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Should There Be Iron In Your Well Water?

 Water with iron in it coming from faucet


Pumping iron is great at the gym. But what happens when it’s your well system that’s pumping this metallic-tasting mineral? 

Learn more about how iron gets into the water source and what you can do about it. 

Why Is There Iron In My Well Water?

Iron is one of the most abundant minerals on earth. So it’s not that surprising when iron finds its way into your well water. 

Iron can reach your well water through seepage and corrosion. Seepage happens when rainwater and snow melt travels through the ground. If the rocks and soil in your area contain high levels of iron, traces of iron will hitch a ride and end up in your well water.

In other cases, the iron in your well water could be coming from corrosion in your well casing or water pipes.

Is The Iron In Well Water Bad for Me?

Generally, iron in your drinking water is not considered hazardous to your health. After all, your body needs a certain level of iron to function properly. (However, you can’t easily absorb iron from water.)

The Environmental Protection Agency considers iron to be an “aesthetic” or secondary water contaminant. That means iron issues are more about taste and appearance than any negative health effects. 

Another aesthetic concern can come from a specific  bacteria that grows in high-iron wells. Some organisms thrive in high-iron environments because they love to eat it as a food source. If you have too much iron in your well, it may be difficult to get rid of this iron bacteria and you may not even know if you have it. It likes to live in the back of your toilet tank. If you ever lift up the lid and see a dark frothy or slimy substance in your tank water, there’s a good chance you have iron bacteria. It won’t harm you, but it can lead to plumbing issues if left untreated.

How Much Damage Can Iron Do? 

While iron and iron bacteria issues may not be a big health problem, high-iron well water can cause a lot of damage and expense around your home. Iron can cause rust stains, clogs, and even ruin your food. 

  • Food: Too much iron can give your water an unpleasant metal taste. Vegetables, rice, and pastas cooked in high-iron water may turn dark and unappealing. Iron can react with tea and coffee too, creating an inky dark appearance and disagreeable taste.

  • Stains and deposits: Iron concentrations as low as 0.3 parts per million (ppm) can leave rusty iron stains on clothing, dinnerware, sinks, and tubs. In many cases, these stains are difficult, if not impossible, to remove.

  • Clogs: Iron deposits can clog sprinklers, pumps, dishwashers and other appliances. Iron bacteria can also lead to clogs because it creates a slimy biofilm that builds up in your pipes and water systems. Either way, these clogs can lead to costly repairs. 

Testing For Iron

If you have red or yellow-colored water, that’s a good indication you have iron in your well. But not all iron is visible! Sometimes it is completely dissolved, so your water looks clear when you fill up your glass or bathtub.

Water testing can help determine how much iron you have and whether iron bacteria is present. This can help determine your best treatment options. 
Forms of iron found in well water:

  • Insoluble ferric iron: This iron is often visible to the naked eye because it is traveling as a solid particle. It doesn’t dissolve in water. So if you see red or yellow water coming out of your taps, it’s likely ferric iron. 

  • Soluble ferrous iron: This iron dissolves in water, so you won’t see it right away. But if you leave a glass of water sitting out, you may start to notice little red particles settling at the bottom of the class. Also, any wet surfaces in your home will start to form rust stains as the water dries. This is from the iron coming in contact with the air and oxidizing to form the telltale brown colors. 

  • Organically bound iron: Sometimes iron bonds with tannins in the groundwater. Tannins are decomposed organic material that come from tree roots, leaves, and other vegetation. This can be a rather complicated situation and is best addressed on a case-by-case basis as far as the right combination of filters to tackle the issue.

How To Remove Iron From Well Water

Treatment options will vary depending on the type of iron and bacteria present in your well. There are five main solutions that don’t involve finding a new water source!

  • Water softener: Water softeners only remove small amounts of iron. In most cases this won’t be sufficient to handle high concentrations of iron in your well.

  • Air-injection: Aeration or “air-injection” filters, like the Ion Pro® Air Iron, work by oxidizing dissolved iron into precipitates so they can be filtered and removed. 

  • Tannin filters: Organically bound iron can be harder to remove. The CareSoft Pro® Tannin Filter uses a unique resin to absorb the tannin-bound iron. 

  • Ozone generator: An ozone generator is a chemical-free option to address iron bacteria. Ozone is a natural disinfectant. Our IonPro air-injected filters are capable of creating it by pulling in oxygen (O2) and zapping it with an electrical current to form ozone (O3) – just like lightning does during a storm.

Every well system and water source is unique. A local authorized WaterCare water treatment expert who understands the water quality issues in your region can help recommend the right filtration and treatment methods for your home. Contact your dealer today for a complimentary consultation!