If you have stumbled upon this article, you surely have a concern with the water supply at your home. If you are noticing a change in the color, odor, or taste of your well water, this article might help you in many ways.
Very few metals go unnoticed in water, and iron is surely not one of them. The presence of iron can turn the color of the water to red, orange, brown, or many times black too. There are also instances where you do not notice a visible change in water but see some changes in your hair, skin, or appetite. This article explores the presence of iron in well water along with the effects it can have on your life. We will also look at simpler and complex methods that can remove iron from well water in the rest of the article.
Iron is abundantly available in the Earth’s crust, and thus it is no surprise that it combines with the groundwater. This is particularly a common scenario in well water. The presence of iron in drinking water can have a weird taste and smell too strong. Apart from this, iron in water leaves stains on any surface it sits on for a long time. So, well water with high iron content will ensure that your clothes, sink, bathtub have reddish stains which are not easy to clean. Therefore, removing iron from the water supply at home becomes a huge priority. Although iron is essential for a healthy diet, all the nasty side effects can leave you frustrated.
How Does Iron Get Into Well Water
When it rains, the rainwater seeps inside and reaches the groundwater. The earth’s crust has iron which dissolves in the water and settles along with the groundwater. The iron concentration in water depends on the geological conditions of the particular region. In the U.S, iron concentration in well water can be between 0-3 – 10 ppm. Even the least amount of iron is enough to let you know the difference between clean water and iron water.
Iron is also present in rocks. When water flows through these rocks and reaches groundwater, iron dissolves in the water.
The other sources of iron can be industrial waste, mining, or corrosion of metal. Many objects in our daily use are made of iron, and if a big chunk of it finds its way into the groundwater or well water, it can dissolve in the water. Rusty pipes or fittings can also cause the color of the water to change and may form stains on the drains.
Effects of High Concentrations of Iron in Well Water
Let us see how iron in well water can adversely affect your daily life.
– Slightest amount of iron can change the way water tastes
– You will notice a metallic flavor in the food you cook with this water
– Your laundry will have orangish to reddish stains
– Long term exposure will lead to a change in your hair and skin color
– All bathroom fixtures, including toilets, will have red stains
– A metallic smell will exist in places exposed to continuous water
– Iron water can damage the entire water supply pipes and equipment
Cheapest Ways to Remove Iron from Well Water
With all the mess that the presence of iron in water can create in your life, we are sure you will now be willing to remove it. It may seem like a complex problem to remove iron from well water, but there are cheap solutions that will cost just a few dollars.
The cheapest way to do this is by water sedimentation. It is the simple process where you let the water sit in a container for long enough so that the iron settles at the bottom. Using activated charcoal and chlorination are other cheaper ways to do this.
Let us look at these options in detail.
Practically water sedimentation will cost you nothing if you have a large enough container to store water. Pour the water in a big container, preferably big enough to fill the water you will need throughout the day. Let this water sit in it for a long time or overnight if it contains minute contaminants. This will let all unwanted particles, including iron, microbes, and clay particles, settle at the container’s bottom. After this, all you need to do is carefully remove the clean water. Do not disturb the sedimented particles at the bottom. There are sedimentation filters available in the market that will block these particles from flowing in the clean water again.
Activated Charcoal is basically a form of carbon with tiny pores that can easily let the water pass through it but not the particles. It can also filter out toxins, iron, and other contaminants without changing water quality. To make a filter using this at home, place it together in a cloth and let the water pass through it. This will trap the unwanted particles in the cloth and only let clean water flow.
Home-made charcoal filters are suitable for a small quantity of water. For a large amount, you can buy filters made of activated charcoal. These will cost anywhere between $20-$30 and can easily be used with most filter systems at home.
Chlorination is one of the most effective and cheapest solutions for removing iron from your well water. This method will thoroughly clean your well and the plumbing system of any iron residue that is disturbing well water chemistry. All you need is a combination of white vinegar and bleach. Pour this mix inside the well while the pump is off. Switch on the pump and clean the well from the inside. Let all the taps run for some time until you see no more iron particles coming out of the faucets. You can also let chlorine sit in the well overnight and then flush the plumbing system until there is no more smell in the water. All the efforts required in this step are worth it.
More Advanced Methods to Remove Iron
Water that is contaminated by a high level of iron is hard. Water softeners can not only reduce the hardness but also remove iron from water, particularly ferrous iron. However, if the iron level is too high, then some water softeners may not remove iron. This is because not all water softeners come with filters. In such scenarios, you may either ask a professional for the right water softener or look for another filtration method.
Aeration is a simple method to add more oxygen to the water. This oxidizes the iron present in water and breaks down ferric iron to ferrous iron, which is easier to remove from water. This method can also help remove elements like chlorine, ammonia, methane, and other harmful elements. The key to effective aeration is airflow. It cannot be too high to cause corrosion in water or too low not to let iron oxidize.
There are various methods for adding air to the water, causing bubbles, dispersion of water in the air, using porous stones, cascade trays, or cone aerators.
You might have heard about pasteurizing milk or certain food. The same pasteurization process can be used to remove iron from well water. This method is expensive but is also considered to be effective. In this method, hot water or steam is introduced to maintain the well water temperature of 140-degrees Fahrenheit for half an hour.
The reverse Osmosis method is widely used in most water filtration systems. RO is a method where water is passed through dense membrane-like structures. These membranes are so thin that only water can pass through them. More than 95% of the contaminants do not pass through these membranes making RO water the purest form of water.
RO systems can treat well water and remove unwanted iron particles from well water.
Oxidation and Filtration
This combination method is used to treat well water with a high level of soluble iron. When iron is oxidized, it forms rust which are insoluble particles of iron. This concept is used in the oxidation of well water. Thus, turning the soluble ferrous iron into insoluble ferric iron(rust). The next step is filtration, where these suspended iron particles are filtered out of the water leaving clean water. Using an efficient filter to remove these particles is crucial in this process.
Different Types of Iron Can be Found in Well Water
Depending on how much and in what condition iron is present in the water, there are 3 different types of well water from which Iron can be removed.
Ferric iron is a compound of water that is in a solid form. It is insoluble iron which means it does not dissolve in water. However, it cannot be easily removed. You need a filtration system to remove this type of iron. When Ferric Iron, Fe+3 or red water iron, is present in well water, it turns it into a reddish-orange color. Hence it is visible.
Ferrous Iron is invisible to the eye because it completely dissolves in water. This gives water a crystal-clear look even though the concentration of iron is high. Although invisible, it has visible effects on the person using it regularly. Ferrous Iron, also known as clear water iron, is usually present in deeper wells or other water sources with less sunshine. It cannot be easily removed from well water through filtration as it will pass through easily. To remove this iron, we need to use the process of oxidation. Oxidation will break ferrous iron into ferric iron, which can be easily filtered.
This is not exactly iron but a kind of microorganism that thrives on ferrous iron present in water. This bacteria lives in water and uses ferrous iron for food. You may have noticed this inside the toilet tank. Usually, it creates a sticky, slimy orange color material floating in the water and is generally called iron bacteria. It isn’t easy to get rid of. Long-term solutions are often required to get rid of bacterial iron. Other solutions may only partially or temporarily work.
People Also Ask
How do you remove iron from well water naturally?
The only way to remove iron from well water naturally is through sedimentation if suspended iron particles are in the water. You can also use the process of distillation to clean the water of impurities. However, to remove soluble iron from well water, you must buy filters or use other advanced methods mentioned above.
How do you manually remove iron from water?
Iron can be removed from water using the filtration process. Any particle that contaminates water can be effectively removed using an effective filter. Deciding on the type of filter completely depends on the kind of iron you are facing any issue with.
Will a sand filter remove iron from well water?
Sand filters are commonly used to filter water in pools. These can remove debris that does not dissolve in water. Most sand filters contain green sand or zeolite that works best to remove iron from water. Hence sand filters can remove iron from well water as well. It will take some time to clean out the water completely.
Is iron in well water bad for you?
Iron is a dietary requirement to maintain your health. However, too much iron in water can be harmful too. Initially, you may only notice visible changes to your hair or skin color. Still, too much iron can cause an array of health concerns like vomiting, dehydration, diarrhea, constipation, damage to the liver, kidney, blood vessels, skin, diabetes, heart failure, and much more.
Since well water is mostly lying in a deep reservoir, too much iron can help the growth of unwanted bacteria. These bacteria are harmful to your health and can cause severe diseases.
In this article, we have learned how iron content increases in well water to a point where iron gets contaminated by iron. One might have considered iron a very healthy element in our diet, but this article must have given you clear reasons to understand why too much iron is bad. We have seen the short and long-term effects iron can have on an individual’s daily life and health. We have also discussed some cheap ways to remove almost free iron. Along with this, we have dived deep to see the advanced methods used by professionals to remove iron from water.
To pick the right method for your concern, you need first to understand the type of iron you are dealing with and then the amount of iron contamination in your well water. While this article is not professional advice on removing iron from well water, it does give you enough insight into the next actionable steps to solve your problem.