Washing Clothes in Well Water

Category Laundry
Homeowners who use well water often experience various difficulties when doing laundry, due to the iron and other minerals sometimes found in the water. This is a page about washing clothes in well water.


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I live on a farm, which is on well water for washing. I find my clothes are not soft and are not comfortable to wear. Also I have an odd orange stain on my clothes. Is there anyone in Ontario, that is on a farm and experiencing this? Do you have a solution? Detergent or soaps that are better? Any help, would be appreciated.

By Sheila from Ontario, Canada


February 7, 20111 found this helpful
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You must have a lot of iron in your water. How about using Iron Out? This is only for whites though.

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February 8, 20111 found this helpful
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We have well water. We do run a water softener. I wash everything in cold water to reduce the stain on the clothes.


I never buy expensive clothes, because they never last or look new for long. At least we save on the water bill, right?

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February 8, 20111 found this helpful
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You definitely have a lot of iron in your water! If you use a cup of distilled vinegar in the final rinse cycle it will break down the iron (and other minerals at that) and soften your clothes too. :-)

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February 9, 20111 found this helpful
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My parents were on well water with the same problem. My mom found not using liquid bleach kept the whites whiter and there is a person in the Ottawa area that sells attachments to reduce iron in the water. Not sure of his name maybe google it. Also washing in cold water helps as it does not set stains.

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February 11, 20110 found this helpful
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When employed at a laundromat one customer would come every few weeks to undo what her well water had done to her clothes. She'd dump in Liquid Plummer which got rid of the orange color. She'd apparently done this for years and swore by it.

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September 13, 20160 found this helpful
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We have well water, with a higher than usual iron content. We have no water softener. My clothes are always soft and normal, but about once every 3 months, I run my whites with Iron-Out, be so careful if you do, as the fumes are toxic. Maybe you are using too much detergent, and do you use a dryer sheet, or a wadded up piece of tin foil in the dryer? Try a smaller load. Try a cup of white vinegar instead of fabric softener-I actually never ever use liquid fabric softener.


That said, a strange thing happened this summer, Jim needed a bucket of soapy water and bleach to scrub a sidewalk-and I poured in some tide, and a cup of cheap bleach, not Clorox--which promptly turned orange in the bucket! So maybe you are getting a chemical reaction-experiment a bit. Maybe it's your laundry products, and not your nice, healthy well water. Good luck!

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January 31, 2012

I have well water and I cannot keep my bright colored clothes bright and my whites white. I started to take them to my parents because they have city water, but it would be much easier if I could do it at home. Any ideas or some tricks to help me keep the brights bright and the whites white?


By Stacy


January 31, 20121 found this helpful
Best Answer

I would start with having your water tested. Your local county extension office could tell you who would test it. It must contain a mineral that is in a higher concentration than normal, such as iron or sulfur. Once you find what that is, then you would have a better idea of what you may need to add to your wash to counter act that. It could be something as simple as just adding some epson salt, or vinegar, but if you add the wrong thing to some chemical it makes the problem worse.

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February 1, 20120 found this helpful
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THere is a remedy to well water. I had the same problem. With my regular washing detergent I add "Oxiclean".

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March 30, 2010

We have bad well water, and have yellow gray, white clothes. I use hot water with bleach. They still look bad. What can I use to get them white again?


By shirley


March 30, 20100 found this helpful
Best Answer

I too have well water and the main problems with mine are iron and sulfur. I use a product called "Iron Out" and I get it from Wal-mart. It is found in the plumbing/paint area. I quit using bleach on my "whites" 20+ yrs ago when we moved here due to the well water! I only use cold water and my nursing uniforms are still bright and white using the Iron Out and my homemade laundry detergent. (Available on this site under "laundry." May also be found under "old topics") Just remember to mix the Iron Out product in WARM water and DON'T breathe the fumes. The fumes are awful! Add to your machine on the whites, and like I said, I use cold water in my wash.


Good luck. Hamnurse

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March 30, 20100 found this helpful
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I lived in town when my oldest daughter was a baby, and couldn't use bleach in the laundry because the water would turn brown. The first time I did the laundry and used bleach on white clothes, my husband's underwear, daughter's diapers, etc. came out a rusty-pink color.

I used a product called "Miracle White" after that. The whites that had changed color gradually got quite a bit better, and I used that instead of bleach for whites as long as I lived in that town. I don't know if a person can still purchase the Miracle White or not.

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April 1, 20100 found this helpful
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I also have iron and sulphur in my well water. We have a filter on our well at the tank that filters out the sulphur odor, and improves the iron content, but I still get orange stain on my clothes and on my dishes. I use "Iron Out" for both, from time to time. In between times, I use the new Chorine Free Bleach that is on the market now for my laundry. It is actually peroxide, and it doesn't really make your clothes white again, once they are discolored from the iron, but it helps with socks and underwear if you start using it when they are still new and nice and white. I use about a cupful in a large load. I also use "Iron Out" to clean the tank and toilet bowl.
Harlean from Arkansas

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March 26, 2020

I have well water and have a one month old baby. Can I wash her clothes in the water?


March 26, 20200 found this helpful
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I hesitate to offer any guidance on this about what to use because everyone's well water is different in its chemicals and make up. Also I hesitate because baby's have ultra sensitive skin and I would hate to suggest something hat would give her a rash.

My two suggestions for you are to:

1. Talk to your baby's doctor and ask what they recommend for water in your area. There are a whole variety of things that can be used, but you need something specific to your water make up and something that will be safe for your baby's skin.

2. If you are in the US, there are home extension offices and they can give you suggestions specific to your town also. I would take their suggestions back to your doctor if your doctor can't give you anything first off.

Here is a locator if you in the US:


Other countries may have agriculture schools that offer the same (free) service.

You may need to try several things because baby's skin is so delicate that you will want to be sure she is not allergic to anything you use.

Prayers for easy solutions!

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March 27, 20200 found this helpful
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Safe for washing your baby's clothes?
More important - is your well water safe to use in any capacity?
I believe the first question would have to be - is your well water safe to drink?
Are you living in a new to you place or have you lived in this residence for some time but now you are concerned because you have a new baby?
Reason for the questions is because many people just assume well water is safe to drink and although many years ago this was true that is not how it is in this present age.
Of course, many wells will have a 'sulfur' smell that can be very offensive (but is not harmful) and also many wells will have iron deposits that will settle on your clothes and leave nasty looking difficult to remove stains.

The next question would be: do you own your home or are you renting?
This will be very important as it will determine who would be responsible for any costs should your well be contaminated.

You should check with your local Health Department (Google with your zip code) about the general condition of well water in your area and where can you get it tested.
Here is a link to use - click on your state to find the information you need.


There are no government regulations when it comes to private wells so the safety of that water is up to each individual.
It is very important that someone checks your water as it could be contaminated and your family may be having health problems due to a variety of different contaminants - but it may also be safe.
You can discuss this with your neighbors but even if they have safe water it does not mean your water is safe.
there are too many factors to list that could cause a problem but here are a few:
Location: this is crucial to the safety of your water and you may not know what has been near this well - animals/pets are a factor here.
Age: old wells may have pipes that have corroded and not up to present day code.
Depth: shallow wells are much more likely to be contaminated and you may not have the necessary documentation to know the depth of this well. EPA recommends at least an 80 foot well and older wells were rarely more than 30-40 feet.

Here is a link that explains a lot about well water and what is necessary to make sure it is safe for you and your family. If your water is safe to drink then it is safe for washing your baby's clothes. You only have to decide what type/brand of 'baby' soap/cleaner to use.


If your well water proves to be contaminated the cost to make it safe would be your responsibility or, your landlord's if you are renting. Most states require landlords to provide safe drinking water so check this out also.

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April 6, 2018

I have well water and for some reason when I wash my clothes I am getting large reddish brown blotches on my clothing! I can't figure out why. Our iron is fine and we have no hard water so what could cause this? See picture attached.


April 7, 20181 found this helpful
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You say "Our iron is fine and we have no hard water" so how was that determined? Did you have your water tested?

  • Almost all well water will have iron and usually some rust from pipes and it is usually "hard" to some degree.
  • I believe you should have your well water tested so you will know exactly what you are dealing with. Your county extension agency will usually do this test. They may or may not charge for this service but they may also have some good suggestions for dealing with this problem.
  • Here is a link to find your local agency:
  • www.gardeningknowhow.com/.../what-is-extension-service.htm
  • Until you find a way to eliminate your "problem" water here are some things to NOT do:
  • Do not use any type of chlorine bleach (sets stains)
  • Do not "soak" clothes
  • Do not use hot water - use cold water only
  • Do not use Rust-X - not recommended for clothes
  • www.rust-x.com/
  • Do not put clothes with stains in dryer
  • Things to try: (try only one solution at a time)
  • add detergent (maybe half of usual amount), add 1/3-1/2 cup each of white vinegar and baking soda - start washer to mix - add clothes and wash in cold water. Add some amount to second rinse.
  • Add 1/2 cup of Whisk Iron-Out (Walmart type store) and wash with 1/2 detergent.
  • Add 1/2 cup Oxyclean to wash water and wash with cold water.
  • Add 1/2 cup Borax and wash as usual.
  • Add 1/2 cup Liquid Plumber to wash water, mix well and wash as usual.
  • Always add 1/2-1 cup vinegar and maybe 1/4 cup baking soda to final rinse.
  • Any one of these solutions may help your stained clothes and keep away new stains (if clothes with old stains were not washed with bleach or dried in dryer).
  • What your well water is doing to your hair and body is another matter.

You may have to buy a water softener but if you do, be sure it will take care of this problem as many types do not.

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March 17, 2010

How do I stop my black cotton clothes from turning brown when I wash them? This is happening because I have well water.

By kasey


March 19, 20100 found this helpful
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I installed a whole house filter for my well water, also don't forget to Drain & flush your Hot water tank as needed since your on well water without a filter system.

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October 4, 2016

This is a page about keeping well water from staining clothing. Well water can contain a variety of minerals that can leave stains on your laundry.

Concerned looking woman checking clean laundry for stains

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ThriftyFun is one of the longest running frugal living communities on the Internet. These are archives of older discussions.

February 7, 2011

I have well water and every time I wash clothes, especially towels, they smell musty after a couple of days. What can I do?

Rosy B from Sutherland, Virginia


Washing With Well Water

Our well water is just too cold to wash clothes clean in the winter, so I use warm water to fill while I am putting in soap, bleach, etc., then select cold water when I am ready to leave the laundry room. I get clean clothes and the benefit of using lower temperature water.

By Lynn (11/19/2004)

By ThriftyFun

Washing Clothes in Well Water

SA-8 laundry detergent, made by Amway, it even dissolves in ice water, plus it comes with a money-back guarantee. It's an excellent product, and concentrated. There's a website, www.quixtar.com, where you can get in touch with an independent business owner. (08/22/2005)

By Elizabeth

Washing Clothes in Well Water

White vinegar helps too. It seems to get rid of the smell and keeps your clothing smelling better for longer.
I add about a 1/4 of a cup along with my laundry soap.


By Wendola

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March 30, 2010

Does anybody have any great tips for washing clothes with well water that has iron? Please help. My clothes are being ruined.

Becky for WV


Washing Clothes in Well Water with Iron

Try using a rust remover in your wash. Never use bleach as it sets the rust into your clothes. There are several brands of rust removers out there in the laundry section of the store. "Rust out" and RIT has a rust remover. I use borax or Washing Soda for my whites. (08/09/2004)

By Dee

Washing Clothes in Well Water with Iron

The only sure-fire way to prevent it is to get a water filter for your washer. I used to have so much iron in my water in Alaska (I wasn't doing laundry with it) my future husband complimented me on the beautiful red highlights in my hair. It took two $50 applications of chelation at the beauty parlor to get the iron out of my hair. I had to wash my hair with bottled water from that time on. It wasn't just the red color though; it was the fact that my hair was cracking off and being destroyed. (08/09/2004)

By Allison

Washing Clothes in Well Water with Iron

I searched for an answer and I found out that a product called Iron Out is what people are using. I hear it smells horrible, but it works. (08/10/2004)

By Lisa

Washing Clothes in Well Water with Iron

My mom uses the Iron Out. It has a weird smell but it doesn't stay on your clothes. I've used it to brighten up my whites and it works great. When I lived in an apartment that had a lot of iron in the water my hair also turned red. I used just a dab of Dawn dish soap once a month to wash my hair then conditioned it well. It took care of the problem. My hair dresser told me to do this, it also takes the build up of gels and hairsprays off your hair. (08/14/2004)

By Amy

Washing Clothes in Well Water with Iron

Our water was red straight from the sink. My daughter and I had our blonde hair turning orange! We finally installed a rather expensive water softener in the house to take care of the problem. We are still having to deal with the sulfur smell and taste in the water. (08/15/2004)

By 1nascargal

Washing Clothes in Well Water with Iron

Well water here is also orange from iron. For the clothes, allow the water to run until it runs clear. Expect to drain that water from the washer. Then, along with my detergent, in goes 1/3-1/2 cup each of white vinegar and baking soda. For clothes that are more soiled, a bit of Oxi-Clean and/or 20 Mule Team borax can be added. I'd start with a 1/4 cup or less until you learn which amount works for your needs.

To the rinse cycle is added the same amount of baking soda and vinegar, plus scented clothes softener. The water here smells, especially once the water is heated. To avoid setting in iron stains, I've had to use cold water only for both cycles.

From experience I've learned that detergents labeled for use only with warm or hot water works just as well in cold. There's no need to buy detergent made specifically for cold water, save your money.

If there's grease that needs to be removed, Dawn detergent works well. You can pour some onto the greasy spots. You might have to rewash the clothes. With the iron-based water, I've learned NOT to let the clothes remain in the water any longer than needed, as rust/iron spots can form. (10/14/2006)

By gator

Washing Clothes in Well Water with Iron

I live in the country and we have well water. I don't drink it as it smells horrible (rotten eggs). Most of my whites have turned yellow. I read on this site to use Iron Out. Well, it works! "Use only on white clothing." For my colors I use a blend of vinegar and baking soda, that has helped my clothes smell much better. Thanks for the advice! (07/03/2007)

By Marsha

Washing Clothes in Well Water with Iron

We have a lot of iron in our water and it stains everything! I have found that using 20 Team Mule Borax keeps it out of our clothes. I use a 1/2 cup for a large load. I use The Works on our shower, tub, and sinks and it takes it right out without scrubbing. And I use Lysol Power toilet bowl cleaner and that takes care of that.

But, it is turning my hair red! I have dark blonde hair and have noticed red streaks throughout it lately. My husband actually commented on how nice it looked and asked me if I colored it recently. Lol! Well, I guess at least it's not ruining it. I do think the water is drying my hair out though. I have naturally curly/wavy hair and I've noticed that I'm having to deep condition it more often since moving here over a month ago. (10/28/2007)

By Janna

Washing Clothes in Well Water with Iron

I have iron in my well water and get those awful iron-orange spots. I use Whink to treat the spots. Works great. But I wish I didn't have the problem. (05/09/2008)

By Jean R.

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