One of the most common metals in the world is iron. It exists anywhere you check, especially in large bodies of freshwater. Lakes and rivers, for example, typically contain iron. But it is wells or underground water supplies where iron is more prevalent, as these places work as natural deposits for the metal.
Water can pick up small amounts of iron when it percolates through rocks and soil. This is typically not a problem, but if the water has a lot of iron, it can cause problems.
Other iron sources include industrial waste, refining, mining, and metal corrosion. Because iron is so prevalent in water bodies, in many objects, and in all kinds of places, it is not a surprise it manages to get into the water.
The human body needs iron to produce hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. While iron is an essential nutrient, too much iron can be harmful.
Iron in drinking Water can come from natural sources, such as rocks and minerals in the earth, or from man-made sources, such as industrial waste. Either way, too much iron in your water can cause health problems.
Types of Iron Found In Water
The three main types of iron compounds in water are ferrous iron, ferric iron, and organic iron. These components are mostly found in well water.
- Ferrous iron
- Organic iron
- Ferric iron
Ferrous iron is dissolved in water and is usually not a problem.
However, when water with ferrous iron is exposed to air, it turns into ferric iron, which is a solid and can cause problems. The main problem with iron in drinking water is that it can stain laundry and plumbing fixtures.
It can also give water an unpleasant taste and smell.
In addition, iron can promote the growth of bacteria that can cause disease. The best way to remove iron from your drinking water is to use a water filter that is designed to remove iron.
Water softeners can also remove iron from water, but they can also remove other minerals that are important to your health. If you have iron in your water, talk to your doctor or a water treatment specialist to find the best way to remove it.
If you think you have too much iron in your water, you should have it tested.
While all these different irons have their own properties, they all, in common, affect the taste and odor of water.
Health Effects of Iron in Water
As I mentioned before, iron doesn’t have any hazardous properties and only affects the taste and smell.
In small quantities, iron is actually helpful. Our bodies need iron to transport oxygen, maintain healthy blood cell count, avoid lead toxicity, enhance skin’s semblance, and even keep nails and hair growth. They are essential to help produce hemoglobin in red blood cells, a component that helps in oxygen transportation in bodies.
While the amount of iron in water is not regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it is still important to be aware of the potential health risks associated with exposure to iron in drinking water.
Exposure to iron in drinking water can also cause skin and eye irritation. In severe cases, it can cause blindness.
Exposure to high levels of iron in drinking water can cause gastrointestinal problems, such as stomach cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting. In severe cases, it can also lead to anemia. Without a filter, you can suffer a wide array of health issues, including:
- Liver and kidney damage
- Blood vessel damage
- Skin damage
- Heart failure
As you can see, reducing the amount of iron in your water may help you change its taste and odor and prevent potentially life-threatening health conditions.
Not only that, the bad odor and smell of water-containing iron can result in less water consumption and poor quality in food, which causes poor appetite. So in a way, high iron content in water can also make a person weak.
How Does Iron In Water Damage Your Home?
When tap water contains iron, it slowly gets built up in pipes as they pile up. With time, this will gradually increase and will eventually cause clogging in your home’s pipe system. Not only will this cause discomfort with low water pressure, but it will also cause you to spend money on plumbers who can clean up the block.
Not only that, but they would also leave stains on your kitchen equipment.
Iron Bacteria and Well Treatment
If you have a well, you may be concerned about iron bacteria. These organisms consume iron to survive, and in the process, they produce deposits of iron and a red or brown slime called a “biofilm.” The organisms are not harmful to humans but can worsen an iron problem.
The organisms naturally occur in shallow soils and groundwater and may be introduced into a well or water system when constructed or repaired.
You can prevent iron bacteria by keeping your well and water system clean and disinfected. If you already have iron bacteria, you can remove them with chlorination or other treatment methods.
Treatment Options for Iron in Drinking Water
A few different treatment options are available if your home has iron in the water. The first step is to have your water tested by a professional to determine the level of iron present.
Once the iron level is known, you can choose the best treatment option for your home. A few options are:
- Iron filters: designed to remove iron from the water before entering your home. This is a good option if you have high iron levels in your water.
- Install a water softener: Water softeners work by exchanging the iron in the water for another mineral, such as sodium.
- Use bottled water: Bottled water is water that has been filtered and is free of contaminants.
- Use distilled water: Distilled water is water that has been boiled and then cooled.
- Use reverse osmosis water: RO is water that has been forced through a semi-permeable membrane.
- Use a carbon filter: Carbon filters are designed to remove impurities from the water before it enters your home.
- Use ultraviolet light: Ultraviolet light is used to kill bacteria in the water.
Types of Iron Filters for Well Water
After reading our iron filter reviews, you may have noticed that most of them differ from the rest. This is because we included several types of filters. Here, we’re going to explain more about each:
Iron Oxidizing Filter
It is the standard iron filter you’ll find using the same process explained above. In short, it catches the ferrous iron particles in the water and oxidizes them. Then these particles become denser non-soluble ferric particles helping the filter clean them out of the water.
This oxidation of iron happens using chlorine, ozone, or potassium permanganate. Then, the particles are caught up on filter media. This media is typically made of solid manganese dioxide.
Air Injection Filter
This is another type of oxidizing filter, but instead of using materials, it uses air. Because of this, we had to put it separately.
The process is simple: it creates an air pocket in the tank, producing the perfect environment to oxidize the iron. Again, the ferrous iron becomes ferric, which stays on a filter media. Then the backwashing process takes it off the tank.
This filter is cleaner and more efficient than those using chemicals for oxidation.
Iron filter vs. Water Softener: Which Is Better for Well Water That Contains Iron?
When you start looking for a water filter to remove iron, you’ll find that they often work well alongside water softeners. In some cases, people recommend softeners instead of iron filters themselves.
But there’s a catch: softeners don’t work as efficiently and effectively as an iron filter does. Below, we explain a few factors that come into play.
When we talk about iron, we don’t only mean one type. There are several kinds to consider. The two most common are ferric and ferrous. The difference is that ferrous is a soluble state, meaning it is directly mixed with water, making it easier to remove. On the other hand, Ferric is a bit thicker and dense, a non-soluble kind.
The problem is that well-water softeners will use the ion-exchange process to pass the ferrous iron through a resin. Here, the iron is then evacuated during the regeneration process. But some of this ferrous iron will become ferric, slowly eating down the resin and overflowing the tank.
In this ferric state, iron will stick to the resin. Over time, it will accumulate to the point where iron is not removed from the water. Instead, the softener may even increase the amount of water.
For that reason, an iron filter is always the best option. If paired with a softener, it can be useful. But a softener alone is not an ideal iron-filtering option.
Along with the accumulation that eventually delivers iron instead of cleaning it, you will also experience a slight water flow increase. While this may seem useful, it is not.
Water softeners require the water to slow down for softening. Otherwise, removing hard minerals and other sediments won’t happen as effectively.
If you want effective softening, use a softener for softening, not for iron removal. That’s where pairing up with an iron filter can be a practical choice.
Considering that iron will accumulate inside a water softener tank, it is also safe to say this will reduce the resin’s durability and filter itself. The resin beads will eventually wear out faster by promoting more frequent regeneration.
An iron filter doesn’t wear out as fast. Using a unique iron-removal operation, the iron will be eliminated without causing any change in how long it lasts.
Last but not least, you can expect a water softener’s operational costs to increase if you make it filter too much iron. Because the resin beads will wear out faster, you’ll have to change them more consistently. Similarly, the effectiveness of the softening won’t be the same, which could cause health damage.
With an iron filter, you won’t have to worry about this. Alongside a water softener, you’ll be able to achieve both operations at once.
After considering all these aspects, it is safe to say an iron filter is the best choice for removing iron. If you have the chance to pair it up with a water softener, then it will be even better.
Best Value for iron filters: AquaOx FE Edition
Our second option is the AquaOx FE Edition. This water filter is one of the best options in the market that comes at an affordable price.
AquaOx FE Edition water filter removes both ferric iron and ferrous iron from water giving us safe drinking water.
This system is best for houses that get water with high iron content and is also quite easy to install. This water filter also doesn’t require maintenance and lasts about 20 years making it even less costly. It also has a 10-year warranty.
This filter uses double vortex backwash technology, which is much more efficient than many other filters.
Other than the fact that this filter can remove only iron, we could say that this system is a really great choice.
Best iron filter with no chemical use: Tier1 Precision Series
The Tier1 Precision Series filters not only remove 4 ppm upwards iron but also filter out other contaminants such as heavy metals, sulfur, and manganese.
This filter uses a catalytic carbon converter alongside aeration technology to oxidize normal water and remove contaminants. No other additional chemicals or substances are used, making it even more reliable.
The only downside of this filter is that it doesn’t remove any iron bacteria from the water. Other than that, this water filter is also a great option.
What is a safe level of iron in drinking water?
The World Health Organization (WHO) has set a guideline for safe levels of iron in drinking water of 0.3 mgL.
What happens if water has high iron?
If water has high iron, it can cause the water to have a reddish tint and a metallic taste. High iron levels can also cause staining of fixtures and clothing.
Even if iron is important for human bodies, a high amount of iron can cause health effects, even if they are not adverse. It is why iron removal from water is important.
It will not only increase water odor and taste but also will make your drinking water healthy. And consuming clean and healthy water is essential to living a healthy lifestyle.