Is There Too Much Iron in Your Water?

Laura Hennigan
Written by Laura Hennigan
Updated November 4, 2021
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Too much iron in your water can cause four big issues in your household

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If you’ve ever turned on the faucet and gotten a whiff of rotten eggs, or noticed that your tap water looks brown or red, the likely culprit is too much iron. Homeowners who rely on a well system are particularly vulnerable to excess amounts of iron, and should be aware of the signs pointing to a problem.

Signs of too much iron in water

Iron is a naturally occurring element in the earth’s crust, and is commonly found in groundwater sources everywhere. While typical iron content is low and not cause for concern, too much can sometimes creep into your water supply. 

As rain falls and snow melts, that water filters through soil and rock, picking up iron along the way, with small amounts ending up in tap water. In some instances, too much corrosion in iron pipes can also lead to excess iron in water.

Signs of Too Much Iron in Your Water

A boy drinking tap water
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There are three telltale signs of elevated iron levels in your water.

Taste

Water with too much iron will likely taste metallic, and is often accompanied by a rotten-egg smell. In addition to making drinking water less appealing, this can also affect the food you prepare.

Clogs

Too much iron can cause clogs in water pipes leading to dishwashers, faucets, sprinklers, or pumps.

Color

Noticeable color changes are the easiest way to spot excess iron in your water. If your tap water has a reddish-brown tint, or if there are unusual rust colored stains on your laundry, there is likely an iron issue.

What Can Too Much Iron in Your Water Do?

Since all humans need iron as part of a well-rounded diet, ingesting small amounts via water is not a health risk. However, excessive amounts in drinking water can potentially lead to effects that range from annoying to harmful.

Food and Drink

The metallic taste caused by too much iron in water not only makes it unappealing to drink, but can also change the flavor of foods. Beverages like tea and coffee will taste strange, and the iron can cause blackening in produce washed with tap water.

Plumbing Issues

Excessive iron in water can leave a residue in pipes, causing buildup over time. If clogs occur, it can decrease water pressure, cause pipes to leak, and affect appliances like dishwashers and washing machines.

Staining

In addition to staining clothing, too much iron in your water can cause reddish-brown marks in bathtubs, sinks, and fixtures that are challenging to remove.

Health

While uncommon, too much iron in the body can lead to a variety of physical health issues, including joint pain, liver disease, and osteoporosis. It can also cause damage to healthy skin, resulting in premature wrinkles. If you have any concerns about the possibility of iron in your water causing health issues, it’s important to make an appointment to discuss this with your physician.

What To Do About Too Much Iron in Your Water

If you use a well system for water, the National Ground Water Association recommends that homeowners should test their water quality at least once a year. This can be done with either a home water test kit, or by hiring a professional water technician.If excessive amounts of iron are found, there are several treatment options available to help tackle the issue.

Water Filters

Particularly helpful for well water, filters help reduce excess iron, manganese, as well as sulfur odors.

Water Filtration System

Whole-house filtration systems work by reducing contaminants and removing buildup, which improves the taste and appearance of water.

Aeration System

If you have high concentrations of iron in your water, an aeration system might be the most effective solution. These systems pull air into the water, which oxidises iron and manganese.

Upgrade or Change Water Sources

Depending on the iron levels in your water and how well other controls have worked, you may need to take bigger steps to solve the problem. This could include installing a new well or, if possible, changing over to a different water source, such as a municipal system.

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