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How to Remove Iron from Well Water Naturally: A Complete Guide

The presence of iron in your well water can cause a lot of problems on your appliances, clothes, and in some cases, health. Unfortunately, it may not be realistic to have a one-size-fits-all solution for efficient residential water treatment. If you’re wondering about how to remove iron from well water naturally, you’ve come to the right place.

As stated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the recommended acceptable iron level in well water is 0.3mg/L. Higher levels can result in devastating aesthetic effects. The fact that iron can cause severe problems at very low concentrations makes it one of the most frustrating contaminants.

How to Remove Iron from Well Water Naturally: Identifying the Problem

Image: Graeme Maclean

Iron is an essential element naturally present in the crust of our earth. When it rains, this element mixes with the rainwater as it penetrates the soil and into the well water.

The well water iron concentration in most regions is at 0.5 to 10 mg/L. Thus, it’s very possible that there’s a high concentration of it in your home's well water.

Signs of Iron in Water

If you wash your clothes with iron-contaminated water, you may notice the presence of orange-colored stains. Iron also discolors dishes, appliances, surfaces, and plumbing fixtures.

Iron-contaminated water has a metallic taste and odor and produces a dark, ink-like appearance when combined with beverages, such as tea.

The presence of iron bacteria in the water can be seen from dark-colored reddish, yellow, or brown slime in your toilet tank, bathtub, or sinks. This slime can make your drains smelly and can also clog plumbing fixtures and pipes.

Common Types of Iron in Well Water

Before you can select the best iron removal method for your well water, it’s important to identify the type of iron contaminants present in the water.

Three common types of iron can be found in well water include ferric iron, ferrous iron, and iron bacteria.

Ferric iron can easily be identified owing to its unique reddish to orange color. Ferrous iron, meanwhile, is invisible to the naked eye, hence also referred to as “clear-water” iron. The third type, iron bacteria, usually thrives in the presence of iron.

To make sure of the concentration level and type(s) of iron, you can send your well water samples to the nearest lab for testing or use home DIY test kits.

Removing Iron from Well Water: The Methods

Once you’ve tested for the iron level in your water, you can proceed to search for the best method of removal. Below are some of the common, efficient ways to remove iron in well water naturally.

Sedimentation

The sedimentation process is one of the most straightforward and cheapest methods of well water iron removal.

You only need basic storage vessels, such as pots, buckets, or tanks. You’ll then fill the storage vessels with water and wait for the impurities to settle at the bottom.

Once the particles have settled, transfer the top layer of clean water into a separate tank. Be extra gentle and careful when doing this to avoid disturbing the settled particles and dissolving them back in the water.  If that happens, you will have to repeat the whole process all over again.

Sediment filters can be used to remove iron from your well water, particularly if the iron levels are not too high. An efficient sediment filter for well will allow free flow of water through while preventing iron and other particles from reaching the plumbing and appliances.

To adequately remove iron from the water, ensure to use a filter with the relevant micron rating.

Oxidation and Filtration

Oxidation and filtration can be an efficient approach to remove iron from your well water physically. Oxidation will transform the dissolved iron into an insoluble form (rust) suspended in water.

The second stage (filtration) involves the removal of the suspended iron particles from the water. An efficient filtration system is crucial to ensure the successful removal of all the particles.

Using a Water Softener

Water contaminated with iron can be classified as hard water. A water softener can be effective in removing the ferrous iron in the well water. However, when the iron level is particularly high, you will need the best water softener system that’s designed specifically for iron to do the job.

A standard water softener is not a filtration device and will not be ideal for treating high iron levels in your well water. Ensure to check the pH level of the water to determine whether it will be efficient to use a water softener. Avoid using the softener if the pH level of the water is too high.

You may consider having a sediment filter in place to prevent your softener from clogging with iron slugs.

Aeration

Aeration to remove iron from well water can be achieved by introducing atmospheric oxygen into the water. The oxygen will oxidize the iron to form an insoluble compound.

There are two most common methods involved in the aeration process. These include the introduction of air into the water via bubbling and water dispersion into the air. You can also use cascade trays or porous air stones.

When performing aeration, it’s important to ensure deliberate control of the airflow to make the process effective.

Avoid having airflow that’s too low or too high. If the airflow is too high, the water can become corrosive and too saturated with oxygen. On the other hand, air with low oxygen concentration may not oxidize the iron efficiently.

Using Activated Charcoal

Activated carbon can be used to remove multiple contaminants, odors, and bad tastes in water. This can be an ideal method if you intend to remove iron from a small amount of well water. In addition, it is an affordable method that can be found at your local store.

To get the best of this method, cover the activated charcoal with a clean cloth. The water will then pass through the cloth and then the activated charcoal.

Conclusion

Iron in well water is a constant issue for many homeowners. We hope this has provided you with the relevant information on how to remove iron from well water naturally.

Ultimately, the best iron removal method for your well water will depend on your needs, type of iron contaminants, level of iron content, and budget.