How to Prevent Well Water Stains

One of the telltale signs that a house uses a private well water supply is the occurrence of stains on bathroom fixtures, kitchenware, and even laundry.

These annoying marks can be difficult, or impossible, to scrub clean, leaving homeowners feeling frustrated and wondering whether their water is safe to drink.

Thankfully, most causes of stains in well water do not indicate any health risk. Instead, they show the presence of high levels of metals and minerals, which dissolved into the water supply during the long periods that groundwater spends filtering through bedrock.

Illustration of a hand cleaning

Here are the most common causes of well water stains, and how to prevent water from staining your home.

How to prevent orange well water stains on fixtures and appliances

Iron staining

The most common type of stains caused by well water is orange or brown rings that form near drains, especially on sinks, bathtubs, and shower trays.

These marks are almost always caused by water with high iron content. Iron is one of the most common well water contaminants and can contribute to bad tastes and discoloration, alongside staining.

Depending upon whether iron is present in a soluble or insoluble form, water may appear clear with no discoloration. However, both dissolved and undissolved iron can cause stains.

Oxidization filtration

To remove iron from well water and prevent stains, iron needs to be oxidized and screened from the water supply. To achieve this, a KDF filter or an injection filtration system should be used.

KDF filters are inexpensive cartridge filters that contain granulated media composed of metals like copper and zinc. When iron contaminated water flows through this media, a chemical reaction occurs that converts soluble iron into an insoluble form. The filter will then screen out the resulting insoluble iron using a carbon or greensand filtration stage.

Well water filtration systems that us an injection filter offer more powerful iron removal for well water with more serious contamination issues. They oxidize soluble iron by injecting either air or chlorine into the water supply, before filtering out iron using the same carbon or greensand media.

How to prevent scale stains on appliances and clouding on kitchenware

Hard mineral staining

The effects of hard minerals dissolved into water aren't limited to well water, but those sourcing their water from underground, where it has the chance to absorb high amounts of magnesium and calcium, and more likely to experience hard mineral staining.

Mineral stains, better known as scale, can appear as misting or clouding on glass, spotting on porcelain and stainless steel, as well as thick, chalky deposits that build up anywhere where water is left in contact with surfaces for long periods.

Water softening

The traditional way to prevent hard mineral stains is by removing the contaminants from the water supply using a water softener. These products contain resin beds filled with a brine solution (containing high pure sodium or potassium salt).

When hard water runs over the resin bed, the mineral ions are attracted and exchanged with the salt ions, softening the water and removing the cause of stains.

For well owners who want to reduce staining while retaining the beneficial taste of mineral water, newer "water conditioner" systems are also available.

These products reformat (crystalize) the hard mineral ions instead of removing them, so that it becomes more difficult for them to leave the water supply and bind with surfaces.

How to prevent black stains on laundry

Manganese staining

Like iron, manganese is a naturally occurring earth metal that can dissolve into well water and cause staining. Classic signs of manganese contamination include grey or black marks of cotton and other fabrics after laundering.

Unlike iron, however, manganese may also cause stomach upset and other negative effects when consumed at high levels.

Air injection filtration

To remove manganese and ensuing black stains from well water, air injection filtration is generally considered the most effective treatment. These filters are designed to oxidize dissolved manganese, converting it into an insoluble form that can be more easily screened for the water supply.

Reverse osmosis filtration

Another effective method for metal removal, including manganese, is to use a reverse osmosis filtration system.

Reverse osmosis is a term used to describe a molecular filtration treatment where water is pushed through membranes with microscopic pores, capable of removing almost all forms of contamination from well water.