Soft Water Not Cleaning

SnemelkaApril 11, 2013

I have been struggling with getting my laundry clean for years now ever since we got soft water, and I'm at the end of my rope. If I use too much soap my clothes come out dingy and not clean, if I use too little they don't clean, and I can't figure out the perfect storm of soap to water that will consistently get my clothes clean. HELP! I use Dr. Bronner's castile soap, and it has worked for years before, even when I used hard water.

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Doing some quick research online...

Softened water does NOT work best with SOAP based cleaning products.

You need a true DETERGENT.

You can try Tide Vivid (Powder), or All, Wisk, Cheer, Gain.

Some people say powders are better some like liquid, you'll have to experiment and see what works best for you.

Use the recommended dose per load.

Softened water does NOT need more detergent and you may be able to use a little less. Adjust your dosage and see what works for you.

If you use liquid bleach try NOT using it and see if things brighten up.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2013 at 3:23PM
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You are using Dr. Bronner's for laundry? No wonder you're having a problem.

When soap sees hardness, it forms sticky clumps. If there is a lot of hardness in the water, those clumps are more likely to stick together. They may stick to the tub (like a bathtub ring) or to the clothes, but a fair amount gets rinsed away.

When clothes are dirty, a large portion of the "dirt" consists of the same constituents that cause hardness in water. When those items are stuck in your fabric, and your water is soft, the soap forms those sticky clumps right in your fabric and your fabrics start to look dingy.

Even that would be okay, if you had some nice complexing agents to keep dirt suspended in the water AND a pH adjuster to bring pH up into the basic range where soap or detergent will work best. Dr. Bronner's doesn't have those things. Additionally, Dr. Bronner's has some free oils, which are great for your skin, but not for your clothing.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2013 at 3:25PM
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I agree with what aliceinwonderland_id said above. Soaps are not the same thing as a detergent. I recommend that you use a good detergent. I can always, with much confidence, recommend powdered Tide as a standard detergent. The dingy-ness that you are describing is leftover soap buildup in your laundry. Years and years of un-rinsed soap is lingering in your clothes. Soap never completely rinses away. Over time, clothes appear gray, dull, probably less absorbent, and possibly even a little stinky. Detergents will not cause this, unless you are severely under/overdosing. All soaps will do this, including the much loathed "homemade laundry detergent" fad. It is possible to reverse the effects of all of this. However, it will take lots of hot water, time, and water softening agents to strip it all out of the fabric at once. But even simply switching to a powdered detergent will probably make an immediate difference, and then clothes will eventually look normal again. I might add that hot water is always the best option for getting completely clean clothes, regardless of water softness. Hope this helps!

    Bookmark   April 11, 2013 at 8:10PM
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ITA with the comments above. I've used Dr. Bronner's to wash outdoor decking and it leaves a white-ish film. It has its place in the world, but not in my washing machine.

This post was edited by Cavimum on Sat, Apr 13, 13 at 22:58

    Bookmark   April 12, 2013 at 9:04AM
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I have a water softener and can understand your pain. First, you should stop using Dr. Bronners castile soap for your laundry. It's good to use in the shower - I love it in the shower - but it is a high sudsing product that is in no way designed to be used as a detergent in a high-efficiency washer under any conditions, especially with soft water.

If you want a natural product that is gentle like Dr. Bronners, I would suggest looking into Vaska. You can find it competitively priced at To bring your clothes back from the brink, I might suggest a few washings in Tide HE to ensure your clothes (as well as the inside of your machine) have been given a good cleaning with a real, powerful detergent. Then switch to Vaska, Seventh Generation, Ecover, or whatever laundry product you ultimately choose.

Combining soft water with Dr. Bronners castile soap has created the perfect storm for suds.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2013 at 12:05PM
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Gina Decorates

Thanks for the suggestions. I am dealing with disgusting finished laundry since we got a new water softener. I don't even look forward to showering anymore. Very sticky feeling after I get out. Our water is very greasy feeling now. Testing shows a higher PH and no hardness. So we are going to wait it after do some adjusting to the softener. We didn't have problems before. I also discovered brown discolored whites after using bleach the other day. They came dirty than they went in. Research is showing it is maganese which gets left in the water if the Ph is to high. We had the hardness level set too high and it was over softening. Going to check into some of the suggested detergents above.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2015 at 10:09AM
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