It’s really common to find iron in your well water. As a naturally occurring earth metal, iron dissolves into groundwater as it moves through bedrock, affecting the smell, taste, and color of drinking water.
Probably the most frustrating effect of iron contamination is the bright colored stains that can often appear in sinks, bathtubs, and shower trays. These orange or brown colored marks are unsightly and may be alarming to people who don’t know their cause.
Fortunately, there are several ways to remove iron from well water. Common water filtration products such as sediment filters, water softeners, and oxidation filters can all do a great job of removing different types of iron contamination, fixing those annoying tastes and stains.
But how do you achieve these results without paying a load of money for extensive filter systems? Here are three cheap ways to remove iron from well water.
- Use a cartridge KDF filter
The most popular cheap way to remove iron from well water is to use a home filter device that contains a KDF cartridge.
KDF is a type of granulated filter media made from a mix of metal alloys (usually copper and zinc). When well water containing metals such as iron passes through the KDF media, a chemical reaction occurs, converting dissolved iron into insoluble iron.
In this insoluble form, the iron can be easily captured by the filter while the water continues on. Once the filter cartridge becomes saturated with iron particles, it will need to be replaced.
The great thing about KDF cartridge filters is that they can be found online for between $200 and $500. While this is still a substantial amount, it’s far less than the price of many other types of iron filters, such as air injection filters.
For example, this review of the best iron filters for well water by Clean Cool Water chooses a KDF filter from well-known brand APEC as their “best budget” pick. It’s around one-quarter of the price of their other top-reviewed filters but rivals them for performance and reliability.
- Use a sediment filter
If you’re looking for an even cheaper solution to iron contamination in well water, a sediment filter offers an effective—but not comprehensive—way to fix many of the most obvious iron issues.
Sediment filters are simple devices that contain fine screens made of cotton, plastic, or other materials, which collect small particles of undissolved matter. Depending upon the type of sediment filter and screen, these devices can filter down to the size of a micron, which is equal to one-millionth of a meter!
Most sediment filters retail for between $50 and $100, which is just about the cheapest form of whole house filtration currently available. Using a finer filter screen is likely to add to the price.
The downside of using a sediment filter to deal with iron contamination well water is that any iron dissolved into the water supply will pass straight through the device. Sediment filters have no ability to separate soluble materials from water, and can only remove particles that are carried along in the water.
This means that iron contamination may recur at some point after sediment filtration when dissolved iron is exposed to air and oxidizes.
- Use a water softener
If you have low-to-moderate iron levels in your well, plus other types of contamination, you may be able to fix iron issues and save money by using a combined filtration approach.
Aside from iron, two of the most common sources of well water contamination are calcium and magnesium. These are hard water minerals that also naturally occur in the earth—often alongside iron.
Hard minerals cause water scale stains and build-ups of sediment that clog pipes and appliances. They can be effectively removed from well water using an ion exchange water softener, which uses salt to attract and remove mineral ions.
This method is also moderately effective at removing dissolved iron from water. So, as long as iron contamination isn’t severe, well owners struggling with both types of contamination can fix two issues with one simple system.
Other ways to remove iron from well water
Some popular and effective, but less cheap, ways to remove iron from well water include:
- Air injection filtration. These systems add pockets of air to the water supply in order to oxidize dissolved iron. Then they use granulated filter media to screen the insoluble iron from the water supply.
- Shock chlorination. Many well owners choose to have a professional shock chlorinate their well on a periodic basis. This process involves flushing large amounts of chlorine disinfectant through the water supply. By doing this, the growth of iron bacteria is inhibited and dissolved iron can be oxidized.
- Continuous chlorination. A chlorine feed pump is another common well water filtration device that is used to fix multiple contamination issues. By adding small amounts of chlorine to the water, dissolved iron is more likely to become insoluble, which makes it easier for a sediment filter or carbon filter to capture it.