I find that running the wash with my liquid detergent plus about a half cup of baking soda works well. The baking soda seems to do a good job at softening the water.
Also, if you have the Italian LG machine, you may want to give them a pre-wash (press the 3rd button from the left. It takes about 20 minutes.) I then put it on a full cycle (I do an extra rinse--the second button from the right, just b/c we have such hard water here. You may find its not needed for you.) I even do a load when I'm going to bed and it's ready to go through the vinegar rinse come morning.
When it's done, I put it through the 20 min wash cycle with about a half cup of vinegar, which works as a fabric softener, but is much much cheaper, not to mention much better for the environment and for our health. (Fab softener contains a lot of strong chemicals that I don't to breathe in or have on our skin.) The vinegar won't leave a smell, I promise! If you press the first button on the left (centrofuge) it will spin the clothes and they will be ready for the dryer.
(I put a ball of aluminum foil in a linen bag and put it in the dryer to help with static electricity problems.)
Sounds very involved, but once you get a couple of washes down, it's a cinch!