Having too much iron in your home's water can cause several issues, from staining, to unpleasant odors and tastes, to promoting bacterial growth. While a small amount of iron is common in water supplies and isn't hazardous to health, excessive levels can make water unusable or unpleasant. Thankfully, there are effective water treatment solutions available to remove excess iron and keep your water clean and usable.
What Causes High Iron Levels in Water?
Iron occurs naturally in soil, rocks, and groundwater aquifers. As water passes through and over soil and rock, it can pick up iron particles and compounds, dissolving them into the water supply. The Floridan Aquifer that provides much of Florida's groundwater is rich in iron. Private well water is also prone to higher naturally-occurring iron levels.
In some cases, high iron levels come from corrosion of iron water pipes and fixtures. As these pipes and fixtures age, iron begins leaching from them into the water flowing through them.
Industrial waste containing iron, or fertilizers and pesticides with iron additives, can also introduce excessive iron into water sources if contaminants leach into groundwater.
Problems Caused by Excess Iron in Water
Having too much iron in your water leads to several frustrating and potentially hazardous issues:
Unpleasant Taste and Odor
As little as 0.3 mg/L of iron can give water an unpleasant metallic taste. Iron also reacts with oxygen in water. This reaction produces a rotten egg odor. These taste and odor issues make high-iron water unpleasant to drink and use for cooking.
One of iron's most visible effects is its reddish-orange staining. As iron-rich water contacts surfaces, the iron oxidizes and leaves behind stubborn stains on plumbing fixtures, cooking equipment, glassware, sinks, bathtubs, laundry, and more. Stains may be yellow, brown, or reddish-orange.
Promotion of Bacterial Growth
The reaction between iron and oxygen provides favorable conditions for iron bacteria like hematite and crenothrix. These nuisance bacteria form slimy red-brown colonies in plumbing and fixtures. They leave behind reddish-black slime that stains surfaces. Their growth clogs pipes over time as well. Some strains of iron bacteria pose health risks for vulnerable populations.
Scaling and Mineral Buildup
Iron combines readily with other minerals like calcium and magnesium. It binds these minerals into stubborn scaling and mineral deposits inside water equipment like pipes, heaters, boilers and household appliances. Scale buildup clogs plumbing, reduces the efficiency and lifespan of appliances, and necessitates frequent cleaning/descaling.
Poor Soap/Detergent Performance
Soaps and detergents are less effective when used with hard water or water containing high iron levels. Iron binds with surfactants, preventing them from forming suds or emulsifying properly. This leaves behind residue and requires much more soap/detergent to clean. (Health Effects of Hard Water and Contaminants on Personal Care)
Warning Signs of Excess Iron
There are several clear warning signs that can indicate your water's iron levels are too high:
As mentioned earlier, stubborn reddish staining on fixtures, sinks, laundry and other surfaces that come in contact with water points to high iron levels.
An unpleasant metallic taste or rotten egg smell coming from your water is a red flag for elevated iron concentrations.
Reddish Slime Growth
The presence of a reddish, slimy film around the edges of toilets or in the pipes indicates iron bacteria growth fueled by excess iron.
Reduced Water Pressure
If your water pressure seems weaker than normal or continues dropping, it may be due to iron deposits and bacteria/biofilm buildup narrowing pipes over time.
Rust Colored Water
Iron particles suspended in water give it a translucent, rusty tone. Allowing this water to sit undisturbed, the particles will settle out as a noticeable rust-colored layer of sediment on bottom.
How Much Iron is Too Much?
The EPA limit for iron in drinking water is 0.3 mg/L. However, problems like staining and foul tastes start occurring with levels as low as 0.05 to 0.1 mg/L.
Here's a quick reference for evaluating your water's iron concentration:
Less than 0.05 mg/L - No visible issues. May still cause problems over time.
0.05 - 1 mg/L - Staining likely. Metallic tastes possible. Treatment recommended.
1 - 4 mg/L - Nuisance iron bacteria growth expected. Treatment required.
Over 4 mg/L - Severe problems and risks anticipated. Urgent treatment required.
Well water with up to 25 mg/L iron is not unheard of in some regions. No matter how high your levels, modern treatment methods can bring your iron back down to safer levels.
Testing Your Water's Iron Levels
Since high iron causes several problems, it's wise to test your water's iron content, especially if you have private well water or have noticed metallic tastes/smells, staining, or pressure loss.
Professional water testing through accredited labs is the most reliable way to check how much iron is in your water. Labs like Pace Analytical Services give you documentation showing your water quality.
Schedule Your FREE Water Test Today: 727-236-7161 to have an Aqua-Wise technician collect samples from your home and deliver them for professional testing. You'll get a detailed report on your water quality with lab-verified results.
How to Treat and Remove Excess Iron
When testing confirms high iron levels in your water, the next step is installing treatment to remove the iron and protect your water quality. There are several effective treatment solutions available from Aqua-Wise.
Oxidizing filters use an oxidizing media like manganese dioxide or Birm. As water passes through this media, the iron gets oxidized from soluble ferrous iron to insoluble ferric oxide particulates. These can then be filtered out, leaving you with clean water.
AquaCarbonGuard Catalytic Carbon Filter uses catalytic carbon and KDF media for oxidation combined with high-grade filtration to remove iron, hydrogen sulfide odors, chlorine and more from your water.
OzonePro combines oxidation filtration media with the power of an ozone generator that pumped ozone into the water as a safe, effective oxidizer and disinfectant to eliminate bacteria as it reduces iron levels.
Water softeners like the AquaLux Water Softener work by exchanging hardness minerals like calcium and magnesium for sodium ions. This process also removes dissolved ferrous iron in the exchange. Softened water won't remove oxidized particulate iron.
Raising pH and alkalinity makes water less corrosive. This helps prevent leaching of iron from pipes and fixtures. pH correction helps minimize this source of iron.
For the most thorough protection throughout your entire home, a whole house system like AquaBlue Whole House Filter System employs different treatment technologies to address various water contaminants. Multi-stage filtration, UV sanitization, and pH correction work together to remove iron while also protecting from sediment, chlorine, bacteria, scales, and corrosion.
WellFusion Well Water Treatment Systems offer similar whole-system protection tailored for private well water quality issues like iron, manganese, hydrogen sulfide, bacteria, hardness and more.
Ensure Ongoing Protection with Maintenance
The hardest working components in water treatment systems are the filter media that grab contaminants. As they fill with iron particles, their effectiveness drops until they can't remove any more iron.
That's why periodic maintenance is essential. Aqua-Wise offers maintenance agreements for all systems installed, with plans based on your actual water quality. Technicians visit on a schedule tailored to your conditions to swap out exhausted media and sanitize systems, ensuring ongoing peak performance.
Extended warranties and manufacturer part guarantees also help avoid unexpected repair bills in the rare instances when components fail. Browse all the options for protecting your investment in clean water through the "Financing" page.
Don't Settle for Inferior Water Quality
Having clean, clear water free of high iron levels provides major benefits for your home and family. You'll notice improvements like:
Elimination of nasty iron stains on fixtures, laundry and surfaces
Restored water pressure as iron deposits and bacteria are flushed from pipes
Longer system lifespans and efficiency since iron won't be fouling appliances
Savings on soaps and detergents now that water conditions no longer interfere with cleaning capability
Better tasting water and food
Reduced grit and residue when bathing or showering in softened water
Don't resign yourself to the headaches of excess iron ruining your water quality. Aqua-Wise Water Treatment Solutions has the right solutions for any home to remove iron and protect water quality from other risks like hardness, bacteria, chlorine and more.
Schedule Your FREE Water Test Today: 727-236-7161 to get started identifying your issues and drawing up the ideal treatment plan tailored for your needs. You can also inquire about current financing and promotional offers to invest in better water for less upfront cost. The sooner you act, the sooner you can be enjoying clean, clear water the way it was meant to be.