What Causes Brown Stains In Toilet Bowl?

what causes brown stains in toilet bowl

In today’s world, most modern toilets come with the most beautiful setups; attention is often paid to every detail 

The toilet is an integral part of the home that should be adequately taken care of. Hence, it must be made comfortable, hygienic, and relaxing. 

This is why some homeowners go the extra mile in using unique toilet seats by improvising with materials like fur and leather. 

However, no matter the extreme measures you take to beautify your toilet seat, it will be a futile effort if the inner bowls are a dreadful mess. And if you assume that the brown stains in toilet bowls are only found in unhygienic places, then you might be thoroughly mistaken.

The questions you might probably be grappling with are: What then is responsible for the disturbing brown stains that discolor the pristine white of toilet bowls? And how exactly can the occurrence of the dreadful brown stains that strip toilet bowls of their elegance be prevented? 

Ask no further because the answers to these questions are in this article. You’ll learn them as you read on.

What Are These Brown Stains?

Rust! That’s the name of the culprit responsible for the unwanted appearance of the brown stains in toilet bowls. 

Rust is an iron oxide, a reddish-brown oxide, formed by the reaction of iron and oxygen in the presence of water or dry moisture. It leaves behind the detested brown stains. 

Several forms of rust are distinguishable visually, by the use of machines, and from under different circumstances. 

The different types of rust are yellow, white, red, black, and brown. Brown rust is responsible for the brown stains. It is, however, drier and crustier than yellow rust (which is formed as a result of contact with water and oxygen). 

Also, unlike other rust, brown rust is not a result of the material it is made of but a result of its exposure to the environment. This includes oxygen and iron in the presence of air moisture and/or water.

What Causes Brown Stains in Toilet Bowls?

what causes brown stains in toilet bowl
Image credit: toiletseek.com

Here, we shall be looking at how the various components mentioned earlier lead to the formation of the brown stains in toilet bowls. 

Brown stains in toilet bowls are caused by rust formed by an exceedingly high amount of iron in the toilet water. A brown stain may also show the presence of manganese. These are all minerals, so we shall be focusing on the major material that houses all these constituents that cause the stains, which is— hard water.

Brown Stains and Hard Water

Hard water is water that contains salts of calcium and magnesium, mainly in the form of bicarbonates, chlorides, and sulfates. It could also contain ferrous iron, which appears as a brown stain on washed fabrics and porcelain surfaces when oxidized. 

Water hardness can be temporary (if caused by calcium bicarbonate) or permanent (if caused by other salts). Boiling converts the bicarbonate in temporary hard water to the insoluble carbonate, turning it to soft water; unlike the permanent hard water.

It is pertinent to note that hard water is not unhealthy for humans. It can help to increase the intake of daily-recommended minerals and ions. It’s also a very good alternative to swallowing pills of minerals and ions. 

Regrettably, while hard water is not a problem for the human body, it can have destructive effects on plumbing, water heaters, dishwashers, washing machines, and toilet bowls.

what causes brown stains in toilet bowl
Image credit: mrrooter.ca

Homes with hard water inevitably face rust issues that leave those ugly stains we’re talking about in their toilet bowls. The iron and other minerals found in hard water often coat the insides of your toilet bowl as you continually flush, wash, or rinse it. As they coat the surface, they get exposed to air, and oxidation occurs.

Metal oxidation occurs when an ionic chemical reaction occurs on a metal’s surface in the presence of oxygen. Electrons get transferred from the metal to the oxygen molecules during this process. Negative oxygen ions then form and enter the metal, leading to the making of an oxide surface. On porcelains, this surface appears as an unattractive brown stain that simply refuses to go even with a thorough scrubbing.

In most homes, the owners grudgingly abandon the brown stains after various futile attempts to remove it—with the wrong belief that the stains are permanent. 

There are cures to make them disappear, but the major ones lie in their prevention. One might wonder that if the stains are not caused by users, then how can the occurrence be controlled or entirely prevented.

Well, it’s simple! Ask yourself if you have hard water. Most homes do, according to statistics. But if you’re unsure about the answer, the following signs will help you to effectively determine it.

Signs That You May Have Hard Water

1. Your Water is Neither Odorless Nor Tasteless

This might seem quite tricky but it’s a way to determine if you have hard water, especially when your tap water smells like rotten eggs or dead rats. 

Certain minerals have very unpleasant and distinct smells, and mostly leave discerning tastes in the mouth. Regardless of the flavor they leave, homeowners prefer their water tasteless and odorless; hard water makes this impossible. So, do take note if your water is in this category.

2. You Make More Trips down the Soap Isle at the Supermarket

This might occur, not because you’re obsessed with soaps, but because you need more soap to make a lather. Where your palms were enough to make your soap foam, you find yourself scrubbing the bar hard against your sponge to produce a decent amount of lather to get you washed up—this is the result of hard water, and it tells on your pocket, too.

3. Your Soap Scum Lingers for Long After the Water Has Dried

After you might have finished washing and rinsing your toilet walls, the foam remains all over in annoying places, drying up and giving off irritating residues. This is because hard water doesn’t play nice with bar soaps. You’re bound to have this same issue with plates and clothes if you use bars of soap to wash in general.

4. You Call Your Plumber More Often

The sink keeps getting clogged and the plumber keeps getting paid. As the minerals from the hard water coat the surfaces, they leave lesser rooms to allow the liquid to pass through. 

Hard water leads to the buildup of limescale, which can spoil your plumbing and lead to galvanic corrosion. So, while you might play a role in your sink’s problems, your water could be a major contributing factor too.

5. Your Baths Are Not As Refreshing As They Should Be

The minerals don’t only stick to porcelain or clothes, they also stick to our bodies. You, therefore, get stinging, itching, or generally irritating sensations after a bath. You could also get a lot of skin eczema. Skin reactions vary, depending on the sensitivity of an individual’s skin. But most people react to hard water.

Factors That Worsen the Brown Stains in Your Toilet Bowl

what causes brown stains in toilet bowl
Image credit: sunrisespecialty.com

Beyond the major causes of brown stains discussed above, there are still some factors that inevitably add to discoloring your toilet bowls. Funnily enough, we fall prey to these agents when we go in fervent search of quick remedies or when we go the other extreme and leave our toilets in the unforgiving hands of minerals. 

1. Negligence

For varying reasons, maybe a long holiday, full schedule, or just plain lazy tendencies, toilets don’t get the care they require. This includes constant washing and wiping. 

The problem, though, is that hard water stains worsen over time as more minerals accumulate on your toilet’s surface. The more you prolong cleaning, the more difficult these stains will become to remove. 

Hence, clean it often even if it means having a sit-in guest to look over your home when you’re away for long or hiring a housekeeper who can help you with the cleaning even in your absence.

2. Hot Water

Although brown stains would generally require hot to warm water to soften them, this is not applicable in the case of toilet bowls. 

Hot water increases the brown stains and mineral buildup on porcelain products. This is because of the mineral precipitation that occurs. Over time, the hot water will cause brown stains to pile up from the hard water buildup. 

So, it’s safer to stick to using cold to tepid water for our toilets regularly and even during cleaning activities.


As we look through the causes of the brown stain woes of toilets, it is obvious that the most tasking of dilemmas mostly require an inner look at what’s happening within as opposed to depending solely on what the eyes can perceive on the outside. 

We hope you find this article very helpful. And we wish you a brown-stain-free toilet bowl experience as you take action in eradicating the stains. 

What Causes Brown Stains In Toilet Bowl?

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