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Small amounts of iron are often found in water because of the large amount of iron present in the soil and because corrosive water will pick up iron from pipes. Clothing washed in water containing excessive iron may become stained a brownish color. The taste of beverages, such as tea and coffee, may also be affected by iron. Manganese produces a brownish color in laundered clothing, leaves black particles on fixtures and as with iron, affects the taste of beverages, including coffee and tea.
Well water from the faucet or tap is usually clear and colorless. However, when water containing colorless, dissolved iron is allowed to stand in a cooking container or comes in contact with a sink or bathtub, the iron combines with oxygen from the air to form reddish-brown particles (commonly called rust). Manganese forms brownish-black particles. These impurities can give a metallic taste to water or to food.
The rusty or brown stains on plumbing fixtures, fabrics, dishes, and utensils cannot be removed by soaps or detergents. Bleaches and alkaline builders (often sodium phosphate) can make the stains worse. Over time, iron deposits can build up in pressure tanks, water heaters, and pipelines, reducing the quantity and pressure of the water supply.