How to Remove Iron From Well Water Once and for All

A guide on the best ways to remove iron from well water systems and the important facts one should be aware of. Includes information on how to test for iron, other contaminants to look for, and the role of pH.

Updated: November 22, 2023
Jeremiah Zac


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To remove iron from well water, a test must first be conducted in order to determine the type and level of iron and whether other elements, such as manganese and sulfur, are also present in the water supply. When the concentration of dissolved solids has been determined, then the appropriate device (air injection iron filter, greensand filter, water softener) can be installed.

For well water owners, unwanted elements in the water supply are not an unfamiliar nuisance and can require much strategy and preparation to resolve.

Iron is a very prominent element in groundwater and can cause many problems to a well owner’s water system if left untreated.

It is imperative that a proper understanding of the iron problem is first established before attempting to treat it, as there can be lots of time and money wasted on setting up equipment that might not address the issue correctly.

This article aims to bring education and understanding on how to correctly identify the iron problem, properly treat the issue with the right filtration system, and answer any questions about how to remove iron from well water.

This article will discuss the following:

  • How Iron Gets into the Water Supply
  • Health and Plumbing Concerns About Iron
  • Types of Iron Found in Well Water
  • How to Find the Right Water Treatment for Iron Removal
  • How to Test for Iron
  • Reviews of the Best Iron Filters for Well Water

Understanding Iron

Marlith : Wiki Commons

How Does Iron Get Into Well Water?

Making up 5% of the earth’s crust, Iron is the 2nd most abundant metal and the 4th most abundant element within it. As rainwater seeps into the soil, penetrating the outer layer, the Iron within the earth’s crust dissolves into the aquifers and settles in the groundwater beneath us.

N Chadwick /

N Chadwick /

While certain regions around the earth may have higher concentrations of Iron in the groundwater than others depending on the geological terrain, Iron is often found in concentrations between 0.5 to 10mg per liter.

What Are the Effects of Having Too Much Iron in Well Water?

Iron is an essential element to living organisms, necessary for survival, and is therefore not considered a harmful contaminant in drinking water. In fact, many people are Iron deficient, lacking adequate amounts of Iron from their diet.

While concentrations of Iron in well water are rarely higher than ten ppm, acute iron toxicity is a possibility when ingesting Iron at concentrations higher than ten ppm and is usually associated with abdominal pain and headaches. With that said, Iron toxicity is usually related to excessive intake in the form of supplements rather than the consumption of well water.

High concentrations of Iron are more of a concern for the well water system itself, as numerous problems can arise when left untreated.

  • Zweifel / Wiki Commons

    Zweifel / Wiki Commons

    Iron can greatly affect the taste of water and food, leaving a very unpleasant metallic flavor. It may also leave an inky, black deposit when mixed with tea and other beverages and can turn vegetables dark.

  • Iron in concentrations as low as 0.3 ppm can leave reddish-brown stains in bathtubs, sinks, fixtures, and laundry, which are very difficult to remove.

  • Untreated Iron can also leave deposits within the water pipes, which can potentially cause blockage and severe damage to the well system as a whole. Iron can also be seen coming through faucets and showerheads, giving an unpleasant orange tinge to the water supply.

Know the Types of Iron in Well Water

Ferric Iron

Ferric Iron, also known as red-water Iron, is characterized by the reddish-orange hue it gives to water. Because it has been oxidized and solidified within the water, it is easier to identify and much easier to eliminate through a filtration system.

Ferrous Iron

Ferrous Iron, also known as clear-water Iron, is invisible to the naked eye as it is fully dissolved into the water – only its negative effects on the water system are observed. Ferrous Iron is unfilterable; however, low levels of ferrous Iron can be captured through an ion-exchange system such as a water softener. Higher levels of ferrous Iron must be converted into ferric Iron through oxidation and then passed through a filtration system.

Iron Bacteria

Iron bacteria are tiny microorganisms that feed on ferrous Iron within the water and leave behind metabolized, slimy, orange sludge inside toilet tanks and within water pipes. In most cases, the elimination of the Iron itself will resolve the iron bacteria problem as it removes their source of food. In extreme cases, chlorine treatment may be needed to disinfect the water supply of the bacteria.

Finding the Right Water Treatment for Iron Removal

Proaudio55 : Wiki Commons

The removal of Iron from well water first involves identifying the type of iron present in the water supply (ferric, ferrous, or iron bacteria), measuring its concentration in ppm, measuring the pH of the water, and then applying the appropriate method of iron removal, either through oxidation, ion exchange, greensand, or chemical feed.

The following will cover several methods for removing Iron and the conditions the water should be in for these methods to work.

For Iron Concentrations Less than 3 ppm

Water Softeners

Water softeners work through an ion exchange process where elements such as Iron, magnesium, and calcium are collected and exchanged with sodium. For well water with a low enough concentration of ferrous Iron (less than three ppm) and a pH level no greater than 6.7, the ion exchange process effectively removes Iron from a water supply.

Water Softener

Jack of All Master of None / Youtube

Water softeners should not be used with a well water supply containing ferric Iron as it is invalid for ion exchange and can quickly foul the resin beads, nor should a softener be used to remove ferrous Iron in concentrations higher than three ppm as the resin beads may not be strong enough to pull such high concentrations of Iron.

Alkalinity is also a factor to consider since the higher the pH, the likelier ferrous Iron will oxidize into ferric Iron and become invalid for ion exchange.

Our article on water softeners for well water systems explains how they work and how to choose the right one for your home.

For Iron Concentrations Greater than 3 ppm

Iron Filters

An iron filter will be necessary for concentrations of Iron that a water softener would not be able to remove. Iron filters work through a process called oxidation.

Because ferrous Iron is soluble and easily passes through any filter, it must first be “oxidized” into ferric Iron and then filtered. Once in the insoluble ferric state, the Iron can be filtered through a variety of different media before clean water passes through the outlet.

The oxidation process can happen by a variety of methods, but the most common is with air, media, or chemicals.

Air Oxidation

Often called Air-Injection, Air-Induction, or Chemical-Free Iron Filters, this method of oxidation uses pressurized air to oxidize the Iron into the insoluble ferric state that can be filtered.

US Water Systems : Youtube

US Water Systems : Youtube

Within an air injection iron filter tank are air, water, and a media bed. As iron-concentrated water passes through the tank, the ferrous Iron is oxidized by the air and then filtered through the media bed, where it remains. Clean, iron-free water is passed through the tank and into the outlet.

The ferric Iron within the media bed is then backwashed and flushed from the system through the drain pipe.

Air injection iron filters also oxidize and filter manganese and hydrogen sulfide in the same fashion.

Media and Chemical Oxidation

Greensand Filters - Manganese Greensand, characterized by its often greenish hue, is one of the oldest mediums used to oxidize and remove Iron from a water supply. Iron is immediately oxidized and trapped as it passes through a greensand filter, allowing clean water to filter through.

Greensand filters require Potassium Permanganate, a strong oxidizing agent that regenerates the greensand periodically after use.

Birm Filters - Birm, a granular media filter named by the company who invented it, works similarly to greensand in that it oxidizes the ferrous Iron immediately as it comes into contact with it. Unlike greensand filters, Birm filters do not require additional chemicals to regenerate the media; rather, the media is automatically and periodically backwashed.

Chemical Feed Pumping

In extreme cases that involve iron bacteria, iron filters or water softeners alone might not be the most effective application in solving the iron problem. Certain chemicals may need to be pumped into the well supply in order to combat specific contaminants. In this case, a chemical feed pump is required.

Chemical feed pumping works by injecting certain chemicals into the well itself with the purpose of eliminating, oxidizing, or disinfecting specific contaminants within the water supply. A professional contractor should be consulted when considering chemical feed pumping, as the task itself involves a number of nuances that can potentially be overlooked.

While iron filters are very effective at removing Iron at the surface level just before it enters the home, chemical feed pumping attacks the iron problem at the source. Chemical feed pumping is a much more permanent solution and can rid the iron problem before it reaches the house once and for all.

The most common chemicals used are:

    • Chlorine to treat Iron Bacteria and to oxidize Iron
    • Hydrogen Peroxide to treat Hydrogen Sulfide and to oxidize Iron
    • Citric Acid to lower the water’s pH level
    • Sodium Carbonate to raise a water’s pH level

How to Test for Iron in Well Water

Water Test : Pixabay

Iron, as with all other elements found in water, is measured in milligrams per liter (mg/L) and can equivalently be expressed as parts per million (ppm).

mg/L = ppm

For example, an Iron level of 3mg/L means that for every liter of water, 3 milligrams of iron will be found. This is equivalent to 3 parts per million (3 ppm).

Visible Test

Ferric Iron is visible to the naked eye and, in high concentrations, can be observed flowing from the tap in an orange hue or stained against the sink and bathtub. In lower concentrations, ferric Iron can settle in the bottle of a glass of tap water after sitting for several minutes.

Iron bacteria is characterized by orange sludge that accumulates inside the toilet tank or in areas where water is collected.

While the visual test is easy and inexpensive, it would only indicate whether or not Iron is present and not the level of concentration.

Self-Test Kit

Home water test kits typically come in the form of tablets or liquids that are dropped into the water or in the form of strips that are dipped into the water. Many test kits test for many other contaminants, as well as Iron, which will be helpful in understanding the most effective method in treating the water. These tests often have their own color-coded guidelines for determining the presence of the various contaminants.

Laboratory Testing

The most accurate and efficient way to find out the exact concentration and variety of contaminants in the well water supply is to have it tested by a laboratory. Many water testing laboratories will send out test kits that may be sent back with sample specimens from the water supply. Others may have professional testers who arrive at one’s home to test the water in person.

While lab testing is much more expensive than home test kits, it is by far the most reliable and accurate.

Aqua Mechanical / Flickr

Aqua Mechanical / Flickr

Other Contaminants to Test For


Manganese and Iron are both common elements in groundwater, and where one is present, the other is often as well. While Manganese levels aren’t usually as concentrated as Iron, it can stain laundry and appliances just as well but with a black tint instead of red. Manganese can be removed in the same fashion as Iron, which will be discussed in the later section of this article.

Hydrogen Sulfide

While Hydrogen Sulfide is invisible to the naked eye, it is quite noticeable by its rotten-egg odor, which is highly unpleasant. Hydrogen Sulfide is a byproduct of sulfates that react with magnesium in the water. Hydrogen sulfide is removed in the same fashion as Iron through a process known as oxidation.

The Role of Alkalinity (pH) in Iron Removal


The pH level of a water supply is an important factor in the iron removal process as it determines the ease at which ferrous iron converts to ferric iron. The higher the pH level of the water, the quicker the iron oxidizes into its ferric state.

For iron filters, a pH level of at least 7.0 is recommended by most manufacturers as it allows the oxidation to happen fast enough for the ferric iron to be filtered.

A lower pH level is recommended for water softeners, as the iron must remain in its ferrous state for ion exchange.

Video: How to Remove Iron from Well Water

Watch this informative video from Fresh Water System about removing iron from well water.

Reviews of the Best Iron Filter for Well Water

(Which Application Fits Me Best?)

Finding the best iron filter application for a well water system will require some necessary information beforehand. Knowing the level of concentration of iron, the presence of other contaminants, and the pH level of the water is important in determining whether an iron filter, a water softener, or whole house filter is best for your system.

  • Iron, Sediment, Carbon Filter
    • Ferrous / Ferric Iron < 3 ppm
    • Silica < 100 ppm
    • Manganese < 1 ppm
    • Chlorine
    • VOCs
  • pH > 7.0
  • 15 GPM
  • 100,000 Gallon Capacity
  • 2-year Warranty
  • Made in USA
Home Master Iron Filter

Home Master’s 3-stage whole house filter is an ideal solution for well owners with a high iron problem. The radial flow iron reduction filter reduces up to 3ppm of iron with less than a 1 psi drop in water pressure. The filter also reduces manganese at parts less than 1 ppm.

With a combined 3-stage filtration system, this filter also reduces 95% of VOCs, TOCs, chlorine, sediment and other contaminants that create foul tastes and odors. The post-filtration system uses high-grade coconut shell carbon for maximum chemical contaminant removal and improved taste.

Home Master’s signature 1” ports allow for or the strongest water pressure possible at up to 15 gallons per minute.


For those who need a filter that provides clean, drinkable water for the entire house, but would also like to solve a small iron problem (< 3 ppm) without having to install an additional iron tank, the Home Master 3-stage filter provides just that. It is large but uniform, occupies a single space, and functions as a single unit.

  • Salt-free Conditioner / Air Injection Iron Filter
    • Removes Hardness and Sediment
    • Ferrous or Ferric Iron < 7 ppm
    • Manganese < 1 ppm
    • Hydrogen Sulfide < 8 ppm
  • pH > 7.0
  • Flow Rate: 12 - 20 GPM
  • Lifetime Warranty
  • 6-month Money-back Guarantee
  • Made in USA

Springwell salt free softener

SpringWell is a Florida-based water filter manufacturer with over 20 years of experience in water quality. They have an excellent customer service program and a 6-month money-back guarantee on all their products.

Their salt-free water softener removes up to 8 PPM of Hydrogen Sulfide, up to 7 PPM Iron and 1 PPM Manganese. The FutureSoft system eliminates the need of a salt brine by using a process known as Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC), which converts the hardness-causing minerals in the water to a hardness crystal that will not stick to any surface in your home.

The SpringWell AIO System comes with a completely automatic electronic control valve and system settings which can be programmed from an app via blue tooth.

The Springwell system prides itself in effectively removing water hardness without dropping water pressure and maintains 12 GPM for a 1-3 bathroom unit. Also comes with a pre-filter which removes sediment.


For those who have a ferric or ferrous iron level less than 7 ppm, a pH level greater than 7.0, and would prefer not to have a brine tank (perhaps because of lack of space), the Salt-Free Water Conditioner by Springwell provides an excellent means to remove iron for well owners. The salt-free conditioner also removes sediment, hardness, manganese and sulfur.

  • Water Softener/ Air Injection Iron Filter
    • Removes Hardness
    • Ferrous or Ferric Iron < 7 ppm
    • Manganese < 1 ppm
    • Hydrogen Sulfide < 8 ppm
  • pH > 6.5
  • Grain: 32, 48, or 80k
  • Flow Rate: 11 - 20 GPM
  • Lifetime Warranty
  • 6-month Money-back Guarantee
  • Made in USA

Springwell salt softener

For those who prefer the traditional ion-exchange method of water softening, Springwell also has a salt-based water softener for well water owners. The SpringWell AIO System can remove up to 8 PPM of Hydrogen Sulfide, up to 7 PPM Iron and 1 PPM Manganese.

The blue tooth control head allows for programming of backwashing cycles and features a slow release of the compressed air charge prior to backwash cycles eliminating the loud explosive blast that is among typical outdated systems.


For those who have a ferric or ferrous iron level less than 7 ppm, a pH level greater than 6.5, and prefer a traditional, reliable, iron filter and water softener combination, Springwell provides an excellent system backed by great customer service and warranty. Also removes hardness, manganese, sulfur, and all the minerals associated with well water.

  • Greensand Filter
  • Pre-filter for sediment
  • Post carbon filter for VOCs and solvents
  • Ferrous / Ferric Iron > 3 ppm
  • Manganese and Hydrogen Sulfide
  • Grain: 48k or 60k
  • 9-13 GPM
  • 1 year warranty

Crystal Quest Whole House Iron

For well owners with a high amount of Iron, Manganese, and Hydrogen Sulfide, the Crystal Quest whole house iron filter may be the best solution. The fiberglass tank holds 48,000 grain capacity of glauconite green sand.

Soluble iron and manganese are oxidized and precipitated by contact with higher oxides of manganese on the CQ-IGS granules. The hydrogen sulfide is reduced by oxidation to an insoluble sulfur precipitate. Precipitates are then filtered and removed by backwashing.


Well owners with manganese, hydrogen sulfide, and problematic iron greater than 3 ppm may want to consider the Crystal Quest iron filter for whole house treatment.


Iron is one of the most prevalent elements in the earth’s crust and it is no wonder how common of an occurrence it is in well water systems. While the iron found in groundwater is largely considered innocuous for human consumption, the damage that iron can cause in home plumbing systems and fixtures can be severely problematic and costly.

There are several different methods for removing iron from a drinking water supply, and while all have their own benefits, it is important to understand the make-up of the water supply in order to correctly apply the right system. Testing the water will determine the levels of iron as well as any other contaminants that may need to be addressed.

Water softeners, iron filters, and chemical feeds are all effective methods for removing iron when used for the right application. Be sure to have proper knowledge of the iron in the water when making a decision about how to remove iron from well water sources.

Thank you for taking the time to read our article on how to remove iron from well water. We'd love to hear your feedback in the comments section below. If you've found this article to be useful and are interested in learning more, be sure to sign up for our newsletter.

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Read Also


AWQ Inc. (n.d.). Iron and Water Treatment for Iron. Retrieved from

Clean Water Store. (n.d.). About Birm Iron Filters. Retrieved from

Clean Water Store. (n.d.). About Greensand Filters. Retrieved from

Clean Water Store. (n.d.). About Iron & Manganese Removal. Retrieved from

Discount Water Softeners. (n.d.). Remove Ferric and Ferrous Iron in Well Water. Retrieved from

IDPH. (n.d.). Iron in Drinking Water. Retrieved from

Premier Water MN. (2017, November 3). How Iron Filters Work ? Part One ? 3 Steps to Crystal Clear Water. Retrieved from

PSU Extension. (2019, August 29). Iron and Manganese in Private Water Systems. Retrieved from

Pure Water Occasional. (n.d.). Chemical Feed Pumps. Retrieved from

Pure Water Products. (n.d.). Iron Removal: A World Without Rules – Pure Water Products, LLC. Retrieved from

US Water Systems. (n.d.). Iron Water Filter Systems. Retrieved from

Water Filter Direct. (n.d.). Using An Iron Water Filter Will Remove Stains And Smell From Your Water. Retrieved from

Water Filter Directs. (n.d.). How to choose the correct Well Water Iron Filter. Retrieved from

Well Water Guide. (n.d.). Well Water Iron Problems and Treatment Guide. Retrieved from

WHO. (n.d.). Iron in Drinking-water. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (2003, June 20). Iron poisoning. Retrieved from

I'm Jeremiah, the owner of World Water Reserve. I'm a writer and researcher with a particular interest in sustainability and rural living, water scarcity, and innovative water purification methods. I utilize my multimedia and communication experience in the NGO and humanitarian fields to bring light to important topics. My passion is to educate others on the reality of the global water crisis and on ways to sustain themselves and their families in the midst of it.
Jeremiah Zac