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How To Remove Iron from Water

by Dr. Jonathan Doyle - Updated January 26, 2022
There are several heavy metal elements in water. These elements can be useful to the human body if present in the right amounts. However, if they exceed these amounts, they become harmful. One of these two-sided elements is iron.

How Do You Test For Iron In Water?

Water usually contains a low iron content, usually below 1 mg/L. The first signs of exceedingly high iron content in water include a peculiar smell, red color on the surface, and turbidity. In the case of underground water without oxygen, you may not observe color or cloudiness, even if the iron content is just a few milligrams per liter.
However, the brown-red color becomes very obvious when the water is exposed to oxygen, and ferrous iron oxide is formed. You will notice stains on plumbing equipment and washed clothes with water containing more than 0.3 mg/L of iron.

How Does Iron Get Into Drinking Water?

Accounting for 5% of the earth’s crust, iron is one of the most abundant resources on earth. You find it in several rock formations, where it dissolves as a result of soaking in rainwater. The dissolved iron travels with the water as it penetrates the rock and soil.
Iron finds its way into the local water supply if and when this water containing dissolved iron runs into freshwater sources (e.g., rivers and lakes) or ends up as groundwater. If your municipal water system depends on these sources for water, your household water may contain high amounts of iron. If you wonder if filters can remove iron during the treatment process, the answer is no. Most filters are not effective against iron, even if they filter out bacteria and other contaminants. You can also find a high amount of iron in wells that rely on aquifers with high iron content. 
Iron can either be soluble (as ferrous iron) or insoluble (as ferric iron) when present in water. Ferrous iron in water doesn’t alter its appearance because it dissolves evenly, making it difficult to differentiate it from pure water. But on getting to a home pressure tank or mixing with oxygen, oxidation happens, and the iron becomes ferric iron, which is insoluble. The insoluble ferric iron is visible and clearly alters the water quality. 

What Is The Safe Level Of iron In Drinking Water?

The current advisable limit for iron in water is 0.3 mg/l (ppm). However, this limit is based on taste and appearance – it has nothing to do with any adverse effect on the human body. These rules do not bind on private water supplies. However, these guidelines do not affect private water supplies. At best, it is only applicable to water quality evaluation.

What Is The Side Effective Of Iron In Drinking Water?

As mentioned earlier, water containing high iron levels shows differences in appearance, smell, and taste. In addition, such water can adversely affect the human skin, degrade fixtures and facilitate bacterial growth.
  • Another common indicator of iron-containing water is the cloudy appearance and presence of sediments. That is due to the precipitation of the oxidized iron, considering it cannot dissolve completely in the water. 
  • Another indicator of iron in water is discoloration. Water containing 0.3 parts per million iron will appear rusty red or brown. While the appearance is less appealing, the water, in this case, is not entirely harmful to drink.
  • You may also experience a metallic taste and smell in your water if it contains high iron concentrations. Whether you are pouring yourself a glass of such contaminated water or taking a shower with it, the smell of iron is always obvious. 
  • Bathroom fixtures, laundry, and dishes may get stained if you wash them with water containing high iron concentrations. In the end, you have random reddish-brown marks you may struggle to get rid of on the surfaces. 
  • Using iron-rich water to prepare your vegetables, coffee, or tea will affect their appearance. The most common result has dark-black unattractive vegetables, often with metallic and harsh taste.
  • If iron-contaminated water runs through your pipes for long enough, it leads to the accumulation of iron sediment and residue in such pipes. In the end, you experience clogging and poor drainage. Fixing these problems requires expert skills, which cost a fortune. 
  • Skin problems caused by iron-contaminated water are also worthy of mention. Taking your shower with such water causes your skin to be dry and itchy. The poor mixing of soap and iron means you will have soap residues on your body if you bathe with iron-containing water. 
  • Bacteria (especially iron bacteria) can combine with iron. When this happens, bacterial slime and rust are the products. While these are not exactly harmful, having iron in your water is a major facilitator of E. coli growth. The risks are even higher in well water, and that is why it is advisable to test your well water regularly to ensure there is no bacterial contamination.

How To Remove Iron From Water? 

There are a few ways to remove iron from your water.

Water Softener

Hard water softeners work by replacing the iron in water with other minerals. However, it is not effective against sulfur, arsenic, and other harmful minerals. If your well water contains other minerals than iron, you need more than a water softener to make it safe for drinking. 

Oxidation Filters

Unlike hard water softeners, oxidation filters are effective against harmful chemicals present in well water, including arsenic. Using an oxidation filtration system, you can remove iron and arsenic from your well water. These systems also efficiently remove the “rotten egg” smell associated with water containing hydrogen sulfide or sulfur. 

Reverse Osmosis Filters

Reverse osmosis water filtration systems are designed to remove the most harmful elements and chemicals in your water, including iron, manganese, fluoride, lead, and even salts. If your well water contains several various minerals, you can trust a reverse osmosis filter to do a good job filtering them off, including iron. They also reduce trace amounts of arsenic if present in water.
Sources of iron There are two main sources of iron:
①Exogenous iron: mainly from food.
② Endogenous iron: the hemoglobin iron released by the aging or destruction of red blood cells in the body.
You can get adequate amounts of iron from your diet by eating lean meat, seafood, poultry, white beans, lentils, spinach, kidney beans, peas, nuts, and some dried fruits.

Waterdrop Tankless Under Sink Water Reverse Osmosis Filter

Unlike traditional RO systems, the Waterdrop G3P800 is more efficient and effective at removing harmful minerals without reducing the beneficial minerals like calcium present in water. That is made possible by the presence of a remineralize water filter, which ensures that you do not miss out on any beneficial mineral in your drinking water. Check here to learn more about reverse osmosis.