Best Detergent For Cloth Diapers In Hard Water (2022 Reviews)

By Lynn •  Updated: 03/22/22 •  9 min read
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Hard water can make it very difficult to find a suitable laundry detergent. Cloth diapers in particular need to be washed and rinsed thoroughly since the baby’s skin is very sensitive. However, when using hard water, mineral deposits are left behind on the cloth diapers causing build up that traps bacteria. This is why you need to find the best detergent for cloth diapers in hard water.

Trapped bacteria causes bad odor on cloth diapers and also leaves stains.

In addition, build up also reduces the absorbency of the diapers so you must ensure that you use an appropriate detergent when washing. Let’s look at some of the detergents that will make washing easier for you if have hard water.

A comparison table of the best detergent for cloth diapers/nappies in hard water

The best detergent for cloth diapers in hard water

Charlie’s Soap-fragrance free powder

This is one detergent that should never miss in your house if you are cloth diapering your little one.

It washes cloth nappies really well leaving them clean and soft such that you do not even need a fabric softener. It washes out very well so there is not build up on the nappies due to detergent deposit.

For kids with sensitive skin, this detergent is the best since it is hypoallergenic. It does not contain any perfume, chlorine or fillers. In addition, it is made of non-toxic natural ingredients that are safe on the environment.

A small amount of Charlie’s soap can clean a big load; hence, it saves you money.

This soap works great in hard water when you add a water additive such as Charlie’s soap booster.

Most of the other wash detergents leave scum on your machine and build-up on clothes. Charlie’s soap manufacturers recommend that you run a few hot loads with old rugs to get rid of the old scum when you starting using this detergent for the first time.


  • Works great with High-Efficiency machines
  • Very long lasting; a small amount goes a long way
  • The nappies do no smell after washing
  • Dissolves very fast even in cold water
  • You do not need a fabric softener


  • No confirmed complaints on its effectiveness

Tide Free and Gentle Liquid Detergent

Tide is known for producing some of the best laundry detergents for both soft and hard water.

This Tide Free & Gentle detergent works great for cloth diapers when you have hard water.

Majority of parents who use this detergent claim that it is the best for their baby’s sensitive skin. This is because it does not contain any dye, optical brighteners or fragrance. Thus, it is very safe to use on baby’s clothes and cloth nappies.


  • Hypoallergenic
  • Dye-free
  • Unscented


  • Relatively pricey

Rockin’ Green Natural Laundry Detergent

This is a highly concentrated laundry powder detergent that works best in hard water. It is particularly made for washing clothes and diapers for babies with sensitive skin and prone to allergies.

Rockin’ Green is a plant-based natural detergent; hence it does not contain chemicals like parabens, dye, bleach and brighteners, phosphates and fragrances that are known to cause allergic reactions in babies.

It works best even in very hard water without the need to add a water softener.


  • Fragrance-free
  • Ideal for babies with sensitive skin
  • Safe to use on all baby clothes
  • Can be used in high-efficiency washing machine and tub
  • One pack can wash up to 90 loads
  • Best for removing ammonia and mineral build up


  • No negative feedback so far

GroVia Mighty Bubbles Laundry Treatment

This is not a laundry detergent but a treatment for cloth diapers. It helps to remove build up on cloth diapers, which is caused by hard water and the urine odor.

Since this is not a detergent, you can use it along with a regular detergent that works best in hard water, when washing dirty diapers.

You can also use it to remove build up on already clean cloth diapers occasionally. Simply place one pod in the washing machine and wash the cloth diapers using hot water then rinse thoroughly. Finally, give them a thorough wash using a hard water detergent to make sure that the build-up is completely removed.

If you live in a hard water area, do this treatment after a few weeks to ensure your baby’s diapers remain clean and build-up free.


  • Can be used in high-efficiency washing machines
  • Removes all build-up of minerals and ammonia from cloth diapers easily
  • Easy to use


  • Cannot be used as detergent since it is only used to remove build up

Effects of washing cloth nappies in hard water without a proper detergent

When you wash cloth diapers in hard water, this is what happens;

  • The mineral deposits from the water build up on the diapers, which is very difficult to get rid of
  • The diapers become very stiff and rough, which may result in diaper rash
  • They lose their absorbency and start leaking especially if you have a heavy wetter
  • The cloth diapers become very weak and tear easily
  • Stubborn stains form on the fabric and will not come off easily
  • The once brightly coloured diapers become dull and appear yellowish

How to choose the best detergent for cloth diapers in hard water

  • The level of water hardness

Majority of places in the United States have a certain level of water hardness as reported by the American Society of Agricultural Engineers.

If you are not sure about the level of water hardness in your area, you can take a sample to your nearest pet store for testing. You can also buy the testing strips and do the test at home.

Water hardness varies from moderately hard to very hard.

Thus, once you know how hard your water is, you will be able to buy a suitable detergent for washing cloth diapers as well as the rest of your clothes.

  • Liquid vs powder detergent

Most people argue that they find liquid detergents to be more effective than powder detergents.

This could be due to the fact that powder detergents attach to the minerals in the water, which makes it difficult it remove stains in clothes.

On the other hand, liquid detergents are said to have fewer chemicals compared to powder detergents. Thus, they are safe to use on baby’s clothes including cloth diapers.

Liquid detergents also work effectively in both soft and hard water while powdered detergents work best in soft water.

  • Scented vs unscented detergent

Babies are very delicate and sensitive to smell. So when buying a cloth diaper detergent, ensure that you choose one that will not cause an allergic reaction or skin irritation.

Some detergents are clearly indicated as fragrance-free, which means that they do not have any fragrance. Most people confuse fragrance-free detergents with unscented.  Unscented means that they have a fragrance but it is masked so that it does not cause any harm to the baby.

Nonetheless, most baby specific detergents are unscented. Thus, if you opt to use a non-baby specific detergent to wash cloth diapers, get one that is scent-free.

  • Ingredients

Some detergents have ingredients such as brighteners, enzymes and dyes.

While enzymes are added to detergents to increase their efficiency in removing stains, they may cause skin allergies in babies with sensitive skin.

Similarly, brighteners are meant to make the clothes appear brighter, which many people like, but they can also cause skin irritation.

Detergents that contain dyes are also not appropriate for washing baby clothes because they can cause skin issues due to the chemicals in them. Dyes simply add colour to the detergent and do not play any significant role in enhancing dirt or stain removal. Thus, there is no need to get a dyed detergent unless you are absolutely sure that your baby is not allergic to any dye chemicals.

Are there ways to soften hard water for cloth diapers?

There are several ways that hard water can be softened such as by using water softeners and boiling. However, in order to achieve the best results, you may still need to pick a suitable detergent when washing clothes.

Water softeners

There are several water softeners available in the market. They range from simple ones such as water conditioners and more complex ones like ion exchange softeners.

A non-precipitating water conditioner is a type of water softener that is used during washing. It helps soften hard water by trapping some minerals in the water especially when using a machine.

The ion exchange water softeners are considered the most effective. The most common types include sodium chloride and potassium chloride. The downside is that they may be difficult to install and you may require a plumber.


Another way to soften hard water is by boiling. Using hot water to wash cloth diapers can be effective since the detergent mixes well in hot water.

However, boiling hard water only removes temporary hardness. So you may still have to use hot water coupled with the best detergent for cloth diapers in hard water for better results.


As we have seen in this article, not all detergents are appropriate to use in hard water. Some do not lather easily while others leave mineral deposits on the diapers, which affects their cleanliness and absorbency. The mineral deposits result in build up, which traps bacteria; thereby making your baby susceptible to diaper rash. Thus, you need to make sure you get the best detergent for cloth diapers in hard water so as to prevent build up on the diapers.


Lynn is a freelance writer, a wife, and a mother of two beautiful kids. Lynn started Infant Empire with the aim of making parenting easier for fellow mums and dads. She believes the parenting tips provided here will be of great help to all parents.