What Is Iron & How to Remove Iron from Your Water?

Iron is another common impurity that can contaminate your water. While iron is beneficial to the human blood as it transports oxygen and contributes to the red color to blood cells, iron in water can also lead to rusty water stains on appliances, bathtub, toilet bowl, and even clothing.

Therefore, if you suspect its presence in your water, you must take steps to remove iron from your water. This way, you will protect your kitchen appliances and bathroom fixtures, as well as other household items from rust stains that result from iron in the water.

What is Iron?

Iron is a naturally occurring element that makes up about 5% of the earth crust. It is known for its yellow and reddish-brown color pigmentation on rocks and soil, and does not create any major health hazard; as declared by the Environmental Protection Agency. However, the presence of iron gives a distinct, unpleasant taste. It is quite visible in the water when in high concentration, flowing out as rusty-red water from the tap or faucet.

Iron in water takes two distinct forms: ferrous iron and ferric iron. Ferrous iron is soluble in water, and would not form any precipitate unless it is oxidized. Ferric iron is the oxidized form of iron, which forms a yellow, brown, or reddish-brown precipitate that suspends in water. The suspended particles of ferric iron in the water are what give the contaminated water its color.

How Iron Gets into Well Water

Iron usually enters drinking water through seepage and corrosion. It dissolves in underground water as water seeps through surrounding rocks. Here’s how it happens;

Rainwater washes the soil and rock, traveling from the surface to meet the water underground. So provided the soil contains iron, the iron dissolves in the water as it seeps through the earth. Also, iron that is exposed to a combination of oxygen and water can rust. This means that the iron rusts when castings or pipes containing iron corrode, which then flakes off the water supply component and into the water from the well to your home.

Problems Caused by Iron in Your Water

People usually ask; “is iron in well water harmful?” well, the truth is, iron in water may not affect your health. You won’t even be comfortable drinking the water in the first place. However, it could cause other costly issues and damages to your household properties and food.

Below are some of the problems caused by iron in water:

  • Stains: Iron in water causes stains on your laundry, dishes, and water fixtures, such as sinks, faucets, and tubs. It leaves a red, yellow, or brown color stain, which is usually difficult to remove by mere washing.
  • Clogging: When water that contains iron travels through pipes and plumbing, the rust particles tend to accumulate. Over time, this accumulation leads to clogging; not just the pipes and plumbing this time, but also the dishwashers, washing machines, sprinklers, water pumps, and other related appliances and accessories. This occurrence usually leads to damages that require expensive and frequent repairs.
  • Food Contamination: Iron in water can also affect food and beverages. Its presence in water gives the water a metallic, harsh taste, which is usually offensive. Iron gives beverages an unpleasant, inky black color. Food, especially vegetables, cooked with iron-contaminated water also turns dark with an altered taste.

The Environmental Protection Agency regards iron in water as a secondary contaminant. That is, it has no direct impact on health. As a secondary contaminant, the EPA guideline sets 0.3 milligrams per liter as the maximum amount of iron in the water.

What about Iron Bacteria?

Have you tried lifting the cover of the tank behind your toilet and noticed some slimy, grease-like dirt floating on the water? What you saw are iron bacteria. These bacteria coexist with iron to form a bunch of smelly gunk, which could lead to clogged plumbing.

Iron bacteria feed on the iron in the water. They may not be a major health concern, but they cause other issues like unpleasant stains, tastes, and bad odors. The bacteria also stick to pipes and fixtures and give room for other harmful bacteria. Bacterial iron contributes to pumps, dishwashers, and even your water softener.

Removing Iron from Your Water

If you begin to observe some difficult-to-remove of stains on sinks, plumbing fixtures, tableware, and laundry, then the concentration of iron in your water may have become higher than normal. First, seek the services of an independent laboratory to check the pH and concentration of iron in your water.

The treatment of water for iron removal depends on the source and type of iron. If the source of iron in your water is corrosion, then simply raising the pH of the water or finding a different source of water might be the solution. Otherwise, you should install a good water treatment system, depending on the type of iron.

For ferrous iron, the water appears clear as it comes out of the tap. Then it leaves a reddish-brown precipitate as the water is exposed to oxygen. The water treatment to removes ferrous iron includes phosphate treatment, catalytic filtration, as well as the use of water softeners and oxidizing filters.

Ferric iron is usually tiny particles that suspend in the water and gives a red or yellow color film over time. Treatment processes like the use of oxidizing filters, chlorination, and catalytic filtration can be used to remove ferric iron.

For iron bacteria, the solution is shock chlorination of the water source, followed by continuous chlorination. The chlorination treatment process is aimed at killing the existing bacteria. However, the best way to keep your water from iron bacteria and prevent foul smell is by using UV filters.

The best way to remove iron from your water is to install a whole house iron water filter. This iron water filter system is designed for iron removal plus other impurities from the water supply to the whole house. It only requires extended backwashing of the filter bed and thorough final rinse to prevent slug accumulation.

If you have a water softener already installed, and still experience similar issues; it’s obvious that your water softener system alone is not enough to give you clean and safe water. While there are several solutions to rusty iron stain caused by the presence of iron in water, the best way to find a lasting solution, tackling the issue from the source, is to get the help of a professional.

Of course, nobody likes rusty marks on their laundry. Perhaps you are tired of scrubbing of rust stains on your sink or toilet. The experts at Plumber Mate would evaluate your water situation and recommend the best solution for your iron contamination problem, as well as how to protect your water from ferric iron stains.

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