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Why Do I Get Rust Stains from My Water?

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Water can leave stains when it has high concentrations of certain minerals. So, depending on what’s in your water, you’ll probably see different colors. The white or green scale buildup on faucets and showerheads tends to come from  dissolved calcium and magnesium. The rust stains around your sinks and toilets are caused by iron in water. Both types of water issues relate to hard water and can really take a toll on daily cleaning. Your water hardness can be taken care of pretty easily with a home water softener, but getting rid of iron usually requires a more specific water system.

Signs of High Iron in Water

    •        Rust-colored stains in sinks, toilet bowls, and bathtubs
    • Stains on clean laundry and linens
    • A metallic taste or odor in your water
    • Tap water that has a red or yellow tint
    • Low water pressure (from mineral buildup in pipes and/or water heater)

It’s important to note that iron is present in many water supplies—not just well water. Your municipal tap water might even have iron levels that are higher than you’d prefer. That’s because iron enters our source water naturally, from bedrock and other sediments. It dissolves and seeps into the aquifers, streams, and other water systems where the city pulls water for treatment. Most of the water contaminants get removed during treatment, but iron can sometimes get overlooked because it’s a “secondary” contaminant.

About Iron Regulations

The EPA sets standards for water contaminants under the National Primary Drinking Water Regulations, but its second set of regulations isn’t as strict. In fact, the EPA doesn’t even enforce the secondary regulations. They’re essentially just “guidelines” for the local public water systems. The EPA’s National Secondary Drinking Water Regulations includes 15 contaminants with non-mandatory water quality standards. As guidelines, they help monitor water concerns related to taste, color, and odor. Iron’s maximum contaminant level is set at 0.3 mg/L, but since it’s a secondary standard, the public water systems only have to test them on a voluntary basis.

Knowing whether your iron levels are below the maximum limit can be difficult if your city doesn’t regularly test for the secondary standards. Without a home water filter, you’re likely to see changes in your drinking water throughout the year. Your water’s taste and odor might worsen with higher chlorine levels, or you might notice a change in your water’s color because of iron.

A recent news story by RTV6 investigated reports of dirty water all over Indianapolis. Multiple families in Marion County were seeing brown or yellow water coming from their faucets. Some water problems were linked to iron build-up in the water mains. Other reports on bad water tastes and odors have connections to algae blooms in the White River.

Iron Filtration

Aesthetic water concerns might prove to be “safe” by some officials, they’re certainly not what we expect from clean water. It can be extremely frustrating to see those rust stains all over your bathroom, and even more off-putting to smell stinky water! When iron levels get to be too high, a water filter can help keep them in check.

The best iron filters remove more than just iron—they’ll use oxidation to also get rid of any rust particles and neutralize odors in your water. Iron filtration is also a great sidekick for your other home appliances. It helps protect your water heater from future mineral buildup. The system even improves the efficiency of your water softener and drinking water filters. Your dishwasher and laundry machine will work better with iron-free water, and you’ll probably enjoy your showers more too! Those hard water minerals play a big role in dry hair and skin, but it’s nothing that a good filter can’t handle.

If you’re having ongoing problems with iron in your water, be sure to contact your local water softener company or water filtration expert. They’ll help you find the best iron filter for your home, according to your water analysis. Systems that are too small or too big for your water usage or contaminant level will just waste energy. Getting the right fit will keep your costs low and your water “in the clear.” No more rust stains—just good, clean water!

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