7 Best Iron Filter Reviews + How to Remove Iron from Well Water

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 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. But how? How do you remove iron from (well) water effectively?

This guide provides all the answers. You’ll find our collection of the best iron water filters and water softeners, and you’ll learn everything you need to know about iron treatment.

On This Page You Will…

No Time to Read? Check Our List of the Best Iron Filters & Softeners!

SystemsOur RatingPriceSystem TypeIron Type(s)Max Fe LevelResponsive
SpringWell WS4 Whole House Iron Water Filter

Best Water Filter for Well Water with Iron: SpringWell WS4

Read Review
$$$$Air Injection + Greensand Iron Filter SystemFerrous + Ferric (Rust)7 ppmSpringWell WS4 Whole House Iron Water Filter

Best Water Filter for Well Water with Iron: SpringWell WS4

Our Rating:
Price: $$$$
System Type: Air Injection + Greensand
Iron Type(s): Ferrous + Ferric (Rust)
Max Iron Level: 7 ppm

Read Review
Crystal Quest Whole House Iron Water Filter

Our #1 Filter System for Very High Iron Levels: Crystal Quest

Read Review
$$$Greensand Iron Filter SystemFerrous + Ferric (Rust)12+ ppmCrystal Quest Whole House Iron Water Filter

Our #1 Filter System for Very High Iron Levels: Crystal Quest

Our Rating:
Price: $$$
System Type: Greensand
Iron Type(s): Ferrous + Ferric (Rust)
Max Iron Level: 12+ ppm

Read Review
Home Master HMF3SdgFeC with Iron Water Filter Cartridge

Best Cartridge Water Filter for Well Water with Iron: Home Master HMF3SdgFeC

Read Review
$$Iron Filter CartridgeFerrous + Ferric (Rust)3 ppmHome Master HMF3SdgFeC with Iron Water Filter Cartridge

Best Cartridge Water Filter for Well Water with Iron: Home Master HMF3SdgFeC

Our Rating:
Price: $$
System Type: Iron Filter Cartridge
Iron Type(s): Ferrous + Ferric
Max Iron Level: 3 ppm

Read Review

Use our coupon code BOSFREEWH at checkout and get FREE SHIPPING!

Use our coupon code BOSFREEWH at checkout and get FREE SHIPPING!
SpringWell Water Softener

Our Preferred Water Softener for Well Water Containing Iron: SpringWell

Read Review
$$$Ion Exchange Water SoftenerFerrous3 ppmSpringWell Water Softener

Our Preferred Water Softener for Well Water Containing Iron: SpringWell

Our Rating:
Price: $$$
System Type: Ion Exchange Water Softener
Iron Type(s): Ferrous
Max Iron Level: 3 ppm

Read Review
Fleck 5600SXT Iron Water Softener

Water Softener for Iron Up to 15 ppm: Fleck 5600SXT with SST-60 Resin

Read Review
$$Ion Exchange Water SoftenerFerrousUp to 15 ppmFleck 5600SXT Iron Water Softener

Water Softener for Iron Up to 15 ppm: Fleck 5600SXT with SST-60 Resin

Our Rating:
Price: $$
System Type: Ion Exchange Water Softener
Iron Type(s): Ferrous
Max Iron Level: Up to 15 ppm

Read Review
Pelican WF4 Iron & Manganese Water Filter

Best Iron Bacteria Filter: Pelican WF4 + RT-1248 Retention Tank (Separate Link)

Read Review
$$$$Bleach Oxidation + Greensand Plus + Carbon Iron Filter SystemFerrous + Ferric (Rust) + Iron BacteriaHighestPelican WF4 Iron & Manganese Water Filter

Best Iron Bacteria Filter: Pelican WF4 + RT-1248 Retention Tank (Separate Link)

Our Rating:
Price: $$$$
System Type: Bleach Oxidation + Greensand Plus + Carbon
Iron Type(s): Ferrous + Ferric + Iron Bacteria
Max Iron Level: Highest

Read Review

The Best Iron Filter for Well Water? – Our Best Whole House Iron Filter Reviews

Air Injection Iron Filter Reviews (Chemical Free)

Our #1 Top Pick for Medium to High Iron Levels: SpringWell WS4

In our opinion, the best iron filter for well water in 2020 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 WS4

SpringWell Water WS4 Whole House Iron Water Filter System

Filter Price:$$$$
System Process:Air Injection + Greensand
Fe Types:Ferrous + Ferric
Max Fe Level:7 ppm

Our Rating

Filter Pros

  • SpringWell Water whole house WS4 system creates a compressed air bubble in the top of the tank to oxidize any ferrous iron prior to being filtered. Greensand filter media acts as an oxidizer + physical barrier to trap all precipitated iron.
    • Maximum 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.
    • Manganese removal up to 1 ppm.
    • The greensand also helps with arsenic and radium in water.
    • Water pH between 6.5 and 10 is required.
  • Filters up to 20 gallons of water a minute for homes with 4+ bathrooms.
    • Smaller version is rated at 12 gpm service flow for 1-4 bathrooms.
  • Iron filter 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. No harsh chemicals whatsoever.
  • Electronic 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 Cons

  • Uses plastic fittings instead of metal.

→ Read Our Full Review Here

Our Recommendation for Homes with Very High Iron Levels: Crystal Quest Iron Whole House Water Filter

Crystal Quest’s Iron Whole House Water Filter can handle iron concentrations in water of up to 12 ppm (and possibly more). Thus, it’s our top recommendation for water supplies with very high iron levels. Of course, the system also takes care of manganese and hydrogen sulfide.

In addition, a pre-filter traps sediment, 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

Crystal Quest Iron Whole House Water Filter

Filter Price:$$$
System Process:Greensand
Fe Types:Ferrous + Ferric
Max Fe Level:12+ ppm
Warranty:1 Year

Our Rating

Filter Pros

  • Primary iron filter media is glauconite greensand which also removes sulfur and manganese from 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 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 for pre-filtration. 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.

Filter Cons

  • Not exactly cheap.

Best Cartridge Water Filter for Well Water with Iron: Home Master HMF3SdgFeC

In our opinion, the best cartridge water filter for well water with iron in 2020 is the Home Master HMF3SdgFeC. 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, sulfur, 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

Home Master HMF3SdgFeC Filtration System with Iron Filter Cartridge

Filter Price:$$
System:Iron Filter Cartridge
Fe Types:Ferric + Ferrous
Max Fe Level:3 ppm
Warranty:2 Years

Our Rating

Filter Pros

  • Whole house cartridge water filter systems are more affordable upfront.
  • Uses multi-gradient density sediment water filter (25 – 10 – 5 – 1 micron nominal) to make your water crystal clear and free from bacteria and cysts.
  • The iron filter cartridge reduces up to 3 parts per million ferrous and ferric which is relatively low.
    • Manganese and sulfur 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 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.

Filter Cons

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

→ Read Our Full Home Master HMF3SdgFeC Whole House Review Here

Bonus: Top Shower Filters for Iron Removal

Aquasana AQ-4100 Shower Filter

No shower filter removes clear-water iron. But some reduce rust, like the Aquasana AQ-4100 which combines coconut shell carbon with KDF-55 media. The shower water filter also eliminates chlorine (>90%) and other harsh chemicals for softer and more moisturized skin. Filter life: 10,000 gallons of filtered water or 6 months.

You can either use the filter with your own shower head as long as it’s standard-sized, or opt for Aquasana’s massaging head. There’s also a massaging handheld version.

If you don’t have enough space to accommodate the Aquasana AQ-4100 check out the Shower Pure 7 filtered shower head or this universal high-output model if you’re looking for an inline shower water filter.

Our Favorite Water Softeners to Take Care of Iron in Well Water

#1 Water Softener for Iron Up to 3 ppm: SpringWell

In our opinion, the number one water softener for well water with iron in 2020 is the SpringWell. It can handle ferrous iron up to 3 ppm, and manganese and hydrogen sulfide up to 1 ppm. 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 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 Water Softener

SpringWell Whole House Water Softener

System:Water Softener
Fe Type(s):Ferrous
Max Fe Level:3 ppm

Our Rating


  • 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 (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 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.
  • Neoprene tank jacket provides protection and insulation.
  • Water softeners are relatively easy to install thanks to detailed 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 water softener.

→ Read Our Full SpringWell Water Softener Review Here

Water Softener System for Iron Up to 15 ppm: Fleck 5600SXT 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 Water Softener with SST-60 Resin

Fleck 5600SXT Whole House Iron Water Softener

System:Water Softener
Fe Type(s):Ferrous
Max Fe Level: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.

Treating Iron Bacteria in Well Water + Best Iron Bacteria Filter

Iron bacteria are a group of organisms naturally occurring in shallow soils and groundwater. They live on iron and can enter a well and other water supply systems during their constructions or repair.

Iron bacteria 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 bacteria infestation. Clumps that break away from these deposits produce iron laden water which is likely to cause staining.

Is Iron Bacteria Harmful to Drink?

The good news is, iron bacteria are not harmful to humans, however, they can make an iron problem much worse.

How to Get Rid of Iron Bacteria in Tap Water or Well Water

First of all, iron bacteria can only be identified with absolute certainty by microscopic examination.

Then, physical, chemical, or thermal treatment can be used to eliminate them. The most common method is shock chlorination, a process that’s also used in swimming pools. However, shock chlorination won’t resolve an iron bacteria infestation permanently. But it helps to control it. Thus shock chlorination should be carried out periodically, like twice a year (i.e. once in spring and once in fall). This will extend the lifespan of your water filtration equipment and minimize maintenance requirements.

Our Number One Iron Bacteria Filter: Pelican WF4/WF8 + Retention Tank

If shock chlorination is not possible for whatever reason we recommend you 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 iron bacteria problem for good.

The retention tank goes in after the systems’ injector pump but before the iron filter and allows for an increased contact time between the water and the injected bleach. Bleach? Yes, it kills iron bacteria. And it oxidizes iron, manganese, and sulfur in water very effectively. All of which will be trapped in the next filter stage (Greensand Plus). Any excessive chlorine (bleach) and other chemicals will be removed in the final filter stage.

Pelican WF4 Iron & Manganese Water Filter

Pelican WF4 Iron & Manganese Water Filter + RT-1248 Retention Tank

Filter Price:$$$$
System Process:Bleach Oxidation + Greensand Plus + Carbon Filter
Fe Types:Ferrous + Ferric + Bacteria
Max Fe Level:Highest
Warranty:7 Years & Lifetime

Our Rating

All Systems Compared

SpringWell WS4 Whole House Water Filtration SystemØ13" x 64"Media Filters Iron, Manganese + Hydrogen Sulfide Odor (Rotten-Egg Smell)
Crystal Quest Iron Water Filtration SystemDifferent Filters/SystemsMedia Filters Iron, Manganese, Sulfur Odor, Sediment, Chemicals + Other Contaminants
Home Master HMF3SdgFeC Whole House Filtration System25" x 24" x 9"Filters Iron, Manganese, Sulfur, Sediment, Chemicals, Bad Taste and Odor
SpringWell Whole House Water SoftenersDifferent Filters/SystemsRemove Ferrous, Calcium and Magnesium (Hardness)
Fleck 5600SXT Whole House Water SoftenerDifferent Filters/SystemsRemove Ferrous, Calcium, Magnesium (Hardness)
Pelican WF4 + RT-1248 Whole House Filtration System62.5" x 37" x 23.5"Media Filters Bacterial Iron, Manganese, Sulfur, Sediment

Buying Guide – What to Consider When Shopping for an Iron Water Filter

The best approach to tackle an iron contamination issue and find the best iron filter looks like this:

1. Have Your Water Tested

Turns out the best way to remove iron from your water depends on your water conditions. First and foremost, you need to know what kind of iron you’re facing. There is ferrous, ferric, and organic iron. In addition, you should test your water for manganese, hydrogen sulfide, and iron bacteria. Lastly, determine water pH, water temperature, and water alkalinity as well as dissolved oxygen content.

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

Scroll down or click here to learn everything you need to know.

2.1 How to Size an Iron Filter for Well Water

A whole house iron filter for well water must be able to meet your water demand even at times of peak consumption. This means it needs to have a high-enough service flow rate.

Your plumbing system also needs to be able to meet backwashing flow rates if required by an iron filter system.

3. 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 is going to cost you a few hundred extra dollars at least.

4. Re-Test Your Water

You want to make sure that your iron removal system works as intended. So test the well water one more time after 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 and backwash rates, and any other application limitations.
laboratory test

5. Maintenance: Cleaning and Replacement Filters

Chances are you just spent a couple of hundred or thousand dollars on your new iron removal system. Make sure to keep it in good shape so that it’ll continue to operate smoothly.

For example: Iron sludge may plug the air injection eductor. The eductor needs to be cleaned regularly. Furthermore, especially mechanical iron filters need to be replaced on a regular basis.


Don’t focus solely on how much a water filter system costs at purchase. Before making a final buying decision, also pay attention to how long each filter element lasts on average and check its price range and availability. This will save you from unpleasant surprises further down the road.

More on Iron Water Filtration

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.

Iron in Your Home – What Damage Does It Cause?

Iron in your home’s 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 iron in water can 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, iron bacteria feed on iron. The result is smelly slime that causes even more clogging and staining.

Health: Is Iron in 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 does of 200–250 mg/kg of body weight, which leads to hemorrhagic necrosis and sloughing of areas of mucosa in the stomach with extension. (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 iron bacteria in particular may have more serious health consequences. The latter creates an environment which can harbor other microorganisms, increasing the risk for disease when digested.

Taste + Smell

While usually not being a health issue, iron is definitely considered an aesthetic water contaminant. Too much ferrous iron 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 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, irritation, and acne.

woman showering head face

What Are Iron Removing Filters and How Do They Work?

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 kind of iron it’s targeting.

We’ll discuss the different iron filters currently on the market in the next section.

In a nutshell, iron filter media like greensand is used to oxidize and trap clear-water iron in a large tank. And just like softeners, some iron filters require backwashing to flush away any accumulated rust and regeneration to retain oxidizing capabilities.

Depending on how much iron is present and other water parameters, and what filter 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 pump. The solution then needs to sit long enough to allow the oxidation to happen.
  • For ozonation, the water is mixed ozone.

Ferric is removed mechanically – think size exclusion. Removing iron compounds often requires a more customized approach. The most common method to get rid of iron bacteria is shock chlorination.

How You Can Remove Iron From Well Water DIY

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+) – Ferrous iron may be contained 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. Thus the name clear-water iron.
  • Ferric (Fe3+) – Ferric is 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 – Organic iron occurs in shallow wells and those affected by surface water. It has formed compounds with naturally occurring acids and other organic matter. These compounds are usually heavily colored and can cause severe staining. When it comes to treating water containing organic iron, the problem is that the compounds are very stable and the iron is not free to react.
  • Bacterial iron – The term refers to water containing iron bacteria.

How can you remove iron from well water DIY

Daniel Case [CC BY-SA 3.0], from Wikimedia Commons

Removing Clear-Water Iron

Using a Water Softener

Does a water softener remove iron? Yes, ferrous can be removed in an ion exchange process with the help of a water softener. 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 a water softener is to remove hardness 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 water softener that is badly fouled is difficult to clean, which is why replacing the entire bed might be the better option.

The Role of Water pH

If water pH levels are too high a water softener will not perform up to its potential. This is because ferrous converts to ferric more quickly in alkaline water. At the same time, low water pH levels 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.


When NOT to Use a Water Softener

If you struggle with clear-water plus red-water iron, organic iron, or iron bacteria, 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.

Using an Iron Filter

For higher amounts of clear-water 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.

Ozone is a very powerful disinfectant and, unlike chlorine, it won’t add unpleasant taste or odor to your water (and no disinfectant byproducts).

Just like water softeners, iron filters require periodic backwashing to clean out the precipitated rust that has accumulated in the media bed. This in turn requires sufficient water flow. 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 an iron filter to fail.

The Role of Water pH

The ideal water 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 water pH value of at least 8.0 will increase the filtration effectiveness significantly.

When Not to Use an Iron Filter

An iron filter for well water should not be used when organic matter is present. And they don’t kill iron bacteria!

Using an Oxidizing Agent + Water Filter

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, filter media such as manganese greensand or activated carbon can be used for the actual removal.

Examples for oxidizing chemicals include hydrogen peroxide, chlorine, sodium/calcium hypochlorite, and potassium permanganate. Chlorine and hypochlorite will also act as a disinfectant and kill iron bacteria 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 learn more about chlorine filtration here.

Using an Air Injector + Water Filter (Cheapest Way to Eliminate Iron in Well Water)

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, 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 to remove iron from 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.

rust crown

Red-Water Iron Removal

As stated above, ferric iron can be removed by mechanical a.k.a. sediment filtration, a rust water purifier so to speak. Concentrations of 15 ppm and more are easily manageable.

Removing Organic Iron from Your Water

Organic iron 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 is colloidal it’s even harder to get by due to it being smaller. To solve the problem, it might be necessary to add a coagulant to your water which will glue the particles together, making them larger and therefore easier to remove.

Filter Media

As with the selection of a water filter or water softener itself, it’s also important to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations when it comes to the choosing the best filter media. Each has its own pros and cons…

Greensand Filter Media

  • Water pH: 6.8 to 8.8
  • Filters iron levels up to 15 ppm
  • Water should not contain tannins

Greensand is the most commonly used oxidant in iron filters. It has proven itself over the years, has relatively high removal capacities, and can operate at high water flow rates requiring only moderate backwash.

Coated with manganese oxide, sometimes called manganese greensand, it oxidizes iron in water as soon as it comes in contact with it. Greensand is also effective at oxidizing hydrogen sulfide and manganese.

An alternative to “regular” greensand is synthetic greensand, a granular mineral with a manganese dioxide coating. The benefits that synthetic greensand has over regular greensand is that it’s

  • much lighter
  • and it requires less frequent backwash.

Birm Filter Media

  • Water pH: 7.0 to 9.0
  • Filters iron levels up to 15 ppm
  • Water should not contain chlorine (otherwise use greensand)

Birm can be used to reduce iron and manganese levels in water, but it has no effect on hydrogen sulfide. It uses dissolved oxygen in the water as a catalyst and in some cases requires pre-oxidation if dissolved oxygen content is too low.

Advantages of Birm filters: They are easy to maintain, long-lasting, and don’t require any salt or chemicals.

Manganese Dioxide Filter Media

Manganese dioxide removes iron, manganese, and hydrogen sulfide. Just like Birm, it requires enough dissolved oxygen in water for optimum performance.

Frequently Asked Questions (Filtration FAQ)

  • Does reverse osmosis remove iron?
    A reverse osmosis purification system can be used to remove low levels of iron, manganese, and other (heavy) metals as well as salts. If a test has shown that your water also contains other potentially harmful contaminants, reverse osmosis can be a great solution.
    However, all professionals in the field agree that reverse osmosis requires thorough pre-filtration when used on well water. Otherwise, the RO membrane will clog almost immediately. So if you are on a well consider pairing an RO system with a whole house water filter.
  • Place iron filter before or after water softener?
    When using an iron filter together with a water softener, always install the filter before the water softener. This will greatly increase the water softener’s lifespan.
  • How to remove iron from well water NATURALLY?
    If anything, air injection in combination with a filter stage is how you can filter iron out of well water naturally. Learn more here.
  • How to remove iron from drinking water?
    Removing iron from drinking water works exactly the same as treating well water or any other water source: First, conduct a test to find out what iron type your water contains and how much of it. Then, pick a suitable treatment method.
  • Does Brita filter iron?
    No, a Brita pitcher or any other Brita filter does not help with iron reduction.
comment banner

I hope this list of the best iron filters and our guide about iron removal 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 iron water filter reviews occasionally.

About the Author Gene Fitzgerald

Gene Fitzgerald has been with BOS since the very beginning. She is head of content creation and has fully immersed herself into the home water treatment industry only to become an expert herself. Outside of BOS, Gene loves reading books on philosophy & social issues, making music, and hiking.
Learn more about .


Leave a Comment:

Want cleaner, safer and healthier water?

Sign up to join 1,000+ subscribers and get notified about new BOS guides & checklists as well as exclusive product sales and discount codes.