Series No. 895
Research on laundering has shown that many factors affect the cleanliness of the wash. One often-ignored factor is the quality of the wash water. Several laundry problems are caused by minerals, organic matter and other impurities in the water supply.
Some laundry problems have similar symptoms but different causes. To determine if your laundry problem is due to a combination of factors or to water quality alone, consider your equipment, water, laundry products and laundering procedures.
Hard water doesn't clean as well as soft water because much of the detergent added to the washer goes to soften the water instead of to clean the clothes. This means you must use more detergent than in soft water. Softening water by using more detergent has two drawbacks: It is expensive and if the detergent contains phosphate it can add to water pollution.
Heavy-duty liquid detergents remove soil in hard water almost as well as powdered phosphate detergents and do not contribute to water pollution. Soap and powdered detergents without phosphates do not perform satisfactorily in hard water.
To prevent problems, take two actions. First, use adequate amounts of a low-sudsing phosphate detergent or heavy-duty liquid detergent and wash with water as hot as recommended for the fabric. All detergents perform better at higher temperatures in any quality of water.
Second, soften the water. You can soften water in the washer with precipitating or nonprecipitating water conditioners, commonly sold in grocery stores simply as "water conditioners."
Water softener systems that exchange sodium for calcium and magnesium may also be connected to the water supply lines for the washer, kitchen or entire house. These softeners will increase the sodium content of the water, so persons on sodium-restricted diets should consult their physicians before adding them to lines that supply water for drinking and cooking.
To remedy existing problems, fill the washer with the hottest water appropriate for the fabric. Add four times the normal amount of phosphate detergent or liquid laundry detergent and 1 cup of precipitating or nonprecipitating water conditioner.
Agitate the clothes just long enough to wet them, then soak them overnight or for about 12 hours. Drain the wash water and spin the clothes without agitating them. Finally, launder using the regular cycle, no detergent and 1 cup of water conditioner.
If needed, repeat the laundering using 1 cup of water conditioner and no detergent until no suds appear during the rinses. If fabrics continue to be dingy, launder them with 1 cup water conditioner and a bleach that is safe for the fabric. Follow package instructions for the bleach.
Chlorine reacts with dissolved iron to form particles of iron that settle out of the water. If the particles form in the washer during chlorine bleaching, they will deposit in the fabric and cannot be removed.
Replacing a rusty water heater may solve the problem. Dissolved iron may also be removed by water softening equipment, special iron-removing equipment or filters, chlorination and filtration through sand and carbon, or aeration followed by filtration through sand. Chlorination and filtration also remove iron bacteria.
To remove rust stains from white and colorfast washable fabrics, use a rust remover such as Rover. Follow product directions and be sure to rinse all traces of rust remover from the fabric. Do not use commercial rust removers in the washing machine.
Another method is to sprinkle salt on the spot and dampen it with lemon juice. Dry the fabric in the sun then rinse.
Test both procedures on a hidden portion of the article first. They may cause color changes. Take noncolorfast fabrics to a commercial laundry for professional treatment.
Install a filter to collect the suspended particles before they enter the lines. If you do not filter the water, add water conditioner with each wash. The conditioner may help hold the particles in suspension and away from the clothes.
Stains and yellowness from turbid water may be removed by laundering with a bleach appropriate for the fabric.
Acid water can be neutralized with chemicals or filters. For example, a soda ash solution feeder or a bed of coarse limestone chips will make water less acid.
Metallic stains on fabrics may be difficult to remove. Treat red or reddish brown stains as rust stains. Blue or green stains may respond to a bleach that is safe for the fabric.
The author -- Ernestine Porter is Extension textiles and clothing specialist in the University of Idaho Margaret Ritchie School of Home Economics, Moscow.
Reference to trade names is made with the understanding that no discrimination is intended nor endorsement implied.
This publication was adapted from Water Quality and Laundry Problems, published by the Texas Agricultural Extension Service.
|This publication is one of a series on water quality issues produced by the University of Idaho Cooperative Extension System for the people of Idaho. The material is based upon work supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Extension Service, under special project number 90-EWQUI-1-9216.|
Issued in furtherance of cooperative extension work in
agriculture and home economics, Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in
cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, LeRoy D. Luft,
Director of Cooperative Extension System, University of Idaho, Moscow,
Idaho 83844. The University of Idaho provides equal opportunity in
education and employment on the basis of race, color, religion,
national origin, gender, age, disability, or status as a Vietnam-era
veteran, as required by state and federal laws.
|5,000, June 1991|
Printed with special grant funds from USDA
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All contents copyright © 1997-2002 College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, University of Idaho. All rights reserved. Revised: January 3, 2002