contains a year's supply
  • Customers outside of the U.S. will have to pay extra for shipping
12/01/2023 11:49 pm GMT

Add Borax to Your Load

Borax is a household cleaner that can also be used to boost the effectiveness of your laundry detergent. That’s not all, you can also use it to prevent hard water stains on your clothes.

How does it work? It will form a soluble calcium complex by chelating the magnesium and calcium minerals, which will soften the water. In doing so, the minerals won’t affect the color of your clothes or cause staining.

It’s super easy to use too. All you need to do is add half a cup of borax to every load.

Invest in a Water Softener

A water softener system is designed to remove magnesium, calcium, and other minerals from water. How does it work? It contains resin beads in the tank, which attract and holds onto the minerals.

In doing so, they’re completely removed from the water. The softened water then exits the tank the travels to the plumbing in your home.

The only drawback is the price. Depending on the size of your house, these systems can cost upward of $1,000. Given the benefits, however, most would agree that it’s worth it.

Other Ways Hard Water Can Affect Your Clothes

Hard water can also affect the texture of your clothes. For example, the fabric might feel starchy or stiff. This is caused by the high concentration of dissolved minerals that have bonded onto the clothing.

hard water

As a result, your clothes might not feel as comfortable as they used to.

Not only that but they can cause your clothes to thin out over time. This has to do with the starchy quality of the fabric, which results in more friction during each wash cycle.

Over time, this can lead to unwanted wear and tear, including the thinning of your clothes. This is especially true for areas such as the inner thighs, elbows, underarms, and knees as they tend to receive the most friction.

Hard Water Can Also Wreck Havoc on Your Washer

Not only is hard water bad for your clothes but it can also damage your washing machine in the long run. For one thing, the mineral residue can easily clog the pipes over time.

They can also build up in the wash tub and pump mechanisms, the latter of which can be costly to repair.

That’s not all, the mineral deposits can also bind with soap scum and detergent to create odors- odors that can transfer onto your clothes.

That’s why it’s so important to prevent them from building up in the first place.


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