How to Remove Iron From Drinking Water

Iron is a naturally occurring mineral found around the world. It dissolves in ground water when water filters through surrounding rock. The presence of iron in drinking water does not create a health hazard; according to the Environmental Protection Agency. However, iron creates an unpleasant taste and in high concentrations, a flow of rusty-red water from taps. It can create scale, deposits of iron in the pipes, which can block water flow or damage hot water tanks. In the laundry, iron deposits on clothes, staining fabric yellow, orange or brown. Depending on the concentration of iron, more than one removal option may be necessary.

Close-up of water pouring into a glass. (Image: Hyrma/iStock/Getty Images)

Step 1

Hire an independent laboratory to check the pH and concentration of iron in the water. The water sample requires careful collection to provide an accurate measure. Water treatment options will depend on the concentration of iron, according to the Ohio State University.

Step 2

Install a mechanical water softener if the concentration of iron is three parts per million or less. Unlike chemical water softeners, mechanical water softeners replace iron with sodium using a process called ion exchange. This process adds sodium to the water, which may be unsuitable for people with high blood pressure.

Step 3

Select a greensand, or oxidizing, filter for concentrations of three to 10 parts per million. Greensand filters use a green clay material to filter out the iron. Select a filter that is an adequate size. One that is too small for the household water demand will allow untreated, iron-containing water to break through. If the water pH is lower than 6.8, according to North Dakota State University, the water will need to run through a calcite filter first to raise the pH.

Step 4

Install a chlorination and filtration system for concentrations of 10 or more parts per million. These systems are located on the main water pipe before it enters the home. The two-part system first adds chlorine to the water, usually in the form of common laundry bleach. Ohio State University notes that the chlorine kills iron bacteria and oxidizes the iron, forcing it to precipitate out of the water where it is removed by the filtration system.

Things You'll Need

  • Mechanical water softener

  • Greensand filter

  • Chlorination and filtration system

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