I didn’t have any experience with doing laundry in hard water. Our clothes were getting rather stinky even though I ‘washed’ them and I didn’t initially understand why our clothes weren’t clean!
In Florida we either had a water softner or city/treated/soft water. Our first house had a well and most wells in Florida have what is commonly called ‘rust.’ Of course it’s not actual rust, just looks like it. It’s the tannins that come mostly from the pine needles that rot on the ground, as it rains, that stained water perks down to well level. The softners remove that as well as treating any mineralized aspects of the water.
I eventually figured out that we had hard water, I did some basic research on my cell phone – with very long upload times – on how to do laundry with hard water. This is what I found.
In order for the laundry soap to actually clean the clothes all of the free minerals in the water must be bound up so there is enough available soap so it can attach to the dirt in the clothes. If not, all the soap binds to the water to ‘soften’ it and you are in effect rinsing your clothes, but not really washing the clothes. The salt in a water softener binds to the minerals, so you can use less soap to clean your clothes. Since the minerals are bound, they are less harsh on your clothes so they last longer. Your clothes, hair, skin, are not ‘scratched’ from unbound minerals.
You can DYI it of course. You just need to add more soap to the machine. A lot more. Possibly two-five times more, depending on how bad your minerals are or how dirty your clothes are. We are now using two times the soap we used to with soft water and a good scoop of OxiClean. My rinse water must have vinegar in it – it helps to rinse out all the soap and scudge that can get redeposited on the clothes.