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How to Get Iron Out of Laundry From Well Water

Iron gets into water when it dissolves into ground water or when rust builds up inside of water pipes, wells, water tanks and water heaters. The rust sloughs off and dissolves in the water. The iron-rich water can stain sinks, tubs, washing machines, dishes and clothing. It is possible to remove the iron stains from hard surfaces by scrubbing them with an appropriate cleanser, but the same does not hold true for clothing. Iron-stained clothing presents a tough challenge; conventional stain removal methods do not always work.

Iron in the water can stain clothing.
  1. Remove the wet clothing from the washing machine and set the iron-stained items off to the side. Do not dry the clothes. The heat from the dryer sets the stain, making stain removal almost impossible.

  2. Fill the washing machine with water and observe the color of the water. If the water has a cloudy, red-orange appearance, iron is present in the water. Drain the machine. If the iron has not cleared out of your pipes, take the clothing to a laundromat or a friend's house to rewash them. If the water is clear, rewash the clothing immediately.

  3. Rewash iron-stained clothing in cold, clear water. Do not use bleach. Bleach makes the removal of iron stains more difficult. Use a heavy-duty detergent.

  4. Use a commercial iron or rust remover detergent if rewashing the iron-stained items with a heavy-duty detergent does not remove the stains. Follow all of the manufacturer's directions, suggestions and warnings. Rust removal compounds contain hydrofluoric or oxalic acids that latch on to the iron, remove it from the material and suspend it in the water.

  5. Set the washing machine to rinse the clothing twice. If the washing machine does not have this option, manually set it to another rinse cycle after the first wash cycle completes. Any remaining acid can irritate skin and deteriorate clothing.

  6. Repeat the process until the stains are removed.