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A Guide to Finding the Right Iron Filter for Well Water


Too much iron is a common water problem in households that rely on well water. While municipal water treatment often reduces the amount of iron found in city water supplies, household water from unregulated private wells may contain higher mineral levels, including greater proportions of iron. Because of this, whole-house filtration systems are often required for issues associated with iron in well water.

How Will You Know If You Have an Issue With Iron in Your Well Water?

Regular testing is the first way to determine if there may be a problem with the amount of iron in your water supply. Well water users should conduct testing at least annually.

In addition, excess iron can affect the taste and appearance of your water. The Water Quality Association (WQA) notes that iron can cause a metallic taste, though that issue may also come from mercury, lead, copper, arsenic, manganese or zinc, too.

signs of iron in your well water

Iron might also result in staining of sinks, tubs and toilets. Specifically, red, brown or yellow discoloration can be due to the oxidation of iron. Depending on the type of iron, water may come out of the tap clear, but leave stains behind on plumbing fixtures. The presence of iron might also lead to buildup, decreasing flow rates for water-using appliances.

The Minnesota Department of Health observes that iron can also cause tea, coffee or potatoes to turn black, and the mineral can also clog dishwashers and wells. The Department of Health defines the different types of iron that may be found in water while noting that testing can help you discover the relative amount of iron, which will be important in working with a professional to determine the appropriate treatment options.

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You may have ferrous, ferric and/or organically complex iron. Ferric iron is essentially a rust particle; in this case, your water is discolored right out of the faucet. Ferrous iron is clear in water coming out of the tap and becomes red or brown as it is exposed to oxygen, thereby turning into ferric iron. In contrast, organically complex iron can give water an orange, yellow or brown tint.

The amount of iron in water is measured in milligrams per liter or parts per million (ppm). Typically, problems begin to occur when the ppm of iron is above 0.3. Get your water tested and consult with a professional to begin exploring your treatment options. 

How Do Water Filtration Systems Work?

Home filtration systems for well water are available for treating water at the point of entry as well as at the point of use (such as reverse osmosis systems).

Point-of-entry options such as whole-house filtration systems generally work by using specific media and filtration processes to reduce contaminants such as iron, sulfur, arsenic and others. Whole-house systems can reduce the amount of iron found in water throughout your home, removing buildup, protecting water-using appliances and reducing staining in your sinks, tubs and laundry.

Reverse osmosis (RO) systems, which improve the quality and taste of your drinking water, typically start by propelling feed water through several filters, often including a sediment filter and carbon filter prior to the RO process. In the RO process, water is then forced through a semipermeable membrane, removing additional contaminants and dissolved minerals.

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RO systems can add a second layer of protection for contaminant reduction and at the same time improve the taste of your drinking water, making this further layer of filtration a suitable additional solution for many users.

What Are Iron-Removing Filtration Systems for Well Water?

With the help of a professional, you can locate and install filtration systems that best meet your needs, including filtering for iron. We’ll explore some of the principal types of iron filter systems here.

What Are the Best Filtration Systems for Removing Iron From Well Water? 

Well water filtration systems can help improve the taste and appearance of water while enhancing overall quality. In general, water filtration systems may leverage the following two technologies for reducing iron levels:

  •     Oxidation: Ferrous iron may need to be oxidized before filtration techniques can be leveraged effectively
  •     Filtration: Iron-specific filter media will then be used, depending on the treatment system and the severity of the problem

In comprehensive systems that are designed to limit the amount of iron found in well water, filtration may be performed on its own or in combination with oxidation.

While RO systems can also help remove iron from drinking water, too much iron in the feed water supply could plug the system, making whole-house well water filtration systems the better primary choice for iron-specific issues. If iron levels are low, RO can work alone to improve the taste of your drinking water.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Using an Iron Filter for Well Water Treatment?

When excess iron presents a problem for your household, using an iron filter for well water treatment can offer numerous benefits, such as:

  •     Great-tasting water: If you previously noticed a metallic taste or odor in your drinking water, iron removal could help you get back to more satisfying hydration
  •     Better-looking water: Nobody likes the appearance of discolored water, whether it comes out of the faucet like that or if it turns brown after standing
  •     Eliminated stains: Ruined laundry and unsightly staining in sinks and water-using appliances are less of a concern after reducing the amount of iron in your water
  •     Longer-lasting appliances: The buildup and clogs caused by iron can negatively impact the lifespan of your appliances if the mineral is not filtered out
  •     More efficient plumbing: These same issues could impact pipes and plumbing fixtures, but iron filters can enhance water flow

The biggest factor in properly addressing iron in your water or any other water issues is to accurately identify the problem – the unique makeup of your water should guide the solution you choose. That’s why it’s important to consult a local water expert to test your water, assess the situation and recommend the right solution for your needs. 

Can a Standard Water Softener Remove Iron From Well Water?

Water softeners for well water can be effective for iron removal under certain circumstances. These systems are primarily designed for treating hard water issues, which largely come from calcium and magnesium. However, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points out, softeners can also be designed to remove iron and manganese. The Minnesota Department of Health says these devices may be useful for treating water that contains ferrous iron at levels between 2 and 5 milligrams per liter. In fact, some softeners are designed for reducing iron as well as addressing hard water issues. 

Why Is Iron Such a Common Issue in Well Water?

High levels of iron are often found in well water because well water is sourced from groundwater, and iron is one of the most common naturally occurring metals in Earth’s geology. 

Which Contaminants Does a Well Water Filtration System Remove?

In addition to high levels of iron, well water may contain sediment and various other contaminants such as nitrate, nitrite, and arsenic. Another common issue is hydrogen sulfide, which causes a rotten-egg smell (sometimes referred to as sulfur water).

Fortunately, well water filtration systems, in addition to removing iron, can also help minimize other issues with your water. It’s important to regularly perform comprehensive testing on your well water to identify possible problems. Working with a professional can help you decide on the best well water filtration system for meeting any needs you discover during this process. With a customized recommendation, you can be confident that your filtration system is the best option for your specific requirements. 

What Are the Signs Your Iron Filter Needs Service?

All water filtration systems will require periodic maintenance. If you use a filtration system designed for reducing iron levels in your water, you should stay alert for potential signs that additional service is required. 

Have you observed a return of indicators that there are high levels of iron in your water, like discoloration, a strange taste, or stained laundry, sinks and appliances? It could be a sign that your filtration system needs attention. An unexpected decrease in flow rates might also point to additional buildup resulting from excess iron or filtration system issues. 

Proactive maintenance is the ideal approach. Top-quality iron-removing filtration systems can use automatic service notifications to keep your service company apprised of any equipment needs. 

Explore Your Options for an Iron-Removing Filtration System Today

Well water requires regular testing. Users also have to be alert for signs of contamination or other problem water issues, like excessive iron levels. Often, filtration systems and softeners are required. Learn more about well water treatment options today.


*Contaminants may not necessarily be present in your water.

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