The 3 Best Laundry Detergents For Hard Water

If you live in an area with hard water, you’ve probably noticed your laundry isn’t as soft and fresh as you’d like. Luckily, the best laundry detergent for hard water provides an easy way to combat the issue — and you may be able to keep using the detergent you already know and love.

Hard water has high levels of calcium and magnesium, and it’s found in a large portion of the United States. If the water is untreated, the calcium and magnesium attach to your laundry and create stiffness, discoloring, and soil buildup. It also weakens fibers. If you notice these issues with your laundry, it’s worth switching to a laundry detergent that will work better with hard water.

So what are the best laundry detergents to use with hard water? Research has found that liquid detergent works equally well in hard and soft water. Liquid detergents often contain ingredients that are resistant to hard water, so they tend to be a better choice than powder detergent. You'll also want a heavy-duty detergent to clean and remove stains from your laundry, but if you have chemical sensitivities, there are effective plant-based options as well.

Or, as an alternative to switching detergents, you can add a scoop of borax to your load of laundry. This versatile cleaner can be used for many tasks around the house, is safe on almost all fabrics (though you'll want to test your delicates just in case), and is great at softening water, too.

Whatever you choose, the best laundry detergents for hard water will quickly make stiff laundry and buildup a thing of past.

1. The Best Overall

This popular pick from Tide is one of the best-selling liquid laundry detergents on Amazon for good reason. It’s heavy duty and offers 10 times the cleaning power of some bargain brands. Although reviews don't specifically mention using this product with hard water, Tide fans find it’s generally a very effective detergent: “I have tried just about every laundry detergent brand sold in stores and Tide is the only brand that actually gets out most stains with no work on my part, and gets the clothes clean and smelling good." One thing to note — liquid detergent can be difficult to ship, and some Amazon reviewers have reported leaks.

2. The Easiest To Use

Tide is considered one of the best detergents on the market, and it’s heavy-duty enough to use with hard water. These PODS are more expensive than regular liquid detergent per use, but they’re easier to toss right into your laundry and less likely to spill during shipping, plus they still provide the effective qualities of liquid detergent. This detergent is also effective as a stain remover and color protector, and the PODS dissolve in both hot and cold water. This version gives your laundry a fresh floral scent; Tide also makes fragrance-free detergent pods, if you prefer those instead.

Amazon shoppers say these Tide PODS are a good choice for those with hard water. "I have hard water and the pods cleaned my laundry very well," wrote one fan.

3. The Best Plant-Based Detergent For Hard Water

This eco-friendly, plant-based liquid laundry detergent contains citrus and grapefruit seed extracts, and it works well in hard water while being gentle enough for those with sensitive skin, chemical sensitivities, and allergies. It's nontoxic and contains no artificial colors, fragrances, or preservatives. The concentrated formula is equal to 300 HE loads or 150 standard loads so the bottle will last you a while, too.

Boasting a 4.4-star rating after more than 1,000 reviews, this detergent has earned rave reviews from shoppers with both sensitive skin and hard water. "My family has sensitive skin - this stuff does not break us out. Works great even with hard well water!!" noted a customer.

Also Great: The Best Hard Water Softener To Use With Your Favorite Detergent

Borax is a versatile cleaner, and because it softens water, you can use it in combination with your favorite laundry detergent to combat the effects of hard water. It’s an odorless white powder and this version comes in a convenient resealable bag. According to the product instructions, it's safe to use with almost all fabrics and rugs though it's a smart idea to test a small area first if you're not sure.

Many fans on Amazon recommend using this borax powder to improve hard water issues, giving it a stellar 4.6-star rating overall. "I use it in our laundry and other cleaning applications because our water here is very hard. The Borax helps to soften the water so things come out cleaner and fresher," one happy shopper wrote.

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Studies referenced:

Cameron, Bruce A. (2011) Detergent Considerations for Consumers: Laundering in Hard Water—How Much Extra Detergent Is Required? Journal of Extension. www.joe.org/joe/2011august/rb6.php