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Beauty q&a: does malibu treatment remove hard water and rust stains from hair?

The Cynical One Says: I want to know what you think about getting a “Malibu Treatment” to remove the chemical residue from well water? Does well water effect blonde hair? What does a Malibu treatment actually do? Can I do this at home? Is this even worth my time, or can I just use a claryifying shampoo from time to time?

The Right Brain Responds:

There are two main problems that COULD be caused by using well water. The first is hard water residue which is formed when soap comes in contact with “hard” metal ions such as calcium and magnesium. The soap interacts with the metal ions forming an insoluble “gunk” that sticks to the sides of the tub.

Well water woes

Is this a serious problem? We doubt it because modern shampoos use cleansers known as surfactants that don’t interact with the metal ions so you shouldn’t really be getting much water residue on your hair. In other words, a bar of soap might cause this to happen, but shampoo and body washes would not.

The second problem is rust deposition which occurs when there’s a high concentation of iron in the water. Rusty well water CAN stain light colored hair an orangish-yellow color, but we doubt that this is a serious problem for most people either. If your water is that bad, you’re probably using a water softener anyway!

IF you did get hard water deposits on your hair what should you do? A quick web search shows a lot of homemade remedies recommending vinegar and lemon juice, which are mildy acidic. In reality, an alkaline cleanser remove hard water deposits better, NOT an acidic one. So much for believing everything you read on the web…

Kick it with a chelator

But the best thing would be to use a chemical agent called a “chelator” that ties up the metal ions and makes the residue easier to use. It just so happens that the Malibu 2000 Well Water Action Shampoo and the Malibu 2000 Quickin Demineralizing treament DO contain an effective chelating agent known as EDTA. Without testing, we can’t be sure these products really work because the pH of the product and the concentration of EDTA are important. BUT, at least they look promising. If you do decide to try them, you’ll have to disregard all the claims Malibu makes about the hard water deposits clogging your pores and stopping hair growth. There’s no data to show that hard water causes hair loss!

The Brain’s Bottom Line:

Given the prevalence of soft water we think that, unlikely, but not impossible for you to experience significant problems. Hard water and iron deposits are probably more of a made up marketing need than a serious hair care problem. But, if you have experience with either problem we love to hear about it and what you did to fix it.
What do YOU think? Are hard water deposits a problem for YOUR hair? Leave a comment and share your rust stained thoughts with the rest of the Beauty Brains community.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Holly November 6, 2014, 3:41 pm

    I have very dark brown hair. The back bottom half of my hair will turn orange from well water. Since i dont know how to remove it, i find myself putting hair color on it.

  • Sonja February 9, 2017, 4:31 pm

    This is not a made up, marketing problem! I have watched my hair grow darker and darker and, um, more auburn (?), for several years. I had attributed it to age and/or medication, but recently discovered this phenomenon. I did not use Malibu, but a product from Sally Beauty for hard water, (Ion brand; they have shampoo, conditioner and little packets of treatment). All contain EDTA. After ONE treatment, my hair is already at least two shades lighter and significantly less orange. I am very hopeful that I will eventually get back to my natural color and feel like myself again! I think the hard water may also be why my hair always seemed to feel not-quite-clean and seemed to get dirty much more quickly than it used to. I’m hoping that will go away, as well.

  • Peggy February 5, 2018, 12:51 pm

    I have well water with a lot of iron in it. It does turn you hair orange. Malibu or Ion treatments work great for getting rid of it. This isn’t a sales gimmick. Sally Hansen carries Ion or you can order Malibu online. Depending on your water you might have to use some each time your shampoo – just mix half a packet with shampoo after you have done the treatments to keep it clear. Or you can use RO water or distrilled for washing your hair once you removed the iron. Good luck.

  • Linda December 12, 2019, 12:44 am

    My water is so bad I get Ronald McDonald clown orange hair is is Strawberry Blond had a point well. Had to get a new well drilled and man this way is so bad I had Long Beautiful hair now its shorter and 8 years later thinken to cut it all off to a point of shaving my head. It’s horrible I have tried all shampoos didnt work but Iron Out for clothes I dip the Broght orange crispy and in it and their lighter and not crispy. I need a Iron curtain for sure. MY house is tiny 500 square feet no place to put it but I have been hating my water ever since. If I could upload a Picture you’d all be Shocked. People say it’s pretty but hard crispy orange ends are horrid, I tried everything vinegar Malibu, Ion . USA has Bad water in Muskego Wisconsin!!!

  • Tammy J. Luna May 21, 2020, 4:35 pm

    I have well water, I color my hair blonde, what are the safe steps to take before I color my hair with well water? I don’t want to ruin my hair.

    • Perry Romanowski May 22, 2020, 8:57 am

      You might consider washing your hair with a chelating shampoo before you color.