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Mysterious Rust Stains on Laundry

Submit an Entry: Your Laundry Questions and Answers

By Laura

My Laundry Question

I am noticing quarter size brown spots on my white washes. What could it be? Is it a major component that may need to be repaired or replaced? Thank you from Helpless with Dalmatian-syndrome.

Share a Little Background Info

During the washing cycle these brown spots appeared on some of my white clothes, but not all. Which seems very strange. It does not look like oil or grease since it is brown in color and looks more like mud. It has happenegd the last two times I used the washer.

Lessons Learned

  • My only option now is not to wash my whites.

Mary Marlowe Leverette, About.com Laundry & Laundry Rooms, says:

Dear Dalmatian, I know you are hoping that I have 101 ways to prevent these spots! I don't have that many but I do have several things that you need to check. First, your washer. You may have a spot that has rusted that needs to be repaired. Take a look at how to inspect and clean your washer and see if that is the problem.

Second, if you are on a well system or in an area with hard water, you may have iron bacteria in the water. Have your water tested and follow these recommendations for rusty water.

Third, if you are on a city water system the problem could be your pipes or water heater. The rust occasionally breaks loose, causing rusty water to flow into the washer. This can also happen when city or household water lines are disturbed (e.g., moved, replaced, back flushed or repaired) and rust breaks loose from old pipes. Low water reserves and accumulated sediment in the lines may also cause rust. Such incidents generally cause yellow, orange or brown stains to be deposited on clothes.

Iron stains that occur on clothes during laundering in rusty water can be easily prevented. Simply check the water for discoloration before doing the laundry. Start filling the washer with water before putting in the clothes to be washed; if the water is discolored, don't put clothes into the washer. Instead, without a load of clothes, let the washer fill and run through the wash and rinse cycles to clear the water lines. Check your water heater and if you have rust stains on sinks and toilets, you probably have a problem in your home.

If you notice rust stains on freshly washed clothes, NEVER put them in the dryer or use chlorine bleach. High heat and the chlorine will set the stains and make them very difficult, if not impossible to remove.

Follow these tips for removing rust stains.

Good luck!

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