How to Remove Iron from Well Water?

Are you troubled by rust, metallic odor, and discoloration in your well water? This article will guide you in identifying the presence of iron in your water and how to treat it in 6 steps. Available for bore water, lake water, river water, brackish well water, and even rusty pool water. Keep reading!

Why Do You Need to Remove Iron from Well Water?

As a type of groundwater, well water tends to dissolve iron when passing through geological layers containing iron, leading to the presence of various forms of iron in the well water.

If there is a high concentration of iron in well water, it often appears turbid and exhibits colors such as red, brown, orange, or yellow. This discolored well water also carries a strong metallic taste, making it unsuitable for drinking, cooking, bathing, cleaning, and laundry. Consuming well water with high iron content over the long term may lead to gastrointestinal discomfort, iron poisoning, and various health issues. Water without iron tastes better and is colorless after iron removal, making it safer and healthier for consumption.

Why Do You Need to Remove Iron from Well Water

Iron in well water can also react with oxygen in the water to form rust, precipitating in your pipes, bathroom fixtures, kitchen appliances, water tanks, and faucets, compromising the aesthetic appeal of your living environment and the overall water usage experience. Moreover, iron ions can combine with other ions to form scale, leading to blockages and corrosion in pipes and household appliances, which translates to higher maintenance costs. Removing iron from well water is not only economical but also essential for safety and water quality improvement.

What are the Forms of Iron in Well Water?

The iron present in water can generally be categorized into five forms: ferrous transparent water iron, ferric iron, colloidal iron, organic iron, and bacterial iron.

Ferrous iron (Fe²⁺) dissolves in water in the form of ions, similar to magnesium and calcium ions, making the water typically colorless and transparent. However, when the concentration of ferrous ions in water is high, the probability of their reaction with other substances to form precipitates or complexes increases. This is why your well water may appear yellow-brown, orange, and have a metallic taste.

Ferrous iron readily oxidizes to form ferric iron. Ferric iron (Fe³⁺) is prone to react with other substances in water, leading to water contamination. Unlike ferrous iron, ferric iron has low solubility, so it usually exists in water as suspended solids, such as iron oxide (Fe2O3) and other iron oxides. Well water containing ferric iron may exhibit yellow, orange, or red precipitates.

Different Forms of Iron in Well Water

Colloidal iron stably exists in water in the form of colloidal particles, neither precipitating nor dissolving. The particle diameter typically ranges from 1 to 100 nanometers, formed due to the reaction between iron ions and other substances in water.

Organic iron is an iron compound synthesized by bacteria that adhere to iron. It appears as brown or bright red sludge in well water or soil. Bacterial iron easily accumulates in wells, water treatment equipment, pipelines, causing blockages, or damaging pipe equipment.

As a type of microorganism, iron bacteria are commonly found in groundwater, wells, and pipelines with high concentrations of ferrous iron. Well water containing iron bacteria may have a metallic or foul odor and appear black, red, orange, or purple. If left untreated, it can adversely affect the ecological environment.

6 Steps to Remove Iron from Your Well Water:

Step 1: Determine the Form of Iron in Your Water

Iron from Your Bore Well Water

This step marks the beginning of iron removal from your well water. You can refer to the descriptions of iron forms provided above to make a simple assessment of your current water condition. If you find it difficult to assess the state of your well water, feel free to skip this step.

Clear and Transparent Well Water: The iron in the water may exist in the form of ferrous ions. This is where you might consider using oxidation precipitation and water softeners.

Turbid Well Water with Orange or Yellow-Brown Coloration: This indicates that ferrous iron in the water has undergone oxidation and formed precipitates. You can consider the removal methods such as reductive precipitation, oxidative precipitation, coagulation precipitation, and water softeners.

Red Well Water: Meaning the concentration of ferric iron ions is relatively high. Iron has oxidized in the water and formed precipitates. The best well water iron filtration systems are sediment filters and membrane filtration.

Step 2: Test The Well Water Quality

Send a sample of your well water to a laboratory or local water treatment company for comprehensive water testing. This step will allow you to accurately determine the contents of your water, including the nature, solubility, and concentration of iron present.

Test The Well Water Quality

However, as groundwater, well water is susceptible to environmental contamination. You also need to consider removing other harmful substances from the water besides iron, such as minerals, heavy metals, bacteria, viruses, pesticides, nitrates, and other chemicals. Water treatment companies will develop several solutions based on your water quality report and your treatment requirements. A customized solution can address all your water treatment issues at once and reduce financial investment.

Step 3: Choose the Best Water Filter for Well Water With Iron

Once you submit the water quality report to the water treatment company, you will receive several water treatment solutions for iron removal. If you are unsure about selecting the best water filter to remove iron, below are the characteristics, advantages, and disadvantages of several iron removal water filters.

➢ Activated Carbon Filter

Activated carbon possesses adsorptive properties, capable of removing small amounts of soluble iron and suspended iron particles from well water. Therefore, activated carbon filters can also be used to remove iron.

Activated Carbon Filter for well water

Pros: The activated carbon filters has low-cost investment, and operation and maintenance are straightforward. Effectively removes iron, large particulate matter, and odors from water without introducing chemical substances.

Cons: The system requires regular replacement of the filtering medium, activated carbon. Iron removal capacity is moderate and may not be suitable for treating water with high iron concentrations.

➢ Sediment Filter

Filtration precision is at the micron level. Sediment filters can to some extent remove iron from water, especially when iron exists in the form of insoluble large particulate matter. Suitable for well water with low iron content.

Sediment Filter for well water

Pros:  Economical method. Sediment filters can serve as pre-treatment methods for various water treatment applications, and additionally, they can remove other suspended solids and particles from water.

Cons: Unable to remove soluble iron and metallic odors from water. Harmful substances such as sulfur and arsenic may still be present in the water.

➢ Water Softener System

The water softener not only removes hardness from water, i.e., calcium and magnesium ions but also effectively eliminates iron from well water. This is because, during the ion exchange process, the anion resin can adsorb iron ions and exchange them with sodium.

Water Softener System for well water with iron

Pros: Water softeners are easy to install and operate, requiring minimal space. Dual-tank softeners can continuously treat well water without the need for periodic system regeneration.

Cons: Water softener is only suitable for well water with iron concentrations below 0.3 ppm. The system requires regular cleaning and maintenance, especially as the resin bed is prone to damage. Additionally, the softening process incurs a certain cost for salt consumption.

➢ Oxidation Filter/Oxidation Iron Removal Systems

As the most common and effective method to remove iron from well water, oxidation filtration provides better iron removal results compared to softeners. It works by oxidizing ferrous iron in the water into particulate matter that can be filtered directly by the filter. Oxidants used in this process include greensand, potassium permanganate, oxygen, hydrogen peroxide, and chlorine.

Several common oxidation filtration systems:

1)Chlorine Based Iron Removal Systems:

Chlorine-based oxidation filters utilize chlorine solution as the oxidizing agent for iron. Ferrous iron ions in water are oxidized to form precipitates or colloids such as iron oxide and iron hydroxide, which are suitable for filtration and removal, and then filtered through Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) filters.

Chlorine Based Iron Removal Systems for well water with iron

Advantages: Chlorine oxidation in water treatment is relatively mature and efficient, and it can also remove other harmful substances from water. Chlorine-based oxidation is cost-effective and widely used for water disinfection and quality improvement in municipal water supplies.

Disadvantages:  Chlorine performs moderately compared to other oxidants and is not suitable for well water with iron concentrations exceeding 8 PPM. It is primarily used to remove microbes, odors, and parasites from water rather than as the primary oxidant for iron.

High concentrations of iron ions require prolonged contact with high concentrations of chlorine for a complete oxidation reaction to occur. There is a potential risk associated with handling high-concentration chlorine solutions during operation.

2)Aeration Based Iron Removal Systems

Oxygen is an economical and effective oxidant for iron, manganese, and sulfur. After air is injected into the water, the aeration device in the air injection iron filtration system increases the oxygen content in the water. Oxygen (O2) in the air rapidly reacts with iron and manganese in the water, forming precipitates that can be filtered out. It is important to note that this system is not suitable for well water with low pH levels, or containing IRB (Iron Reducing Bacteria) or SRB (Sulfate Reducing Bacteria). A backwashing device is required at the end of the system to remove sediment.

Aeration Based Iron Removal Systems for well water with iron

Advantages: Oxygen as an oxidant has low cost. No chemicals are used throughout the entire treatment process, making it a green and sustainable solution. Besides removing iron from water, it also eliminates odors, arsenic, manganese, hydrogen sulfide, and other harmful substances.

Disadvantages: Not suitable for treating high concentrations of iron, such as concentrations exceeding 5 ppm. Additionally, the system requires installation of a contact tank and air pump, which may produce water noise during operation. Improper operation may result in the accumulation of iron sludge.

3)Ozone Iron Removal Systems

Oxidation iron removal systems are suitable for treating water with iron concentrations below 5 ppm. Similar to the principle of aeration iron removal, ozone generated through electrolysis or UV radiation is introduced into the water to oxidize the iron, forming insoluble oxides that are then filtered out. Unlike aeration, ozone has a higher solubility in water compared to oxygen and does not require aeration. Ozone iron removal systems are widely used for disinfection and sterilization of swimming pool water.

Ozone Iron Removal Systems for well water with iron

Advantages: Ozone has strong oxidizing properties. Only a small amount of ozone is needed to efficiently eliminate odors, discoloration, and remove heavy metal ions in water, including iron, manganese, and nickel. Additionally, ozone iron removal systems are almost unaffected by water pH and temperature.

Disadvantages: Ozone is toxic, and operators need to have a certain level of expertise. Generating ozone consumes a lot of energy, as ozone generators are power-intensive, resulting in high equipment investment, operation, and maintenance costs. Moreover, the efficiency of ozone iron removal decreases significantly when the well water contains a large amount of organic matter.

4)Hydrogen Peroxide Based Iron Removal Systems

Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is a more effective oxidant than oxygen. Liquid hydrogen peroxide is injected into the well water, where it fully interacts with the iron in the water. The precipitate formed by the oxidation of iron can be separated and filtered by the sedimentation tank and filter in the system. Hydrogen peroxide is suitable for treating well water with moderate iron levels, typically ranging from 1 to 5 ppm.

Hydrogen Peroxide Based Iron Removal Systems for well water with iron

Advantages: Hydrogen peroxide-based iron removal systems are easy to install, operate, and require minimal maintenance. The entire process does not produce sludge or additional chemical substances.

Disadvantages: Hydrogen peroxide is corrosive and irritant, posing safety risks during operation. Additionally, if large quantities of hydrogen peroxide are required, it can be more costly compared to other oxidants.

5)Manganese Greensand Aeration Filters/ Potassium Permanganate Based Iron Removal Systems

Potassium permanganate solution oxidizes ferrous iron in water to ferric iron, generating oxygen in the process, which also accelerates iron oxidation. Similar to the aforementioned iron removal methods, the oxidized iron and iron hydroxide are precipitated and filtered. Finally, only residual potassium permanganate and other substances in the system need to be cleaned. It is suitable for treating groundwater and well water with iron concentrations ranging from 5 to 10 ppm. When treating groundwater with higher iron content, manganese greensand can be used as the oxidant.

Potassium Permanganate Based Iron Removal Systems for well water with iron

Advantages: Potassium permanganate has strong oxidizing properties. In addition to removing iron, manganese, and sulfides from water, it can also treat organic compounds, microbes, color, and odors.

Disadvantages: Potassium permanganate is purple. When potassium permanganate is dissolved in water, it easily causes the water to change color, affecting its appearance. Improper handling of excess potassium permanganate may lead to pollution of water bodies and the environment. Additionally, the entire system requires frequent backwashing and regeneration to maintain stable operation and good water quality.

➢ Reverse Osmosis Water Filter

Reverse osmosis systems have nanoscale filtration precision. During the process of pressurizing high-concentration solutions, iron ions cannot pass through the pores of the reverse osmosis membrane along with water molecules but are instead trapped on the other side of the semi-permeable membrane, achieving the goal of getting iron out of well water.

Reverse Osmosis Water Filter for well water with iron

Pros: RO water is high quality and can be consumed directly. In addition to iron removal, RO can also remove large suspended particles, colloids, bacteria, viruses, heavy metal ions, and minerals from well water. As an advanced water filtration technology, RO does not cause chemical pollution to the environment. The entire system is highly automated, ensuring stable water quality.

Cons: The cost of reverse osmosis water filters is still relatively high compared to other well water iron filtration systems. RO unit requires regular maintenance and membrane replacement. Also, the high volume of waste water generated during the operation of reverse osmosis systems is a concern for many potential users.

Step 4: Purchase the Best Iron Removal Filter and Install It

Once you have selected and purchased the best iron removal filter based on your budget and requirements, the next step is to install the well water iron filtration system.

For simple systems, you can install them yourself by using the product manual provided by the manufacturer or online instructional videos. However, when it comes to steps such as connecting water pipes, pumps, and faucets, we recommend seeking professional help from a plumber or your water treatment company.

Step 5: Test Water Production

Your worries don’t end once the iron removal filter is installed. It’s crucial to collect treated well water from the system’s water production point and promptly send it to a laboratory for water quality testing. If the iron content in the water remains high or if other harmful substances are detected, contact your well water purification system supplier or installation personnel immediately. Consult with professional staff to identify the reasons for this outcome and address them. You may even need to consider alternative filtration methods to minimize losses.

Step 6: Equipment Maintenance

Congratulations! By reaching this step, you now have access to healthy, safe, and iron-free water. However, it’s important to note that you still need to regularly maintain your equipment, such as iron filter media replacement, system backwashing, regeneration, and so on.

Iron removal filter maintenance

Regular cleaning and maintenance of the system can extend its lifespan and reduce the cost of obtaining fresh water every day. When the quality of your produced water deteriorates or the efficiency of the equipment significantly decreases, it’s time to consider replacing consumables or the entire iron removal filter.

In Conclusion

In summary, you can choose an iron removal water filter based on the form of iron in your well water (dissolved or suspended), iron concentration, water quality characteristics, and your specific treatment needs. If the iron content in your well water exceeds 10 ppm, this article may provide limited assistance in hg you get rust & iron out of well water.

We recommend contacting NEWater for a personalized solution. Our engineers have 25 years of experience in iron removal from well water, and our iron removal water filter comes with a one-year quality guarantee. We can assist you in removing iron and various other harmful substances from your well water.


● What are the Acceptable Iron Levels in Well Water?

For drinking water, according to WHO recommendations, the iron concentration in well water should not exceed 0.3 ppm. If the well water is used for non-drinking purposes such as washing, laundry, or agricultural irrigation, iron concentrations below 1 ppm are acceptable. However, please note that these standards serve only as guidelines.

● Can You Boil Iron Out of Water?

No, you cannot. Iron always exists in water in dissolved or precipitated solid form, and boiling only kills bacteria and viruses in well water through high temperatures. Just as you cannot remove sugar dissolved in water or insoluble sediment by boiling.

● Why is My Well Water Suddenly Rusty?

If your clear and pure well water suddenly becomes rusty after sitting for a while, it may be due to the oxidation of ferrous iron (Fe2+). Iron in dissolved form in water is colorless. When well water is left standing, it comes into contact with oxygen from the air. The Fe2+ is oxidized by oxygen to form Fe(OH)3 and Fe3+, resulting in the appearance of rust stains.

Well Water Suddenly Rusty

● How to Remove Iron Bacteria from Well Water?

Oxygen deficiency, suitable temperature, and neutral to acidic pH levels create an ideal environment for the survival and proliferation of iron bacteria. We recommend effectively treating iron bacteria by combining oxidation filtration with disinfection techniques.

Oxidation filters can convert all ferrous iron in the water into filterable ferric iron (Fe³⁺). The filtration process effectively removes iron bacteria, iron-laden precipitates, and large particulate matter from well water. Finally, using a UV sterilizer or chlorine can effectively kill potential bacteria in the water, preventing the recurrence and proliferation of iron bacteria.

● How to Remove Tannins from Well Water?

Is your well water acidic, bitter, and exhibiting brown and yellowish-brown colors? Then you need to pay attention not only to the iron content in the water but also to the removal of tannins. Water may carry tannins, organic compounds when passing through pipes, plant roots, or soil.

Tannins from Well Water

When tannins are present in water in the form of large-particle colloids, you can consider removing them directly through filtration or precipitation methods, such as activated carbon filters. If the tannin content in the well water is not very high, a water softening system is also a feasible option. Water softening removes minerals from the water while also removing some organic substances, including tannins.

If tannins are present in the water in soluble form, you can oxidize them into gas or solid form and separate them from water using oxidants such as ozone, chlorine, and hydrogen peroxide.

Finally, reverse osmosis water filters can remove almost all large-particle substances, microorganisms, organic compounds, and soluble salts from water. Regardless of how tannins exist, they can be effectively removed by RO systems.

● How to Remove Iron From Well Water Without a Water Softener?

If you prefer not to use a water softener to filter the iron from your well water, how about precipitation filtration, membrane filtration, oxidation filtration, aeration filtration, and activated carbon filtration? Filtration and sedimentation can remove iron from well water naturally.

The choice of water treatment for iron removal depends primarily on your budget, water quality requirements, and the concentration of iron in your well water.

● What is the Cheapest Way to Remove Iron from Well Water?

The investment and maintenance costs for sediment filters are relatively low.

However, NEWater believes that the cheapest way to remove iron from well water should be considered relatively rather than absolutely, meaning spending the least amount of money to solve various water treatment problems. Pursuing the lowest-priced solution blindly may result in water treatment effects that may not meet your expectations. Subsequently, you also need to consider the cost of replacing the iron removal system and the high maintenance and repair costs for the equipment.

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