Skip to navigationSkip to main content

Imperial Dade Insights

Stay Informed With Helpful Information From Our Experts

How to Remove Rust Stains From Linen

How to Remove Rust Stains From Linen

Do you ever notice rust stains on your linen, even if they’re fresh out of the wash?

Rust stains, or those pesky yellowish, orange, or red marks, can be frustrating to deal with especially when they keep reappearing seemingly from nowhere. 

More than just causing frustration, rust stains can be costly when you and your staff spend so much time and money rewashing your linens. Rewashing leads to higher chemical, utility, and labor costs. 

To help you avoid unnecessary costs, this article will review the most common causes of rust stains on linen and two of the most effective methods that you can use to remove rust stains from linen. 

What Causes Rust Stains on Linen?

The most common reason rust stains keep showing up on your linens is because of metallic minerals in your water supply. Typically, the term “hard water” is used to describe this issue.

Hard Water

Hard water means your water has high mineral content, like high levels of magnesium and calcium. Heavy metals such as iron, manganese, and others commonly get lumped into the term hard water. You’ll know that you’re dealing with this if freshly cleaned linens come out with rust stains. 

Hard water can be present in both city and well water, but what causes hard water is different in both cases.

What Causes Hard Well Water? 

If you use well water, it can be turned into hard water after a period of heavy rain, or when snow and ice melt into the ground. When an excess of water filters through the ground, it picks up a large amount of metallic minerals, which is then deposited into your water supply. 

What Causes Hard City Water? 

If you use city water, hard water can develop when work is done on the pipes. Iron pipes oxidize and corrode over time, releasing iron into the water supply. The gradual release of iron can be exacerbated when the pipes are jostled or flushed out, resulting in an increase of metallic minerals in your water supply. 


On The Job Contact

The next most common reason you may see yellow or red stains on linens is contact during daily use.

Even if you don’t have any issues with hard water, you can still get rust stains on linen from physical contact with rust while on the job. 

It’s more common than you might think. All it takes is bumping into an oxidized handrail, rubbing up against a metallic bed frame, handling rusty tools/equipment, etc. to stain linen. Fortunately, though, it’s quite easy to remove rust stains.

Let’s review how to remove rust stains from linen with two simple processes.

How to Get Rust Stains Out of Linen: 

There are two main ways to remove rust spots or stains from linens. Both of these processes are equally effective at being able to remove rust stains from linen. You should choose which to perform based on the amount of linen that you need to clean. 

If you’re dealing with a small batch of stained linens, go with a rust pre-spotter and clean them by hand. If you’re dealing with too many articles of linen to clean by hand, add a rust reclaim powder to your next cycle.

Now, let’s take a deeper dive into each of these methods.

Remove Rust Stains with Rust Pre-Spotter

Rust pre-spotter is a chemical solution that can be directly applied to stained linen.

It is a great way to treat rust stains if the linen needs to be cleaned by hand, if you have a handful of linens but not enough for a load of laundry, or if you need to quickly remove a rust stain on the spot. That being said, it’s important to note that rust pre-spotter should not be used in a washing machine. 

It’s very easy to treat stains with a rust pre-spotter. All you have to do is apply the pre-spotter to the stain, and watch as the rust stain disappears in a matter of seconds. If it’s a heavy stain, it may take longer to disappear. Afterwards, rinse the linen out with cold water, either by hand or in the washing machine on a rinse and spin. 

A rust pre-spotter is able to effectively remove rust stains because it contains a very strong acid. Usually, that means hydrofluoric acid. Hydrofluoric acid is strong and fast-acting, which is what makes it an effective chemical for treating rust stains on the spot.  

Remove Rust Stains with Rust Reclaim Powder

Rust reclaim powder is another excellent treatment for rust stains. Unlike rust pre-spotter, it can be used in a washing machine to treat large loads of rust stained linen. 

It is an aggressive laundry powder that is made to remove rust and iron stains from linen during a special wash cycle. You should consult a chemical specialist about developing a wash program if you’re interested in using rust reclaim powder because you’ll want a program that allows rust reclaim powder to be in contact with the stained linens you’re washing for at least 15-20 minutes, using hot water. 

This routine shouldn’t be a part of your daily washing program, but rather a special cycle for when you need to clean a load of rust-stained linen. 

Rust Spotter vs Rust Reclaim Powder

A key difference between rust reclaim powder and rust pre-spotter is the acid base. Often, you’ll find rust reclaim powder utilizing oxalic acid as its base. 

Pro Tip: Oxalic acid is an acid that sees widespread use in laundry rinses because of its ability to convert insoluble iron compounds into soluble compounds. 

Oxalic acid works similarly to how hydrofluoric acid works, but it is generally considered safer because it is weaker. As a result, rust reclaim powder doesn’t remove rust stains as quickly as rust pre-spotter, which is why they need around 20 minutes of contact time with the linen. 

Final Thoughts

Linen can be easily stained by rust. Fortunately, rust stains are incredibly simple to get out of linen.

By using either of the methods we covered today, you can get rust stains out quickly and, in the process, reduce drawbacks like a high rag out rate or having to rewash linens. 

You can use a rust pre-spotter to remove rust stains instantly and by hand. If you have too many stained linens to take care of by hand, you’ll want to consult your chemical specialist about developing a specific program to address your rust removal needs. 

At Imperial Dade, we offer a wide array of warewash services. Our factory-trained technicians can help set up a high caliber warewash or laundry operation for you. From equipment setup and calibration, to service calls and emergency callbacks, Imperial Dade technicians know how to get the job done. 

Contact us to set up a free, comprehensive on-site assessment. Our specialists are ready to evaluate your warewash or laundry program, and develop the best program for your operations scale and budget. 

Check Out These Related Articles