Please note: This page may contain affiliate links. If you buy a product or service through such a link we earn a commission at no additional cost to you. Learn more about our product review process or check our FTC affiliate disclosure.
If you receive water from a well it likely contains iron. This can be a problem since iron can alter the taste and odor of water, leave ugly reddish stains on basically every surface it touches, and damage your plumbing system including home appliances and water treatment equipment.
Thus, it’s not a surprise that, just like you, people are trying to get rid of the heavy metal. How? Using an iron filter!
This guide provides a collection of the best iron water filters on the market today. And you’ll learn everything you need to know about iron filtration.
On This Page You Will…
Best Water Filter for Well Water with Iron: SpringWell WS4
System Type: Air Injection + Greensand
Iron Type(s): Ferrous + Ferric (Rust)
Max Iron Level: 7 ppm
#1 Filter System for Very High Iron Levels: Crystal Quest
System Type: Greensand
Iron Type(s): Ferrous + Ferric (Rust)
Max Iron Level: 12+ ppm
Best Cartridge-Based Iron Filter: Home Master HMF3SdgFeC
System Type: Iron Filter Cartridge
Iron Type(s): Ferrous + Ferric
Max Iron Level: 3 ppm
|*Use our coupon code BOSFREEWH at checkout and get FREE SHIPPING!|
Our Preferred Water Softener: SpringWell SS
System Type: Ion Exchange
Iron Type(s): Ferrous
Max Iron Level: 3 ppm
Top Iron Bacteria Filter: Pelican WF4 + RT-1248 Retention Tank (Separate Link)
System Type: Bleach Oxidation + Greensand Plus + Carbon
Iron Type(s): Ferrous + Ferric + Iron Bacteria
Max Iron Level: Highest
In our opinion, the best iron filter for well water in 2021 is the SpringWell WS4. It combines air injection with greensand filter media to handle medium to high levels of iron, manganese, and hydrogen sulfide in water with ease. People who’ve installed the filter system said the difference is night and day – no more iron staining, improved water taste, and rotten egg smell totally gone.
And the best thing: The SpringWell WS4 is virtually maintenance-free for years. All in all, this is our top choice when it comes to iron filtration. 5 stars!
SpringWell Water WS4 Whole House Iron Water Filter System
|System Process:||Air Injection + Greensand|
|Removes:||Iron, Sulfur and Manganese|
|Fe Types:||Ferrous + Ferric|
|Max Fe Level:||7 ppm|
Crystal Quest’s Iron Whole House Water Filter can handle iron concentrations in well water of up to 12 ppm (and possibly more). Thus, it’s our top recommendation for water supplies with very high levels of iron. Of course, the system also takes care of manganese and hydrogen sulfide.
In addition, a sediment pre-filter traps sand, silt, and other large particles. A carbon post-filter removes all kinds of chemicals and organic compounds – think VOCs and pesticides. This not only prevents the large mineral tank from clogging, it also improves water aesthetics. 5 stars.
Crystal Quest Iron Whole House Water Filter
|Filtration System Process:||Greensand|
|Removes:||Iron, Sulfur and Manganese|
|Fe Types:||Ferrous + Ferric|
|Max Fe Level:||12+ ppm|
In our opinion, in 2021, the best water filter for well water with iron that works with filter cartridges is the Home Master HMF3SdgFeC 3-Stage. The water should be chlorine-free, though. If that’s the case, the HMF3SdgFeC will not only take care of iron, it’ll also trap manganese, hydrogen sulfide, sediment – good for your appliances – , all kinds of potentially harmful chemicals as well as some microorganisms, and overall bad water taste and odor.
Make sure to use our coupon code BOSFREEWH at checkout for FREE SHIPPING!
Home Master HMF3SdgFeC 3-Stage Whole House Water Filtration System
|Filtration System:||Iron Filter Cartridge|
|Removes:||Iron, Sulfur and Manganese|
|Fe Types:||Ferric + Ferrous|
|Max Fe Level:||3 ppm|
The SpringWell SS water softener can handle up to 3 ppm of iron (ferrous), up to 1 ppm of manganese, and 1 ppm hydrogen sulfide. The system is available in three different sizes, for homes with 1-3 bathrooms, 4-6 bathrooms, or 7+ bathrooms.
Whichever system you go for, you’ll get the perfect solution to your iron water contamination problem. And your well water will be nice and soft, too, with little to no limescale buildup in your plumbing, fixtures, and appliances for an increased lifespan and efficiency as well as reduced maintenance. Softer skin and hair are nice side effects.
Bottom line: Our go-to water softener. 5 stars!
SpringWell SS Water Softener
|System:||Ion Exchange Water Softener|
|Amount of Iron:||3 ppm|
For water with iron concentrations above 3 parts per million we recommend the Fleck 5600SXT with SST-60 resin. According to our research, the special resin can handle ferrous concentrations of up to 15 ppm depending on the application.
Fleck 5600SXT Water Softener
|System:||Ion Exchange Water Softener|
|Amount of Iron:||Up to 15 ppm|
|Warranty:||5 Years & 10 Years|
The last of our well water iron filter reviews…
If you’re dealing with bacterial iron check out the Pelican WF4 or WF8. Both are specialized iron and manganese water filters, one for smaller and one for larger homes. Paired with the Pelican RT-1248 retention tank (if you follow the link the tank is listed under “Chemical Feed Accessories”) they’ll solve your bacteria problem for good.
Pelican Iron and Manganese Water Filter + RT-1248 Retention Tank
|System Process:||Bleach Oxidation + Greensand Plus + Carbon Filter|
|Removes:||Iron, Manganese, Hydrogen Sulfide|
|Fe Types:||Ferrous + Ferric + Bacteria|
|Max Fe Level:||Highest|
Let’s compare the best iron filters for well water directly to one another.
(Mobile Hint: Swipe to Scroll)
|Filtration System||Price||Contaminant Removal||Additional Info|
|SpringWell WS Whole House Iron Filter System||$$$||Filters Iron, Manganese, and Hydrogen Sulfide Odor (Rotten-Egg Smell)||Best Iron Filter, Easy to Install|
|Crystal Quest Whole House Iron Filter System||$$$||3-Stage Filter Filters Iron, Manganese, and Sulfur Odor, Sediment, Chemicals + Other Contaminants||Best Iron Filter for High Iron, 3 Stages of Filtration for Highest Water Quality, Uses Sediment Pre-Filter + Coconut Shell Carbon Block Filter|
|Home Master HMF3SdgFeC 3-Stage Whole House Iron Filtration System||$$||3-Stage Filter Filters Iron, Manganese, Sulfur, Sediment, Chemicals, Bad Taste and Odor||Filtration System is Easy to Install|
|SpringWell SS||$$$||Removes Ferrous, Calcium and Magnesium (Hard Water)||Alternative to Water Filters|
|Fleck 5600SXT||$$||Removes Ferrous, Calcium, Magnesium (Hard Water)||Alternative to Filtration System|
|Pelican Iron and Manganese Water Filter + RT-1248 Retention Tank||$$$||Filters Bacterial Iron, Manganese, Hydrogen Sulfide, Sediment||4 Stages of Filtration for Highest Water Quality|
The best approach to handle an iron contamination issue and find the best iron filter looks like this:
Turns out in order to find your ideal filter you need to know your well water quality and conditions. First and foremost, you need to do a water test to find out what kind of iron you’re facing. There is ferrous, ferric, and organic iron.
In addition, you should test your well water for manganese, hydrogen sulfide, and bacterial iron. Lastly, determine water pH, water temperature, and water alkalinity as well as dissolved oxygen content.
This might sound more complicated than it really is. All you need to do is an Essential Well Water Test.
Once you know in what condition your water is, you can start looking for an iron filter system that’s suited for the situation.
There are different filter types that use different filter media and filtration methods.
The most widely used filter type features a large mineral tank filled with oxidation media like greensand to remove ferric iron and ferrous iron. If the level of ferric and ferrous is extremely high additional pre-oxidation may be needed. Most popular by far is air injection oxidation.
Chlorine injection or shock chlorination can be used to treat iron-oxidizing bacteria.
Removing organic and colloidal iron in particular is usually more difficult. A one-size-fits-all approach usually doesn’t work here.
An iron filter for well water supplying an entire home must be capable to meet your total water demand even at times of peak consumption. This means it needs to have a high-enough service flow rate.
For example: Think about how much water your family uses when one or two showers, the kitchen faucet, the dishwasher, and the washing machine are running. If, in this situation, an iron filter is sized too small it will either bleed unfiltered well water or cause a drop in water pressure.
Therefore, you need to estimate your home’s peak water demand.
Your plumbing system also needs to be able to meet backwashing flow rates if required by an iron filter.
You can do the installation yourself if you have the necessary skills and want to save money. Or you can call a professional which will cost you a few hundred extra dollars at least.
Make sure that your iron removal system works as intended by doing another well water test once everything is set up. Insufficient results are usually due to having selected the wrong treatment method or equipment.
Also, it’s essential that you follow the manufacturer’s guidelines in regards to maximum iron levels that can be handled, required water flow rate and backwash rates, and any other application limitations.
Chances are you just spent a couple of hundred or thousand dollars on your new iron removal system. Thus, you want to keep it in good shape so that it’ll continue to operate smoothly.
For example: Iron sludge may plug the eductor of an air injection oxidizing system. The eductor needs to be cleaned regularly. Furthermore, especially mechanical iron filters need to be replaced on a regular basis.
You shouldn’t focus solely on how much a well water iron filter costs at purchase. Before making a final buying decision, also pay attention to how long each filter element lasts on average and make sure to check price and availability of replacements. This will save you from unpleasant surprises further down the road.
More on Iron Filters
Accounting for roughly 5 percent, iron is the second most abundant metal in the earth’s crust. Thus, when water travels through soil it can pick up iron naturally, which why it’s found in surface water, like lakes and rivers, and groundwater.
But iron may also be released from corroding pipes etc. in your water supply, industrial waste, and refining of ore.
By the way, elemental iron is rarely found in nature. What we’re usually dealing with is iron ions: Ferrous or ferric (more in a bit). The median iron concentration in rivers is 0.7 ppm. Groundwater ranges from 0.5 to 10 ppm. In extreme cases, up to 50 ppm is possible. Drinking water usually contains less than 0.3 ppm of iron.
Too much iron in your well water supply can cause 3 issues:
First of all, iron plays an important role in the human organism – for example, it’s a key component of hemoglobin binding oxygen for transport throughout our body – and is therefore an essential part in our nutrition. Serious health effects are highly unlikely.
The daily recommended intake for adults is estimated at around 7-10 mg per day, depending on age, sex, physiological status, and iron bioavailability. The maximum tolerable daily intake is 0.8 mg/kg body weight.
Iron is lethal at an average dose of 200–250 mg/kg of body weight, which leads to hemorrhagic necrosis and sloughing of areas of the mucosa in the stomach. (Source)
When high levels of iron are absorbed, it’s stored in the heart, liver, pancreas, and spleen where it may cause organ damage. However, a healthy person is generally not affected by an overdose. Also, iron overdoses are rare; one must drink water with exceptionally high iron content (over 200 mg/l).
Iron compounds and bacteria in particular may induce more serious consequences for our health. The latter creates an environment which can harbor other microorganisms, increasing the risk for disease when digested.
While usually not a health issue, iron is definitely considered an aesthetic water contaminant. Too much ferrous gives water an unpleasant metallic taste, especially when used for brewing tea and coffee. And it affects food cooked in the water.
Your hair and skin might also be affected by well water with high iron content:
Iron filters are primarily designed to remove the different forms of iron from water – surprise, surprise.
How do they work? Well, they apply different technologies and filter media so this is not an easy question to answer. How an iron filter works also depends on the type of iron it’s targeting.
We’ll discuss the different iron filters currently on the market in great detail in the next section.
In a nutshell, iron filter media like greensand is used to oxidize and trap ferrous in a large tank. The process removes ferric, too. And just like water softeners, most iron filters require backwashing to flush away any accumulated rust. Some must also go through regular regeneration cycles to retain their oxidizing capabilities.
Depending on how much iron is present and other water parameters, and what filtration media is being used, pre-oxidation of the water might be required. This includes aeration, chlorine injection, and ozonation.
Ferric can be removed mechanically – think size exclusion. Removing iron compounds often requires a more customized approach. The most common method to get rid of bacterial iron is shock chlorination.
Like we said, there’s different equipment that can help you get rid of iron in well water and other water sources…
For optimum results, it’s important that you distinguish between soluble clear-water iron, or “ferrous”, and insoluble red-water iron, also called “ferric” but commonly known as rust. Then there is organic and bacterial iron.
For higher amounts of ferrous iron, about 7 to 15 parts per million, it’s recommended to use specialized iron filters. They are widely used for their versatility of oxidizing filter media, for example greensand, Birm, and Pro-OX.
As soon as water passes through the media any soluble ferrous oxidizes into the ferric state. Thereby it becomes insoluble and gets trapped.
Depending on the condition of the water and the filter media, pre-oxidation may be required to reach adequate dissolved oxygen levels. The oxygen acts as a catalyst. Methods for pre-oxidation are aeration and the injection of chlorine, ozone, or peroxide among other oxidizers. For aeration, an air pump or inductor can be used.
Most iron filters require periodic backwashing to clean out the precipitated rust that has accumulated in the media bed. This in turn requires a high-enough water flow rate. The flushing also ensures that no bacteria can grow inside the system, so it’s essential for water safety. Every once in a while, some types of filter media also need to regenerate to retain their oxidizing and adsorption capabilities.
By the way, insufficient backwash and regeneration are the two most common reasons for a well water iron filter to fail.
The ideal pH value for iron filters to work effectively is between 7 and 8.5. Anything lower than that and you have to expect unsatisfactory results. Furthermore, the entire water filtration system could get damaged. A well water pH of at least 8.0 will increase the filtration effectiveness significantly.
Even the best iron filters for well water should not be used without additional treatment when organic matter is present!
Ferrous in concentrations of 10 ppm and more can be handled with great effectiveness using a chemical agent for oxidation in combination with a filter stage.
A pump can be used to add the oxidizing agent to the feed water. The solution then needs to sit in a retention tank (in most homes that can be the pressure tank) for long enough to allow the chemical reaction to happen and iron to precipitate out. A good starting point is 20 minutes. Lastly, media such as manganese greensand or activated carbon can be used for the actual iron removal.
Examples for oxidizing chemicals include hydrogen peroxide, chlorine, sodium/calcium hypochlorite, and potassium permanganate. Chlorine and hypochlorite will also act as a disinfectant which is great. On the downside, excess chlorine can make your water taste and smell unpleasant and also form dangerous disinfectant byproducts. This is why, when choosing chlorine or hypochlorite for oxidation, it’s recommended that you pair it with an activated or catalytic carbon water filter. You can find the best chlorine water filtration systems here.
Oxidation can also be achieved by aeration. An air injector uses the oxygen in the air to convert ferrous to ferric iron. The particles are then strained out by a water filter. According to various sources, extreme iron levels of 30 ppm and more can be treated with this method. It’s also probably the cheapest way to remove iron from well water. And if you wonder how you can remove iron from your water naturally, this is it.
The only problem with air injection is that air is only about 20% oxygen. So chances are that not all iron will oxidize. As a result, it forms sludge which can plug the water filter and the eductor that is part of the injector.
You can use a water softener to remove ferrous. It’s a commonly used method which usually delivers good results for concentrations of up to 3 (5) ppm or mg/L. For more information, read the manufacturer specifications.
Of course, the actual purpose of water softeners is to remove hard water minerals – think calcium and magnesium. This is why a salt-based water softener adds sodium or potassium to your water.
What’s more, chances are the iron will plug and foul the resin bed as time goes by. Thus, make sure to it regularly. Also, consider using Iron-Out™ or something similar. A resin that is badly fouled is difficult to clean, which is why replacing the entire bed might be the better option.
Subpar iron removal can be the result of high well water pH. This is because ferrous converts to ferric more quickly in alkaline water. At the same time, low water pH can prolong a water softener’s resin bed life. And so can longer backwashes and more frequent regenerations with high salting as it delays fouling.
If you struggle with clear-water plus any other form of iron, or the concentration of ferrous exceeds 5 ppm, a regular water softener should not be applied. Some of the compounds may simply pass through the system totally unaffected and/or lead to clogging and rapid fouling of the resin bed. The latter will also gradually reduce hardness removal capacities.
All whole house water filters that remove ferrous iron can also remove rust. Removing rust alone can be done by mechanical a.k.a. sediment filtration, a rust water purifier so to speak. Concentrations of 15 ppm and more are easily manageable.
Organic iron filtration can be particularly challenging. The compounds may slow down or prevent oxidation entirely so that water softeners, specialized iron filters, and aeration systems don’t work. For most people, the best option is probably chemical oxidation in combination with a mechanical water filter.
If some of the iron in your water is colloidal it’s even harder to get by due to it being smaller. To solve the problem, it might be necessary to use a coagulant which will glue the iron particles together, making them larger and therefore easier to remove.
Microscopic examination is the only way to identify bacterial iron in your water with absolute certainty. Then, physical, chemical, or thermal treatment can be used as countermeasures.
The most commonly used method is shock chlorination, a process that’s also applied on swimming pools. However, shock chlorination won’t resolve an infestation permanently – it helps to control it. Thus shock chlorination should be carried out periodically, like twice a year (e.g. once in spring and once in fall). This will extend the lifespan of your water filtration equipment and minimize maintenance requirements.
If shock chlorination is not possible for whatever reason we recommend a chlorine injection system combined with a retention tank followed by an iron filter stage.
What are the pros and cons of using an iron filter for well water treatment?
The most important benefit of using a whole house iron filter for well water is that your plumbing system will be iron-free, and so will be your home appliances. No iron means protection from clogging for peak water pressure, and protection from leakage resulting in fewer repairs and less maintenance needed.
You finally won’t have to deal with iron staining anymore.
On the one hand, iron causes discoloration. But on the other hand, it also adds an unpleasant taste and smell to your well water at concentrations above 0.3 ppm. Using a filter for iron removal you won’t have to worry about that anymore.
Filters for iron also remove other contaminants, particularly manganese and hydrogen sulfide. And they trap sediments.
Iron filters for well water are easy to maintain and some are entirely maintenance-free.
An iron filter system does not rely on chemicals, unless it’s a system using chlorine injection or a similar filtration method.
Iron filters are not exactly cheap.
Installing an iron filter is no more difficult than installing a regular whole house filter. If you are not handy with tools, however, you may need to call a plumber adding to your expenses.
I hope this list of the best iron filters for well water and our iron filtration guide was helpful. Questions? Ask away!
And don’t forget to come back from time to time. We’ll continue our hunt for the best iron filter for well water and add new whole house iron filter reviews occasionally.