orange stain on clothes

What Causes Orange Stains on Clothes After Washing?

If you’ve recently noticed that your washing machine is leaving orange stains on your clothes, you’re not alone. Thankfully, this common issue can be resolved in a few simple steps.

But what causes these orange stains on clothes after washing? Can they be removed from your clothes? And how can you fix the problem before the same thing happens again?

Thankfully, this common issue can be resolved in a few simple steps. Read on for all you need to know!


Why Is My Washing Machine Turning Things Orange?

The most common reason why a washing machine leaves orange stains on clothing is rust. Rust forms when water catalyses a chemical reaction between iron and oxygen, causing them to combine into iron oxide, more commonly known as rust. As washing machines often have residual water in them, they are prone to rust build-up.

There are four potential sources of rust when it comes to your washing machine. Each of these causes is explained in detail below, along with tips on fixing each issue.

1. Foreign metal objects

foreign metal objects found in washing machine

Everyone has accidentally thrown an item of clothing into the wash before without checking the pockets. This is very easily done and usually causes no problems. 

However, if metal objects are in your pockets, these can get caught in the machine drum and slowly rust over time. This rust builds up and leaks into your load of laundry whenever you do a wash. 

Thankfully, this source of rust is straightforward to fix: you simply need to remove any foreign metal objects from your washing machine. 

Follow the below steps to do just that: 

  1.  Turn off the appliance, open the machine door, and look inside with a torch. 
  2. Look for any metal objects you might see (common items include paperclips, keyrings, and keys) and remove them from the machine.
  3. Once you’ve removed any foreign objects, it is a good idea to wash out your machine to remove any last traces of rust. You can do this by running an empty wash with either ½ a litre of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar used in place of your laundry detergent.


2. Rusting washing machine parts

rusty washing machine

If you’ve had a look in your machine and can’t find any foreign metal objects, it could be that parts of your washing machine have started to rust instead. 

This is more likely to happen to older models as newer washers tend to be made using stainless steel, which is resistant to rust.

For minimal rust build-up, you can usually resolve the issue by washing out your machine the same as you would when dealing with a foreign object. 

Simply run an empty wash with ½ a litre of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar in place of detergent. 

Depending on how bad the rust problem has become, you may need to replace your washing machine to stop your clothes from being stained. This can be costly, but there are several machines on the market at the moment that are great value for money.


3. Iron oxide in the water

Many people associate rust with old pieces of metal, but it is possible for there to be traces of iron oxide in your water supply as well. 

Compared to the first two sources of rust in this list, this one can be hard to spot as water can contain rust particles while still appearing transparent. 

If you think this could be the cause of the orange stains on your clothes, we suggest purchasing a water test kit. These typically come with a strip of paper that will tell you what substances are in your water supply after being wetted.

Installing a water filtration system is the best way to remove any iron oxide traces from your water supply if found to be present; however, these can be expensive. 

A more affordable option would be to install a water-softening system, but this will only be effective if you have low levels of rust.


4. Rusted pipes

rusty washing machine water pipe

The last potential source of rust in your washing machine has nothing to do with your device itself. 

Instead, it could be that the pipes supplying water to your washer have rusted. This will cause particles of rust to be drawn into the machine drum along with the water.

This is much more likely to happen in older homes, but it is worth looking into if there are no traces of rust in the machine itself and a water test kit comes back clear.

Unfortunately, the rust build-up will only worsen over time, and the only way to rectify the problem is to have new pipes fitted.

You will need the help of a professional to locate and replace any rusty pipes.


Are Orange Stains from Rust Permanent?

orange stains after washing

Although it is annoying when your washing machine leaves orange stains on your clothing, you can remove the unsightly marks easily with the help of the right cleaner.

When removing stains from white clothing, many people turn to bleach. This product is excellent at removing most stains but should not be used to eliminate rust as it will further oxidise the iron and worsen the stain. Instead, try one of the three cleaning methods below.

1. Store-bought cleaner

There are plenty of rust-removing products out there that are designed to remove these orange stains from your clothes.

Each cleaner will come with instructions on the packaging, but most will need you to follow the following instructions:

  1. Wet the rust stain with cold water
  2. Apply a generous amount of stain remover to the affected area
  3. Leave the cleaner to soak into the fabric for a few minutes
  4. Rinse the fabric with cold water
  5. Wash the garment as usual and air dry


2. White vinegar

using white vinegar on orange stains after wash

If a store-bought cleaner isn’t for you, you can try a few DIY alternatives. Our first recommendation is white vinegar. This is an ingredient that many people have at home already, so it is a good option in you need a quick fix. 

To effectively remove the rust stains, follow the below steps:

  1. Spray white vinegar onto the stained area until it is saturated
  2. Lightly blot the stain with a cloth (try not to rub as this will cause the stain to spread)
  3. Wash the garment as usual in your washing machine
  4. Hang your clothes out to dry in the sun, as this will further help to fade the stain


3. Salt and lemon juice

using salt and lemon juice on orange stains after wash

Your other option when it comes to natural cleaners is a mixture of salt and lemon juice. Lemon juice is great for stain removal as it has bleaching properties that will eliminate the rust stain without making it worse. To use, you will need to:

  1. Mix together 1 part salt with 1 part lemon juice to form a paste
  2. Apply the paste to the stain and leave to sink in for 5 minutes
  3. Firmly blot the stain with a damp cloth (try not to rub)
  4. Wipe away any excess paste
  5. Wash the garment as usual
  6. Hang the clothing out to dry, preferably in the sun