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The 7 Best Laundry Detergents For Rusty Water

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If you live in an area with hard water, chances are you use rusty water as well, and it is one of the toughest challenges in the world of laundry. First, the clothes washed with this kind of water are dingy, dull, and stained. And it is worse if you’ve no idea of the best laundry detergent to use on this kind of water. Luckily you’ve come to the right place. You will learn why water turns rusty, the best detergent to use in rusty water, and factors to consider before buying a detergent.

The best detergent for rusty, hard water is designed not to react with calcium, magnesium, and iron. The result is soft clothes that retain their original color and last longer. In contrast, ineffective detergent reacts with the ions of these elements producing scum, resulting in dingy and stained clothes.

What Causes Water to Look Rusty?

The rusty appearance is a result of sediments and accumulated minerals. The main minerals include manganese, iron, calcium, and magnesium. Iron is especially responsible for this look as it reacts with ferric oxide, which is brown. But how does water get contaminated with these impurities? 

Rusty Pipes

Pipes in aged plumbing systems turn rusty over time, and this could be the source of the discoloration of your water. Another possible reason is a possible recent replacement of part of the piping with smaller sized ones, increasing the pressure in some sections. 

As you open the faucet on and off, this causes pressure changes which in turn dislodges some of the rust interior surfaces of the pipe. Also, the faucet handle may be rusty and discharges some of the sediments into the faucet outlet.

Repair Work

Utility companies routinely conduct maintenance on their plumbing system. At the end of the maintenance, your water might get contaminated by some of the debris from the repair work. Usually, this is a temporary problem, and it takes only a short time to clear, although in some cases, it might linger on for a longer time. 

Water Heater

Sometimes the problem might be with the water heater. If the rusty water is only coming from the hot water faucet, most likely, the water heater is suspect. Normally, water heaters have a 10-year lifespan. Beyond that, the porcelain enamel coating might wear out, exposing the steel and starting to rust. This rust will eventually find its way into your faucet. 

Well Water

Wells contains a lot of minerals and impurities that seep in from different sources from underground reservoirs. Common minerals in well water are manganese and iron, with the rusty appearance specifically resulting from ferrous iron, a product of a reaction between iron and water. 

Another cause of the rustiness is the iron bacteria, as it corrodes iron in fittings creating a slimy brown substance. 

Most of the rusty water will coincidentally be hard water due to the dissolved mineral compounds. And that is why you need detergents specifically designed not to react with the mineral compounds. 

Below are some of the most effective detergents for rusty water. 

Charlie’s Soap Booster Hard Water Treatment

Charlie’s Soap Booster lives up to its reputation as an effective detergent for laundry in hard, rusty water. Not only is it a detergent, but a booster for other detergents to increase its cleaning power. 

Its power lies in the biodegradable phosphates designed to soften hard and rusty water by acting as a surfactant. This makes washing easy as the detergent is more effective once the water has been softened by the booster. 

The result is a clean, soft, and stain-free laundry. Moreover, Charlie’s Soap Booster is nicely packed for easy opening with a hassle zipper. Plus, it is a versatile detergent and works well even with high-efficiency washing machines.

Charlie’s Laundry Powder Fragrance-Free

Like all Charlie’s products, this is another of its reputable products. Not only is it sud free, but it does a thorough job on your laundry, even in rusty water. The powerful laundry cleaner is powered by a four-ingredient formula. 

The main one is washing soda or sodium carbonate. Washing soda is a fantastic agent in both water-softening and stain removal and softens clothes. In addition, all four ingredients are natural, meaning the detergent is eco-friendly. 

Speaking of eco-friendly, it is EPA safer choice certified for use on both adults and children. And that is why it is hypoallergenic and fragrance-free.

Seventh Generation Laundry Detergent

If you live in an area with a hard and rusty water area, this is one of the best detergents to use in your laundry. With a load of cleaning agents, the Seventh Generation makes hard, rusty water easy to use. 

Its powerful ingredients include plant-derived cleaning agents, water softeners, and enzyme stabilizing agents that clear all stains and dirt. Plus, it is designed with no fragrances or dyes, and it is hypoallergenic, making it one of the safest detergents for your skin. 

And considering the recyclable packaging, few other detergents are as eco-friendly as it is. And that is why it is USDA certified. Remarkably, also, the detergent is highly concentrated, and all you need is a tiny amount for a normal load. That makes it one of the most cost-effective detergents on the market. 

Above all, the Seventh Generation detergent is a versatile and effective detergent whether you use it on adults’ clothes or with diapers. 

All Liquid Laundry Detergent

All laundry is an unbelievably efficient laundry detergent. It is loaded with powerful ingredients in its formula that deliver a killer punch to stains. The ingredients include alcohol ethoxylate, various compounds of sodium, and natural plant extracts. 

And if you’re looking for a detergent that is best for children’s clothes, few come close to this one. You can use it to wash children’s clothes, diapers, and other children’s clothes, and they will turn out squeaky clean. 

Furthermore, it is hypoallergenic, which is a huge feature if you’ve family members with allergy issues. Speaking of allergies, it clears the majority of everyday allergens such as dust mites, ragweed, and dog and cat dander. 

With all these features, clearly, that is why it is a number one choice detergent recommended by dermatologists and pediatricians.

BioKleen Laundry Detergent

Like all products from Biokleen, this detergent is designed with an innovative formulation that perfectly fits the hard, rusty water laundry. It is formulated with a load of plant-based surfactant extracts from citrus and grapefruit seeds ingredients. No wonder most people find its “citrusy” fragrance a pleasant feature. 

Its phenomenal smell aside, the quality of the product is exceptional. Highly concentrated, you only need to put a little amount on your normal load, no matter the rusty state of the water, with fantastic results. That is why Biokleen laundry detergent is not only economical but totally worth your money. 

And if you or your family members have allergy issues, these detergents should be your number one choice. Most reviewers have reportedly used it to wash clothes for children with eczema and asthma with no reaction.

Persil Liquid Detergent

Persil, the maker of this liquid detergent, is a reputable brand with many years of making quality detergent. And they lived up to their reputation with this liquid detergent. The detergent is formulated with cleaning agents that clear even the toughest of all stains within no time. 

The formulation includes cellulase enzymes, sodium compounds, and natural plant extracts, among others. Another notable feature is its strong concentration which is two times the standard concentration. 

That means not only is it efficient, but it is pocket friendly too, as you can load two times the normal load with the same detergent quantity. In fact, you need only one bottle for 110 loads. 

Amazingly, its performance is incredible even with hard, rusty water, where it leaves no stains or streaks of rustiness. In addition, it is a versatile, fantastic detergent whether used on standard or High-Efficiency washing machines.

Gain Liquid Detergent

If you’re looking for a liquid detergent that leaves a gentle scent while clearing even the most stubborn of stains, look no further. The Gain Liquid Detergent does a fine job on all manner of stains, from oils to rusty patches, among others. 

Gains liquid detergent, unlike many strong detergents, only leaves a lingering fresh allergy-free scent. Apparently, the detergent has received five-star reviews from many users in various online outlets, including on Amazon. 

And this is not without good reason since the detergent has a proven history of performance. Like all versatile detergents, we have reviewed it works with all washing machines, including high-efficiency ones.

Factors to Consider Before Buying Detergents

Water Softening Properties

If you live in an area with hard or rusty water, you need a detergent specifically formulated for this type of water. High-performing detergents in rusty water contain ingredients that act as surfactants to soften the rusty water for effective stain removal. Such powerful ingredients include Sodium lauryl sulfate or Sodium dodecyl sulfate, among others. 


According to research studies, laundry takes quite a substantial amount of the annual household budget. So, looking for an affordable, quality detergent helps lower household budgets. 

Remember, though the savings might appear inconsequential, they stack up in the long run. Luckily, most of the detergents we’ve reviewed are not only high-performing but cost-effective as well.


The best detergent should allow flexibility on how and where you can use it. The best detergent is one with an option for washing in either cold or warm water. It is especially more economical to use a detergent that allows for cold washing. 

You reduce the heating cost bills and maintain the durability of the fabric. In addition, it should work with both standard and HE washing machines without compromising the quality of your laundry.

Free From Common Allergens

Some detergents cause skin itching and breathing problems, among other allergic reactions to users. Be sure to read the ingredient labels to rule out the presence of allergens before purchasing. This is especially important for households with family members who are allergic to these irritating agents. Also, be sure to check allergy-inducing dyes and fragrances.


Detergents formulated with organic or plant-based ingredients are generally considered to be eco-friendly. In contrast, chemical compounds are harmful not only to users but to the environment too. 

Eco-friendliness includes packaging as well. Companies have adopted organic packaging to comply with eco-friendliness requirements. Examples of organic materials include cornstarch extracts, sugarcane-based extracts, organic fabrics, etc.


When it comes to scents, this is a tricky feature since what is a pleasant scent might be an outright turn-off to another person. So choose the scent that is not only good for you, but for your family members. 

Also, remember that fragrances trigger allergic reactions, especially in children. Unlike adults, most children have not developed enough tolerance for various smells. In general, avoiding scented detergents on children’s clothes is the best thing to do.

I also made a list of all the best washing machines for hard water that may interest you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which Is the Best Homemade Laundry Detergent for Rusty Water?

Most homemade detergents are not as effective as commercial varieties. The reason is most commercial producers have access to a wide range of ingredients not available to DIY detergent makers. 

That accounts for the high performance of their detergents. That said, any formulation that contains citric acid, vinegar, or borax will soften water and make washing with hard or rusty water more effective.

More on laundry detergent alternatives here, and on mixing laundry detergent here.

Are Liquid Detergents More Effective Than Powder in Hard Water?

Powder soaps react with chemicals in the rusty or hard water to form soap scum. In comparison to liquid detergents, this makes it difficult for water to lather and be effective in the laundry. But you can improve the effect of powder detergents by adding water softening agents such as borax. 

How Can I Get Old Rust Stains From a Piece of Fabric?

Vinegar or lemon juice is quite effective in removing old rust stains from fabrics. All you have to do is to spread the clothing on a flat surface, preferably over a towel. Any other piece of clothing will do. Pour a little white vinegar or squeeze a lemon juice and rub it off. That is it!

My guide on how to fix discolored clothes goes into a lot more detail. And here is a detailed guide on why your detergent doesn’t react with hard water.

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