If your home’s water comes from a private well, you may have noticed that certain appliances, including your washing machine and dishwasher require more detergent and additional cycles before they appear clean.

But for many homeowners, an even bigger nuisance than increased detergent use and higher utility costs is the unsightly stains on your appliances and bathroom fixtures as a result of excessive mineral amounts in your water supply.

What Causes Mineral and Rust Stains?

Stains on toilet bowls like this are the result of elevated iron content in a home’s private well water.

Iron and Rust Stains


If you have a buildup of iron or other minerals in your water supply, you may notice no matter how often you clean your sinks or toilets, you still accumulate reddish/brownish rings around your drain or toilet bowl. These stains are caused by large amounts of iron in your water. That’s because minerals like calcium, magnesium, lime, and iron attach to nearly every surface they encounter.

In deep wells, where oxygen content is low, water containing dissolved iron and manganese will appear clear and colorless at the tap. Once it is exposed to air, iron becomes oxidized, leaving a solid reddish-brown stain on laundry, plumbing fixtures, and porcelain toilet bowls. Simply put, the more exposed iron is to oxygen, the darker the color it turns.

Rust can also form in the drum of your washing machine and stain your clothes as well, making some white fabrics (usually cotton) appear slightly yellow or orange after being washed.

Mineral and Limescale Buildup

Large amounts of calcium can also cause limescale to target bathroom appliances. It is commonly found on faucets, showerheads, and parts of the plumbing connected to washing machines. Limescale occurs any time hard water comes into contact with a surface.

Over time, limescale can clog hot water pipes and drastically minimize the heating efficiency of a water heater.

Solutions for Iron and Other Mineral Stains

Perhaps the biggest frustration homeowners with hard water face is the continual cleaning that must be done to keep iron and other mineral stains to a minimum.

Many commercial products, such as rust removing sprays and lime descalers are available to help homeowners eliminate the appearance of stubborn stains.

Iron and Rust Stain Removers

Iron and rust removal products come in a variety of forms. From liquids to powders, there’s a cleaner for just about any appliance or stain. Liquid rust stain removers are designed to dissolve rust and iron stains on white porcelain sinks and toilet bowls and are safe for pipes and septic systems. Powder versions, as well as bowl cleaners are also available for removing stains from household appliances.

Lime Descalers

Similar to liquid rust stain removers, descalers work by dissolving troublesome deposits on contact. Most commercially available descalers are strong enough to target calcium buildups, but gentle enough not to affect chrome, glaze, and grout, or corrode piping.

Combat Stubborn Stains with Vinegar and Lemon Juice

Looking for a more natural stain removal solution? A simple squirt of lemon juice or cleaning vinegar can temporarily dissolve limescale deposits with little effort and even less money. For washing machines, simply substitute a cup of detergent with either liquid and run an empty washing cycle.

Dishwashers can benefit from this remedy as well. All you need to do is pour one of the two substances into the base of the machine instead of the detergent dispenser.

Another tip to prevent iron and rust stains fro
m building up in your toilet bowl is to replace the flush valve if you notice your tank is having problems filling up or water is running constantly.

Beware of Bleach

One of the biggest mistakes many homeowners make when trying to remove stains from surfaces or appliances is to apply bleach. This can actually make stubborn stains worse, as bleach is a combination of chlorine and water which oxidizes iron upon contact. The chlorine compound works great to remove stains from clothing and is effective in killing germs but accelerates rusting when mixed with iron.

Prevent Iron Stains with a Water Filtration System

Stain removal products are a great go-to when it comes to cleaning bathroom fixtures and other areas of the home affected by mineral buildup; however, the only permanent way to prevent iron stains and lime scale from reoccurring is to install a water filtration system, like the Impression Series® Air Filtersand Impression Plus Series® Air Filters from Water-Right.

Many people want to avoid the expense of a water treatment system, but end up paying more on cleaning products and bottled drinking and cooking water than the cost of the water system itself. Worse yet, they spend endless amounts of time continuously cleaning the same appliances and fixtures over and over again.


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