Can a Water Softener Remove Iron From Well Water?


High iron content in water is a frustrating problem for homeowners with wells. From discoloured tap water to ugly stains, it is one of the most common complaints our water treatment experts are asked to fix. Many of these homes have no treatment in place, however, some of them already have a water softener. So why do they still experience issues with iron? Despite what you might think, a one-size-fits-all solution for water treatment is unrealistic. Every home’s water is unique, especially when it concerns well water. The water quality in your private well may be quite different from your neighbour’s down the road. Let’s explore this topic in greater detail to find out what you need to know if you are considering removing iron from your well water.

Is a water softener Capable of Removing Iron?

Yes – a water softener can remove low concentrations of iron. But homeowners should not rely on a water softener to remove high iron content and it is not designed for it. A water softener is an ion exchanger, not a filter. A water softener removes the positively charged calcium & magnesium ions by attracting them to a media bed filled with negatively charged resin beads. Like calcium and magnesium, iron has a positive charge. As a result, water softeners that use ion-exchange technology can attract and remove some dissolved iron from the well water. The design of ion-exchange softeners and the salt solutions they use mean that most water softeners will not remove iron in concentrations above 1 ppm, or 1 mg/L. However, due to geological makeup and groundwater quality, many areas in Ireland have significantly higher iron content than that. The ability of softeners to remove iron is also dependent upon water hardness. In fact, due to the nature of the ionic reactions that occur inside a softener resin bed, softener systems are only likely to remove iron if the well water is hard.

Limitations of using a water softener to remove iron

As such the resin beads on a water softener aren’t meant to be replaced often. They should last between 10 to 15 years when used properly. When a water softener is used to remove iron from water, the iron stays embedded in the resin bed. This can create the conditions for rust formation and corrosion. You may find that the system wastes water and require you to purchase iron cleaners to maintain the softener or even to replace the entire resin bed.

Solution to Remove Iron from Well Water

Instead of a softener, you need a more specialised treatment system. If you already own a water softener, you may need to consider supplementing it with an iron removal filter. An iron filter works quite like a water softener, but its filter media uses an oxidising agent like magnesium dioxide instead of resin beads. Magnesium dioxide oxidizes soluble iron particles to turn them into large particles which are then flushed from the water by the filter. Through this method, an iron filter can remove 10 – 15 mg/L of iron, which is more than the average iron concentration in wells across Ireland. In addition to systems designed to oxidise and filter out iron, Celtic Water Solutions uses specialist filter media that are highly effective in removing iron, manganese and hardness from a single piece of equipment. We often use CR 100, Ecomix C, Birm & Lanxess Lewatit filter media depending on the results of the water sample. We also neutralize the pH of water as minerals such as iron, manganese, lead, and zinc are often found in acidic water. A bespoke filtration system is designed by our team taking into account other parameters detected as per the water test results.

Key takeaways

Iron is the second most common problem for well-water users after hard water, so it’s natural to wonder whether a single system can handle both these water problems.

  • Water softeners using ion-exchange process can only remove low concentrations of iron from well water up to 1 PPM.
  • Water softeners are generally only effective at removing iron from hard water. Using a softener to remove iron from soft, mineral-free water may not have significant results
  • Iron in water can damage the water softener and decrease the life of resin beads.
  • Specialist iron removal filters are more effective at removing iron and can be paired with an existing water softening system.

Even moderate levels of iron in water can leave a metallic taste and tint it an unsightly brown leaving stains on clothes, sinks, and toilets. To permanently fix issues associated with high iron content in water, a specialist iron filter is required. No matter what problem you are experiencing with your well water, the water treatment experts at Celtic Water Solutions will help you find the perfect solution. Speak to an Expert