Rusty Clothes After Finishing Your Laundry? Here's How To Find The Problem

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Rust stains from your washer? Here's how to detect where your clothes are picking up rust stains while doing laundry. It may or may not be your washer.

A reader wrote in and asked why she was getting rust stains on her clothes after doing the laundry. "Our washer and dryer are 20-25 years old, so I'm thinking they are the problem. Should I buy a new washer or try to have this one fixed?"

Given the age of the washer and dryer, it's possible that the problem is with the machines. However, there are some things to investigate before running out to plunk down money on new appliances.

Determine where the rust is coming from

The rust could either be due to your washer or dryer. Of course, it's easiest to determine whether it's your washer or dryer that's the culprit with your whites. If they come out of the washer with little brown spots, you know the problem is in your wash cycle. However, if they leave the washer clean, but have little brown rust spots after the dryer, that's where the problem is.

Rust could be from your water source or the pipes

While the rust might be coming from your washer, it could also be coming from your pipes...or your water. I was at a friend's cottage a few years ago and did a load of laundry. Their well water had so much iron in it that my whites came out rusty brown. It took three days of soaking them in Oxy Clean to restore them. In an apartment we lived in - very temporarily - the pipes were so old that brown water came out of the faucet every morning. We had to flush the system every morning before we dared use the water. The point is, the rust may be from your pipes or originate from the water itself. In those cases, you can either get a filter for your washing machine or a water softener for your house. If you have hard water, an investment in a whole house water softener will extend the lives of your dishwasher and washing machine, decrease odour from the water, and help lessen or eliminate the waterline mark in your toilets.

Rust could be from your washer

Sometimes it's fairly obvious that the problem stems from your washer. If the enamel has chipped away on your drum, or if the drum is stainless steel and it has small rust spots appearing, that is likely the cause of your rust stains. If you can easily access the spot and you're a confident DIYer, you could try sanding down the rust and touching it up with an enamel heat resistant appliance paint. If the drum is thoroughly rusty you could consider replacing it with a new drum - usually an appliance repairperson is a good idea for this kind of job. If it's another part and you need to take the washer apart to find it - well, I leave that in your capable hands - (or, you could call in some help, or buy another).

What if the rust is coming from your dryer?

It turns out that your dryer might be the guilty party - if your clothes are coming out clean from the washer and getting rust spots on them after they've been through the dryer. If that's the case, suggests getting to the back of the dryer and cleaning out the air duct with an old towel.  It also suggests checking the interior of the dryer door seal to make sure it doesn't have any rust spots. As with the washer, it could also be the dryer drum.