Best Iron Filter for Well Water Reviews 2023 (+ Buying Guide)

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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…

No Time to Read? Check Our List of the Best Iron Filters for Well Water!

Filtration SystemDetails
SpringWell WS4 Whole House Iron Water Filter
Best Water Filter for Well Water with Iron: SpringWell WS

Get 5% Off! Use Code: BOS5OFF

Price: $$$
Water Filter System Type: Air Injection + Greensand
Iron Type(s): Ferrous + Ferric (Rust)
Max Iron Level: 7 ppm
Read Review: Click
USWS Matrixx inFusion Iron and Sulfur Removal System
Best Filter System for Very High Iron Levels and/or Iron Bacteria: USWS Matrixx inFusion

Price: $$$
Water Filter System Type: Hydrogen Peroxide + Catalytic Carbon
Iron Type(s): Ferrous + Ferric + Bacterial
Max Iron Level: 5+ ppm
Read Review: Click
Home Master HMF3SdgFeC with Iron Water Filter Cartridge
Best Cartridge-Based Iron Filter: Home Master HMF3SdgFeC

Free Shipping! Use Code: BOSFREEWH

Price: $$
Water Filter System Type: Iron Filter Cartridge
Iron Type(s): Ferrous + Ferric
Max Iron Level: 3 ppm
Read Review: Click
SpringWell SS
Best for Water Softening Removing Iron: SpringWell SS

Get 5% Off! Use Code: BOS5OFF

Price: $$$
System Type: Ion Exchange
Iron Type(s): Ferrous
Max Iron Level: 3 ppm
Read Review: Click

Best Iron Filter for Well Water Reviews

Review Order

  1. SpringWell WS Whole House Iron Water Filter – Best Overall
  2. USWS Matrixx inFusion – Best for Very High Iron + Iron Bacteria
  3. Crystal Quest Iron Whole House Water Filter – Runner-Up
  4. Home Master HMF3SdgFeC 3-Stage Filter System – Best Cartridge-Based
  5. SpringWell SS – Best for Water Softening Removing Iron
  6. Fleck 5600SXT Water Softener – Best Budget Option
  7. Pelican WF4/WF8 + Retention Tank – Runner-Up for Iron Bacteria

1. Best for Medium to High Levels of Iron: SpringWell WS Whole House Iron Water Filter

In our opinion, the best iron filter for well water in 2023 is the SpringWell WS. 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 WS is virtually maintenance-free for years. All in all, this is our top choice when it comes to iron filtration. 5 stars!

SpringWell WS4 Whole House Iron Water Filter

SpringWell Water WS Whole House Iron Water Filter System

Filter Price:$$$
System Process:Air Injection + Greensand
Filter Removes:Iron, Sulfur and Manganese
Fe Types:Ferrous + Ferric
Max Fe Level:7 ppm

Our Rating

Get 5% Off! Use Code: BOS5OFF


SpringWell WS Whole House Well Water Filter System Image 1SpringWell WS Whole House Well Water Filter System Image 3SpringWell WS Whole House Well Water Filter System Image 2


  • SpringWell Water whole house WS filter system creates a compressed air bubble in the top of the tank to oxidize any ferrous iron prior to being filtered. Greensand acts as an oxidizer + physical barrier to trap all precipitated iron.
    • Maximum iron removal of combined ferric (red-water iron) & ferrous (clear-water iron) of up to 7 ppm which is more than enough for most waters.
    • Sulfur/hydrogen sulfide (rotten egg odor) up to 8 ppm.
    • Removes up to 1 ppm of manganese.
    • The greensand also helps with arsenic and radium in water.
    • Well water pH between 6.5 and 10 is required.
  • 2 water filter system sizes:
    • Smaller version is rated at 12 gpm water flow rate for 1-4 bathrooms.
    • Larger system filters up to 20 gallons of water a minute for homes with 4+ bathrooms.
  • Iron filtration system has to regenerate to replenish oxygen supply and backwash the precipitated iron trapped in the media bed. Happens automatically so no need to worry.
    • Air pocket resets daily.
    • Greensand bed flushes every couple of days depending on your water usage and water quality. Only requires water for backwashing – chemical-free.
  • Digital control head has Bluetooth function and is easily programmable via app.
  • Bypass valve + illustrated guide allow for DIY installation.
  • Greensand lasts a full 18 to 25 years with no work required from your end (maintenance-free).
  • SpringWell Water provides 6-month no-risk satisfaction guarantee for peace of mind.
  • Tank, filter media, valve, and fittings are covered by lifetime warranty.
  • Great customer support.


  • Filter uses plastic fittings instead of metal.

Best for

The SpringWell WS is a whole house filter best for the following water conditions: 7 ppm Fe, 1 ppm Mn, 8 ppm S, water pH 6.5-10.0.

→ Read Our Full Review Here

2. Best for Homes with Very High Iron Levels and/or Iron Bacteria: USWS Matrixx inFusion

If your iron levels are above 7 or your sulfur levels above 8 ppm, or you are dealing with iron bacteria, the SpringWell WS filter won’t suffice. In this case, we strongly recommend the Matrixx inFusion iron and sulfur removal system by US Water Systems.

Unlike the SpringWell WS which is based on air injection pre-oxidation combined with greensand filter media, the Matrixx inFusion utilizes hydrogen peroxide and catalytic carbon. This powerful setup is designed for solving almost any iron, manganese, and sulfur problem for good. And because hydrogen peroxide is a very powerful oxidant, it’s highly effective against iron and sulfur bacteria, too!

USWS Matrixx inFusion Iron and Sulfur Removal System

US Water Systems Matrixx inFusion Iron and Sulfur Removal System

Filter Price:$$$
System Process:H2O2 + Carbon
Filter Removes:Iron, Sulfur, Manganese
Fe Types:Ferrous + Ferric + Bacteria
Max Fe Level:Highest

Our Rating


  • Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is injected into the feed water. Any iron, sulfur, and manganese oxidizes in an instant and precipitates out. The water then flows through the catalytic carbon media bed where all oxidized contaminants are removed.
    • Sediments are removed likewise.
    • Hydrogen peroxide is powerful enough to eliminate any iron and sulfur bacteria including other pathogens.
    • The treatment process also neutralizes unpleasant smell.
    • No byproducts. The hydrogen peroxide turns into water and oxygen.
  • All components of your plumbing system are protected from damage.
  • Backwashing rinses all accumulated contaminants from the filter media.
    • Fully automated.
    • The Vortech tank saves up to 30% water and prevents media channeling prolonging the life of the catalytic activated carbon.
  • 4 available system sizes:
    • 10 gpm peak water flow rate is enough for 1 or 2 bathrooms.
    • 15 gpm peak is designed for two to three and a half bathrooms.
    • Choose 20 gpm if your home has 4-6 baths.
    • 25 gpm is for 7+ bathrooms.
  • Full package: 15-gallon hydrogen peroxide tank, water meter, chemical injection pump, and 5 gallons of NSF-approved hydrogen peroxide are included.
  • A built-in bypass and a detailed step-by-step guide make installation relatively easy.
  • Filter programming is super fast via smartphone. The free mobile app also monitors water usage.
  • No maintenance needed except for refilling the peroxide tank.
  • Lifetime warranty on filter tank, 10 years on valve, 5 years on chemical injection panel.


  • Yearly H2O2 expenses of around $200-400.

Best for

The USWS Matrixx inFusion is best for extreme levels of iron and iron bacteria.

3. The Runner-Up: Crystal Quest Iron Whole House Water Filter

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 among our top recommendations for water supplies with very high levels of iron. Of course, the system also takes care of manganese and hydrogen sulfide.

In addition, a polypropylene sediment pre-filter traps sand, silt, and other large particles. A carbon post-filter removes all kinds of chemicals and organic compounds – think VOCs, industrial solvents, and pesticides. This not only prevents the large mineral tank from clogging, it also improves water aesthetics. 4.5 stars.

Crystal Quest Iron Whole House Water Filter

Crystal Quest Iron Whole House Water Filter

Filter Price:$$$
Filtration System Process:Greensand
Filter Removes:Iron, Sulfur and Manganese
Fe Types:Ferrous + Ferric
Max Fe Level:12+ ppm

Our Rating

Get 5% Off! Use Code: BOS5OFF


crystal quest whole house water treatment setup image 1


  • Primary iron filter media is glauconite greensand which also removes hydrogen sulfide and manganese from well water through oxidation + filtration.
    • Precipitates are flushed out of tank in backwash cycles.
  • Proprietary copper-zinc alloy additive prevents bacteria from fouling the tank over time.
  • Choose from 2 system sizes:
    • 1.5 cubic feet resin can provide 9-11 gallons per minute water flow rate for homes with 1-3 bathrooms. Iron water filtration capacity: 750,000 gallons or 5-7 years.
    • 2.0 cubic feet resin is rated at 10-13 gpm for 3+ bathrooms. Filtration capacity: 1,000,000 gallons or 6-8 years.
  • 5-micron sediment filter is used as pre-filter. Coconut shell activated carbon block filter is used for post-filtration. Last between 1 and 2 years.
  • Annual maintenance cost for replacement filters: $35-50 – super affordable!
  • Available with fiberglass or stainless steel casing for longevity.
  • Straightforward installation and control head configuration thanks to detailed instructions.
  • Crystal Quest gives performance guarantee or money back.
  • Customer support is very helpful and quick to connect.
  • System is covered by 1-year limited warranty.


  • Not exactly cheap.

Best for

The Crystal Quest is best for people on well water containing iron (12 ppm), sulfur, and manganese as well as chemicals.

4. Best Cartridge-Based Water Filter for Well Water with Iron: Home Master HMF3SdgFeC 3-Stage

In our opinion, in 2023, 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.

Home Master HMF3SdgFeC Whole House Iron Filter

Home Master HMF3SdgFeC 3-Stage Whole House Water Filtration System

Filter Price:$$
Filtration System:Iron Filter Cartridge
Filter Removes:Iron, Sulfur and Manganese
Fe Types:Ferric + Ferrous
Max Fe Level:3 ppm

Our Rating

Get Free Shipping! Use Code: BOSFREEWH


  • Whole house cartridge water filter systems are more affordable upfront.
  • Uses multi-gradient density sediment filter (25 – 10 – 5 – 1 micron nominal) to make your well water crystal clear and free from bacteria and cysts.
  • The well water iron filter cartridge reduces up to 3 parts per million ferrous and ferric which is relatively low.
    • Manganese and hydrogen sulfide will lower the filter life at up to 2-6 times the rate of iron.
  • Granular activated carbon filter gives the water a final polish.
  • Optimal well water pH is 7.0+.
  • Max flow rate of 15 gpm is enough water homes with 4+ bathrooms.
  • Can be installed by handy DIYer.
  • Low in maintenance. Most people are probably looking at biannual filter replacements.
  • Great customer support! You are free to send in your well water report and get recommendations from the knowledgeable staff members.
  • 2-year limited warranty.


  • There’s no built-in bypass valve.
  • Replacement filters are rather pricey.

Best for

The HMF3SdgFeC by Home Master is best for people who want an iron filter using filter cartridges.

→ Read Our Full Home Master HMF3SdgFeC System Review Here

5. Best for Water with Low Levels of Iron: SpringWell SS Softener

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

SpringWell SS Water Softener

System:Ion Exchange Water Softener
Fe Type(s):Ferrous
Amount of Iron:3 ppm

Our Rating

Get 5% Off! Use Code: BOS5OFF


SpringWell SS Salt Based Water Softener System Image 2SpringWell SS Salt Based Water Softener System Image 1SpringWell SS Salt Based Water Softener System Image 3SpringWell SS Salt Based Water Softener System Image 4


  • Grain capacities range from 32,000 to 80,000. Choose the system size and flow rate – ranges from 11 all the way up to 20 gallons per minute – which fits your home best.
    • SpringWell SS1 provides 11 gallons per minute (32,000 grains) for homes with up to 3 bathrooms.
    • SpringWell SS4 is rated at 13 gpm (48,000 grains) for up to 6 bathrooms.
    • SS+ has 20 gpm service flow rate (80,000-grain) for houses with 7 or more bathrooms.
  • Uses chlorine-resistant 10% crosslink resin. Lasts up to twice as long as standard 8% crosslink resin when used on chlorinated well water supply.
  • Bluetooth app-driven control head allows for easy programming and control. Install Legacy View app on your Android or iOS device to quickly configure the water softener.
    • You can also view water usage information etc.
    • You can still do the programming on the control head itself if you want.
  • Metered on-demand regeneration + Vortech mineral tank save salt and water.
  • Separated brine tank design.
  • Neoprene tank jacket provides protection and insulation.
  • Water softeners are relatively easy to install thanks to detailed installation instructions (handbook + video), SpringWell’s technical support team, and built-in bypass.
  • Covered by 6-month risk-free satisfaction guarantee + lifetime warranty.
  • Solid customer service.


  • Costs more than the average system.

Best for

The SpringWell SS is best for people who want a water softener for treating low levels of iron.

→ Read Our Full SpringWell Review Here

6. Best Budget Option for Iron Up to 15 ppm: Fleck 5600SXT Water Softener System with SST-60 Resin

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

Fleck 5600SXT Water Softener

System:Ion Exchange Water Softener
Fe Type(s):Ferrous
Amount of Iron:Up to 15 ppm
Warranty:5 Years & 10 Years

Our Rating


  • High-efficiency resin saves water and salt during regen – as much as 40% says Quality Water Treatment.
  • Choose from a range of grain capacities: 24,000 to 64,000 grains. Flow rate? 7 to 15 gallons of water a minute so pick whichever system size suits you best (40,000-48,000 grains makes sense for most people).
  • Simple installation: Pre-loaded + pre-programmed shipping, built-in bypass, and free 3/4″ stainless steel quick connect hoses.
  • 5 years warranty on Fleck valve and 10 years on mineral tank and brine tank.


  • Downflow system design uses more water and salt for regeneration.

Best for

The Fleck 5600SXT is best for people on a tight budget and iron levels up to 15 ppm.

7. The Runner-Up for Iron Bacteria: Pelican WF4/WF8 Iron Filter + Retention Tank

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, they’ll solve your bacteria problem for good.

Pelican WF4 Iron & Manganese Water Filter

Pelican Iron and Manganese Water Filter + RT-1248 Retention Tank

Filter Price:$$$
System Process:Bleach Oxidation + Greensand Plus + Carbon Filter
Filter Removes:Iron, Manganese, Hydrogen Sulfide
Fe Types:Ferrous + Ferric + Bacteria
Max Fe Level:Highest

Our Rating


  • A 5-micron sediment filter removes dirt. This prevents clogging of the other filter stages.
  • Injector adds bleach into the water to kill iron bacteria and pre-oxidize any iron, manganese, and sulfur.
  • The retention tank goes in after the systems’ injector pump but before the well water iron filter and allows for a longer contact time between the water and the injected bleach for an increased effectiveness.
  • All contaminants get trapped in Greensand Plus filter stage. The whole house filtration system was designed to remove up to 10 ppm of iron (ferrous and ferric).
  • Any excess bleach and other chemicals are removed by final carbon filter stage. It’ll also greatly improve how your well water tastes and smells.
  • Pelican iron and manganese water filter comes in 2 sizes:
    • WF4 provides up to 10 gallons per minute for homes with 1 to 4 bathrooms.
    • WF8 can filter 15 gallons per minute at max. This should be enough water for up to 6 bathrooms.
  • For maintenance, you need to replace the sediment pre-filter once or twice per year. And the injector pump needs your attention every 6-12 months. That’s all. Pelican estimates a service life of around 10 to 15 years.
  • You get a 90-day full satisfaction guarantee (only when bought on
  • A 7-year limited warranty covers the head unit of the Greensand Plus filter. All other parts are warranted for lifetime.


  • Reading several reviews we found out that some people consider the chemical feed pump to be a little loud.

Best for

The Pelican WF4/WF8 is our second best choice for iron bacteria filters.

Whole House Iron Filter System Comparison List

Let’s compare the best iron filters for well water directly to one another.

(Mobile Hint: Swipe to Scroll)

Filtration SystemPriceTypeFe TypesFe LevelOther ContaminantsAdditional Info
SpringWell WS Whole House Iron Filter System$$$Air Injection + GreensandFerrous, Ferric7 ppm2-Stage Filtration System Filters Iron, Manganese, and Hydrogen Sulfide Odor (Rotten-Egg Smell)Best Iron Filter, Uses Air Injection Oxidizing, Easy to Install
USWS Matrixx inFusion Iron and Sulfur Removal System$$$H2O2 + CarbonFerrous, Ferric, BacteriaHigh2-Stage Filtration System Filters Fe, Mn, S (Rotten-Egg Smell)Best Iron Filter for High Iron
Crystal Quest Whole House Iron Filter System$$$GreensandFerrous, Ferric12+ ppm3-Stage Filter Filters Iron, Manganese, and Sulfur Odor, Sediment, Chemicals + Other Contaminants3 Stages of Filtration for Highest Water Quality, Uses Sediment Pre-Filter + Coconut Shell Carbon Block Filter
Home Master HMF3SdgFeC 3-Stage Whole House Iron Filtration System$$Filter CartridgesFerrous, Ferric3 ppm3-Stage Filter Filters Iron, Manganese, Sulfur, Sediment, Chemicals, Bad Taste and OdorWater Filtration System is Easy to Install
SpringWell SS$$$Water SoftenerFerrous3 ppmRemoves Ferrous, Calcium and Magnesium (Hard Water)Alternative to Water Filters, Filters Iron But no Other Heavy Metals, Easy to Install
Fleck 5600SXT$$Water SoftenerFerrous15 ppmRemoves Ferrous, Calcium, Magnesium (Hard Water)Alternative to Water Filtration System
Pelican Iron and Manganese Water Filter + RT-1248 Retention Tank$$$Bleach Oxidation + Greensand Plus + Carbon FilterFerrous, Ferric, BacteriaHighFilters Bacterial Iron, Manganese, Hydrogen Sulfide, Sediment4 Stages of Filtration for Highest Water Quality, Includes Sediment Filter

Buying Guide – How We Picked the Best Water Filters for Iron Removal

The following are things worth considering before you go out and hunt for the best iron filter to handle your iron contamination issue. These are also the very same criteria we focused on when picking our top products for this guide.

1. Do a Water Test

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.

2. Choose Iron Filter Type, Media & Filtration Method Tailored to Your Situation

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 types of iron filters 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.

2.1 How to Size an Iron Filter System for Well Water

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.

3. Iron Filter Installation

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.

4. Do Another Water Test

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.

5. Maintenance: Cleaning and Replacement Filters

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.

replacing dirty iron filter


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

How Does Iron Get into Water?

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.

Iron in Your Home – What Damage Does It Cause?

Too much iron in your well water supply can cause 3 issues:

  1. Clogging – Iron particles can accumulate inside the pipes of your plumbing system as well as your home appliances. At first, you may only experience reduced water pressure, but eventually costly repairs or replacement might be the consequence.
  2. Staining – Even at low concentrations can iron in water leave reddish or brown stains, which are really hard to remove, in your shower, toilet and bath tub, and on your clothes and dishes.
  3. Bacteria – As the name suggests, this type of bacteria feed on iron. The result is smelly slime that causes even more clogging and staining.

Health: Is Iron in Well Water Dangerous?

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 & Bacteria

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.

Taste + Smell

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.

Hair + Skin

Your hair and skin might also be affected by well water with high iron content:

  • When used for washing, your hair may become dry and brittle, and possibly darker. Blonde hair may take on a tint of orange.
  • Your skin may wrinkle prematurely.
  • Mixed with iron, soap forms scum which is hard to rinse off the skin. Soap scum residue can clog pores causing irritation and acne.

Shower Head Running

What Are Iron Filters for Well Water and How Do They Work?

Iron filters are primarily designed to remove the different forms of iron from well 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.

  • For aeration, air is injected into the water. The iron oxidizes and is then removed by a filter.
  • Chlorine injection requires a chemical feed pump. The water-chlorine solution then needs to sit long enough to allow the oxidation to happen.
  • For ozonation, the water is mixed with ozone.

Ferric iron 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.

How You Can Remove Iron From Well Water Using the Different Types of Iron Filter Systems

Like we said, there’s different equipment that can help you get rid of iron in well water and other water sources…

Types of Iron in Water – Ferrous vs. Ferric (Rust) vs. Organic vs. Bacteria

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.

  • Ferrous (Fe2+) – May be found in anaerobic groundwater at levels of up to several parts per million without causing turbidity or discoloration when directly pumped from a well. The water comes out of the faucet still clear and will only start to turn red after standing for a while being exposed to oxygen in the air.
  • Ferric (Fe3+) – Contained in oxygen-rich water sources. The water already has a reddish or yellowish color when drawn from the tap. Because ferric iron is insoluble and gelatinous, it’s also what causes clogging in your plumbing system and home appliances.
  • Organic iron – Occurs in shallow wells and those affected by surface water. The compounds are usually heavily colored and can cause severe staining. The problem with organic iron treatment is that it’s very stable because the iron is not free to react.
  • Bacterial iron – Group of organisms naturally occurring in shallow soils and groundwater. The organisms live on iron and can enter a well and other water supply systems during their constructions or repair. They convert ferrous to ferric leaving slimy deposits (red or brown biofilm). The slime not only causes clogging, it’s also the best indication for a potential infestation. The good news is, iron bacteria are not harmful to humans, however, they can make an iron problem much worse.

Removing Clear-Water Iron Using an Iron Filter

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 Role of Well Water pH

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.

When Not to Use an Iron Filter

Even the best iron filters for well water should not be used without additional treatment when organic matter is present!

young woman drinking water

Using an Oxidizing Agent + Water Filter

Ferrous iron 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.

Using an Air Injector + Iron Filter

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 iron filter and the eductor that is part of the injector.

Using a Water Softener

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.

The Role of Well Water pH

Subpar iron removal can be the result of high well water pH. This is because ferrous iron 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.

pH scale

When NOT to Use

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.

Red-Water Iron Removal

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 if iron and more are easily manageable.

Removing Organic Iron and Iron-Oxidizing Bacteria

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.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Using an Iron Filter for Your Well Water

What are the pros and cons of using an iron filter for well water treatment?

Advantage #1: Iron-Free Plumbing System

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.

Advantage #2: No Iron Staining

You finally won’t have to deal with iron staining anymore.

Advantage #3: Clean Well Water

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.

Advantage #3: Even Cleaner Well Water

Iron filters also remove other contaminants, particularly manganese and hydrogen sulfide. And they trap sediments.

Advantage #4: Easy to Maintain

Iron filters for well water are easy to maintain and some are entirely maintenance-free.

Advantage #5: Chemical-Free Filtration

An iron filter system does not rely on chemicals, unless it’s a system using chlorine injection or a similar filtration method.

Disadvantage #1: Cost

Iron filters are not exactly cheap.

Disadvantage #2: Installation

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.

Frequently Asked Questions (Filtration FAQ)

  • Are water softener-iron filter combos any good?
    Yes, they work really well. You can check our softener-filter combo reviews here if you want.
  • What do you think of the Iron Pro 2 Combination water softener?
    Let’s put it this way: The Iron Pro 2 Combination water softener is not one of our favorite models. There are better filter and softener combos out there.
  • Can you remove iron from your water without using chemicals?
    Yes. In fact, most of the water filters remove iron in your water this way. For example, air injection whole house filters remove iron using oxygen for pre-oxidation followed by mechanical filtration or greensand etc. This approach works with almost all iron levels.

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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.

About the Author Alexandra Uta

Alex is a content writer with an affinity for research and a methodical attention to detail. Her writing interests have included many different topics, water treatment among them, which have encompassed varying writing styles.
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