using vinegar for laundry with hard water

Does Vinegar Help When Doing Laundry with Hard Water?

If your laundry is being plagued by soapy, scummy residue you’re probably living in a hard water area. And while this isn’t exactly an “end-of-the-world” type of problem, it doesn’t make the issue any less annoying to deal with! 

One way you can reduce the negative impact hard water has on your poor laundry is by adding distilled white vinegar to the rinse cycle when you’re cleaning your clothes.

Vinegar’s natural acidic nature will react with the mineral deposits found in hard water, like calcium, and will help to dissolve them.

Find out more about vinegar and hard water below! 

What Is Hard Water?

hard water and limescale build up

Hard water, in short, is water that has lots of minerals in it. And these minerals are typically magnesium and calcium. 

In general, hard water is safe to use and to drink. The only major issue with it is that it leaves deposits on items and appliances it comes into contact with. 

For example, washing machines and dishwashers that use hard water have lots of mineral build-up inside of them. 

The build-up can be treated and cleaned away though. However, if you let the deposits just sit there and get worse, the effectiveness of your appliances may reduce over time.  

In addition to this, if you wash laundry in hard water, the detergent you use may not mix well with the water. 

In turn, your clothes will not be washed correctly and will be covered in a white, chalky residue. Your items will likely need to be rewashed and perhaps even treated. 


What Are the Effects of Hard Water on Laundry?

Hard water, although it is harmless to use, can be a little bit of a pain for laundry! What do I mean by this? Generally, hard water will cause the following problems:

  • Clothes come out of the washing machine with white bits on them.
  • Laundry typically looks dirtier than it did when it went into the wash.
  • Laundry may feel stiffer than usual. 
  • Fabric may become weaker.
  • Some fabrics may rip eventually. 
  • When users wear their ‘clean laundry’ their skin may become irritated. 
  • Lifespan of clothes may be reduced overall. 
  • Some clothes may start to look discoloured. 


Does Vinegar Help When Doing Laundry with Hard Water?

vinegar in laundry with hard water

Yes, vinegar can help to reduce the effects of hard water on laundry. It can also soften clothes in general, eradicate marks on items and can whiten white garments

However, you must be sure to work with distilled white vinegar. This type of vinegar is the best kind because it won’t discolour your clothes, and its pH level is stronger than other vinegar types, making it ideal for breaking down mineral deposits left behind by hard water. 

Before you start using vinegar, or any other product for that matter, in your washing machine, it’s always good practice to quickly read your user handbook to make sure you won’t damage any parts in the appliance. 

Sometimes manufacturers list products that should never, ever be used to clean or maintain a washing machine, and using said products could void your warranty. So, have a quick look!   

Once you’ve done this, and all is well, you just need to add a quarter of a cup of distilled white vinegar to the ‘fabric softener’ compartment in your washing machine’s drawer. 

You then need to choose a liquid to detergent to wash your clothes in, and finally, you just run a cycle as normal. 

Start off with a small amount of distilled white vinegar to see how you get on, and you can work up to adding half a cup of vinegar over a few weeks. 

Keep in mind that vinegar is made up of acetic acid, so adding too much of it to a washing machine may cause irreparable damage over a period of time. 

Always use vinegar in moderation and do not use it in every single wash!

And if you’re worrying about the smell of vinegar tainting your clothes, you can rest assured that there won’t be any lingering smell because it’ll have been washed away by the detergent you’ve used.


Tips to Reduce the Effects of Hard Water on Laundry

Tips to Reduce Hard Water Effects on Laundry

Using more detergent and another wash, or two, to rid your clothes of the hard water deposits may sound like the ideal solution to your problem. 

But there are, in fact, better and more economical ways of managing your hard water situation.  

These alternative routes include: 

  • Avoid using powder-based detergent as these attract hard water minerals. Instead stick to liquid-based detergents
  • Consider buying and using a water softening product when doing your laundry. 
  • Use natural ingredients to remove the problem – distilled white vinegar, for example.
  • Clean and remove mineral deposits from your washing machine often – If you’re not sure about how to clean a washing machine, follow our step-by-step guide to cleaning a washing machine.
  • Wipe down the drum inside your washing machine after every use, so you soak up leftover hard water.
  • Invest in a home water softener
  • You can pre-treat laundry that is heavily stained by hard water deposits in a distilled white vinegar and water mix overnight. (Remember to always do a patch test!)