Author Topic: Iron stains in toilets  (Read 743 times)

GreenSheep

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Iron stains in toilets
« on: May 25, 2021, 07:02:42 AM »
We recently moved to a new house, and our well water has a lot of iron in it. You can see rust stains where the sprinkler hits the side of the house, and the toilets are perpetually brown because of the iron. I read that bleach makes it worse because of some reaction that I forgot long ago after I brain-dumped all that stuff into a chemistry test in college.

I got a product called Iron Out -- the tablet form that goes in the back of the toilet -- and it did work for a while, but it doesn't last long, and I'd rather not have to keep buying these things. It's fine for the one toilet in our house that doesn't see much use, but for the others, it's used up so quickly that it feels like a giant waste of money. Other than a whole-house water filter, which some of our neighbors have installed, do we have any other options? (And if we do need to go the filter route... which I assume is not cheap... any tips on that?)

We do filter our drinking/cooking water, but other than that, for showers and stuff, the mildly metallic smell doesn't really bother us.

zolotiyeruki

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Re: Iron stains in toilets
« Reply #1 on: May 25, 2021, 07:29:19 AM »
Yeah, the traditional route is to get a filter and/or water softener system.  Yes, they can be expensive, but the good news is that it's very DIY-able, which limits the cost considerably.

RetiredAt63

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Re: Iron stains in toilets
« Reply #2 on: May 25, 2021, 07:32:48 AM »
Our water had so much iron the laundry had rust polka dots from the spin cycle.  A filter will work but a water softener works better.  Every so often you need to add an iron cleaner to the backwash cycle.

SunnyDays

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Re: Iron stains in toilets
« Reply #3 on: May 25, 2021, 10:04:42 AM »
The toilets are the least of it.  Without a water softener, you will be corroding your faucets, washer and dishwasher.  They will all need to be replaced years earlier than normal.  A softener is really the only solution.

reeshau

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Re: Iron stains in toilets
« Reply #4 on: May 25, 2021, 01:09:33 PM »
We had a lot of iron in our last house with a well--orange walls where the sprinklers hit, and some orange, formerly white clothes.  We added a softener for the inside, and added a Rid 'o Rust tank to the sprinkler feed, and had no problems after that.  It is some expense, but it directly addresses the problem.

https://proproducts.com/american-hyrdo/rid-o-rust/

NumberJohnny5

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Re: Iron stains in toilets
« Reply #5 on: May 25, 2021, 01:49:00 PM »
We had a lot of iron in our last house with a well--orange walls where the sprinklers hit, and some orange, formerly white clothes.  We added a softener for the inside, and added a Rid 'o Rust tank to the sprinkler feed, and had no problems after that.  It is some expense, but it directly addresses the problem.

https://proproducts.com/american-hyrdo/rid-o-rust/

The orange clothes confused me, because they didn't come out that way. But if we wore them, sometimes they'd be orange next to where we had exposed skin, sometimes not. Long story short, something in sunscreen caused the iron to quickly rust and mystery solved.

I tried a regular water filter (whole-house one with replaceable cartridges), didn't work. Replaced cartridge with an expensive carbon filter...worked perfect for a day or so, then it literally clogged up. Broke down and got a beefy water filter that backflushes itself every so often (looks like a smaller version of a water softener, that's how big it was), plus a water softener after that. That seemed to take care of the issue, at the very least we didn't have patchy orange-brown clothes anymore.

GreenSheep

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Re: Iron stains in toilets
« Reply #6 on: May 26, 2021, 11:25:21 AM »
Hmm... looks like we're in for several thousand, then, to get a water softener system. I guess there's a reason all of our neighbors have one. Ugh. But thanks for the advice.

Finances_With_Purpose

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Re: Iron stains in toilets
« Reply #7 on: May 27, 2021, 12:56:52 AM »
We had this problem, briefly.  Get a softener.  Better yet, get a backwash filter if you need one; they help more specifically with iron.  But for that much iron, you need an excellent softener system.  There's no substitute.  The iron will stain most things permanently, and the ancillary problems are worse than the cosmetics. 

GreenSheep

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Re: Iron stains in toilets
« Reply #8 on: May 27, 2021, 05:17:47 AM »
We had this problem, briefly.  Get a softener.  Better yet, get a backwash filter if you need one; they help more specifically with iron.  But for that much iron, you need an excellent softener system.  There's no substitute.  The iron will stain most things permanently, and the ancillary problems are worse than the cosmetics.

We haven't had any staining of laundry or dishes. So now I'm waffling a bit... maybe ours isn't that bad? Maybe a water softener is overkill? I know you can test the iron level in your water; is there a particular level beyond which you should get a softener, and maybe a lower level at which it's fine to just live with a brown toilet and a bit of a metallic smell? It would help to have a definite number to work with and not just a "hmm, this could be bad..." (or maybe not that bad) feeling. If it were $20, I'd just throw the money at it, but for several thousand, I want to be sure I'm not fixing a problem that doesn't need to be fixed.

former player

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Re: Iron stains in toilets
« Reply #9 on: May 27, 2021, 06:12:54 AM »
We had this problem, briefly.  Get a softener.  Better yet, get a backwash filter if you need one; they help more specifically with iron.  But for that much iron, you need an excellent softener system.  There's no substitute.  The iron will stain most things permanently, and the ancillary problems are worse than the cosmetics.

We haven't had any staining of laundry or dishes. So now I'm waffling a bit... maybe ours isn't that bad? Maybe a water softener is overkill? I know you can test the iron level in your water; is there a particular level beyond which you should get a softener, and maybe a lower level at which it's fine to just live with a brown toilet and a bit of a metallic smell? It would help to have a definite number to work with and not just a "hmm, this could be bad..." (or maybe not that bad) feeling. If it were $20, I'd just throw the money at it, but for several thousand, I want to be sure I'm not fixing a problem that doesn't need to be fixed.
You would be relying on all your neighbours being wrong.  Not sure that's a good bet.

the_hobbitish

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Re: Iron stains in toilets
« Reply #10 on: May 27, 2021, 06:56:13 AM »
Get a really good water test. The ag university in my state does them for well owners for $50. It will test hardness, iron, sediment, plus a bunch of other things (copper/lead/etc). I had a similar rusty water issue even after adding a water softener because I had high sediment content. I fixed it by adding an industrial sized sediment filter. It was relatively inexpensive compared to the water softener.

I wouldn't go by what you neighbors have, though that's a great clue about what you'll probably need. I'd get your water tested.

GreenSheep

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Re: Iron stains in toilets
« Reply #11 on: May 27, 2021, 02:03:23 PM »
Isn't this website all about NOT necessarily doing what your neighbors (the Joneses) do? I suspect a lot of them did it for cosmetic reasons, and I'd rather live with brown toilets than shovel several thousand dollars into them. I should note that this is a spendy-pants neighborhood where people are used to throwing money at problems.

After getting too far into the weeds trying to find someone to test our water today, I talked to the guy who installed a water softener for one of our neighbors, and he said it hasn't been testing high enough around here to worry about corrosion, but some people have wanted it for the way the water feels when they shower, how their skin/hair feels when it dries after a shower, and yes, toilet stains.

Sounds like some of you have had a much worse iron situation than what we have here, and I don't disagree with your decision at all. Just trying to determine whether the same decision is right for us.

SunnyDays

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Re: Iron stains in toilets
« Reply #12 on: May 27, 2021, 02:20:48 PM »
FWIW, I never experienced rusty toilets or clothes and yet over 28 years of using a water softener (2 in fact), my kitchen and bathroom faucets are corroded enough to need replacing, as well as my washing machine.  Without a softener, I probably would have had to replace them all twice by now.  It would have been more expensive and more of a hassle also.  So itís a gamble for you, but I always prefer to err on the side of caution, even if it costs a few bucks.

slappy

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Re: Iron stains in toilets
« Reply #13 on: May 27, 2021, 04:18:46 PM »
We have a water softener and it cost less than "several thousand dollars". Although, not much less. We are getting a new one shortly and it is $2500. Granted, there are also annual maintenance fees in terms of filters and an annual maintenance visit. Maybe the annual maintenance visit could be DIY'd. We also do get orange toilets, but it's easy enough to clean them, and I've never had trouble with bleach making it worse.

zolotiyeruki

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Re: Iron stains in toilets
« Reply #14 on: May 27, 2021, 05:35:46 PM »
FWIW, when I installed our water softener, the total cost was about $300.  I bought a used water softener for $80, and a bunch of copper pipe and fittings for $220 (I was also reworking some of the plumbing so the hose spigots wouldn't use softened water).  The only maintenance I have to do on our water softener is putting salt in it every once in a while.

You might have to put in a more expensive system, but "thousands of dollars" doesn't have to be the case.

alsoknownasDean

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Re: Iron stains in toilets
« Reply #15 on: May 27, 2021, 08:23:36 PM »
What about a water tank and using rainwater for the toilets?

Must be very rural to not have town water.

TheGibberingPotato

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Re: Iron stains in toilets
« Reply #16 on: May 28, 2021, 08:00:05 AM »
We recently moved to a new house, and our well water has a lot of iron in it. You can see rust stains where the sprinkler hits the side of the house, and the toilets are perpetually brown because of the iron. I read that bleach makes it worse because of some reaction that I forgot long ago after I brain-dumped all that stuff into a chemistry test in college.

I got a product called Iron Out -- the tablet form that goes in the back of the toilet -- and it did work for a while, but it doesn't last long, and I'd rather not have to keep buying these things. It's fine for the one toilet in our house that doesn't see much use, but for the others, it's used up so quickly that it feels like a giant waste of money. Other than a whole-house water filter, which some of our neighbors have installed, do we have any other options? (And if we do need to go the filter route... which I assume is not cheap... any tips on that?)

We do filter our drinking/cooking water, but other than that, for showers and stuff, the mildly metallic smell doesn't really bother us.

A filter will catch some of the iron that is already precipitated, but a good deal of iron precipitation occurs due to dissolved iron oxidizing, which then causes it to precipitate.  Therefore, if you want to get rid of the rust, you have to get rid of dissolved iron.  And to do that you either need the toilet tabs, a water softener, or a different water source.

A carbon filter will do very little or nothing for you; they are designed to remove trace organic impurities (pesticides, chemicals, etc...) and not comparatively large amounts of metal.

A water softener will also remove other metals, though they are primarily intended for Ca and Mg removal.

If you have well water, you should also check your pH, and see if you need an acid neutralizer.

Softeners are sometimes considered environmentally unfriendly, because they regen cycle uses a lot of salt which goes down the drain... but if you aren't on city water and have very hard water (or Fe) you don't have a choice.

crowinghen

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Re: Iron stains in toilets
« Reply #17 on: May 28, 2021, 08:53:07 AM »
 We lived in a home with well water that had a high amount of iron, here's what I would recommend.
 First, find a local  water person, NOT the Culligan man. Get your water tested, making sure to get what the filter person recommends. we had to get manganese as well as iron tested, those are both problems in our area.
This will allow them to get the correct  filter product for your circumstances.
We didn't need a water softener, we just needed an iron removing filter.  This is the  brand we got

https://www.evolveseries.com/products/water-filtration.html

There are also dealer recommendations on their website
it is virtually no maintenance, and the water tastes great and  doesn't stain our laundry or fixtures any more.
Oh and btw we were able to purchase the filter and install it ourselves with our local-ish guy being willing to support us with any questions we had .
« Last Edit: May 28, 2021, 08:55:57 AM by crowinghen »

the_hobbitish

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Re: Iron stains in toilets
« Reply #18 on: May 28, 2021, 09:15:23 AM »
You can't really know whether it's just cosmetic or something that will cause damage without a test. Tests are cheap. Once you have the numbers you can make an informed decision on whether its about looks or something that will corrode your pipes etc and is worth the cost to not have to fix things later.

I had no iron, extremely hard, acidic, high sediment water and one pipe run that had corroded enough to test positive for lead.  The pH neutralizer and sediment filter were a must to avoid constant problems with leaks and water heater replacements down the line. There was already a water softener in the house when I moved in, but that alone wasn't enough to solve the problems.