Why Are White Shirts Turning Orange? (Solved)

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It’s a nightmare to see your bright and majestic white shirt come out orange out of the washer. Obviously rust is the main culprit here, but how do you actually remove rust stains from white clothes?

Dampen the stained area with water, then apply a rust remover. When the rust stain is no longer visible, rinse with clean water and then machine wash as directed on the care label. Allow the garment to air dry.

In addition to dealing with rust stains on white clothes, you’ll also need to figure out what causes them. By tackling the problem at the root, you can prevent your white clothes from becoming orange in the future.

Rust stains cause your white shirts to turn orange

White clothes turn orange because of rust, either from the metal contents (iron) inside your water supply, a misplaced metallic item in your washer, or rust inside your washing machine’s drum. Rust stains won’t show in dark clothes, but are visible in white clothes.

1. Iron oxide inside your water supply

The most common reason why white clothes develop orange stains from the washer is due to metal in the water, particularly iron. Metals inside the water can come from your water supply or from rusted old pipes.

While modern homes are fitted with PVC pipes, old homes were equipped with galvanized pipes which are more prone to rust on the inside. If your home is fitted with old pipes, ask a plumber to replace the pipes.

If you keep seeing orange stains, do yourself a favor and test your water with a water test kit. You’ll get an idea how hard your water is with 17 parameters. Other metallic components, like copper, can cause blue stains, for example. Once you know what’s inside your water, you can treat it accordingly.

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Water softening systems can remove lower levels of iron. On the other hand, water filtration systems tackle higher concentrations of iron. Remember, even if your water looks clear, it can still contain iron oxide. 

2. Misplaced metallic item

When was the last time you checked what’s inside your washing machine? If your white clothes have turned orange, chances are there is a misplaced metallic item (or more) inside the washing machine.

But where did it come from? You may not have realized the contents on your shirt pockets. Small metal objects, like keys and paper clips, may have found their way into your washing machine.

As these small objects sit inside your washer, they degrade over time as they get exposed to water over and over again. Take the time to carefully inspect the inside of your washing machine, then remove the metallic objects. If the rust has developed inside the drum, you’ll need to remove it.

3. Rust inside your washing machine drum

Old washing machines tend to develop rust inside their drums.

Finding rust inside the drum of your washing machine is no longer common because modern washing machine drums are made of stainless steel. However, this is not the case if your washing machine is old.

Old washing machines should be regularly cleaned and maintained to help prevent surprises, such as rust. Finding rust in the drum of the washer means that your white clothes may come out with orange stains that weren't there when they went in to get washed. You’ll need to eliminate the rust.

To remove rust from a washing machine drum, add 2 cups of white distilled vinegar directly into the drum. Let the vinegar sit for one hour, allowing the acid to work on the rust. Then, put the machine through a full wash cycle (without clothes). The acidity of the vinegar will work to remove the rust in the drum.

How to get orange out of white clothes

You can easily get orange out of whites by using a rust remover product from the hardware store. Avoid using bleach or ammonia when dealing with orange stains in white clothes. They can make things worse.

1. Don’t use bleach or ammonia to remove rust stains

Bleach is a popular product to make clothes white, but you should never use bleach to treat rust stains. A chemical inside bleach, called sodium hypochlorite, will oxidize iron and make the rust stain even worse.

You should also not use ammonia to treat a rust stain. It can make it harder to remove. While ammonia is not corrosive to iron or steel, it is corrosive to many other metals including zinc, copper, and brass.

2. Use a rust remover product

To remove orange stains from white clothes, you’ll need to use a rust remover. It is effective because it contains strong acids. Always follow the directions and wear rubber gloves when using rust remover.

The most effective product to remove rust stains from clothes is the Carbona Stain Devils #9. For those who don’t know, Carbona Stain Devils is the complete stain remover package. It comes with 9 different formulas to treat different types of stains. For rust stains, you’ll need formula number 9.

You can learn more on how to use Carbona Stain Devils to remove rust stains right here. The article will show you how to deal with small stains, large stains, even combination stains.


Now you know how to get orange out of white clothes. Indeed, orange stains in white clothes are rust, which is caused by iron oxide in your water supply. You can remedy this by installing a water softener system, or better yet, a whole-house water filter. Either one is cheap, but they can improve your water quality.

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