Cloth diapers have many advantages over disposable ones. Cloth diapers are more affordable, more environmentally friendly and -- most importantly when trying to go through the night without a diaper change -- more absorbent. If exposed to hard water, however, cloth diapers' absorbency can be greatly diminished. If you're cloth diapering a baby or toddler, here's how to make sure the minerals in your home's water don't reduce how well your cloth diapers absorb urine.

Test Your Home for Hard Water

First, you need to know whether your home has hard water. To see if hard water is a problem in your general area, you can check where you live on the USGS's map of water hardness in the United States. This map only shows general water hardness in the United States, though. Your home's particular water supply may be harder or softer than the average of the area you live in.

To find out exactly how hard your home's water is, you'll need a water testing kit. These are readily available at local hardware stores, and they'll show you the mineral concentration of your tap water. Fairfax Water provides the following guidelines on what qualifies as hard water:

  • If your water has between 1 and 3.5 grains per gallon (gpg), it's slightly hard
  • If your water has between 3.5 and 7 gpg, it's moderately hard
  • If your water has between 7 and 10.5 gpg, it's hard
  • If your water has more than 10.5 gpg, it's very hard

If you have hard water, which many people in the U.S. do, you'll want to do something about it in order to protect your cloth diapers. According to Bummis Blog, the minerals in hard water will bind with a laundry detergent's cleaning agents and reduce the detergent's effectiveness. Your cloth diapers may not get fully clean when you wash them, and they might begin to

  • Smell
  • Show stains
  • Become less absorbent

If the problem isn't addressed, it will only become worse. Over time, your child's bladder will grow so it can hold more liquid, and your cloth diapers will become less and less absorbent. Eventually, they may leak.

Have a Water Softener Installed

The easiest way to resolve a hard water problem is to have a water softener installed. A water softener will automatically remove minerals from your water, making the water that comes out of your faucets soft. With a water softener, you don't need to worry about diapers not getting clean and losing their absorbency.

Installing a house-wide water softener might seem like an expensive endeavor, but the cost of installing one is reasonable when compared to the savings that cloth diapers afford. Water softeners can be had for anywhere from $500 to $1,500. To put this in perspective, Courtney Baker, a mom who cloth diapered her little one, saved $400 in one year and anticipated saving $1,000 in all. Any additional children would only provide more savings.

Alternatively, you could decide to strip your cloth diapers regularly, which removes minerals that build up on them so they don't lose their absorbency. Stripping diapers is an intensive process, though. It involves the following steps:

  1. Washing your cloth diapers

  2. Soaking the cloth diapers for an extended period of time

  3. Washing the cloth diapers again

  4. Rinsing the cloth diapers multiple times

  5. Drying the cloth diapers

It's much easier to just have a water softener installed in your home. Invest the money you're saving by using cloth diapers instead of disposable ones in a water softener, and you won't need to worry about your diapers losing their absorbency, and you won't need to strip them. They'll last for a long, long time because there won't be any minerals in your water to prevent them from getting fully clean when you wash them.

For more information about the benefits of a water softener, contact a local supplier or installer like Johnson Water Conditioning