Generally, orange stains in a bathtub are caused by one of three things: iron and magnesium build-up, pink mold, or other bacteria.
Iron and Magnesium in Water
If your home’s water supply contains high levels of iron or magnesium, you can end up with orange water stains in a bathtub. The iron and magnesium combine with soap scum left in the tub from showering. Together they form a kind of rusty-orange deposit on your tubs and plumbing fixtures, especially as the iron in the water is exposed to air and oxidizes.
Pink Mold – Serratia Marcescens
Technically speaking, pink mold (or serratia marcescens) isn’t actually a mold. Rather, it’s a unique species of rod-shaped bacteria belonging to the Yersiniaceae family. Pink mold is a waterborne or airborne bacteria that naturally exist in some water, and it can build up on your bathtub and shower walls over time. And, despite its name, it isn’t actually pink either. It’s a reddish orange. Serratia marcescens is associated with various health problems, including urinary infections, respiratory infections, wound infections, eye infections, meningitis, and more.
Bacteria from Moist Areas
If the orange stains in your bathtub aren’t caused by extra iron minerals in your water or serratia marcescens, then it’s possible you have some other bacteria growing in your tub. Bathrooms are commonly moist areas, and this moisture allows for a lot of various bacteria and even mold growth if you’re not careful and don’t clean your tub regularly.
How to Clean Orange Stains in a Bathtub or Shower
While finding orange water stains in a bathtub is unappealing, you don’t have to replace the entire tub to get rid of the stains (though it would certainly work). Many DIY cleaning solutions that are effective against orange water stains and safe cleaning products you can purchase. Help your bathtub last longer by keeping it clean and maintained.
When you’re figuring out how to clean orange stains in a bathtub, always exercise caution when using any chemical cleaners and be sure they’re safe to drain down into your plumbing.
Lemon Juice and Water
An easy, safe DIY cleaner and bleach alternative for your bathtub is to mix lemon juice with some warm water. Squeeze fresh lemons into a spray bottle then spray all the orange stains in your bathtub, being sure to fully coat the area. Allow the solution to sit for 10 minutes before scrubbing and rinsing. Repeat as necessary.
Baking Soda and White Vinegar
Baking soda and vinegar mix to combine a great DIY, natural cleaner for your home. Start by creating a solution that’s two parts white vinegar and one part water into a spray bottle, then spray all the orange stains. Allow that to sit for 15 to 20 minutes. For any area that’s a tougher stain, sprinkle some baking soda on the area or create a baking soda paste with the vinegar and allow it to sit on the stain for an hour before scrubbing and rinsing. Repeat as necessary.
Bleach for Pink Mold
If you have pink mold or another type of bacteria in your shower, you may need something stronger than vinegar or lemon juice to get the stains out and to help them stay out. Try using bleach on the stains—or mixing bleach with some water and spraying that all over the orange stains. Allow it to sit for a good 20 minutes before scrubbing and rinsing. Repeat as necessary.
How To Prevent Stains
The best way to handle orange water stains in the bathtub is to prevent them from happening in the first place. Here are some great prevention techniques to help keep your bathtub white and orange-stain-free:
Wipe the Tub Dry After Use
As mentioned before, moist areas tend to be a great place for bacteria to thrive so keeping your bathtub as dry as possible can help reduce bacteria growth. After you’re done in the shower, give the tub a quick rinse and then wipe it down dry with a small towel.
Filtration System to Remove Iron
If you have high iron and magnesium levels in your water that are causing orange stains in your bathtub, it might be time to update the filtration system in your home. Talk to an experienced plumber about what filtration options are available to you and your home to help get the mineral levels under control.
Use a Stain-Resistant Tub
Sometimes stains in a bathtub are unavoidable all because of the material type. If you just can’t get the orange stains under control, try replacing your tub with something that’s stain resistant. Fiberglass tubs and some acrylic tubs, for instance, are prone to stains and discoloration. Materials like cast polymer, cast iron, or copper are very durable and stain resistant.