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Hard Water – Textile’s Gray Problem

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hard waterHard water which is found in countries around the globe damages laundry machines and turns bright linens dingy and gray.  Let’s take a look at this laundry challenge.

Hard Water Defined

Hard water is water that contains a high level of mineral content, typically calcium and magnesium: The higher the concentration of these minerals, the harder the water. Groundwater often percolates through limestone where it picks up calcium and magnesium deposits.

Although not considered a health problem, it can lead to excessive scale buildup in water pipes, boilers, hot-water heating systems and other equipment that uses water including washing machines.

Additionally, because the calcium and magnesium prevent water from mixing with soap to form a solution, soap scum is left behind on shower walls; it also presents as rings around sinks and bathtubs as well as stains on dishes.

Dingy, Gray or Yellow Stained Laundry

But where it can really wreak havoc is laundry - as that same chalky substance on sinks and showers gets onto fabrics. Hard water does not clean as effectively as soft water. If the calcium and magnesium are not suspended in the water during the rinse cycle, it will cling to fabrics - causing dingy, dull, or even gray or yellow stained textiles.

Towels and Sheets Feel Hard and Scratchy

Aside from ruining the appearance of laundry, hard water also makes a difference in how textiles feel against skin.  It causes a stiff, harsh feel to fabrics. So instead of soft, fluffy towels and smooth luxurious sheets, they feel hard and scratchy.

Weakens Fabrics

Hard water also affects the strength of fibers; it can weaken them, causing fabric to easily tear and reducing the life of expensive linens. Continuous laundering in hard water can damage fibers and shorten the life of clothes by up to 40 percent.

Furthermore, as hard water keeps soap or detergent from adequately lathering, often additional detergent/chemicals are added along with hotter water, which can also be a detriment to laundry.

Hard Water Found Around the World

Hard water is an issue not only in the U.S. with the U.K., South Africa, Australia, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean all facing the same challenge.  Recent figures from Severn Trent Water report that approximately 60% of homes across the UK are supplied with hard water, with central, eastern and southern counties bearing the highest levels of hard water. 

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, 89.3% of U.S. homes have hard water, with the hardest found in the belt running from Kansas and Texas on the east to Southern California to the west - with up to ten times the minimum defined concentration of calcium carbonate.

Hotel in Mexico Combats Hard Water Issue with Xeros Polymer Cleaning System

In Cancun Mexico, where water rates are high and hard water is a significant issue, a hotel is using a combination of filters and Xeros laundry systems to combat hard water. Special filters are used in the laundry to filter out most of the calcium from the incoming water. Without filters, the calcium will clog and damage the machine.

The owner selected Xeros polymer laundry systems even though there is nothing intrinsic to the polymer spheres that helps with hard water. However, Xeros laundry systems use up to 80% less water and 50% less energy to wash textiles. That means there is up to 80% less minerals in each wash - translating into a lesser degree of graying, yellowing, stiffness and soil build up.

Xeros 2014 Product Brochure

Topics: Textile Care, Hard Water