When we bought our house, I had no idea that we were entering a hard water situation. I'm pretty sure (okay 95% sure) it would have been a deal breaker for me. Between the water and our washer (which I think contributes to the problem), my whites don't stay white, but have a gray tinge to them, the girls' colored clothing, (especially pale pinks, yellows, and greens) get a gross faded tinge to them and stains (any kind...even the ones that are supposed to come out) don't come out. So over the last several years, especially since we had the girls, I have tried everything to make our white clothes whiter, get stains out, etc. And in that time frame, I've come up with a few of my favorites...and a few of my "won't ever use again or recommend to ANYONE!"
1) Sunbleaching- I know...who knew that the sun in the sky could be such a wonderful laundry tool? This is something I didn't realize until we started using cloth diapers with Doodle. The stains were unbearable and I wasn't sure what to do. The sun came to my rescue and I have taken great joy this summer in seeing my cloth diapers in a variety of colors and patterns swaying in the breeze. I've started using this method for other things as well.
2) Baking Soda- Though I do buy the Arm and Hammer detergent, I have started adding baking soda straight from the box into my washing machine. I'm not sure how much difference it is making compared with other things I'm trying (read I haven't done comparison study with a test group), but it makes me feel better.
3) Vinegar- After attending a Mommy Talk on using organic and natural products (which we do some of) and then reading an article on what chemicals are in fabric softener, I gave up my fabric sheets addiction. I used to throw a handful of fabric softener sheets into the dryer every time, but after reading about all of the chemicals a softener sheet contains, I've stopped for the most part. Vinegar can be used as a fabric softener substitute by pouring into the liquid fabric softener place in your washing machine and, no, your clothes won't smell like vinegar.
4) Dish Soap and Peroxide- I read about this when searching for ways to make your clothes whiter and found that mixing hot water, dish soap, and LOTS of peroxide together and letting things soak does help stains...and it did to an extent. Following this with sunbleaching helped.
5) I'd be remiss if I left out my mother-in-law and my mom. Yes, they are two of my laundry agents. When things just won't stay white or I just can't get stains out using our awful water or our washing machine, they graciously wash certain items for me at their house;)
"Won't Ever Use Again or Recommend to Anyone!"
1) Baby Ganics Stain Remover- maybe it was the combo of the stain remover and our water, but this stain remover left streaks on Aubri's clothes. I did love that it was organic and contained less chemicals, but isn't the purpose of a stain remover to remove stains, not contribute new ones?
2) RLR Laundry Treatment- I ordered this from one of the places I buy cloth diapers and it was AWFUL! The description claimed to "make whites whiter and colors brighter for a few cents a month. Removes dried in mineral deposits and detergent residue from clothing." Wrong! Though it said to put it in with dry or wet laundry (tried both), it just clumped up and didn't rinse off of my clothes, leaving white clumps of nasty residue that I had to wash multiple times.
If you have hard water and have any other helpful suggestions, I'm open to them. I don't like my kids going out with stains on their clothes (reason I buy Aubri's summer play clothes at Target vs. Gymboree) and I like my little girls' white tanks, tees, onesies, and dresses to stay white!