Rust Stains in Your Hair

Gayla says: I’ve searched high and low and would like to know if there is anything “home remedy type” (not the expensive salon treatments) that can be done for blonde hair and rust. We live in the country and my hair takes a beating. And I am getting SOOOOOO Tired of being told that I have beautiful red hair. IT’S BLONDE!!!!!! Whaaaaaaa

Gayla, at least you are being told your hair is beautiful! Life could be worse! Ha ha! That isn’t very helpful, I know. :)

Rust stains in your hair are most likely due to iron in your water, which is a common problem with well water. Boy, am I thankful that we don’t have iron in our well water. This is not an easy problem to fix-think about how hard it is to get rust stains out of fabric. Your first thoughts, and those of your hairdresser might be to bleach the stains out, but this is a bad idea for a few reasons. Bleach is incredibly hard on the hair, and bleach doesn’t really work on rust stains. What you would be doing is opening up the cuticle of the hair so much that the rust would wash out to some extent. This is a bad idea. You will end up with very fried strawberry and white blonde hair. Yuck.
There are a few things that I would try if I were you. If you see any improvement with any of them, keep repeating them daily until you are happy with the results:

1. Rinse your hair with a mixture of vinegar with some cream of tartar added to it, leaving it in for about 10 minutes before you rinse it out.

2. Try the same thing with lemon juice.

3. This is the one I know you will see some improvement with, but is a more temporary fix: Get some shampoo that is made for platinum blond and gray hair. These shampoos have a blue/purple temporary color to them which will help neutralize any red tones in your hair. Many companies make them, try Matrix’s So Silver (from salons only), or Clairol’s Shimmering Lights (you should be able to find this in the drugstore, or a Sallys Beauty Supply). To this, add a tablespoon of baking soda, mix together in your palm, and shampoo in your hair. Again, leave it in for about 10 minutes. Repeat as often as you want to.

I think your very best bet is to work towards getting that hair cut off of your head, and then prevent it from happening any further. As is almost always the case, prevention is easier than repairing damage already done. If you aren’t willing to try a shorter haircut, be sure to get your hair trimmed up regularly. On a daily basis, use shampoos that are designed to take minerals out of your hair. They will say something like “clarifying” or “removes build up.” There are a few on the market that are made for use with well water, but I have never tried any of them, so I cannot give you my real opinion on those. What I do on about a monthly basis is add a tablespoon or so of baking soda to my regular shampoos, leave in a few minutes and rinse it out. But, if I had problems like you are having I would do it at least weekly.

One more thing, rust is caused by the reaction of iron and water. Do not let your hair stay wet for long periods of time, either blow it dry, or if you must let it dry naturally, be sure and toss it around and scrunch it with your hands so it dries just as quickly as possible. If you don’t need to wash your hair daily, don’t. Be sure to use a good conditioner in your hair regularly as well, because blow drying will really make your hair dry out badly. I sure hope something in here will help you out, Gayla. Let me know if you try all of those, and nothing works, and I will dig a little deeper and try to help you out, ok? Good luck!

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    • Gayla

      Wow, thanks Christina! Just as soon as I can get out from under all this snow I’m going to head to the store to make a few purchases :)

      I’ll let you know how they work.

      Interesting about the wet hair – I had no idea that what I thought I was doing for the “health” of my hair was actually making matters worse.

      Who knew? YOU!

      Thanks again

    • Phyllis

      I have the same problem, first purchase a water softner for your house will run from $2500 and up. (You can also have hire the service from the Culligan Man) Use the salt softner tablets which get rid of rust. Your laundry will be cleaner, no more orange towles and shirts and you will not have the rust stains in your bath, sinks, and dishwasher. Cut your hair, and never let the softner run out of salt.

      • Kate

        At our old house we could not afford a water softner, so I bought a shower head filter. Just google it. For about $30 you can attach a filter to your shower head and it will remove the rust and prevent the problem.



    • shelly

      I have the same problem with very very rusty water. I have ran a home perm thru my hair your hair will turn purple when the perm is ran thru but takes the rust out. your hir will nor stay purple just keep shampoooing until the purple come out.

    • Christina Jones

      Hi Shelly – thanks for the great tip!

    • Gayla

      Dear Gayla,
      It was weird – I typed in my question and yours was the first Google hit – same problem, same name. I could have written the same comments – the rust, the hair, the comments from others, even digging out from under the snow.

      Anyway, I agree with Phyllis. Get a water softener. If you can’t afford to buy one, you can rent one from Culligan. Only use Rust-buster salt, made especially to remover iron from the water.

      Then everything will be soft and really clean – from your hair and skin to your clothes and fixtures. You will save a ton in cleaning products, shampoos, and treatments, plus your pipes will last longer.

      But Phyllis is also right when she said – Don’t run out of salt!


    • http://none Kayla

      ok i am 13 i have brown hair and i have rust water , and ,my hair is turning red and i cant stand the color red and i dont want to bye anything from the store anything from home and i am dieing it tommarow dark brown will the red show threw again >? well i hate red hair
      email me if u have any ides ?
      please i need them quick !

    • Jennifer

      I’ve been dealing with this problem for three years, despite having a water softner installed. Come to find out, the rust is in my hot water heater and still staining my hair. You’re not going to believe this but it’s the only thing we’ve found that really works (better than Malibu2000 Crystal Gel Treatment) and that’s Kool-Aid Lemonade Mix! I mix one or two packets with some unflavored gelatin (used as a thickener) and a couple tablespoons of warm water. Apply to moist hair and wrap in plastic or towel and wait about 10 minutes. Shampoo hair thoroughly then follow up with a good conditioner. This treatment will remove even the most stubborn rust stains from hair!

    • Megz

      I have always used Koolaid, the lemonade kind and mixed about 2 packs with conditioner because it will dry out your hair. The acid in the lemonade takes the rust right out. It can be a little itchy but its well worth it. I leave it in for about 30 minutes while I do various other chores around the house.

    • Beth

      I just went in 3 weeks ago to have a Malibu Treatment to have the rust taken out of my hair (we live in a farmhouse with a well without a water softner) the salon treatment took alot of the orange/red color of my hair but not all of it, they said i could come back in 3 weeks to have the rest of it taken out. Before 3 weeks even came around my hair was just as bright orange/red as it was before the treatment (and i was using the expensive malibu well water shampoo & conditioner during this time) so i came in search of something that i could do at home for cheap and as often as i needed to do it to keep my hair blonde…I tried the lemonade mix tonight. I mixed a few packets of Kool-Aid lemonade with 2 TBSP of water and added conditioner untill it was a consitency that would stay in my hair. I then covered it with a shower cap. (it looked super funny-but atleast my husband thought my hair smelled good :) …30 minutes later… i washed my hair out, conditioned it well and i was BLONDE again! Try this it works! I will definately be doing this again, once my hair starts turning back to orange…but next time i’m going to be sure to get a little more in the middle of my head, since i can still see a tiny bit of tint there.

      • Pp Cedar Creek, Texas

        I am a country girl too. Our only source of water is well. There is no filtering device in place nor seen for the future. Have you tried the lemonade mix more than once? Are you still satisfied with the results? Please reply asap. Thanks.

    • Alison

      I have a problem with rust in my hair too. Everyone says that I have such beautiful gold hair when it should be blonde and Im sick of it! I have used Dawn Dish soap every once in a while but that doesnt seem to help and I heard its really bad for your hair. Is there anything that i can get thats cheap to help my hair? or if i dye it blonde would that stop the rust from getting my hair, or will it just turn back to a “beautiful” gold color? Cause i really miss my blonde hair!

    • berta

      my hair is brown too and its turning red i was just wondering if lemon juice or some other product will take my hair back to being its light brown color with out dieing it or will dieing it even help i miss my hair please help thank

    • michaelson lisa

      Lser hair removal sounds interesting and it would help in a lot of ways. Can you provide more information and experiences on this?

    • robin

      I need more info on the lemonade procedure!!!

    • robin

      I have very thin hair/ blonde! Well used to be! I need a fix and I’ve called hairdressers / water specialists, everything! My daughter and I both! Please give me detailed info!!

    • pippi

      I gotta tell ya! I have brown hair. I noted that my hair was not turning a little gray like my sister’s so I thought I was the lucky one. I had my hair permed at a salon and discovered the hard rust water was turning the rinse water purple. I saw no issues with that and was glad that the chemicals were cleaining out the rust out of my hair. However I went home and noticed that I had a few white hairs throughout my hair which I did not like. After a week of washing my hair with my well water, I was pleased to see that the white hairs were golden. I really perfer this look since it has enhanced my hair color. This is my secret hair coloring trick and it is suddle. So I can still say I don’t dye my hair!

    • Anne

      Can you use the Koolaid trick when your hair is colored? My water is fine, it’s the water heater with the rust.

    • Hickerbilliette

      Nice to know im not the onlyone with this problem. I to live in an old farm house and rust takes over the water. My hairdresser suggested I use vitamin c powder about 15 bucks for a big can. 2 Tabelspoons in the shampoo and leave on for 10 to 15 minutes. This is alot cheaper then Malibu treatments and you do it once a week. Works pretty good. I have also used lemon juice. I mix about 2 Tabelspoons in with the shampoo in my hand apply it for 10 to 15 minutes and I get the same results as the vitamin c powder I hope this helps all you other country girls it works for me.

    • Kristen

      I have blonde hair, and I have found that Iron Out, a cleaning agent that removes hard water stains from many things around the house, also works well in removing them from hair. I mix about an eighth of a cup of Iron Out with my shampoo, leave it in for about 5 minutes, rinse and shampoo and condition. and BAM, the stains are gone. The Iron Out does leave a nasty smell though, so it’s always best to not be going anywhere for a couple days after. but it works like magic.