Why are There Brown Stains in My Toilet Bowl?

Cleaning the bathroom is no one’s favorite task. What doesn’t help is opening the toilet lid to discover brown stains all over the bottom of the bowl! Gross!

But here’s the thing: these stains might not be what you expect (i.e., poop).

If they won’t scrub away with regular cleaning products, then contaminants in your water are to blame. And what’s frustrating is scrubbing harder often only makes these stains worse!

So, what can homeowners with brown stains in their toilets do? The good news is, there are ways to get rid of these unsightly blemishes! 

Keep reading to learn:

  • What causes brown stains in a toilet bowl
  • Other problems associated with a brown stained toilet bowl
  • How to clean a stained toilet
  • How to get rid of brown stains in a toilet bowl for good
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The Causes of Brown Toilet Bowl Stains

Where do these difficult-to-remove stains keep coming from, and why are they so hard to remove? The answer to both of these questions has to do with the contents of your water.

The contaminants notorious for causing brown stains in toilet bowls are iron, manganese and sulfur. These pollutants can also produce iron bacteria, manganese bacteria and sulfur bacteria, which also can produce brown stains.

Each of these pollutants is quite common in the regions Angel Water serves, which are Northern Illinois and Southeast Florida. So, if you live in these areas, our team would be happy to help you investigate and solve your brown stain issue.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these pollutants and how they contaminate both city and well water.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these pollutants and how they contaminate both city and well water.

Iron, Manganese and Sulfur

Iron, manganese and sulfur make up a large percentage of the earth’s crust. So, it’s no surprise that as water flows through the earth, it collects a lot of these elementsStudies show that water with an iron concentration higher than 0.3 parts per million (ppm) or over 0.05 ppm of manganese can cause brown staining. The difference between manganese stains and iron stains is that manganese stains tend to be darker.

Iron Bacteria, Manganese Bacteria and Sulfur Bacteria

Brown stains can also come from iron bacteria, manganese bacteria or sulfur bacteria. These organisms grow in soil or shallow groundwater with high iron, manganese or sulfur concentrations. Water containing these bacteria leaves behind slimy brown rust deposits in plumbing fixtures and toilets.

Well Water Contaminants

Towns like Fox River Grove, IL, and Hawthorn Woods, IL, that receive water from private wells can have all these pollutants in their water. The reason for this is well water does not receive any municipal treatment before entering the home. So, if iron, manganese or sulfur infiltrate the well, they will also infiltrate your home.

Iron, manganese and sulfur frequently get into private wells via groundwater that seeps into the well system. And the longer these elements sit in the well, the more opportunity there is for bacteria to grow. For this reason, these bacteria are more common in well water than in city water.

City Water Contaminants

Since it receives municipal treatment, you would think city water wouldn’t contain any of these naturally occurring contaminants. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

While the water does receive treatment for iron and manganese, this treatment doesn’t totally remove either of them. Plus, iron from crumbling pipes often infiltrates the city water as it travels from the municipal treatment plant to the home.

Because of this, iron is the most likely cause of brown toilet stains in homes with city water.

Conversely, iron, manganese and sulfur bacteria aren’t as common in city water since they don’t have as much of a chance to grow as they do in private wells.

Other Problems Associated with Brown Water Stains

Beyond creating unsightly brown stains in toilets, iron and manganese can also cause many other headaches for homeowners. Here are just a few examples of the problems they can cause:

And while these elements typically don’t cause any serious health problems, drinking water with bacteria can sometimes cause upset stomach and diarrhea. And long-term overexposure to manganese could lead to issues with memory, attention and motor skills.


How to Clean a Stained Toilet

If you can’t get rid of the stains with typical bathroom cleaning products, there are many alternative home remedies you can try.

For example, applying white vinegar or lemon juice and scrubbing with a toilet brush typically works on newer stains. You can also try mixing white vinegar and baking soda if you need a stronger scrub. For older stains, using an industrial-strength cleaner like CLR should do the trick.

Another less conventional strategy you can try is removing the stains with Coca-Cola. To do this, simply pour a full can of Coke into the toilet and let it sit in the bowl overnight. Then flush the toilet the next day. The stains should at least mostly wash away. You may need to repeat the process and scrub with a toilet brush to get rid of the more persistent stains.

How to Get Rid of Brown Stains in Toilet Bowl for Good

Of course, it’s one thing to clean off the stains, but how do you keep them gone?

The key to preventing your water from leaving the stains (and causing the problems listed above) is investing in the right water treatment equipment.

But how do you know what water treatment equipment you need? The first step is to get your water tested at an EPA-certified water testing facility. The test will determine exactly what’s causing the problem, whether it’s too much iron, manganese, sulfur or some other contaminant.

Here are some solutions we’d recommend for each of these pollutants:

Water Softener for City Water with Iron and Manganese

As we mentioned above, iron is the most common cause of brown stains in homes with city water. The optimal solution for getting rid of iron is a water softener. Water softeners use a process called ion exchange to remove hard water minerals like calcium, magnesium and iron from the water before sending it to the home. Some water softeners can also use this process to remove manganese as well.

Of course, not all water softeners are equally effective at removing iron and manganese from water. The best ones feature certifications for iron and manganese removal. For example, softeners in the EcoWater ECR 3700 series are certified to remove up to 15 parts per million of iron. They also feature many other industry-leading features, including smartphone and Wi-Fi connectivity.

At Angel Water, we sell and install a wide variety of quality water softeners and would be happy to help you find the right one for you. Please call us today or visit our service page to learn more.

Chlorine Injection System for Well Water with Bacteria

Water tests for homes with well water often reveal that iron, manganese or sulfur bacteria are causing their brown stains. In these instances, a chlorine injection system is an excellent option for solving the problem.

A chlorine injection system works by running water through a tank where it is injected with chlorine. This process is like how water towers disinfect water before sending it out to residents with one important difference: Whereas city water treatment doesn’t filter out the chlorine they use to treat the water after treatment, a chlorine injection system does with a carbon filter. This step is important because consuming too much chorine can be harmful to your health.

Because of this, we frequently recommend chlorine injection systems for removing bacteria. Of course, this type of system isn’t the only option. Another viable option is an ozone water filter, which uses ozone gas to reduce bacteria in water. Our experts would be happy to help you determine the best system for your situation.


Need Help Getting Rid of Your Brown Stains?

As you can see, getting rid of brown water stains for good is possible! It just takes some action on your part to get the ball rolling.

If you need help with any of the steps described above, Angel Water is here for you! We can help you diagnose what’s causing your stains with EPA-certified water testing. Our team can then help you choose the perfect treatment system from our wide selection of quality water softeners, water filters and chlorine injection systems. And once you’ve made your choice, our licensed plumbers would be happy to install it properly for you!

Our goal is to provide healthier water for residents of Barrington, IL, and the greater Chicago region and West Palm Beach, FL, and the Southeast Florida region.

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