How to Remove Iron from Well Water: Prevent Rust!

If your water starting to taste off or is it starting to get brownish-red? Maybe its time to get it checked for iron contamination! Iron can sneak into your well water through seepage through the oil and into your well water supply when it rains or snows.

The most obvious sign of iron contamination in your water is reddish-brown stains in your tubs or faucets. Iron in well water isn’t dangerous but it lead to other problems in your home overtime.

How Does Iron Get Into My Well Water?

As discussed above, iron minerals can enter your well water by seeping in from the earth’s crust during rainfall or when it snows. Iron is naturally present and is one of the most abundant minerals in the earth’s crust, making it a common nuisance for well owners everywhere. Heavy rainfall or melting snow will carry dissolved soluble iron deposits into the underground aquifers.

Iron can also enter your well water supply from exposure to rusty or corroded plumbing. Old iron pipes and corroded iron fixtures will introduce brown-colored iron flecks into your water that will stain your drains. Iron casings within your well will also rust over time, especially when it is exposed to oxygen and water. Prolonged exposure to these elements will cause iron to break down and convert into rust.

Effects of Iron in Well Water

While iron is a naturally occurring mineral, having too much of it in your well water can bring about negative effects to your home. Here are a few noticeable issues that you may experience when you have iron present in your water supply:

Pipe Clogs

Iron in your water can slowly build up inside your pipes and eventually become a clog, restricting your home’s water flow. You may also start to experience low water pressure due to iron clogs in your plumbing.

Besides that, the presence of iron in your piping may also result in iron bacteria that will affect your water-based appliances. Bacterial iron and iron build-up may result in more frequent maintenance and reduced appliance lifespan.

Skin and Hair Problems

Another issue with having ferrous iron in your water on a daily basis is that you may notice your hair taking on an orange tinge over time. The dissolved iron in water may even have negative effects on your skin when you bathe.

Your skin won’t only take on a reddish-orange tone, but it may become dry and flaky. This is especially serious for those who suffer from skin conditions like eczema or acne. Frequent exposure to high concentration of ferrous iron in water will make your condition worse.

Stains on Your Appliances

Another easy way to know that your water has too much iron is when your water-based appliances have red or brown stains. You may also notice these iron stains in your sink or toilet bowl. They may look streaky in your toilet bowl or cause an all-over discoloration in your sink and bathtub.

Brownish or Red Discolored Water

High concentration of ferric iron in your water will cause the water to turn brown, red, or yellow color. You can easily tell if your water contains high concentration of iron by pouring yourself a glass of water and let it settle for a few minutes. If there’s discoloration, then you have a ferric iron problem.

Metallic Taste

If your drinking water or food like vegetables, rice, and pasta which you use water to boil or cook with begin to taste a little bitter and metallic, then you might want to get your water tested for iron. Coffee and tea made with well water may even have a black, inky appearance and an unpleasant metallic taste.

Is It Safe to Drink Well Water with Iron?

Iron doesn’t have any hazardous properties and only affects the taste and smell of drinking water. In fact, iron is actually good for your body when consumed in small quantities.

Our bodies require iron to transport oxygen, good red blood cell production, avoid lead toxicity, enhance skin’s semblance, and even promote healthy nail and hair growth. However, when you get too much iron in your water, you may suffer a wide array of health issues like:

  • Dehydration
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Liver and kidney damage
  • Blood vessel damage
  • Skin damage
  • Hemochromatosis
  • Diabetes
  • Cirrhosis
  • Heart failure

Hence, removing iron from your water to a healthy amount will not only improve the taste and odor of your water, but it’ll also prevent potentially life-threatening health conditions.

What’s The Safe Iron Concentration in Drinking Water?

Drinking iron-fortified water is good for your health but consuming iron in excess may lead to harmful consequences. Overload of iron will lead to health problems like diabetes, hemochromatosis, stomach issues, and nausea.

Having foul tasting water will also detract many from enjoying food and drink at home. If water isn’t treated properly with high concentrations of iron present in your water, your cooked food will even have an unpleasant taste. Not only that, but inhalation of iron-chromium has also been known to cause lung cancer.

When it comes to safe amount of iron in drinking water, U.S. Environmental protection company has stated that 0.3 mg/L is a safe iron concentration that also won’t lead to discoloration on surfaces.

How to Test for Iron in Water?

Visual Test

Turn on your faucet and take a look at the water flowing out. If you notice the water is red, brown, yellow, or orange in color, you may have an iron problem. Alternatively, you can pour yourself a glass of water and let it sit for a few minutes before checking the color.

These types of simple visual tests are only good at detecting insoluble iron and not soluble iron which does not have a distinct color or taste. To check if you have soluble iron, you need to oxidize the dissolved iron by introducing air into the water. You can do this by dipping a tissue into a glass of water and letting it dry. If there’s dissolved iron, your tissue will have a rust discoloration.

DIY At-Home Test Kits

Alternatively, you can head to the store and get a simple test kit to get a better idea on the iron concentrations in your water. The test kit takes less than 5 minutes and will let you measure for concentrations as high as between 3 and 10 mg/L or ppm.

Laboratory Tests

For a more thorough check, you can send your water sample to a state-approved laboratory for testing. Lab tests can also help you check for a range of common well contaminants in addition to iron.

Common Types of Iron Found and How to Remove Iron from Well Water

There are generally three forms of iron in water and they are:

  • Ferrous iron
  • Ferric iron
  • Bacterial iron

However, it is also unusual to only find one type of iron in your well water, you most likely will have a combination of two or even have all three types of iron in your water.

Ferrous Iron

Ferrous iron is soluble in water and is also known as clear water iron. Ferrous iron completely dissolves in water and does not cause the water to turn brown or red. Ferrous iron will also not cause your water to taste or smell bad, making it harder to detect.

Not only is ferrous iron difficult to spot, but it also cannot be filtered out. If your water has ferrous iron, you may not even know you have that issue until you begin noticing red stains in your toilet tanks below the water-line or other places with stagnant water.

While ferrous iron isn’t noticeable, it does show itself once it is exposed to air, causing it to oxidize. The oxidized iron will then be left as an unsightly stain residue once water evaporates from the surface.

How to Remove Ferrous Iron from Well Water?

Water Softener System

Ion-exchange water softeners are effective at removing low levels of ferrous iron in well water. Although water softener’s primary function is to remove water hardness minerals through an iron exchange process, it can also remove iron since the mineral is positively charged.

The positive iron cation will be attracted to the negatively charged anion resin beads and exchange for a sodium ion, similar to calcium and magnesium ions. However, if you want the water softener to be effective, you need to make sure that thee’s no ferric iron present, and if there is, you’ll need a sediment pre-filter to prevent your water softener from clogging up.

Although water softeners are effective at removing iron from your water system, you need to make sure that there’s an adequate ratio of water hardness and iron for the ion exchange process to sufficiently remove iron.

Obviously, the oxidising filter will be even more effective at removing iron from your water if you have soft water with fewer calcium or magnesium ions. Furthermore, water softeners used to reduce iron content will need to be periodically flushed to protect the system and ensure the longevity of your resin bed.

Air Injection Oxidation (AIO)

Air injection oxidation injects pockets of air into your water to treat iron, manganese, and hydrogen sulfide. The water treatment works by oxidizing the iron in water when it comes into contact with the oxygen in the air pockets.

The oxidized iron will then be stuck on the media bed in the tank. Once the media bed is saturated with iron and other oxidized minerals, the system will need to be backwashed to flush the minerals away.

Air injection oxidation water treatment system can filter out up to 30 ppm of dissolved iron, making it a top iron removal system.

Manganese Greensand

Another popular and effective method for removing ferrous iron is to convert it to ferric iron before removing it from water with a filter.

Water treatment systems apply this tactic with the use of oxidizing filters such as manganese greensand. When iron and manganese make contact in the media, ferrous iron gets oxidized out of its dissolved form and turns into a solid precipitate ferric iron. The ferric iron is then pulled out of the water by the manganese greens and media.

The manganese greensand media will need to be back-washed periodically with potassium permanganate to flush out iron flecks down the drain and to regenerate the greensand media.

However, potassium permanganate is a powerful chemical agent that can cause skin and eye irritation, which is why it needs to be handled conscientiously. Nonetheless, manganese greensand is capable of removing up to 15ppm of iron out of well water.


Birm is another oxidizing media that can be used to remove dissolved iron from well water. However, what sets birm apart is that it does not require a strong chemical oxidizing agent to remove iron. Instead, birm works only by elevating the pH levels in water. This is why systems using birm will combine the technology with calcite to elevate the water pH and oxidize ferrous iron for removal.


KFD is a bacteriostatic meda made from high-purity granular zing with impressive chlorine reduction capabilities. Not only is KDF able to remove iron, it can also be used to reduce heavy metals in your water.

Many inline iron filter cartridges use KDF media to convert ferrous iron into insoluble iron oxide for easy removal with iron filters KDF option is suitable for dealing with low water volume and flow rates since the KDF oxidization process requires extended contact time to work.

Ferric Iron

This type of iron is insoluble and it is formed naturally when your water oxidizes. If you notice that the color of your well or drinking water is reddish or orange, it usually means that it contents ferric iron. This type of iron may cause blockage in your pipes, toilet tanks, showerheads, and stain plumbing fixtures over time.

How to Remove Ferric Iron from My Well Water?

Sediment Filters

A sub-micron rated sediment filter is excellent at removing iron precipitate in well water. These iron filters allow water to flow through them freely while stopping solid particulate such as insoluble iron from entering the household plumbing. Sediment or iron filters are great at removing dirt, debris, and cloudiness from your water. However, you need to make sure that the filter has a small enough micron rating to capture iron or it may just be letting the mineral pass through.

Stringwound filters are preferred and it’s ideal for water supply with low levels of iron. However, an iron filter alone will not be good enough to solve your stained toilets and metallic tasting water if you also have ferrous iron in your water.

Air Injection Iron Filters

Air injection iron filter systems can remove high concentrations of oxidized iron from water. The filter also converts dissolved iron to oxidized iron, making it a great option for those dealing with both types of iron in their well and water system.

Chemical Oxidation and Filtration System

Another filtration option uses chemical to oxidize iron instead of air. Chlorine is a strong oxidizer but the process works the same as air injection. In the chlorine oxidizing system, a feed pump is used to transfer chlorine into water. Chlorine-filled water will then be left in the tank for about 20 minutes to oxidize the iron in the water. While chemical oxidation is effective at iron removal up to 20-30ppm, it is also less convenient since you need to wait for the chlorine to take effect.

Bacterial Iron

Iron bacteria are small living creatures that can be found in iron-bearing soil, shallow groundwater, and surface waterways. Iron bacteria mixes with iron or manganese and oxygen to produce rust deposits, bacterial cells, and a slimy substance that sticks to pipes, pumps, and plumbing fixtures.

Iron bacteria is the hardest iron configuration to get rid of. Nonetheless, there are some water treatment methods may help to get rid or decrease iron bacteria but they’re sometimes only partially successful.

How to Remove Bacterial Iron from Well?

Shock Chlorination

As mentioned earlier, the process to treat iron bacteria is tricky and labour-intensive. But it’s a process worth the effort to remove the slimy, invasive contaminant. Shock chlorination water treatment involves dosing an intense concentration of chlorine (approximately 200ppm) to your well to thoroughly disinfect both water and physical well.

You need to make sure that the entire depth of the well is exposed to shock chlorination to achieve satisfactory results. Make sure to also perform this process on the walls, well pump, as well as household water pressure and distribution systems.

Shocking the well with chlorine will kill the bacteria binding the iron, allowing you to remove iron from well water through a softener, oxidizer, or filter, If shocking your well does not adequately eliminate the bacteria iron, then you need to get a constant chlorination system installed after your retention tank.

Water passes through an oxygenated air bubble that will oxidize the dissolved iron and trap them in a media bed. What comes out of the water treatment is iron-free water for whole-home use. This type of water filtration system can remove up to 30 ppm of iron concentrations. It can also work to remove manganese and hydrogen sulfide in your water.

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