How Common Is Iron in Well Water Supplies (+ Treatment)

Private well owners face many issues with contaminated water and may have a hard time dealing with certain pollutants. Iron is one of the most encountered pollutants in well water. Fortunately, many options tackle this kind of impurity, and some are specially designed for well water sources. Usually, iron can easily be seen with the naked eye, as it muddies the water or leaves bright brown streaks in bathtubs. Iron also affects the water’s taste, which makes it all that much more unwelcome in the water source.

How Does Iron Infiltrate Well Water?

Well water can be far more susceptible to contamination, particularly when it comes to naturally occurring substances like iron. Well water can very easily come into contact with bare rock that has iron in its composition. Iron is also a very abundant mineral in the earth’s crust and it thus makes it hard to avoid in many cases. Weather patterns can influence the amount of iron contamination as heavy rain brings out a higher flow of water that washes into the well bringing particle pollutants.

Is Iron in the Water Source Dangerous?

Water with low levels of iron particles doesn’t pose an immediate danger. However, the water’s aesthetic and the altering taste it exhibits along with how it alters coffee or tea makes it unappealing. Traces of iron are found in the human body and helps with the production of red blood cell. Too much iron intake may nonetheless lead to increased toxicity.

High levels of iron contamination seriously affect pipes and cause clogging, while reducing pressure and damaging water-using appliances. Stains are only one small part of the effects iron from water sources has. There are different kinds of iron particles that can clog and leave brown-colored deposits and even lead to pathogenic bacteria developing.

Using iron contaminated water for cleaning and washing will also prove to be unpleasant. Hair can get stained and become brittle, while skin may also be blemished with an orange tinge. Dry skin due to iron in the water could develop into irritation and eczema.

How to Clean Iron from the Water Source?

Depending on what kind of iron is seeping into the well water, different kinds of cleaning equipment can be used to remove it. It’s important to know the condition of the water before beginning the search for the best iron filter.

Ferrous Iron

One of the types of iron that makes its way into well water is ferrous iron. This kind of iron is soluble and can dissolve in water. As such it won’t appear as an orange tinge and the water will look clear at first. It will oxidate if left overnight and will appear as an orange deposit on the bottom of a glass the next morning. This means it will still be able to stain appliances and clog pipes.

To clean this kind of iron from water sources, water softeners are the most efficient tool to use. Water softeners are generally used to treat water hardness caused by mineral contamination. An ion-exchange water softener is great at taking out low levels of ferrous iron particles.

Ferric Iron

A more evident type of iron pollutant, ferric iron does not dissolve in water and can be instantly spotted. If the water looks red or orange, that means it has ferric iron in it. There is, however, a bright side to this, as ferric iron is the easiest one to clean out.

Usually, sediment filters are the best choice for removing ferric iron from well water sources. The solid particles of iron are trapped in the cartridge as the water flows through it. Since well water comes directly from a source close to the earth, sediment filters take out other debris as well, like dirt or any other non-soluble substance.

A sediment filter will most likely be very useful in combination with water softeners if both ferric and ferrous iron is present. This way both impurities will be taken out.

Bacterial Iron

By far the most difficult type of iron to tackle is bacterial iron. This type of contaminant occurs when bacteria attach themselves to the iron particles. Mixed in the water this can appear like a thick sludge resembling tomato soup. Poorly kept wells are one that would exhibit this kind of contamination.

It’s a difficult process to remove this sort of impurity and will require quite some work. Shock chlorination is primarily the way to go about treating well water with bacterial iron. It will disinfect the water and the walls of the well at the same time. What is more, every part of the system that carries water from the well will need to be cleaned with this method. This includes the pump and distribution system so that no other bacteria will be reintroduced in the well water.


It’s never an easy feat to tackle well water with iron contamination. Some of the best ways are available without much difficulty and will undoubtedly offer great results if implemented correctly. It’s always a good idea to test well water regularly to make sure everything remains safe and clean even after treatment.

Written by Julie Hanson

Julie is passionate about property – development, investment and portfolio planning. Along with husband Alec, Julie is actively building a property portfolio while helping others to do the same.


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