This Old House plumbing expert Richard Trethewey has some solutions for a homeowner experiencing iron and rust in their well water.
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Our well water has iron in it, which affects its taste and causes staining. A local water-treatment company says that a standard water softener can remove the iron, but I don’t want to drink softened water or have its salty backwash pumped into my yard. Can you suggest another way to get rid of the iron?
—Patricia McMartin, Winchester, VA
Several options are available for removing iron, but the treatment varies depending on the kind of iron you have, along with other factors. If you haven’t already done so, get a water test to determine the type and amount of iron, in parts per million (ppm), as well as the water’s pH and dissolved oxygen content.
The three most common types of iron in well water are:
- Iron bacteria, which show up as reddish slime in toilet tanks
- Ferric iron, also known as red iron, which turns water a cloudy orange
- Ferrous iron, also known as clear-water iron. Ferrous iron doesn’t affect water clarity, but it stains ceramics and clothing and has a rusty taste. Dollars to doughnuts, that’s the type you have.
I know you’re against using a water softener, but it can be an effective and economical way to remove low iron levels—3 ppm or less—if the water’s pH isn’t too high. A softener can remove iron under less-than-ideal conditions, but then its resin beads may fail and need to be replaced, as often as every two to three years.
When a softener doesn’t work, there are many specialized iron filters that will. They all operate on the same principle: to oxidize the dissolved ferrous iron and convert it into ferric-iron particles that can then be captured by running the water through a bed of minerals.
Some filters inject oxidizers such as air, chlorine, hydrogen peroxide, or ozone into the water ahead of the mineral bed. Others use manganese-rich media such as Greensand Plus or Birm to oxidize and capture the iron in one step. And some combine injection with oxidizing media. To remain effective, some manganese-based filters have to be recharged periodically with another potent oxidizer, potassium permanganate.
All these filters work best with water in the 6.5 to 8 pH range. And they all have to be flushed—backwashed—regularly to remove the buildup of iron particles. The process uses a lot of water, about 10 gallons per minute per square foot of mineral media. If the system is calibrated properly, the iron-rich backwash is safe for municipal sewers and septic systems.
When comparing iron filters, make sure you know how many gallons of backwash they’re likely to use, the required flow rate during a backwash, and the cost of any chemicals that have to be added.
Shown: In well water, red iron makes itself obvious. Clearwater iron is invisible, yet still affects taste and stains sinks and clothing.
In water wells, rust contamination can cause a variety of problems. The result is usually brownish-red water that can stain clothes, damage appliances, and change the taste and color of your drinking water.
If your water supply is contaminated with minerals such as iron, you might find that some appliances, such as your dishwasher, use excessive amounts of detergent and need to run additional cycles to properly clean their contents. Your toilet bowls and sinks may also accumulate brownish and reddish rings of rust. Having to wash lighter fabrics that have been rust-stained after being laundered is even more frustrating.
Is well water safe to drink? Iron oxide (what we call rust) may not be harmful to your health, but it can impart a strong, unpleasant taste to food and beverages that is produced by the iron in the water. As a whole, it can be quite an unpleasant substance that causes a number of issues, especially when stemming from its presence in water wells.
As a homeowner, if you notice that your water is showing signs of rust contamination (discoloration, metallic taste, water pressure changes) taking early steps to solve the problem could save you thousands of dollars down the line.
There are a lot of concerns regarding the damage that rust causes to expensive appliances and piping within a home. Home appliances and pipes can be costly to repair or replace, which can result in significant value loss for your home.
While you may not necessarily be the person making the repairs yourself when these problems occur, it’s still important to be informed so you know what you need to look for in order to detect problems in the early stages.
Rain and snow can cause iron to dissolve into the water when they fall upon metal surfaces and when they seep out from soil or rock containing iron. The presence of iron can also be a result of corrosion from iron or steel well casings or water pipes. Iron minerals in the water turn to rust similar to how iron rusts in a metal pail if it is exposed to water and oxygen.
The pH of your well water also has an effect on the rate at which corrosion occurs; if your water is too acidic, it can speed up the rusting process and cause issues beyond the scope of regular maintenance. To effectively deal with this problem in the long term, you will need to manage the pH of the well water and make sure it remains at a balanced level.
As previously mentioned, the long-term solution to rust contamination is the management of the pH of your well water. But there are solutions to remove rust in the short term as well which will depend on your current preventative measures, your budget, and the seriousness of the issue.
“Hard” water is defined as water containing a higher mineral concentration. Over time, this build-up can cause hard deposits of minerals leading to clogged piping (These hard mineral deposits are what give hard water its name).
“Soft” water has less mineral content which means you have a better chance of not having rust form.
A water softener is a device that reduces the amount of minerals in your well. This will help you get rid of rust by reducing the hardness of the water which can quickly add to the accumulation of rust in your water well.
As a solution to rust, water softeners are a good place to start. They are relatively affordable considering the damage they can help prevent.
Home water treatment is the most common method for controlling iron in the water. If you already have a whole house water softener system installed, the most effective solution is adding an iron filter.
An iron filter is a device that filters out any rust from your water. It has an ion exchange resin that attracts and traps the rust so it won’t get inside of your pipes or fixtures. However, note that they use replaceable cartridges which typically need to be replaced every 3-6 months.
Iron filters are a great addition to existing water filtration systems, and they offer an additional preventative measure against rust.
Use a Rust Remover Enhancement Product
Rust remover enhancement products are a relatively quick and inexpensive way to deal with rust in water wells. Two hours is all it takes for this product to remove rust buildup from well water.
Rust Out is an example of a popular rust remover that is often used alongside a water softener. Instructions are provided specifically for using the product with a water softener to remove rust from water wells.
You should read the instructions carefully before using this method because if you don’t use it correctly, the rust can end up solidifying after it’s been dissolved.
Use a Hydrogen Peroxide System
A hydrogen peroxide system is one of the most effective but expensive water treatment solutions. Not only does it get rid of rust in your well, but it can also help eliminate hydrogen sulfide gas, which is notoriously known for the damage it can do to some of the previously mentioned water treatment systems.
Hydrogen peroxide water treatment systems work over a wide range of water pH levels, as opposed to chlorine systems which are limited in the pH range they are able to work within. This means that they are effective in more cases than chlorine systems, but are offset by their higher cost.
Water purification systems have their pros and cons, and they vary in their ability to deal with rust in water wells. Many of these systems work well together and have instructions covering specifically how to use the system alongside another.
Before concluding which solution is best for you, you should test the pH of your water to ensure that the solution is suitable. This can be done with simple pH strip test kits.
If you’re uncertain about where to start and want to better evaluate the seriousness of your situation, it might make sense to contact a local service provider to learn more about preventing rusty buildup in your well. If interested for more content, you can read the next article on “What is a ductless mini split“.
Reasons You Have Rust in Your Well Water
If your water supply has a buildup of iron and other minerals, you may notice that appliances such as your dishwasher machine use more detergent and require additional cycles to appear clean. Your toilets bowls and sinks too may also accumulate brownish and reddish rings. It is even more annoying when your white fabrics appear yellowish after laundry.
All this is caused by rust.
What is rust? Where does it come from?
Rust is the breakdown of iron or other metals through oxidation. As a result, your well water becomes corrosive, which dissolves fittings, fixtures and pipes causing problems to your water supply system.
How Can You Get Rid of Rust?
Although the amount of iron in most private wells is not harmful to your health, it can be a nuisance. Rust not only shortens the lifespan of your appliance but also lowers your home’s resale value.
• Use a Water softener
One of the perfect ways to remove rust is by using a water softener. Addition of water softeners adds salt to your well water, eliminating rust and other particles that are hard to remove through filtration.
• Add an enhancement product
Another alternative is by combining an enhancement product with a water softener. For the best results, add the rust remover enhancement into the brine well. The enhancement product removes the iron and rust accumulated in the water softener’s regeneration process.
• Install a rust filter
Alternatively, use a rust filter with your well water sources. Have your rust filter installed in your well water plumbing system to ensure entire rust particles are removed and to maintain a rust-free water supply.
How can it be treated/managed over time?
• Replace the plumbing system
One of the viable options is to have your plumbing system replaced. Replace the entire pipe to ensure there are no traces of rust that remains in your drinking water. Consider installing either a plastic or PEX plumbing.
• Neutralize your Water’s pH Levels
Low pH contributes significantly to the formation of corrosive water. You can effectively combat this by treating your water using alkaline materials such as magnesium oxide or neutralizing agents like calcium carbonate.
Why Call Mosman Well Works
With Mosman Well Works, expect quality rust removal services from the industry’s leading experts in plumbing systems. Are you wondering how you’ll remedy corrosive water issue in your Connecticut home? Contact us today for professional well and water solutions.
What To Do When Rusty Water Appears
It is never fun when rusty water appears in your sink or tub. Fortunately, there are things you can do to eliminate nasty rusty water from your pipes. Knowing the source of rusty water, the health effects of drinking rusty water and what you can do to fix the problem can help you take action .
Where does rusty water come from?
Rusty water can come from sources inside or outside of the home. Common causes of rusty water include:
- Rusty pipes
- Sediment in the water
- Damage from construction
- Break in the water main
Sometimes determining the source of rusty water can be tricky. Fortunately, the behavior of the rusty water can give you clues about its origins. For example, rust that appears in your hot water may originate with your own water heater.he tank could be compromised, or sediment may have built up inside .
If the rust appears in both hot and cold water, (but only in the morning), this is a sure sign that your home’s pipes are corroded or rusting inside. This is a common in homes with old galvanized pipes or iron pipes.
If rusty water has recently appeared, and was not previously a problem in your home’s plumbing, it could be the result of something happening in your neighborhood: a break in the water main, the use of nearby fire hydrants or leaks in outside water pipes could all be a source of the problem. If your water changes color suddenly and unexpectedly, contact your local water company to find out what might be causing the problem.
Can rusty water do damage to your home?
Depending on the severity of the problem, rusty water can stain your home’s porcelain plumbing fixtures, like toilets, sinks and bathtubs. Rusty water can also stain your white linens.
What can you do to fix the problem?
If you believe that the rust is coming from your own pipes, , either because the rust only appears when using hot water,or because the rust only appears in the morning when the pipes have not been used, then the best thing you can do to fix the problem is to contact an experienced plumber. Your plumber can help you determine the source of the problem.
If you believe that the rust is coming from a source outside the home, contact your water company to report the problem.
Call Terry’s Plumbing Today!
At Terry’s Plumbing, we provide fast, reliable plumbing services to Pittsburgh and the surrounding areas. We replace water heaters, diagnose problems, fix leaks and clean out sewers! We can also help you determine the source of your home’s rusty water. To make an appointment, contact us today at 412-364-9114.
Rust in drinking water is likely a sign of corroding, rusted pipes, and how you fix the issue will depend on the source of the rust. First, you need to identify if the rusted pipes are in the water mains or if they’re part of your residential plumbing: to do this, run an outside tap. If you see rust coloured water, the problem is likely with the mains, and you’ll need to contact your water supplier to fix the issue at the source.
However, if water from the outside tap runs clear, but there’s rust coloured water from taps inside your house, then the rusty pipes might be in your home plumbing, which will need flushing, treating, repair or replacement by a certified professional. That said, if the rust only appears from a specific hot water tap, but the water runs clear after a short period, contact a certified plumber and request further investigation.
- Flush your taps as a temporary measure while you contact a certified plumber or your water supplier.
- Contact your water supplier to carry out regular maintenance to help avoid rust forming and progressing.
Why is there rust in my water?
Rust, or iron oxide, is a coating that can form on iron or steel, then flake off in the presence of moisture. As water pipes are often made from these metals, rust can form anywhere in your water supply, with build-up either causing problems such as pipe blockages or disintegrating into your supply — the result being you drinking rusty water with a noticeable metallic taste. Rusty tap water can appear in a yellow, orange, red or even a brown colour, depending on the levels of rust present.
In truth, the presence of rust in water is not a health concern. However, it can create an unwelcome disturbance to your daily routine, as well as cause problems with washing machines and dishwashers, leaving stains.
The colours to know to identify rusty water
Yellow: A combination of iron and oxygen in your water may lead to a slight yellow colourisation in water, which is an indication of small amounts of rust.
Orange, red and brown: Larger combinations of iron and oxygen in water can cause water to appear orange, red, brown or a combination of the three. Brown water can also appear when elements from sulphur dioxide and hot water mix together in pipes.
Why am I drinking rusty water?
The cause of rust in your drinking water can make its way into your water through several ways. The most common include:
- Raging galvanised pipes.
- Deteriorating residential pipes, which can rust from the inside out.
- A build-up of sediments in your water heater, which is used to heat water above its initial temperature.
Advice on how to remove rust from drinking water
Depending on the type and extent of rust, there are several approaches to removing it from your water and eventually, your pipes. A certified plumber should be able to easily identify the source of your problem or alternatively, you can take the following steps to quickly and easily eliminate the rust in your water.
As the presence of rust is a sign of corroding pipes, which can eventually lead to a leak and high maintenance costs, it is important to first distinguish whether the rust has originated in the water mains or your residential plumbing.
To do this, run an outside tap to fill a clean cup or bucket and look for any signs of rust. If there are rust particles in the water or the water is discoloured, it is likely that the problem has originated from the water mains, which is beyond your residential plumbing. However, if the water is clear, your residential plumbing may need to be flushed, treated, repaired or replaced. Inside your home, if the rust appears when you run hot water taps or clears after a short period, it is advisable to contact a certified plumber or water expert to find out about water filter devices and request further investigation.
It is important to note that water pipes with an excessive amount of rust can choke, resulting in poorer water pressure. Replace your old pipes with new copper or plastic pipes.
A sudden influx of rusty water can suggest a pipe in the water mains requires attention, a disturbance has changed water flow or a fire hydrant is in use. It is likely that you will be required to not use the water until the problem has been cleared. Should the problem persist after 24-hours, contact your water supplier
Orange- or red-tinted water flowing from the tap might look disgusting, but if the color is caused by rust, it doesn’t pose a health threat. Safety aside, rust-filled water indicates either a problem with the plumbing or something has happened to send sediment out of the pipes and into the tap.
Iron pipes rust over time, and since the rust has nowhere to go, it ends up in the water stream. Fortunately, this rust normally forms a sediment that settles on the bottom of the pipes and remains there so that it doesn’t come out the tap. If it gets disturbed or there is an excessive amount, however, it will show up when the faucet is running. Sediment can be stirred up by repairs to the pipes and by changes in pressure.
Locating the Source
Rust sediment could be coming from either the pipes inside the home or from the main source. An easy way to determine the source is to run the outside faucet that is closest to the main. This is usually in the front of the house, but could be in the backyard if there is an alleyway. Let the water run for two minutes then fill a clean cup and look for signs of rust. If there is rust in the water, it is probably coming from the main supply, but if the water is clear, the problem is with the plumbing in the house.
The simplest way to get rid of rust sediment is to flush the pipes. Open three or four cold water taps in the house and let them run for about 20 minutes at top pressure. This should be long enough to clear the pipes of rust sediment, but if it isn’t, wait about 30 minutes and then flush them again. Instead of opening faucets in the house, run the hose at full capacity for 20 minutes and use the water on landscape plants to clear the rust.
A small amount of rust on iron pipes is normal, but if there is a large amount of rust and the pipes are deteriorating it may be time to replace them. This is a major home improvement project and will likely require the assistance of a professional. In severe cases, however, it may be the only way to clear the water of rust sediment.
Laundry and Dishes
Rust in the water can stain light-colored garments. Avoid using the washing machine or hand-washing clothes in the rust-tainted water until it is clear again to avoid damage. While most dishes and glasses won’t be affected by rust in the water, it is possible for light-colored pieces to be stained, especially if there are hairline cracks in the glaze or finish. Avoid washing any special or fine dishes in rust-colored water.
If brown water is coming out of your pipes, you likely have rusty water. Rust occurs over time when iron, oxygen and water combine. If your plumbing system is made up of iron pipes, this could be the source of your problem. The rust will dislodge from the pipes’ interior lining, mix with the water, and travel with it into your home.
What are Causes Of Rusty or Brown Water?
If your water looks rusty, there are a few possible causes. If a water main breaks or there is nearby construction, sediment or certain types of minerals could find its way into your piping. Eroded substances infiltrating the water supply could be a cause for that brownish, rusty tint.
If it is in fact rust, it could be due to a damaged or recently replaced pipe. During a pipe repair or replacement, the water supply may be turned off and back on again. That powerful change in pressure could knock the rust right off the pipes. Other external factors like a fire hydrant activation could also cause a massive shift in water pressure, dislodging existing rust on your pipes.
How Do I Know If I Have Rust In My Water?
One way to be sure the brownish color in your water is rust, and the water supply itself is not contaminated, is if the discoloration only comes from certain faucets, shower heads, etc. rather than throughout the entire house.
Another tell-tale sign of rust is if it is only visible when the water is hot. This could be due to a damaged or failing water heater. If your water heater is getting old, it may be rusting into the water.
Is Rusty Water Safe?
If you do not know the exact source of the discoloration, it’s always safest to avoid drinking it until the issue is resolved.
Rusty water is usually an aesthetic contaminant, rather than a dangerous one. Iron is an essential nutrient that helps supply oxygen to red blood cells, assists with fatigue, dizziness and shortness of breath, as well as contains benefits for your skin, nails and hair. Many people even take iron supplements on a daily basis.
That being said, iron occurs naturally in some drinking water sources but if your water has so much iron that it’s become discolored, we don’t recommend drinking it, cooking with it or bathing in it.
What Does Rust In Your Pipes Mean For Your Home?
To put it simply, you do not want rust inside your plumbing system. If too much builds up, it will flake off and cause a high volume of corrosion which could lead to cracks in the pipes. Cracks in the pipes could cause leaks in your home, resulting in potentially expensive repairs.
If leaking is not immediately dealt with, water damage can cause mold to grow in your home. Exposure to mold can cause nasal stuffiness, throat irritation, coughing or wheezing, eye irritation, or, in some cases, skin irritation. As soon as you notice rusty water,your pipes should be thoroughly inspected.
Rusty water is also inconvenient because it can stain clothes in the wash, dishes in the sink, etc. Avoid washing special or delicate items of clothing as well as fine china until the issue is resolved.
How To Fix Rusty Water
Interested in purging the rust yourself? There are a few methods you could try. These methods include:
- If the rust only appears when hot water is running, try draining your water heater tank. We recommend flushing out the tank twice a year to get rid of any potential sediment buildup.
- Replace the anode rod in your water heater, which attracts corrosive elements in water.
- If your water source is a well, a water softener is an inexpensive way to remove low levels of iron (3 ppm or lower).
- You could also install an iron water filter in your well, which removes excess iron and other contaminants from the water.
With severe cases, you will almost certainly need the assistance of a plumbing professional.
Let The Plumbing Professionals At John C. Flood Get Rid Of Your Rusty Water
Although not always harmful, rusty water stains, looks alarming and should not be kept around long-term. Especially in older homes, iron pipes age quicker on the inside than they do on the outside, making it difficult to know when your pipes are due for a water and sewer line inspection or repair.
If you are unsure of the source of your rusty water, or if you are interested in a plumbing inspection or repair, contact the experts at John C. Flood to take care of it.
No one expects to see brown or discolored water when they turn on the hot water faucet of their tub, shower, or sink. But, when this happens, it’s easy to ask what could have caused it and how to prevent it from ever happening again.
Rust-colored hot water can be caused by bacteria growth, pipe corrosion, tank water heater corrosion, or mineral deposits in the water supply. If the cause is due to aging plumbing, replacing those pipes or appliances could fix the issue.
Let’s explore a few reasons why you might see yucky, rusty water.
Bacteria. Some bacteria are good. Others, not so much. When it comes to your home fixtures, iron-reducing bacteria is what gives your hot water its undesirable, rusty look. Iron-reducing bacteria is common in water distribution systems, like your pipes and water tank. Iron mechanisms connected to your home lacking in oxygen or consistent water movement speed up corrosion and make way for rusty water.
- Main water line. The main pipeline is made of cast iron or metal. That means that it’s susceptible to rust or corrosion and may be the cause of your rusty water.
- Tank water heater. If you have a traditional tank water heater, this one’s for you. It doesn’t matter if you have an electric or gas-powered heater. The inner surface of all water heater tanks is metal. More importantly, this metal undergoes various water conditions, all of which could result in corrosion.
- Deposits in the water supply. If the plumbing in your home connects to a well system, any incoming water could bring clay, mud, and sand deposits. Newly built houses can also bring in the dirt, mud, and clay into the pipeline system and mix with water, resulting in a brown or rusty appearance.
Possible solutions for rusty hot water
One solution for the rusty hot water is to drain and flush your water heater tank thoroughly through the drain valve.
If the heater tank and plumbing system have bacteria, shock therapy with the chlorine, followed by flushing, should be applied.
If you have a rusty tank or have a tank over ten years old, it’s time for a replacement.
Professional plumbers in the Durham area
Rusty hot water isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it’s also not something you should put up with in your home. Call Acme Plumbing Co. to inspect your plumbing and discuss ways to improve the water quality. To schedule an appointment, send us a message or call us at (919) 688-1348.
You might find yourself in need of water heater repair services as a result of rust. The the build-up of rust shortens the lifespan of water heaters. Water heater tanks are usually made of glass-lined steel. If water gets through the glass, the steel will rust and there will be a leak.
Water heater tanks do not have inspection ports. So it is difficult to tell the difference between when it is beginning to rust and when it is just dirty. This means tank rust is usually discovered after the development of a leak. At this time it is usually too late.
This does not mean there is no hope. Most water heaters have a long rod. The long rod is known as either sacrificial anode or a cathodic anode. It prevents the walls from rusting.
When the anode fails, the walls of the water heater’s tank begin to rust. Sediment collects at the bottom. This has a negative impact on the heater’s level of performance. As much as a do-it-yourself removal of this sediment is possible, you will need to drain and flush the tank. Once the reservoir is clean, a replacement of the anode should prevent the rust from building up again.
Preventing Rust from Building up In Your Water Heater
Determining the anode’s condition by just looking at your water heater is almost impossible. Even for professional providers of hot water tank repair services. You must turn off both the water and power before you can use a wrench to remove the anode.
Check your water heater’s anode for signs of deterioration at least twice a year. You will have a better idea of how long it might last. Include the replacement of this rod in your maintenance schedule.
To prevent the development of rust in your water heater’s tank and also prevent potential damages. You should replace the sacrificial anode. The process of replacing the sacrificial anode might only take about 30 minutes.
You will have to buy a sacrificial anode from a plumbing-supply company since they are rarely available at local hardware stores. Since anodes come in various shapes and sizes, you must be prepared to provide your water heater’s make and model to be sure you get the right replacement unit. This information is on the labeling on the water heater’s housing.
How to Remove Built Up Rust in a Water Heater
Draining and flushing the tank
You need to drain out the water to remove built up rust from the bottom of a water heater’s tank. First the power off and shut off the incoming water.
Attach a hose onto the outlet drain and run the water either outside or into a sink after you have opened a hot water faucet to admit air. By repeatedly filling up the tank with approximately five gallons of cold water and then draining it all out, you can flush out most of the sediment.
Brushing and draining rust
Use a wrench to unscrew the drain valve once the tank is empty and then remove it to access the bottom. Use a long and narrow brush, one that fits through the opening, to loosen the rust. You will then have the following options when it comes to the removal of the sediment:
• Attach a hose to the outlet drain to replace the valve and repeatedly flush the tank by filling it with about five gallons of water and then allowing it drain.
• Use a vacuum cleaner.
Using a vacuum cleaner
You can use 3/4-inch polybutylene to reconfigure the vacuum’s hose so that it fits inside the drain opening. Use duct tape to wrap around the hose opening, securing it to the hose and creating an airtight seal. Brush after vacuuming and then vacuum once more to provide as thorough a clean as possible. Remember to replace the valve once done and use plumbing tape to wrap the threads, ensuring a watertight seal.
Replacing sacrificial anodes
According to experts, you need to replace the sacrificial anode periodically since it is designed to deteriorate. This long rod is usually a metal that corrodes at a faster rate compared to the steel walls of water heater tanks and it screws onto the tank’s top. The type of metal you choose for your anode should depend on the type of water you use.
The sacrificial anode prevents the walls of the tank from rusting by attracting most of the corrosive minerals inside the water. Replacement of the sacrificial anode is done by:
- first turning off the power
- shutting off the water
- unscrewing and lifting it out of the tank’s top.
You must replace it only with an anode specifically designed for your water heater.
If you are unable to perform the repair and maintenance steps listed above. It is best that you immediately contact Reno water heater installation services. Contact us if you need water heater repair services as well as hot water heater installation services in Reno.