View Full Version : Making detergents work better - Water Conditioners

10-05-2010, 02:31 PM
So I had posted a little while back here asking if anyone could give me some answers regarding washing soda vs. Calgon. I know both soften the water in order to make the detergents work better and reduce buildup/residues, thus possibly emliminating the dreaded clothing diaper washing monster of...AMMONIA!!!

I have heard some try one, some say try the other. Vinegar is an entirely different discussion. I didn't hear from anyone on that thread so continued my search. I finally found an old discussion thread about Calgon on Mothering.com from 2003. Below is what a poster named "mamablue" posted. I can't vouch for its accuracy, but if even some of it is correct is sheds some light on the subject, as I am always searching for something to make diaper detergents work better since the Tide that is so loved by many mamas give DS a bad rash. Enjoy the reading...

Water Conditioners
There are two types of packaged water conditioners: non-precipitating and precipitating. Generally these names do not appear on the labels.

Non-precipitating water conditioner characteristics:

ties up hardness minerals in the water and holds them in solution (sequestering). No visible particles are formed.
water remains clear
usually contains phosphates
water feels slippery
safe for all washable fabrics
used in automatic washers
Examples: Calgon (a mixture of non-precipitating and precipitating chemicals), White Rain, Blue Raindrops, Spring Rain

How they work:

This type of water conditioner softens the water, breaks up the soil in the wash and keeps the hardness minerals from depositing on the clothes. These conditioners also trap the iron in the water if it is only a low concentration.

When using non-precipitating water conditioner add the conditioner to the wash water before the detergent and again during the rinse cycle. It is especially important to add the conditioner during the rinse cycle. It will again lock up the hardness minerals to keep them from combining with the detergent left in the clothes from the wash.

The amount of water conditioner you use depends on the water hardness as well as the amount of water and detergent. Read and follow the manufacturers' instructions for the amount of water conditioner to use. A correct amount will feel slippery between the fingers.

Fabrics that have become discolored from detergent build-up can be restored or brightened by washing them in warm water using a cup of water conditioner without a detergent. The conditioner frees the trapped detergent and soil from the fibers. If you see suds appear as the clothes are washed, you know excess detergent and hard water deposits are being stripped from the clothes. When suds no longer appear on top of the water, it indicates the complete removal of trapped dirt and residue of washing additives.

Precipitating water softener characteristics:

combines with hardness minerals to form a visible, insoluble precipitate that floats on top of water
makes water cloudy
particles cling to fabric and to the inside surface of the machine
the deposit makes fabric harsh, somewhat abrasive and dulls colors
highly alkaline
adversely affects wool and certain dyes not recommended for automatic washers
Examples: Arm and Hammer Washing Soda, Raindrops, Blue Dew, Borax, Climalene, Melo, White King Water Softener, Borateem

How to use:

Use only in the wash water, not in the rinse water. If the softener is not thoroughly rinsed from fabrics, it can irritate the skin and affect the natural characteristics of the cloth. Fabrics that hold any residue become harsh and may scorch when ironed and yellow while in the dryer.

Precipitating water softeners work satisfactorily in wringer-type washing machines. The soap curds and mineral residue are squeezed out of the clothes as they move through the wringer. In an automatic washer precipitate softeners form a residue which clings to fabric and the machine and is hard to remove.

10-05-2010, 02:35 PM
huh interesting

10-05-2010, 08:03 PM
interesting. So according to this, you should use calgon in the wash and rinse cycles. Do you think this applies to just clothes or diapers?

10-05-2010, 11:03 PM
I have been doing some additional research since posting this. According to Pinstripes and Polka Dots you should use 1/2 the recommended amount in the wash, but mentions nothing about the rinse. I also searched the MSDS and discovered that neither the powder form nor the liquid contain phosphorus, although the ingredients for each version are completely different :headscratch:

I guess I will keep looking for more info. I am thinking of try both powder and liquid to see what works best.

FYI to vinegar users, I found more info on how vinegar can make your stink problems worse along the lines of allowing suspended particles in the water (read: scum from detergent) to cling to the fabric, actually causing more stink problems.

10-06-2010, 01:56 AM
After a few months of researching this stuff it seems I have hit the jackpot tonight.

So I found out some additional on the powder vs. liquid. The powder is most popular used the do a strip and to strip the machine as well of its buildup that can then transfer to your diapers = stink. You can continue to use it for maintenance. What I found says it is the more popular version of the two in Europe because it is marketed to keep your washer running longer without repair. The Liquid version is more popular in the US and is recommended for maintenance. I think I will start with the powder first to do the stripping and when I run out I'll try the liquid. The powder is way cheaper, too. Hopefully I can cut down on the amount of RnG I'm using and keep the stinkies away, too!

10-06-2010, 12:08 PM
How do you strip your machine?

10-06-2010, 01:10 PM
How do you strip your machine?

The European recommendations say to simply run a full cycle with the calgon in it and no clothes. I guess it will clean out buildup from in between the drums, in the coupling, hoses, etc. I am going for it on Friday night. I have been using washing soda with rapidly diminishing results, which the thread above seems to point to and indicates I need to get my maching cleaned. We also share our washer and dryer with our tenants, who use conventional detergent. I think that really compounds my buildup issues, both in the machine and in the diapers. I figure it can't hurt to clean the machine in order to get the dipes clean, too.

10-06-2010, 07:29 PM
I wonder where rlr fits in this?

10-06-2010, 07:51 PM
I searched and searched for the MSDS on it last night but I couldn't find it. I saw a few things where people specualted it was actually a more concentrated version of washing soda that is typically for swimming pool use. I can't verify the truth of this, though. When they say it removes the residue and suspends it in the water it sounds in line with that.

07-06-2011, 09:35 PM
I just read in another thread that a mom had to call RLR and demand the ingredients after her child found an empty container and was licking the lid. Apparently it is just washing soda :)