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How To Remove Iron From Your Water?

Are you noticing those red or brown STAINS throughout your home? Maybe the back of the toilet, in the shower, or on your clothes? If you are then you probably have iron in your well water. Iron in well water is very common in the East TN region, so we have put together a guide to help you understand the 4 different types of iron and how to treat them.

1. Ferrous “Clear Water” Iron

Ferrous iron is what is often referred to as “clear water iron”. Being soluble, ferrous iron is invisible to the eye and CANNOT be filtered out.  (It is dissolved in the water, just like sugar is dissolved in stirred iced tea or coffee. It’s there, but you can’t see it.) If your water has ferrous iron, then you may not even know until red stains start to form in the toilet tanks below the water-line and other places where water is stagnant for a period of time. This is because ferrous iron has a tendency to oxidize once it comes in contact with air. As seen on the pictures below of the toilet bowl and shower wall, when the water evaporates on surfaces touched by the water, the unsightly iron stain residue is left behind. Removal of “clear water iron” can be accomplished using a properly designed non-electric Kinetico® water softener.

2. Ferric “Orange Water” Iron

Ferric iron or “orange water iron” is like common rust found in well water, and is present as very fine particulate. Since ferric iron is a solid, it MUST be filtered out, like any particulate that might be in your water. Because of oxidation, ferric iron commonly forms right inside your home and can be very noticeable in bathroom fixtures.

3. Colloidal Iron

Colloidal iron looks like orange-water iron, but it won’t settle out if you leave it sitting in a glass over night. Sometimes oxidized iron forms very fine solid particles typically between 0.1 and 0.001 micron in diameter. This ultra-fine iron is often paired with anions in the solution or organic material. The small size of these particulates renders most conventional filters ineffective. Professionally designed ultra or nano filters are extremely effective at removing most of these very fine particulates.

4. Organic Iron

Organic iron is another type of iron found in wells.  It is sometimes called bacterial iron since a type of slime bacteria feeds on the iron in the aquifers feeding the well.  The well pump brings the iron and bacteria into home’s water distribution system.  Organic iron untreated causes water to have a murky tint that can be seen by holding up a clear glass filled with tap water against a bright light. The tell-tale signs of organic iron can sometimes be seen in a quiet corner of the toilet tank where it appears as a glob of orange colored gelatin.  Organic iron will heavily stain clothing if chlorine bleach is used in the laundry cycle.

Case 1: Treatment for Ferrous “Clear Water” Iron

If all the iron in the water is soluble, you will need a professional water test to know for sure, it is considered a “hardness mineral” and a water softener can be used to remove it. The ion exchange process works equally well for removing ferrous iron as it does to remove calcium and magnesium (that limescale buildup). Because iron clings more strongly to the resin beads, most water softeners cannot handle soluble iron over the long-term and become fouled out.

Single-tank softener systems that use hard, iron-filled water for regeneration and cleaning soon suffer from iron fouling of the resin bed and damage to the valve. This happens as the trapped ferrous iron oxidizes inside the resin bed to insoluble ferric iron and settles to the bottom.

The Kinetico® twin-tank non electric softeners work well for ferrous iron removal because they regenerate using only soft, iron-free water and they also have “counter-current” flow during regeneration, which is more efficient at removing the ferrous iron and hardness minerals from the soaked resin.

Case 2: Treatment for Ferric “Orange Water” Iron

Normal ferric “orange water” iron is a type of fine particulate (rust) and often makes the water contain color. Filtration is the best way to remove this while also removing: sand, mica, dirt, or sediment if present in your well water.

Sometimes the Kinetico® Mach Super Kit cartridge filter can work in removing ferric iron. If levels are high a chemical-free backwashing filter is a better filtration option. Backwashing filters, like softeners, have in-service and backwashing cycles. The difference is that the filters use a different media and do not require any salt. They only use water to wash the accumulated particulate down the drain.

Many times wells in East Tennessee have both ferric and ferrous iron. In this case there are two options for dealing with the mixed iron content. One method calls for oxidation of the water to convert all the ferrous iron to ferric iron, followed by filtration. The oxidation step can be achieved by chemical injection, catalytic media, or by aeration. Once all the iron is in the ferric state, it can be filtered.

The second and preferable method is to pass the water through a cartridge or backwashing filter first, followed by a water softener. This way both types of iron are dealt with separately, with the filter catching the ferric iron (and sediment), and the Kinetico® softener catching the soluble ferrous iron. The added benefit of this method is that the hardness is also removed by the Kinetico® softener, resulting in clean, soft, iron-free water in the home.

Case 3: Treatment for Colloidal Iron

During testing, we often find that some fraction of iron oxide is ultra-fine in size and passes through conventional filters and NEVER settles out. This is more common in shallow wells and on some chlorinated water supplies. To remove ultra-fine iron requires an Ultra-filtration system. The UF systems range from a basic 0.5 micron cartridge filter to specialized large cartridge filters that go down to 0.20 microns.

Example of a 20″ Ultra Filtration cartridge we sometimes use after our backwashing filters.

What To Do Now

If you’re experiencing any of these issues we know it can be a huge pain, and we have helped thousands of clients just like you fix their water.

It all starts with clicking the button below or giving our office a call to schedule a Free Water Test & Consultation. Where one of Professionally trained Project Supervisors will test your water, do a site survey of the plumbing, and educate you about your treatment options.

Join the Aqua Clear Family and see how changing your water really does change your life!

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