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Will A Water Softener Remove Iron?

May 2nd 2019

When it comes to residential water treatment, it’s unlikely you’ll find a one-size-fits-all solution. Your home’s water may be quite different than even your next-door neighbor’s, especially when it comes from a private well. After hard water, the second most common problem for homeowners with well water is iron. Standard water softening equipment will remove lesser amounts, but your basic water softener isn’t designed to treat high levels of iron.

A typical water softener contains resin beads that remove the hardness minerals, calcium and magnesium, through an ion exchange process. When a water softener is used for both hardness and iron treatment, the softener resin life is greatly reduced. In homes with heavy iron levels, excess iron can slip through the resin and remain in the water. In many cases, the treatment or removal of excessive iron requires a different approach.

If you have well water, there’s a good chance it contains iron. Even the smallest traces of this heavy metal will cause staining and alter the taste and smell of your water. Tackling the issue begins with having your water tested. Current water conditions and the type of iron you’re facing help determine the best methods for removal. Water pH levels, alkalinity, dissolved oxygen content, and even the temperature of your water play an important role in finding proper water treatment.

How To Filter Iron From Water

Water in a well underground is usually clear in color, even if it contains high levels of iron. This type of iron is known as ferrous, or clear water iron. If you already own a water softener, the most effective solution for iron removal is by using an iron filter. Iron filters take the clear iron and converts it to rust or ferric iron in the process known as oxidation. Once in the ferric state, it becomes a filterable particle that gets trapped in the iron filter media. These particles are then periodically and automatically backwashed, eliminating rust and flushing the filter media clean. Most iron filters remove both clear water iron and ferric iron (rust). With the presence of iron, a water softener will always work better and longer with iron filtration in place.

There are several types of filter media for iron and manganese removal. Manganese dioxide is the most commonly used media to treat water. It comes in two forms: coated and solid. Solid manganese, like Filox or Pyrolox, is heavier, requiring a higher backwash rate than coated media like Birm or Greensand. Iron filters require periodic backwashing to clean out the precipitated rust that accumulates in the media bed. Insufficient backwash and regeneration are frequent causes for failure of filter media.

Until recently, solid manganese was generally considered the more reliable, long-lasting choice in filter media. With developments in iron removal, filter media like Katalox Light®, has taken the advantage over other manganese dioxide media. Katalox Light® is engineered with a unique coating technique and higher filtration surface, allowing outstanding removal of iron, manganese, and hydrogen sulfur. Because of its light weight and high flow rate, a smaller filter tank can be used, which in turn uses less water and takes up less space.

What Does pH Have To Do With Iron Filtration?

ph scale for water filtration

The term pH stands for “potential for hydrogen.” It’s a measure of the concentration of hydrogen ions in a diluted solution. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14, with 7 considered neutral. Water pH below 7 is acidic, and anything higher than 7 is alkaline. The ideal pH value for iron filters to work effectively is between 7 and 8.5.

Acidic solutions contain more hydrogen ions, and alkaline solutions contain fewer; the lower pH level, the more soluble iron will be. Solubility refers to the amount of a substance that can be dissolved in water. Water with acidic pH levels have the potential to corrode plumbing and leach metal. Iron, manganese, copper, lead, and zinc are frequently found in acidic water. If water pH levels are too high, a softener can’t perform to its potential. This is because ferrous iron converts to ferric more quickly in alkaline water.

The primary way to treat low pH water is with the use of sodium carbonate. Sodium carbonate works to increase the sodium content in water, which increases the pH levels. As with any selection of water treatment, it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations and note the limitations for pH levels, alkalinity, and water temperature to get the best results.

The Most Effective Iron Removal

If you don’t currently have a softener installed or want to upgrade, the best system for iron removal is an all-in-one water softener/iron filter. The Genesis Iron Pro Max can remove dissolved iron up to 7 PPM (parts per million) or higher, in addition to the removal of hardness minerals—something no other all-in-one system can do.

The Genesis Iron Pro Max uses Purolite Shallow Shell SSTC60 resin along with a ResCare Easy Feeder system. Shallow Shell technology prevents iron from deeply embedding within the resin bead and damaging it. During regeneration, when brine saturates the resin, the iron can easily be removed and flushed down the drain.

The Genesis Iron Pro Max also comes equipped with the ResCare Easy Feeder, a continuous feed dispenser that hangs in the brine tank. The Easy Feeder provides an automatic and continued defense against contaminant build up. The additional cleaning keeps resin at peak efficiency, and it’s hassle free for homeowners. The ProMax softener plus iron filter combination system is a win-win!

Dealing with iron contamination doesn’t have to end with foul-smelling water and orange rust stains on your fixtures. Just because iron is one of the world’s most plentiful resources, it doesn’t have to be a nuisance in your home. Whatever your iron problem is, the water treatment experts at Discount Water Softeners will help you find the perfect solution.