Are you tired of that odd, metallic taste in your mouth every time you drink water or that rusty water flow whenever you wash your dishes? While we all need iron for healthy blood cells, too much iron in water can clog your water pipes and fixtures. It can also make drinks and meals less palatable.
I know how frustrating it can be, especially if you source your water from a well. I am confident you are eager to learn how to remove iron from well water naturally. If so, this article is for you.
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What You Need to Remove Iron from Well Water Naturally
Removing iron from well water is not as straightforward as it sounds. After all, iron is the planet’s fourth most abundant trace mineral found in soil. It would be almost impossible to eliminate it. Regardless, here are some of the essential things you need for removing iron from well water.
An understanding of How Iron Can Reach Well Water
Iron is ever-present in the soil, especially in stones and rocks. Rainwater washes the iron molecules and seeps through the ground until it reaches the waterbed.
In general, iron breaks down in the presence of oxygen. Since there are no oxygen molecules underground, iron retains its chemical properties. It can then enter the well water without undergoing oxidation.
A Knowledge of Iron Contamination
Municipal water can also contain iron since this mineral is ever-present. The levels can be much higher in well water systems because of the absence of any water treatment.
That is why I encourage you to learn about safe iron levels in drinking water and when you can consider it contaminated.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, safe drinking water should not have more than 0.3 mg of iron per liter (ppm).
On the other hand, the World Health Organization considers iron levels of 1-3 mg per liter acceptable if the water comes from anaerobic sources such as a well.
You may find it interesting that many people do not test a water sample to measure iron concentration. Instead, they rely on the water’s aesthetic characteristics, including the following.
- The water turns a shade of yellow, brown, or reddish yellow
- Reddish, brownish, or yellowish stains on sinks, tiles, and dishes
- Offensive odor
- Metallic taste
Knowledge of the Different Types of Iron in Water
Removing iron from well water naturally requires a basic understanding of what forms it can come in. Different iron molecules in water require different removal solutions. The Illinois Department of Public Health identifies four types of iron that may be present in well water.
- Dissolved ferrous iron – You can distinguish this iron by the way it settles to the bottom of your glass. After opening your faucet, the water flow is clear and colorless. However, it turns reddish-brown after a few minutes.
- Insoluble ferric iron – As soon as you open your tap, you will notice a rusty water appearance. You may even see a yellowish or reddish hue. The iron particles can also settle at the bottom of your glass.
- Organic iron – If you have a shallow well or one where surface water can easily seep into, there is a good chance you will notice your well water to have a brownish or yellowish color. However, it is not unusual that the water can be colorless, too.
- Iron bacteria – This type of iron can form in wells contaminated with microorganisms in groundwater or surface water. You may notice a yellowish slime or red brownish sludge in your water. Its odor is offensive, too.
Step-By-Step Instructions on Removing Iron from Well Water Using a Water Softener
The most common method of removing iron from well water is using a water softener. This method removes dissolved ferrous iron and organic iron from well water. Here are the steps.
- Prepare the tools, materials, and location.
It would be best to install your water softener in your basement, utility room, or garage. You must ensure a drainage system nearby for backflushing and servicing the unit.
Some of the tools you need to prepare are a pipe cutter and adjustable wrenches.
Ensure that the area you are going to install the water softener in is clean and free of dirt, debris, or any obstacle.
- Remove water from your plumbing.
Close the shutoff valve of your main water supply line and open the faucets and water fixtures in your house to drain all the water. Doing so will make it easy for you to install the water softener while reducing the risk of injuries due to slippery floors. It also releases pressure in the pipes.
- Cut a pipe section.
Use a pipe cutter to remove a section of water pipe, enough to accommodate the water softener and its fittings. Always mark the section you want to cut and position the pipe cutter’s blade on the line. Tighten the cutter’s knob and rotate the cutter around the water pipe, tightening the knob as you go.
Sam has a helpful video you can watch to master the art of cutting pipes using a pipe cutter.
- Install the water softener.
Place all fittings to the water softener and connect these to the cut ends of the water pipe. Ensure to connect the bypass valve and use compression fittings that came with the water softener installation kit.
Connect the drain hose from the water softener to the utility sink or a drain. Ensure the drain hose is at least two inches from the drain hole to prevent siphoning wastewater back into the system.
Connect the water softener’s overflow tube and set the device’s bypass valve to the ON or Bypass position.
- Prime the water softener.
Close all faucets and water fixtures in your house and open the main shutoff valve. Let the water flow through the water softener to flush sediments, while expelling air from the pipes. Check the water softener for leaks.
Prepare your brine solution by following the manufacturer’s recommendations. Place the solution in a receptacle and plug the unit. Set the bypass valve to “Backwash” before pressing and holding the water softener’s “Regenerate” button.
- Partially open the water softener’s inlet control.
Remove air buildup in the water softener by slowly opening the inlet control. Listen for a sputtering sound in the system, a clear sign that there is still air. Once there is no more sputtering, you can fully open the outlet and inlet bypass controls. You should also notice a steady water flow.
- Regenerate the water softener again.
Fill the water softener tank with the brine solution and regenerate the appliance again. Continue cycling the water softener, adhering to the manufacturer’s instructions. You know the system is ready once it shows “Service:” on its settings display.
You can then program the water softener’s controls by following the steps in your owner’s manual.
This Old House has an interesting video that will show you how to install a water softener in your home.
Removing Iron from Well Water Using an Iron Filter
If you need a more effective solution for removing iron from your well water, installing an iron filter is a wise choice. The process is almost similar to installing a water softener where you cut a pipe section after closing the main water shutoff valve.
Read the iron filter manufacturer’s installation instructions and you should be able to get your system up and running in a few hours.
An iron filter works like a water softener. As the iron-containing water passes through a resin, ferrous iron adheres to the media’s surface and undergoes a chemical transformation into an insoluble state. The water that passes through the filter and into your faucets is iron-free.
In essence, the filter media oxidize iron molecules, trapping them in the filter. Greensand is one of the most effective oxidizing media for removing iron from well water. Other iron filters can contain manganese dioxide, redox, and birm as oxidizing media.
Removing Iron from Well Water Using a Water Filter
Suppose you do not like the tedious chore of backflushing and regenerating your water softener once a while. In that case, you may want to install a sediment filter or water filter with ultra-filtration.
Some sediment filters have small pores that can trap ferrous iron and other large minerals. However, they are not as effective as water softeners or dedicated iron filters.
Your best bet is to install a water filter with ultra-filtration technology. These filters can remove particles as small as 0.001 microns in diameter. A reverse osmosis water filtration system can remove 0.0001-micron particles, enough to remove almost all dissolved solids and minerals in your well water.
The installation process is similar to a water softener, except for the backflushing and regeneration steps.
Learning how to remove iron from well water naturally can be confusing and challenging because of the numerous options you have. I only hope I was able to enlighten you on how you can accomplish this task in your home.
If you have questions, feel free to share with me your thoughts. You can also share this article with your friends and acquaintances. They might be interested, too.