Updated on May 5, 2016
No More Calgon? What To Do Now!
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Canadians with very hard water are collectively panicking as news that Calgon is no longer being sold in Canada travels through the cloth diapering community. Dramatic much? Sure, but if you live in Canada the odds are pretty good that you have hard water (whether you realize it or not), unless you’re fortunate enough to live on the West Coast. The news is true. Calgon is not available in Canada any more. Why not? I’m not entirely sure, but if I had to hazard a guess, I’d place the blame on our low Canadian dollar that’s making the importation of certain items just too expensive. So what’s a cloth diapering parent with hard water to do? First off, don’t panic. It’s not the end of the world (shocking, I know), and there are things you can do to prevent mineral build up in your diapers without using Calgon. Here are a few things you can do if you relied on Calgon to soften your water.
1. Test your water hardness. It’s really important to know how hard your water actually is. You can pick up water hardness test strips at most hardware-type stores. Just double check that they detect total hardness. You can also order water hardness test strips from Bumbini Cloth Diaper Company.
2. Skip the extra rinse. When washing cloth diapers in hard water, you want to make sure your wash routine is working as it should. If you have even moderately hard water (over 60 ppm), you want to avoid doing additional rinses. That includes turning off the extra rinse button on your machine if it’s on by default with the cycles you use for diapers. If you need help with your wash routine, you can check out my post on The Four Fundamentals of Washing Cloth Diapers.
3. Switch to a powder detergent. If you’ve been using a liquid detergent with Calgon in your hard water, consider switching to a powder detergent instead. Powder detergents contain more built in water softening agents than liquid detergents, so it will give you more water softening power. I use Tide Original HE Powder in my moderately hard water (100 ppm) and I don’t need to add an additional water softener. You can skip the water softener with Tide Original powder as long as your water tests at 180ppm or below for total hardness. You could also try Tide Free & Gentle powder which very recently became available in an HE formula (“safe for all machines”). You won’t need a water softener with Tide Free powder unless your water is over 100ppm for total hardness. If you need a hand choosing a detergent for your cloth diapers, you can find some tips HERE.
4. Use Borax. Until now, there were two options for water softening in Canada. Calgon and Borax. I’ve typically recommended that those with a water hardness under 250ppm use Borax, and those with water hardness over 250ppm use Calgon. This was simply because Calgon tends to be more effective than Borax when the water tests over 250ppm, but Borax is by no means ineffective over 250ppm. Now that Calgon is no longer available in Canada, you can use Borax for any water hardness. If you’ve been using Calgon and now need to switch to Borax, you’ll use the same amount of Borax as you were using with Calgon.
5. Check your wash routine. If all else fails, and you find some stink creeping into your diapers, look to your wash routine. There’s always something that can be tweaked in a wash routine that may make it more effective. If you’re using a powder detergent in the right quantities, adding Borax as needed for your water hardness, skipping the extra rinse, and your diapers aren’t getting as clean as they were when you were using Calgon as a water softener, you can try making adjustments to your wash routine. If you’re using the quick/speed wash cycle for your prewash, you can try using the normal cycle. If you’re using the heavy duty cycle for your main wash, you can try using the whites cycle (if there is one). If you’re washing in cold or warm water for your main wash, try washing in hot.
There you have it Canadian cloth diapering parents! There’s really no need to panic about Calgon being taken off the shelves here. Check your water hardness, and grab a box of Borax! It’s going to be okay!