What is Iron in Water?

Known as the universal solvent, water dissolves a little bit of everything as it enters the ground and seeps into the earth.  As it does this, water dissolves minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and iron.  Iron is the mineral which stains our clothes, toilet, shower, and bathtub.  High amounts of iron will turn our hair an orange color.  It’s not pleasant and does not clean up well.  It can be one of the most troubling and unstable contaminants we as water professionals deal with. 

How does iron get into water and what are the types of iron in water?
As water travels through the earth’s surface it picks up small amounts of iron.  This type of iron is called ferrous iron or clear water iron.  It is clear and colorless because it is dissolved in the water.  When iron goes back to its original form, a particle, it is called ferric iron or red water iron.  This happens when irony water is mixed with air or oxygen; it will precipitate back to a ferric iron.  Also changes to the water in regards to temperature, pH levels, and pressure of the water will encourage water to go back to ferric form.

We wanted to note: iron derives into other forms such as bacterial iron and sequestered iron on city supplied water, but proper testing is required to identify specific iron and how to treat properly.

Is iron a health concern in my water?
No, it is not hazardous to your health.

What are the effects of iron in my water?
Water with iron will stain fixtures, water using appliances, clothes, and any other surface with which it comes in contact.  Over time, a home’s plumbing systems can become clogged with iron reducing the flow of water.  Tap water with iron will sometimes produce a metallic taste giving it an unpleasant taste.  Iron can also produce an unwelcome odor in your water.  If not properly treated, iron will plug a water softener too.  This contaminant will make homeowners spend hundreds of dollars on cleaning agents to clean their home and maintain appliances.  It is often more economical to spend money on a water treatment system to remove iron then it is to purchase cleaning agents over time.

At what level will iron stain?
Iron will stain at .3 parts per million (ppm) or higher.

How do you treat iron in water?
A water softener is recommended with any levels of iron up to 5 ppm.  Any iron level near or above 5 ppm, a backwashing iron filter is recommended.  Many homeowners are unfamiliar how backwashing filters operate.  A backwashing filter does not require chemicals, but introduces oxygen into the water.  The oxygen precipitates the iron into a ferric form and the iron particles are backwashed out of the water treatment system.  It is recommended to backwash filters are regenerated frequently as to not foul the media inside the tank.

If you feel you have an issue with iron in your water, don’t hesitate to contact our water professionals.  They are certified through the Water Quality Association and have many years of experience in dealing with iron and many other contaminants.  They can be reached at 815-385-3093 or contact us.