Iron in Drinking Water (Here's What to Do About It!) (2023)

Iron in Drinking Water (Here's What to Do About It!) (1)

Did you know that iron is essential for human life? It’s one of the minerals our bodies need to function correctly. But too much iron can be a bad thing, and it’s important to know how to test for it and remove it from our drinking water.

This article will cover everything you need to know about iron in drinking water, including the benefits and dangers of iron and the maximum safe limits.

We’ll also explain how TapScore’s Iron Water Test is the best way to ensure iron is the problem and then recommend a couple of iron filters you can use to remedy it.

What is iron?

We often think of the metal used to construct bridges when talking about iron. There’s also the iron found in our food in the form of hemoglobin, which gives our blood its red color.

Iron in Drinking Water (Here's What to Do About It!) (3)

But what exactly is iron?

Iron is a chemical element with the symbol Fe (from Latin: Ferrum) and atomic number 26 [1]. It is a metal in the first transition series. It is by mass the most common element on Earth, forming much of Earth’s outer and inner core.

But in the context of water, we’re talking about a different kind of iron: dissolved iron.

Dissolved iron

Dissolved iron is a natural contaminant found in water supplies. While most iron is in the form of ferric iron (Fe3+), which is not very soluble, some of it may be present as ferrous iron (Fe2+) [2].

Ferric Iron (Fe3+)

The oxidized or ferric form of iron is insoluble in water and often appears as red-brown rust in drinking water. You may have noticed it as dark red stains in your toilet bowl, sink, or tub. Insoluble ferric iron is not in itself a health concern. Sometimes people mistake it for black sediment or black sand-like debris.

Ferrous Iron (Fe2+)

Ferrous iron is soluble in water and is usually a clear solution without color. When oxygen is present, ferrous iron oxidizes to become ferric and forms the reddish-brown rust I mentioned earlier.

Iron bacteria

Iron bacteria are microorganisms that use dissolved iron as an energy source. They convert the ferrous iron to ferric, which then precipitates out of the solution and forms reddish-brown slime. They are generally not harmful, though they may produce a pungent stench and a nasty taste [3].

How does iron get into a drinking water supply?

Iron can come from natural sources like groundwater and minerals in the earth. It can also enter supply systems by leaching (washing) natural deposits on buried piping or discharging from storm sewers.

Iron in Drinking Water (Here's What to Do About It!) (4)

It’s common for houses with a well to find iron in their water. Well depth can have an impact on this, with shallow wells being more likely to have organic iron [3a]

(Video) Do you have iron in your well water?

When iron corrodes pipes, it can also get into the drinking water supply. So you may notice a rusty color in your tap water, especially if the pipes in your home are old.

Benefits of iron in drinking water

While too much iron in drinking water can be dangerous, a small amount of iron is essential for human health.

This small amount of iron helps:

  • prevent anemia [4a];
  • transport oxygen in the blood [4b];
  • aid in cell growth [4c];
  • regulate body temperature [4d];
  • and support the immune system [4e].

Iron is an essential part of hemoglobin, the substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen from our lungs to the rest of our body. Oxygen is necessary for all the cells in our body, and without enough iron, they would not be able to function.

Iron in Drinking Water (Here's What to Do About It!) (6)

A lack of iron minerals can lead to anemia, where the body does not have enough healthy red blood cells. Anemia can cause fatigue, weakness, and other symptoms.

Negatives of excessive iron in drinking water

Let’s explore the adverse effects of iron on your health, skin, and hair. Then look at what happens to the taste of your water and the impact on your fixtures and fittings.

Excess iron in water is unlikely to cause serious health problems

While a small amount of iron is essential for human health, it’s also true that you can overdose on it. Fortunately, iron poisoning is not likely to be caused by diet or drinking water with too much iron as the concentration in food or water is too low.

The most likely culprit of iron poisoning is an accidental overdose of iron supplements [5].

A study in India found that drinking water with high iron levels caused iron accumulation in the skin and nails [5a]. While no negative health impact has been proven, the authors suggest more investigation is needed.

Effects on skin & hair

While many other sites report that iron can harm the skin or hair, we didn’t find any solid scientific evidence to support this.

However, excess iron in drinking water may cause the discoloration of teeth. In the long term, iron in the water may stain the teeth a dark brown or black color [6].

If you notice any of these symptoms, you should see a doctor as soon as possible. We also recommend getting a water test to determine what’s causing your problem.

Drinking water taste, smell & appearance

In addition to causing health problems, excessive iron in tap water can also affect your water’s taste, appearance, and smell.

Water with high levels of iron often has an unpleasant metallic taste (copper in drinking water can also cause this). It may also appear reddish-brown or yellow or have a foul odor – which isn’t appetizing to drink or shower in.

Stains on appliances and fixtures

Excessive iron in water can also stain plumbing fixtures like toilets, sinks, and tubs. These stains are caused by iron sediment, which builds up over time. It’s usually red-brown or yellow and can be difficult to remove.

Iron in Drinking Water (Here's What to Do About It!) (7)
(Video) Getting the IRON OUT of well water - NOVICE VIDEO

The best way to remove iron stains from plumbing fixtures is by using a commercial stain remover. Simply apply the stain remover to the stain, let it sit for a few minutes, and then rinse it away with water. If this doesn’t work, a professional cleaner may be able to help.

What are the safe limits of iron in water?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) [7] has set the maximum contaminant level goal for iron in drinking water at 0.3 mg/L. This is the level of iron that does not cause any adverse health effects.

If you are on a private well, it’s vital to have your water regularly tested to meet these standards. Consider water filtration and treatment options if it doesn’t.

How to test for iron in water?

Testing is essential to ensure you’re not wasting money on unnecessary water treatment options.

If you notice a metallic taste, bad smell, or red-brow stains on your appliances, you should investigate further.

There are two main ways you can test for iron in your water: with a professional test by a local water quality expert or with a Home Iron Water Test.

A home test will be quicker and cheaper and offer you the same results.

When you receive your test kit in the mail, simply follow the instructions to fill up the sample bottle and then send back your sample.

Tap Score’s Iron Water Test

Recommended for:

  • homes with metallic tasting water
  • homes with red or orange stains
  • homes with red- or orange-colored water
  • people in areas where iron water is a concern

Check Price

(Video) A Woman Drank "35% Food Grade Hydrogen Peroxide." This Is What Happened To Her Brain.

How to remove iron from your Water

Removing iron from water is usually done using a filter or a water softener and filter combo.

Best water filters for removing iron

Filtration is the most common method for removing iron from water. Many different types of filters work well. However, the most effective iron filters use oxidizing agents like chlorine. Another good option is a greensand filter which is effective if manganese is present in your water.

Springwell Well Water Filter: Iron Removal Air Injection System

These filters work by converting the soluble form of iron (ferrous) into the insoluble form (ferric). The ferric iron then precipitates out of the water and is trapped by the filter.

Home Water Research Recommends

Best Whole House Filter for Iron Removal

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  • Effective air-injection oxidization
  • Filters up to 7PPM of iron
  • Controlled with an easy-to-use Bluetooth app
  • Responsive customer support & lifetime warranty
  • 6-month money-back guarantee

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Water softeners

Water softeners on their own are not recommended for iron-contaminated water because they can become clogged with iron very quickly, among other common water softener problems. However, they can be very effective when used alongside a filter.

Home Water Research Recommends

Best Water Softener / Filter Combo for Iron

  • Remove Ferris iron from 4 – 7 ppm
  • Powerful 16GPM flow rate
  • 10-year manufacturer warranty
  • Perfect for homes with hard water and iron-contamination

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How do you get rid of iron in drinking water? ›

Water softeners and iron filters (such as a manganese greensand filter) are effective at removing clear-water iron. Water softeners are the more common method. Manufacturers report that some water softeners can remove up to 10 mg/L. However, 2 to 5 mg/L is a more common limit.

What happens if you drink water with iron in it? ›

Effects on Your Health

Although a low level of iron cannot harm your health, it contains bacteria. In addition to this, high iron in water content leads to an overload which can cause diabetes, hemochromatosis, stomach problems, and nausea. It can also damage the liver, pancreas, and heart.

Why should iron be removed from drinking water? ›

Iron can give off a metallic smell or unpleasant taste in drinking water. Removing iron from your drinking water can help restore a fresh, clean scent to your household. It will also help restore a fresh, clean taste to your tap water.

How can I lower my iron level quickly? ›

Dietary changes can include:
  1. avoiding supplements that contain iron.
  2. avoiding supplements that contain vitamin C, as this vitamin increases iron absorption.
  3. reducing iron-rich and iron-fortified foods.
  4. avoiding uncooked fish and shellfish.
  5. limiting alcohol intake, as this can damage the liver.

Does a Brita filter remove iron? ›

The Brita PRO Iron Filter Water Softener System highlights:

Softens water and removes unwanted iron and manganese.

What removes iron from the body? ›

Drugs called iron chelators remove extra iron from your body. There are two iron chelators approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in the U.S. Deferoxamine (Desferal®) is usually administered by subcutaneous (under the skin) infusion using a small portable pump about the size of a CD player.

Does boiling water remove iron? ›

No. Generally speaking, boiling water can help to kill the harmful bacteria in drinking water. Other than that, even if the water's temperature rises over 100 degree Celsius (212 degrees Fahrenheit), it doesn't remove any minerals.

Can too much iron in water cause itchy skin? ›

Dry, itchy skin: Iron in the water we use to bathe or shower can dry out the skin. Soap and iron don't always mix well together, so washing with iron-laden water can sometimes leave excess soap residues on the skin that cause dryness and itching.

Does reverse osmosis remove iron from water? ›

Reverse Osmosis will generally remove salt, manganese, iron, flouride, lead, and calcium (Binnie et. al., 2002).

Can too much iron in water cause hair loss? ›

Hard water contains too much magnesium, calcium, and iron, weakening your hair and causing significant hair loss.

What drinks reduce iron levels? ›

Tea and coffee are considered the strongest inhibitors of iron. A cup of tea reduces iron absorption by about 75%-80%, and a cup of coffee by about 60%. The stronger you make them, the greater the effect will be. So it's best to avoid tea and coffee while eating and for two hours before and after the meal.

What is the symptoms of too much iron? ›

  • Joint pain.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Fatigue.
  • Weakness.
  • Diabetes.
  • Loss of sex drive.
  • Impotence.
  • Heart failure.
6 days ago

Is peanut butter high in iron? ›

Peanut butter is high in iron, about 0.57mg per tablespoon. It is also a rich source of healthy fats and protein.

What happens if you put vodka in a Brita filter? ›

Luckily, a cheap vodka hack has gone viral on TikTok that has many people pouring their liquor through a Brita filter. The results? It apparently tastes like water. This Brita filter hack isn't something new.

What level of iron in water is too high? ›

Iron levels in well water are usually less than 10 milligrams/liter. The EPA level of 0.3 mg/L was established for aesthetic effects such as taste, color and staining. North Carolina has set a health-protective level for susceptible individuals at 2.5 mg/L.

How do you remove iron from well water cheaply? ›

Use a Sediment Filter for Iron Removal

A simple sediment filter does remove some ferric iron, you can tell as it turns that rusty color after use but not very much comes out as you need to fully oxidize it first to bring it out of the water to trap it.

Does Salt take iron out of water? ›

It has been proven to help reduce the iron in water and reduces the rust build-up in your water softener and pipes. There are benefits of using iron out salt and we've pinpointed a few for you: Taste of the water will improve. Rust stains will not build up as quickly.

Does apple cider vinegar lower iron? ›

The acid found in apple cider vinegar helps release iron from the food you eat, so it can be used throughout the body. This is important because iron is a key component of hemoglobin and myoglobin.

Does caffeine remove iron? ›

Coffee and Caffeine Can Inhibit Iron Absorption

Several studies have found that coffee and other caffeinated drinks can reduce iron absorption. One study found that drinking a cup of coffee with a hamburger meal reduced iron absorption by 39%.

Is Oatmeal high in iron? ›

Oats are a tasty and easy way to add iron to your diet. A cup (234 grams) of cooked oats contains around 1.2 mg of iron — 12% of the DV — as well as good amounts of plant protein, fiber, magnesium, zinc and folate ( 63 ).

Does charcoal remove iron from water? ›

The present modified coconut shell charcoal has been found to be very effective and remove iron to below 0.3 ppm in water without increasing the pH above the acceptable limit.

How does hydrogen peroxide remove iron? ›

Iron Removal Using Hydrogen Peroxide

OxyPure™ hydrogen peroxide is very effective in the oxidation and precipitation of iron. OxyPure™ rapidly oxidizes iron to form dense, easily settled solids which are removed through conventional flocculation/precipitation/filtration systems.

Can too much iron in water cause constipation? ›

Usually, there's only a small amount of iron in tap water, meaning it probably isn't enough to make you ill. Yet, sometimes water does contain ferrous iron that can cause uncomfortable symptoms, such as cramping, nausea, vomiting and constipation.

Why do my legs itch after I shower? ›

Exposing your skin to hot water for extended periods can strip the natural oils from your skin, and this can irritate the skin, causing dry skin after shower. Itchy feelings are often reported on the feet and legs, due to the fact that those parts of the body are particularly exposed to water in the shower.

Why am I so itchy after I shower? ›

Dry skin lacks moisture and may feel tight or itchy, especially after a shower. Cleansers, soap, and water can remove the skin's natural oils that keep it supple and prevent dryness. When a person takes a hot shower, the soap, and water strip away the skin's oils, which can cause the skin to feel tight and itchy.

Does city water have iron in it? ›

Most tap water in the United States supplies approximately 5 percent of the dietary requirement for iron. Concentrations of iron as low as 0.3 mg/L will leave reddish brown stains on fixtures, table ware and laundry that are very hard to remove.

What minerals should I take if I drink reverse osmosis water? ›

Essential Minerals in Drinking Water
  • Calcium. Calcium is an essential mineral in drinking water, but calcium-containing water is unfit for cleaning and washing. ...
  • Magnesium. Magnesium is also an important element in the body. ...
  • Sodium. ...
  • Fluoride. ...
  • Iron. ...
  • Copper. ...
  • Add an Extra Remineralization Water Filter.
Jun 27, 2022

Can iron in water cause dry scalp? ›

Although it does not pose a danger, iron is often accompanying hard water minerals in water supplies, which can have effects on the body. These can include a dry, itchy scalp, dull, brittle hair, dry skin with an increased likelihood of eczema and quicker fading of colour treated hair.

Can too much iron in water make you sick? ›

Hair Becomes Discolored and Brittle

Drinking iron-contaminated water may not make you sick, but bathing in it is very bad for your skin and hair. Every time you shower or your children take a bath, your skin and hair are soaked in oxidized (yellow to red) or unoxidized (still clear) iron.

How do you remove iron from well water without a water softener? ›

Iron Filters

For concentrations of iron that a water softener would not be able to remove, an iron filter will be necessary. 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.

Which water purifier is best for high iron water? ›

  • HUL Pureit Eco Water Saver Mineral RO+UV+MF Water Purifier. ...
  • Eureka Forbes Aquasure RO+UV+MTDS 7L Water Purifier. ...
  • Blue Star Aristo RO+UV+UF 7-Liter Water Purifier. ...
  • AO Smith Z9 Hot+ normal RO Water Purifier for home. ...
  • KENT Grand RO Water Purifier.
Nov 14, 2022

Does boiling remove iron from water? ›

No. Generally speaking, boiling water can help to kill the harmful bacteria in drinking water. Other than that, even if the water's temperature rises over 100 degree Celsius (212 degrees Fahrenheit), it doesn't remove any minerals.

Does a water softener remove iron from water? ›

Water softeners can and do remove small amounts of iron. Yet, a standard softener is not specifically designed to treat high levels of iron in your water. For example, the water softener systems Water-Right manufacturers remove iron in concentrations up to 1 ppm, or 1 mg/L.

Does hydrogen peroxide remove iron from well water? ›

Hydrogen peroxide is best for removing the sulfur, bacteria and iron odors. In the case of well water treatment, there is often bacteria that cannot be eliminated by chlorine. Hydrogen peroxide is as effective as chlorine as disinfecting agent.

Does chlorine get rid of iron in well water? ›

Chlorine is cheap and easy to use, but it may not always get rid of iron bacteria. You may have to treat with chlorine more than once. Both the concentration of chlorine and how long the chlorine solution is in contact with the bacteria are important.

What causes high iron in water? ›

Making up at least 5 percent of the earth's crust, iron is one of the earth's most plentiful resources. Rainwater as it infiltrates the soil and underlying geologic formations dissolves iron, causing it to seep into aquifers that serve as sources of groundwater for wells.

What level of iron is safe in water? ›

The present recommended limit for iron in water, 0.3 mg/l (ppm), is based on taste and appearance rather than on any detrimental health effect.

How do you get rid of iron in water naturally? ›

Salt is used in water softeners to remove iron and other minerals from the water. An extra rust remover can be added to the water softener system for severe iron issues. Purchase a cheap water test kit and test the iron, pH, manganese, and hardness levels in your well's water.

Can iron in water cause skin problems? ›

Iron Has Been Linked to Acne and Other Skin Conditions

If your skin is exposed to water with high iron content, your risks of suffering acne and other skin conditions may increase. Iron could potentially clog up pores, resulting in breakouts. The iron particles could also damage the skin cells themselves.

How do you get iron and magnesium out of water? ›

Water Softening (Ion Exchange)

Conventional water softeners are sometimes effective for removing iron and small amounts of manganese. Water softeners are typically used to remove calcium and magnesium hardness in water by an exchange process.

Will a carbon filter remove iron from water? ›

Some carbon block filters rated at one micron or less (meaning they have a very small pore size) are certified to remove lead, iron, arsenic, cysts, and coliform bacteria.


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