By Rehan Iqbal
While iron isn’t dangerous, it can change the color, smell and taste of your water while leaving stains on clothes and around faucets. There are several forms of iron that can show up in well water, and even more ways to deal with it. Which solution is right for you? We’ve rounded up some of the best filtering systems available, and we’ve answered your most common questions about iron contamination and filtration.
Top Rated Iron Water Filters
- 1SoftPro Iron Master AIO Water Filtration System
- 2SpringWell Whole House Well Water Filter System
- 3Crystal Quest Iron Whole House Water Filter
- 4Home Master - 3 Stage Sediment, Iron & Carbon Filter
- 5Flexx inFusion - Iron And Sulfur System – US Water
- 6Iron & Manganese Filter and Pelican Water Softener Alternative Combo System
1. SoftPro Iron Master AIO Water Filtration System
If you have high levels of iron in your water, you don’t have to resort to a giant filtration system. The SoftPro Iron Master uses advanced filter media to deliver high performance in a standard-sized tank.
This filter system contains Katalox Light media. Like green sand, this media’s surface is covered with manganese dioxide, which oxidizes iron and manganese on contact. However, the media is lighter, has more surface area, and packs down tighter, increasing its effectiveness. SoftPro combines this with an air injection system. This two-step oxidation process filters water with up to 30 PPM of iron, 7 PPM manganese and 5 PPM of hydrogen sulfide.
The tank’s electronic head has a battery backup that keeps internal clock running up to 48 hours. Program settings are held in permanent memory, so it’s easy to get up and running after a prolonged blackout. Like similar systems, backflushing happens at regular intervals every few days, regardless of water use. The head also has a vacation mode that only regenerates once per week to stop bacterial growth.
SoftPro offers this system in three sizes with 1, 1.5 or 2 cubic feet of filter media. The smallest tank is fine for most 1-2 bathroom houses, the 1.5 cu. ft. unit for 2-4 bathrooms, and the two cubic foot model for four or more bathrooms. The media lasts 5-10 years for most homes depending on contamination levels, but severe contamination may cut life down to just three years. The head components are designed to be cleaned or replaced by homeowners if they become clogged with contaminates. It uses common seals that are available at any hardware store.
This system comes with one inch connections on the valve head. The included quick connect kit is available with one inch or ¾ inch connections, so it works with most home plumbing. This system uses flexible hoses, so you don’t need to build pipes to connect between the tank and your plumbing.
Softpro backs this system with a lifetime warranty on the control head, aside from wear components. There’s a 7 year warranty on the head’s circuitry, and no warranty on the media.
2. SpringWell Whole House Well Water Filter System
Do you need a filter system that is as good at handling sulfur as it is at removing iron? SpringWell’s Whole House Iron Filter use a combination of air gap oxidation and filter media to strip these contaminates out of your water.
Air gap filters like this system spray water through air, oxidizing metals and sulfur. SpringWell takes oxidation a step further by filling the media tank with green sand. The manganese dioxide on the surface of this sand oxidizes anything that made its way past the air bubble. This system handles up to 7 PPM of iron, 8 PPM of hydrogen sulfide and 1 PPM of manganese. The filter is compatible with water that has a pH of 6.5 to 10.
This system comes with a Bluetooth-enabled valve head, allowing you to monitor and control regeneration cycles from your phone. The head has a release valve that lets air exit the tank slowly, cutting down on house during the backwashing cycle.
This filter system is offered in two versions. The WS1 is a 1-4 bathroom system that has a service flow rate of 12 GPM and uses a 10 inch wide media tank. The WS4 is built for homes with four or more bathrooms, has a service flow rate of 20 GPM, and uses a 13 inch wide tank. Both tanks, including the heads, are 64 inches tall.
The Whole House Iron Filter includes a spin down sediment filter to remove large contaminates. There’s no filter to change. Just open the cap and drain out debris from the collection chamber occasionally. SpringWell includes bypass valves, 50 feet of plastic line for the drain and a hose clamp with this filter. Both the WS1 and WS4 use 1 inch plumbing connections. These iron treatment systems are available in packages that let you add a UV filter, a reverse osmosis filter and a salt-based water softener.
The head is guaranteed for 7 years, while there is no warranty on the filter media. SpringWell has a 6 month return policy, but the buyer pays shipping costs and up to 25% of the purchase price in restocking fees.
3. Crystal Quest Iron Whole House Water Filter
Crystal Quest promotes this system as an iron filter, but it also removes many other contaminates, including chlorine, heavy metals and bacteria. This makes it a great choice if you want to improve your water’s flavor.
When water enters the system, it passes through a 20 inch sediment cartridge. This removes particles as small as 5 microns, reducing the chance of clogs in the media tank.
Crystal Quest packs the main tank with a combination of green sand and Pyrolox. Both types of media use manganese dioxide to oxidize iron. The system also uses Eagle Redox Alloy (ERA) 6500 and 9500 media. This copper zinc (KDF) media also acts as an oxidizer. KDF is effective at removing or breaking down heavy metals, chlorine and bacteria. If this isn’t enough to treat your water, this filter system is offered with four sizes of oxidation systems from 800 mg/h to 2,000 mg/h. This system works with water that has a pH of 6.5 to 9.
The Iron Whole House Water Filter is available in two sizes. If you choose 1.5 cubic feet of media, you get a 10 x 52 inch tank that has a 9-11 GPM service rate. The media has a filtering capacity of 750,000 gallons. Choose the two cubic foot option, and you’ll get a 12 x 52 inch tank with a 10-13 GPM service flow rate and a filter capacity of 1,000,000 gallons. These tanks are available with a fiberglass or stainless steel case.
Once the water is out of the oxidation tank, it passes through a 20 inch solid carbon cartridge to remove chemicals including VOCs, solvents and pesticides. Need to deal with other contaminates? Crystal Quest offers this system in packages that let you add a catalytic carbon filter, a UV filter and a salt-based water softener.
Crystal Quest guarantees all of their equipment, aside from filter cartridges, for one year.
4. Home Master - 3 Stage Sediment, Iron & Carbon Filter
Iron treatment systems don’t need to be big. Home Master’s three stage system uses cartridge filters, so the entire treatment system is just two feet long and two feet wide. It also doesn’t need to backwash, making it easy to install. However, it’s limited to filtering lightly contaminated water.
The system is built around three filters. The first stage filter removes sediment. It uses several layers, filtering down to 25, 10, 5 and finally one micron. This filter can handle water with up to 2,000 PPM of total dissolved solids. It lasts between 6 and 12 months, depending on the level of water contamination. The second stage filter removes up to 3 PPM of iron. It also removes up to 1 PPM of manganese, but this shortens the filter’s life. It isn’t effective on iron bacteria or hydrogen sulfide. The third stage filter uses activated carbon to remove chemicals including chlorine and VOCs. Each housing measures 20 x 4.5 inches, and is attached to a wall-mounted bracket. The entire system measures just 25 x 24 x 9 inches.
This system requires water with a pH over 7, and it has a maximum service flow rate of 15 GPM. Due to its small size, these filter cartridges only have a 100,000 gallon capacity, which will last about a year for most 3-4 person households. Installation requires the addition of shut off valves where the plumbing lines connect to the system. Cartridge replacement is easy: just shut off the valves and use the included filter wrench to remove the old filter and fit a new one. Expect to spend at least $260 on yearly cartridge replacements. While that sounds expensive, the total lifetime cost for this system is about the same as a large tank iron filter. Home Master offers optional pressure gauges, which let you monitor the health of your filters. When the water pressure goes up, it’s time to replace the cartridge.
Home Master backs this system with a two-year warranty.
5. Flexx inFusion - Iron And Sulfur System – US Water
Are you having problems with iron bacteria? The Flexx inFusion uses chemical injection to wipe out bacterial growth and remove dissolved iron. It’s also great at removing high levels of sulfur.
Water first enters a tank with a hydrogen peroxide injector. Hydrogen peroxide is a powerful oxidizer, but it doesn’t leave an off taste like chlorine. Unlike solid media systems, peroxide is strong enough to kill iron and sulfur bacteria. After this chemical does its work, it degrades into oxygen and hydrogen.
From there, the water goes through a tank filled with quartz gravel and catalytic carbon. Together, they remove precipitated metals and chlorine. This system removes up to 20 ppm of iron, 30 ppm of hydrogen sulfide and 1 ppm of manganese. It’s compatible with water with a pH between 6 and 9.
The control head has built-in Bluetooth, and is compatible with the Waterlogix app. This lets you access the head’s functions from your Android or Apple smartphone. It handles backwashing automatically, maintaining flow through the system.
US Water Systems offers the inFusion in four sizes:
All models come with a 15 gallon hydrogen peroxide solution tank and a chemical injection pump.
The inFusion’s regeneration cycle takes 25-30 minutes, which is longer than most air gap systems. However, the system’s valves automatically switch to bypass mode, so you’ll still have access to water.
The catalytic carbon filter needs to be replaced every 3-5 years, while the injection pump tube and check valve will last anywhere from 1-5 years.
U.S. Water Systems offers a lifetime warranty on the carbon media tank, a 7 year warranty on the system’s valves and electronics, and a 5 year warranty on the injection panel.
6. Iron & Manganese Filter and Pelican Water Softener Alternative Combo System
For many well water systems, Pentair’s WF10-P system has everything you need for a water treatment system. It has chlorine injection to kill pathogens and iron bacteria, a filter tank that removes metals, and a carbon filter for chemicals. After treatment, it uses a water conditioner to soften water without generating brine. This makes it legal to use across the U.S.
First, water passes through a 5 micron prefilter. Removing small particles protects the rest of the system from clogs. The cartridge in this filter lasts between 6 and 9 months, depending on the level of contaminates in your water.
Next, the water enters a 17 gallon tank with a chlorine injection system. While chlorine does oxidize iron, its main purpose is killing pathogens and iron bacteria. Treated water then goes to the iron reduction tank. This tank contains green sand to oxidize iron and gravel to trap this precipitated metal. The electronic head backwashes the filter every few days, and it can trigger a cycle after heavy water use. Once the iron is removed, the water passes through an activated carbon filter. This removes the chlorine from the injection system, as well as many other chemicals that can make water taste off.
Finally, water passes through a salt-free water softener. This water conditioner has media that attracts hardness minerals, forcing them to clump together. Eventually, these clumps flake off. While the conditioner doesn’t remove these minerals, it turns them into a form that won’t stick to plumbing or cause issues with soap scum.
This Pentair system has a maximum service flow rate of 15 GPM, and uses one inch plumbing connections. That’s enough capacity to handle a home with 4-6 bathrooms. If you have a smaller home, their WF6-P system has the same features as the WF10-P, scaled down for 1-3 bathrooms. These systems require at least 25 PSI of water pressure, and they work with water that has a pH between 7 and 11.
The carbon filter and oxidizing media should last about 5 years. Pentair covers the entire system with a one year warranty, while there’s a 5 year warranty on tank, valve and electronics.
Frequently Asked Questions About Iron Filtration
What’s the Difference Between Iron Scum, Clear Water Iron and Visible Iron?
There are bacteria that oxidize iron for energy. This process leaves behind either an oily sheen or a layer of slime on surface water. These bacteria aren’t harmful, but this slime smells terrible, it clogs plumbing, and it can feed dangerous pathogens. These bacteria may come from the surrounding environment, or were spread to the well by contaminated drilling equipment.
Iron oxide is rust. This ferrous iron is formed when elemental iron is exposed to oxygen. It turns water orange, red or brown. This type of iron isn’t held in suspension, so it can settle out of water.
Clear water iron is ferric iron. This type of iron is held in suspension by the water, and doesn’t change its color. Ferric iron turns into ferrous iron when it’s exposed to oxygen. For example, chlorine is a strong oxidizing agent. Sometimes, people find out they have high levels of ferric iron in their water when they use this chemical to shock their well or treat a swimming pool. This rapid oxidation turns the water red or brown.
How Does Iron in My Water Affect Me and My Home?
For the most part, iron isn’t harmful to people, but it can cause problems with plumbing and make water unpleasant to use.
Iron gives water a metallic taste. Foods cooked in iron-rich water can turn black, while absorbing the mineral’s metallic flavor.
Iron increases soap scum formation, and accumulation or iron oxide can clog pipes and lines in appliances. It also leaves stains on clothing. Washing in water with high levels of iron dries and stains hair, making it darker or giving it a reddish tone. Iron also clogs pores, leading to acne and other skin problems.
Iron bacteria aren’t harmful, but the scum they leave behind clogs pipes, and it’s a perfect breeding ground for dangerous pathogens. This bacteria also gives water an awful smell that is often confused with sulfur.
How Often Does a Whole House Iron Filter Need to Be Replaced?
Iron filter systems are as durable as other water filtration equipment. Major components, like the head and media tank, will typically last a decade or more. Injection motors usually last 5-7 years, while seals may need to be replaced a couple times in the filter system’s life. Media life varies widely depending on the type and the amount of contamination in your water. Small cartridges only last a few months, while tank media typically lasts between 3-7 years.
How Often Do You Replace Resin in a Whole House Iron Filter?
This depends on the size of your filter system and the amount of iron in your water. Typically, systems are designed with a media life span of 5 to 10 years. However, if you have severe contamination, media can wear out in as little as three years.
When Should I Get an Iron Filter for My Well Water System?
Iron causes problems with plumbing if it’s above 3 PPM (0.3 mg/L,) but smaller amounts can cause issues with smell and taste. If you have hard water and use a salt-based water softener, adding an iron filter will improve your softener’s effectiveness.
Do You Need to Use a Water Softener with an Iron Filter?
No. In fact, if you have a water softener that uses salt, it will work better if you filter out the iron first. Iron forms a stronger bond with ionized filter media than calcium or magnesium, limiting the filter’s ability to pick up these minerals. With a water softener may be able to remove small amounts of iron, this requires more frequent backwashing to keep the iron from building up in the tank.
Do I Need an Iron Treatment System if I Have a Salt-Based Water Softener?
The type of ion exchange used in salt-based water softeners also works on iron. However, there are several limitations:
There are ion exchange systems built to remove iron. While they seem identical to water softeners, they use media that only attracts iron.
Do Salt Free Water Softeners Remove Iron?
No. These water conditioners work by joining hardness minerals together, forming microscopic flakes that don’t react with pipes, plumbing fixtures or soap. The media does not interact with iron.
How Long Does it Take for an Iron Filter to Regenerate?
Air gap and media-based filters have a regeneration cycle that usually takes about 15 to 20 minutes. Chemical-based systems can take up to half an hour to regenerate. This lets the system flush out the iron trapped by the filter media. Air gap systems use part of this time to draw in fresh water and air. Electronic heads let you schedule this regeneration in the middle of the night, so it won’t interfere with your water use.
How Often Should You Backwash an Iron Filter?
Iron filters must be backwashed regularly, no matter how much water you use. This prevents bacterial growth and buildup of iron flakes in the media tank. Most systems are designed to backwash at least once per week, even if you aren’t using water. While in regular service, the system will backwash at least twice per week. This is controlled by the head, which has a timer that runs backwashing cycles automatically.
Do Reverse Osmosis Filters Remove Iron from Well Water?
Yes, but the iron capacity for these filters is limited. Manufacturers generally recommend using water with far less than 1 ppm of iron with reverse osmosis filters.
How Can You Tell if there is Iron in your Water?
In large amounts, ferric iron makes water look brown or orange. Bacterial iron forms scum on water, while ferrous iron can oxidize, leaving rust spots on the bottom of glasses and other containers. If chlorine is added to ferrous iron, it turns into ferric iron, which looks brown or red.
Even if you know you have iron in your water, you should get an iron test. This tells you exactly how much iron is in your water, so you can buy a filter system that has the right filtering capacity.
Why Do Most Iron Filters also Remove Manganese and Sulfur?
Like iron, manganese and hydrogen sulfide can be forced out of suspension through oxidation.
Where Do I Drain My Iron Filter Backwash?
Unlike ion exchange water softeners, iron filters don’t add anything dangerous to flush water. You can route this water outside to a drainage system, or to your septic tank. Like all backwashing systems, you need a drain with an air gap. This prevents water from flowing up the drain into the filter, which can lead to bacterial contamination.
Is it OK to Drink Well Water with Iron?
Yes. Even if it doesn’t look good and the smell and taste may be off, it won’t hurt you. Our bodies need iron to make red blood cells. That said, if you have iron bacteria, you may have other pathogens in your water.
Does Boiling Well Water Remove Iron?
Iron doesn’t boil away, but it may look like boiling removes iron contamination. Dissolved oxygen in water can turn ferric iron into ferrous iron. Over time, this ferrous iron will fall out of suspension, forming fine red and brown spots on the bottoms of glasses and other containers. Boiling removes dissolved oxygen. This keeps the iron from falling out of suspension. The iron is still there. It’s just not visible.