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Is there too much iron in our water supply?

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What would cause reddish stains on clothing after washing? Could this mean too much iron in the water? What can be done to eliminate this?
—Seeing Red

The only way to know for sure is to have your water tested, but, yes, reddish stains on clothing can mean too much iron in your water supply. Other signs of water with a high iron content include rusty stains in your sinks and toilets, lime scale and other buildup around drains and faucets, a metallic taste, and dull hair and dry, itchy skin after bathing. You can remove the iron with a filter system that oxidizes the dissolved rust and turns it into particles that can be removed. There are several different filters on the market.

Stained clothing—and fixtures—can also come from water with a lot of dissolved organic matter, a.k.a. tannins. This problem is more common with surface water and shallow wells. Tannins usually turn the water yellow or light brown and give it a musty stench, but with the proper treatment device, you can remove them too.

Of course, the stains could be coming from a plumbing issue—maybe you have rusty pipes, or a rusty water heater. Or, if you’re only noticing the stains on your clothes, you might just have a rusty washing machine.