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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Hard Water Stains

By Dr. Laundry September 30, 2011

Q:  Can I use Clorox to remove or prevent stains on my laundry?  They are sort of rust colored and may be from our well hard water. 

A:  That’s too bad about the rust stains in your laundry, and that you have hard water.  Unfortunately rust stains can NOT be removed with Clorox® Regular-Bleach (or any chlorine bleach for that matter).  You need to use a rust remover product instead, and these can be found at hardware stores. Just be sure to read and follow the package directions, including testing items for colorfastness to the rust remover, and wearing gloves.

I would also consider installing a water filtration/softener system for your clothes washer—the brown stains you are getting indicate that your well water includes metals (probably iron and manganese) in addition to higher concentrations of calcium and magnesium.  Until they are removed, using bleach will exacerbate the problem.  Improving water quality will get you better laundry results in the long run and is worth it! 

Does anyone else suffer from hard water stains?