Can Iron in Drinking Water Be Harmful?

Finding contaminants in your water can be frustrating, even worse when it’s a metal like iron. If you discover that your water contains iron, you’ll naturally become skeptical about drinking it. But should you be?

This article will let you know if you should be concerned about finding iron in your drinking water. It’ll also guide you on practical steps to take to make your water iron-free.


When Iron Becomes Harmful

We all need to consume a certain amount of iron in order to stay healthy. Not taking in enough iron can cause fatigue, anemia, and slowed development in children. So if you notice that your drinking water contains iron, don’t panic—it’s healthy to consume small amounts of iron.

However, if your water contains an excessive amount of iron, there’s a problem. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the acceptable secondary maximum contaminant level for iron in drinking water is 0.3 parts per million.

At or above this level, iron affects your water’s look, taste, and smell. Water becomes discolored, giving off a rusty hint and leaving orange or reddish stains on surfaces. It also starts to taste metallic. But besides these “aesthetic” effects, having 0.3 ppm iron in your drinking water does not cause serious health problems.

If your drinking water contains more than that, you may have reason to worry. For one thing, the water’s rusty appearance gets worse, and you find more reddish stains sticking to surfaces. The water’s metallic taste also gets more noticeable.

Drinking water that’s been heavily contaminated with iron can cause complications for people with hemochromatosis, a condition where the body stores up any iron it takes in. Iron-contaminated water also damages pipes that transport drinking water by causing rust or clogging.

Bathing also becomes a hassle. Excess iron in water prevents soap from lathering properly, and you’ll find that after a bath, you don’t feel clean enough. Unrinsed soap will form a layer on your skin, which can be very uncomfortable and clog your pores.

Types of Iron Contamination in Water

Iron may occur in water as ferrous, ferric, or bacterial iron.

  •                 Ferrous iron dissolves in water, meaning you can’t see it. But its presence becomes obvious when it leaves stains on surfaces after drying. You’ll mostly find high amounts of ferrous iron in deep wells.
  •                 Ferric iron, on the other hand, cannot dissolve in water. It’s easier to detect since it forms solid particles. Having ferric iron in water can cause clogging of water pipes.
  •                 Bacterial iron is found in water supplies when bacteria bind with iron in the water. The result is a slimy red residue. The presence of bacterial iron in water serves as an invitation for other harmful organic compounds to breed.

How to Remove Iron From Drinking Water

If your drinking water contains high amounts of iron, then it’s time to work towards making it safe for consumption.

Here are four ways you can remove iron from your water supply.

Iron Filters

Iron filters can filter out iron from drinking water. There are different kinds of iron filters. You should make your choice based on effectiveness and the budget in mind. Get more info on the different types of iron filters before making your buying decision.

Water softeners

Water softeners are generally used to soften hard water. They work by exchanging hardness-causing ions with sodium. Because iron is negatively charged like calcium and magnesium, water softeners can also exchange its presence for sodium ions. You should use a water softener for iron removal if you have ferrous iron present in your water.

Oxidizing Filters

Oxidizing filters are used to remove ferrous iron from water. They convert ferrous iron to its solid form and then filter out the solid particles.


This method works for well water that contains bacterial iron. It involves adding high concentrations of chlorine to a well. The chlorine handles the iron bacteria. The other iron forms in the well can be removed using a regular iron filter.

Any of these methods will help your home water become iron-free.

Remember, as long as the iron content in your drinking water is not too high, there’s no cause for alarm. Iron in water only poses real danger in high amounts.

Erin Emanuel