Best Iron Filter for Well Water in 2020

Did you know that as much as 15 percent of the American population uses water and drinks from a private well, while about 3 in every ten people across the world source their water from different types of wells? It’s understandable, considering people can save money by using well water rather than just buying bottled ones.

But unfiltered water from such wells may cause not only health risks– but many other household problems that can cost you a few thousand dollars if you’re not careful! Hence, well-owners need to ensure that water sourced from their wells is clean, safe, and doesn’t have any nasty odors.

Now, the primary and most common culprit for these issues and impurities– is none other than iron. Thus, it is necessary for anyone using wells to find the best iron filter for well water.

Table of Contents

How iron gets into well water

Iron is one of the earth’s most abundant minerals. In fact, it makes up 5% of the earth’s crust! That’s why you can’t really stop iron from getting into your well, since it seeps in from the outermost layer of the planet. Heavy rain falling into soil dissolves iron, ushering its deposits into underground aquifers. The same goes for snow. During winter, snow introduces iron into groundwater supplies, which ultimately pools into wells. This makes iron an inevitable nuisance for well-owners worldwide!

Aside from the natural causes, iron may also get into your deep well when connected to corroded plumbing. Old and rusty iron pipes and other fixtures deposit brown-colored particles in your water and orange stains in your drains. Same goes for the iron casings that hold your well together; it will rust, it will age, it will grow brittle. This happens because of iron’s exposure to oxygen and water, making it grow weaker and deteriorate over time. Because of this, iron deposits eventually end up contaminating your water supply.

How it damages your home

Without the best iron filter for well water, iron may cause unimaginable damage to your household, that if left unchecked, can lead to irreparable damage. These include the following:

Stained Appliances and Clothes

Oxidized iron is notorious for leaving rust-colored stains in your appliances and, of course, in your clothes. Vivid orange stains can appear in your toilet bowl, in the rim of your sink and surrounding drains. Bathtubs and showers will bear the most impact, though. And who would want a rust-colored bath? No thanks! That's on top of getting your clothes damaged, whether they're light-colored or not. Bright yellow marks will immediately show up in your clothes no matter how much detergent or other chemicals you use to save it afterward. It may also lead to permanent damage to your washing machine and dryer.

Metallic and Discolored Water

Iron leaves a bitter and metallic taste in water. Even in low concentrations, iron will give water an unpleasant and sharp odor. It also means that water running from your sink may come out brown, orange, yellow, and even red! Forget trying to make your favorite drinks with iron-laden water because whatever you do, it will have a different aftertaste. That's true whether or not you use expensive coffee or tea.

Clogged Pipes

If you leave your well unchecked and unfiltered, the iron residue will eventually build up in your plumbing, which will result in clogged pipes. This will reduce your house's overall water pressure and performance. Worse, this may lead to nasty bacterial iron, which can cause thick brown sludge that collects in pipes and can foster an environment for pathogenic bacteria to build up.

Bitter Food

Using contaminated water will also affect the food you prepare. The metallic taste is strong enough to make even pasta or your special soup taste weirdly bitter. And you wouldn't want that in your family's meals, would you?

Is iron in water dangerous?

Human bodies require iron to function properly; that’s why we’re made of up to 4 grams of iron in our bodies, which are found mostly in our blood and muscles. That’s why eating iron-rich food like eggs, spinach, lentils, and meat is essential in a balanced diet. Iron contributes to red blood cell production and transports oxygen in the body.

However, just like any substance, iron is toxic when taken at high dosages, although we must emphasize that you cannot drink enough of iron-laden water to consume enough toxic levels of it! In other words, you physically cannot get poisoned just by drinking a glass or even a pitcher of iron-contaminated water. Only people suffering from a medical condition called hemochromatosis are actually in danger of getting seriously compromised by drinking too much iron-laden water.

If you have this illness, your intestines cannot properly absorb iron from the food you eat or the water you drink. However, hemochromatosis is a hereditary condition. Drinking well water cannot give you this disorder.

But, don’t go around thinking you could chug unfiltered well water, even if you can stomach its taste! Because even if ingesting iron cannot do you much harm, it has adverse effects on your hair and skin. Once your hair absorbs iron from well water, it will cause your locks to develop discoloration and become dry, brittle, on top of having a metallic scent! This means that substantial amounts of iron can turn light-colored hair orange. Aside from that, oxidized iron acts like how mild peroxide attacks the hair, causing it to feel excessively dry and coarse.

Iron can also damage your skin cells, which may lead to wrinkles and can contribute to clogging up your pores. This, in turn, will make you more prone to acne breakouts and even eczema!

Types of Iron found in Well Water

The good news is iron in well water can be treated. Iron filters for well water and even whole house iron filters are now readily available in the market. The bad news, there are several types of iron found in wells. So first we need to know what kind of iron problem you have at home. At this point, we’re listing down these types of iron for you, along with the possible solution to these concerns.

1. Ferric Iron

Ferric Iron or “Red-Water Iron” is the most common and most known type of iron. That’s the one leaving a lovely orangey-red color to your appliances, pipes, drains, clothes, and even your hair! Ferric iron is an insoluble iron, which means the iron minerals have not completely dissolved in water. Fortunately, since this type of iron is in a precipitate form, it is also the simplest form of iron that can be removed from your well.

How to Remove Ferric Iron From Well Water?

Sediment Filters

Removing ferric iron is relatively easy through the use of a sediment filter. A sediment filter is a type of iron filter that removes iron precipitate that mixes in with the water. These kinds of iron filters allow water to flow freely through them while trapping solid particles from entering your house’s pipes.

Keep in mind, though, that your sediment filter has a small enough micron rating (pore size of your filter cartridge) for it to be able to capture iron from your water efficiently. In other words, sediment filters are similar to screen doors that allow air to pass through and, at the same time, keep unwanted bugs out. Most homeowners prefer to use natural cotton string-wound sediment filters to capture ferric iron from their water supply.

iSpring WSP-50 Reusable Whole House Spin Down Sediment Water Filter 50 Micron

As the first line of defense, the iSpring WSP-50 counts as a possible contender for 2020’s best iron filter for well water. The first thing I noticed about this filter is that it looks way sturdier than other spin down filters in the same price range, which are mostly made from PVC material.

For someone who can’t even assemble a simple chair from Ikea, I found the unit pretty easy to set-up. The flush option also got me weirdly excited to be in the tight crawl space in our house where the pipes are, so that I can see how much gunk the iSpring WSP-50 filters.

Well, to be honest, it’s not much. But I was happy enough that it can filter out large rusty sediments before they hit and stress out my other hybrid filter.

PROS

  • Flushable
  • Made from quality material that will last for years

CONS

  • Requires constant flushing, or water pressure may drop to unacceptable levels
Rusco 1-1/2-250-F Polyester Screened Spin-Down Filter System

At first, I thought Rusco’s clear cover for its spin-down system was a bad idea aesthetically since all the unwanted sediments the unit traps would be fully visible from the outside! Then it hit me: that’s exactly the point. The clear cover serves as an indicator or gauge of sorts, which tells me when it’s time to clean out the filter system.

What makes it possible for the Rusco sediment filter to be hailed as the best iron filter for well water, though, is the way it allows you to customize your set-up depending on how contaminated your water source is.

For instance, I went for a larger filter mesh since we live in a city where the well water’s really not that bad. Besides, I’m not the most patient mom on the planet, and I can’t stand it when the water flow becomes too slow.

However, if the well water where you live is highly contaminated, you could go for a smaller mesh, which filters smaller impurities but slows down water flow. I just love that the Rusco spin-down gives all of us that choice.

PROS

  • Suitable for any water source since it’s highly customizable
  • Allows good water pressure
  • Clear cover lets you know when it’s time to flush out the gunk

CONS

  • No softener included (We’ll talk about why this is important later on)
  • Free ball valve should be replaced with something more durable and easier to crank
Beduan Whole House Spin Down Sediment Water Filter

The Beduan Whole House Spin Down Sediment Filter is my favorite recommendation for those working on a tight budget. It’s cheaper than the first two sediment filters we mentioned but still does a pretty good job removing iron for your well water.

The only thing getting in the way of the Beduan Spin Down from winning the best iron filter for well water is how long it took me to hook it up. As mentioned earlier, I have a bit of a dexterity problem when it comes to assembling stuff, and this one is quite a challenge to set up, not to mention it required ridiculous amounts of Teflon tape to stay on.

Like the Rusco spin-down, Beduan used a clear casing for this one, which I grew to really like since it lets me know at once when the filter needs a cleanse.

Even though it filters out most of the rust and gunk, I got to say that a bit of funny taste remains in the water after it goes through this filter, which really shouldn’t bother you unless you don’t have a separate whole house filtration system. Remember, sediment filters are only supposed to function as the first line of defense kind of thing.

PROS

  • Uses heavy duty stainless steel filter screen
  • The container is made from aviation-grade material and is really durable

CONS

  • Not very easy to set up
  • Retains noticeable aftertaste in water despite filtering out most impurities

2. Ferrous iron

Ferrous iron or “clear water iron” is a form of iron that cannot be distinguished from normal water because it is soluble or it has already dissolved in water. Meaning, a glass of ferrous iron water will appear crystal clear. Although in time after its exposure to atmospheric conditions, it will oxidize and turn into ferric iron.

This means that if you will leave a glass of ferric iron for a few hours, it will eventually turn orange-red and will show visible flecks of rust floating in it. But even if it is not visible through the naked eye, it will still smell and taste differently. Ferrous iron is often found in deeper wells, where water is less exposed to sunlight and oxygen.

How to remove ferrous iron from well water?

Water Softeners

Water softeners can easily remove low levels of ferrous iron in well water through a process that’s called ion exchange. What happens is that sodium ions are swapped for minerals, which will then be attracted to spherical anion resin beads.

However, there are two necessary requirements for water softeners to work properly. First, it is kind of impossible for water softeners to work as a standalone product, meaning it should work together with a sediment filter so that the sediment filter can prevent the water softener from being clogged. Second, water softeners work best with hard water because there must be an adequate ratio of water hardness and iron for the ion exchange to sufficiently remove iron from your water well. If you have softer water, then an oxidizing filter is all you need.

Fleck 5600SXT 48,000 Grain Water Softener Digital

There are exactly six members in my messy, lovely family, so the Fleck Grain Water Softener should be just right for us. However, when I had the chance to try it out, I found it was only perfect for 6-member families who are moderate drinkers. With my family’s water consumption though, the water flow is kind of slow.

I’d say it’s best for households with 4-5 members since the unit is also too bulky for smaller families. Nevertheless, it does get rid of the excess calcium and magnesium in the water, so my beloved chinaware shows no signs of staining anymore!

You probably guessed that setting up a brine tank that can hold up to 250 pounds of salt is no easy task, but I did try to do it by myself in order to illustrate how long it takes for someone with minimal plumbing skills to assemble the Fleck Grain Water Softener. It took me close to two hours to do so, which isn’t that bad considering this one’s already a whole house system!

PROS

  • Comes with a digital display meter that lets you know when exactly the unit needs a recharge
  • Has a backup power capacitor
  • Good enough flow rate for a family with 4-5 members

CONS

  • You’d have to spend a lot for salt pellets in the long run
  • Bulky for small homes
ABCwaters 48k Fine Mesh Softener

When it comes to digital valves though, nothing can beat the ABCwaters 48K Softener. It has the most updated digital tech that comes with complete push buttons that make it such a breeze to configure the unit and set up the appropriate parameters depending on how contaminated your water source is.

However, we’re trying to look for the best iron filter for well water here, and in that regard, there are just a lot of filters in this list that can get rid of the most iron in your water. I just had to mention this unit because of the A-grade manufacturing and digital capacities that makes it so easy to use.

This is not to say, though, that the ABCwaters Mesh Softener does absolutely nothing to filter out rust from your water. It does, but some other brands just do better. So if you’re confident that very little iron gets to your house from your well sources, then this might be a good enough filtration system for you.

PROS

  • Comes with all the units fully assembled and pre-programmed, ready for plumbing in
  • Easily the best digital valve for no-hassle customization and configuration
  • Uses less salt than other softeners, so might be cheaper in the long run

CONS

  • Does not filter out all iron from your well water, so it might be better for chlorinated water sources
Tier1 Essential Series High Efficiency Digital Water Softener

One popular contender for Fleck products when it comes to being the best iron filter for well water, the Tier1 Essential Series Water Softener. It has a solid reputation from verified buyers, probably because of its external awards like commendations for its electronic control valve!

But one thing you have to consider when buying a water softener is the grain capacity count, which basically tells you how soft your water will be. Here’s a rule of thumb: the higher the grain count, the better. Now, softeners from other manufacturers have grain capacities that go as high as 64,000. Tier 1 has a maximum grain capacity of 48,000, which is not necessarily bad, but not very suitable for larger homes with harder water sources.

Despite this, the Tier1 Essential Series Digital Water Softener has a redeeming quality that can’t be ignored– and that’s efficiency. It requires less water and less power to work, making it more affordable in the long run. In a nutshell, it could really be the best iron filter for well water when installed in smaller households.

PROS

  • Compact and can fit inside tight crawl spaces
  • May be installed indoors or outdoors
  • Regeneration meter reduces wastwater and salt usage for a more affordable long-term use

CONS

  • Low grain capacity, which makes it ideal only for households with less than 5 members
Genesis 2 Premier Upflow 64,000 Grain Water Softener

As the name suggests, the Genesis 2 Premier Upflow Water Softener uses a unique technology that’s different from the rest of the items on this list.

Most of the filters we’ve reviewed so far use a downflow system where saltwater flows in a downward manner before coming back up. While that system is pretty good, it has one drawback: the accumulation of minerals at the bottom. When left uncleaned, these impurities will simply flow back into your supply!

Genesis thought of a way to reverse this, and I must say it’s pretty impressive. The upward flow results in a cleaner tank, and overall cleaner water output.

So aside from keeping the iron out of your well water, this up-flow water softener also makes sure rust and other impurities stay out– for as long as the system remains in place.

PROS

  • The ‘set-and-forget ’system automatically flushes stagnant water after 7 days of non-use
  • Upward flow system keeps water clean for longer than downward systems that keep impurities intact

CONS

  • Uses a lot more salt than other softener units
  • Cannot be installed outdoors
Manganese Greensand

Another way to remove ferrous iron is by converting it to ferric iron before filtering it out through sediment filters. Such treatments use oxidizing filters like manganese greensand. Once iron-laden water makes contact with this media, the water gets oxidized and turns into solid particles.

Pro Pot Perm Plus Potassium Permanganate Free Flow

Having tried more than five different brands of manganese greensand, the Pro Pot Perm Plus is my unparalleled top pick. Most brands of manganese greensand will clump up the stuff it filters out and turns it into slime, which can cause clogging problems in your filters.

The Pro Pot Perm Plus simply dissolves impurities and turns it into a purple slush that will be easy to filter out. This makes the Pro Pot manganese greensand a perfect companion to whichever best iron filter for well water you might end up picking.

Birm

Birm is another type of oxidizing media used to extract soluble iron from well water. But unlike manganese greensand, it does not require a chemical oxidizing agent to remove the iron.

AFWFilters Birm

Out of all the birm filters available for online shipping, I honestly didn’t think I’d be most impressed with the one that came in the most unassuming white sack I had ever seen.

It dissolves suspended materials pretty well. I thought my sediment filter was already doing a great enough job, but after incorporating AFWFilters Birm into the system, my water somehow appeared cleaner, which I didn’t think possible.

However, it only works in water, which is more basic. For its affordable price, it is very efficient. I just wish they had included the funnel with which to fill the resin into the system. It was very stressful to have to find one in the house when I was already too excited to try the brim out.

KDF

KDF is a zinc-based antibacterial chemical that not only reduces iron content in water but chlorine as well. Although you must remember that KDF systems work best with low water volumes and pressure, it is also recommended that these iron filters be positioned at the water’s point of entry in your home.

Camco 40013 TastePURE KDF/Carbon Water Filter

The Camco KDF is most commonly used in RVs, but best believe it works just as well in wells! The problem with most water filtration systems is that even when they can filter out most pesky impurities, the foul smell of the under earth remains. Luckily, the Camco KDF has a built-in granulated activated carbon filter that gets rid of that annoying rotten-egg smell.

3. Bacterial iron

This is the nastiest form of iron that could possibly be in your wells. Why? Because these are small living organisms combine iron and other chemicals to form rust deposits and bright-red slimy buildup! Bacterial iron commonly emerges in poorly-maintained or neglected wells. These organisms damage pipes and even other iron well water filters!

How do I remove bacterial iron from my well? 

Shock Chlorination

With its possible effects on your household equipment, it is vital to deal with stubborn bacterial iron. Luckily, this can be done through shock chlorination. This introduces an intense concentration of chlorine to a well, to disinfect both the water and the well itself. Shocking the well removes all unwanted bacteria building up in your systems, which allows for the efficient use of your other iron filters.

Whole Systems/Hybrid Products

I know all this stuff can be overwhelming since you have to buy about 3-5 different products just to come up with the best iron filter for well water system. Well, if you can’t be bothered to set up an entire system on your own using separate products bought from different manufacturers, there are some companies that offer entire systems or hybrid products that already incorporate a sediment filter, a filtration chemical, and a softener.

Here are some top-shelf recommendations:

Express Water Heavy Metal Whole House Water Filter – 3 Stage Home Water Filtration System

The three-stage filtration system comes in this order: the sediment filter, the degradation filter, and the activated carbon block from right to left. As mentioned earlier, the sediment filter will take care of sand, rust, and dirt, while the two other filters will remove other chemical impurities. The result is clean water that’s better for your skin, hair, and chinaware.

It takes about half an hour for the system to clean out the water that comes out of every single faucet in the house, but despite my usual impatience, I really think it’s worth it. I chose the mounted set-up since the whole thing came with a free stand anyway, so I thought I might as well use it.

Don’t laugh, but I needed the help of a master plumber to get things running since when I tried to do it myself, the dials leaked, and water went everywhere. Now, this might sound funny and cheesy, but the Express Water System is master-plumber approved. He took one sip of the water we enjoyed after installation and said the water almost tastes like bottled mineral water.

PROS

  • Surprisingly, water flow did not drop despite the 3-stage filter system
  • Comes with a free standing frame
  • One filter set is already good for half a year (no hassle in frequent replacements!)

CONS

  • Quite fussy to assemble
Aquasana Whole House Water Filter System w/ Salt-Free Conditioner

If you absolutely hate draining or flushing your filters, I must say the Aquasana Whole House Filter System is your best iron filter for well water. It features the same upflow system that I was gushing about earlier, so you already know it keeps your water fresh and clean for longer than systems that use the classic downward system.

What piqued my interest is the fact that Aquasana’s system uses no salts at all! Upon doing research, I learned that salt-based systems are not necessarily bad, but it does increase the buildup of gunk, which in turn requires frequent cleaning up. It is a good system overall, but if you’re used to having an individual water softener, the water output from the Aquasana water filter might feel a bit harsh.

Personally, though, the only problem I encountered is the noticeable drop in the water pressure after installation.

PROS

  • Upflow system keeps filters cleaner for long
  • Salt-free system

CONS

  • Cannot be installed without professional help (I cannot stress this enough!)
  • Reduces water pressure significantly
Dupont, WFPF13003B, Filter System, 3/4 in NPT, 5 gpm

I mentioned the free-standing mount in my review of the Aquasana whole house water filtration system because it’s basically the only thing missing from the Dupont system that could potentially make it the best iron filter for well water from all the items in this list. The filters last a bit longer than the ones included in the Aquasana system, but the difference may be ignored.

My suggestion is to purchase a softener to incorporate into this system, and you’ll be able to achieve good-tasting water that also does not rust sinks and the sheets you wash with it.

PROS

  • Easiest system to install from all the whole house systems we reviewed
  • Made from quality materials, as maybe expected from a Dupont product
  • Filters need replacing only once a year

CONS

  • Mount/stand has to be purchased separately

Pre-purchase Considerations

Size

The size of the best iron filter for you is determined by how big your household is. Most filtration systems are perfect for a family of 4, but if you have a larger family, then you may want to consider a more substantial capacity iron filter.

Filter life / Replacements

If you cannot find the right size for your iron filter needs, that's okay. Just be prepared to change your filter out more often. Some systems have filters that can last up to 10 years, depending on how much you use it. So you must keep a few replacement cartridges handy when it's time to change filters.

Cost

It doesn't matter how large or how long-lasting your filter systems are if you can't really pay for it. So this must also be something you must consider before finally buying your very own iron filter.

FAQs

Can Water Filters be Cleaned and Reused?

No. While it’s essential to keep your filtration system clean, filters themselves cannot be cleaned or reused, or it will lose its effectiveness.

Can Water Filters Get Moldy?

Yes, if it gets exposed to direct sunlight. But once your filters get moldy, thoroughly clean the whole system and replace the filters. You can prevent this from happening if you regularly replace your filters and check on them for algae.

How often will I have to maintain my iron water filter?

It depends on the whole system you’re using, but checking them out for unwanted contaminants will help you figure out if it’s time for cleaning. Just make sure you don’t let your filters get worn out.

Can I install the filter myself or do I need to hire someone?

Most of our picks for the best iron filter for well water are easy to install, so you can go ahead and give it a try. But when in doubt, you can always call a professional for help.

Do air injection systems work for removing iron?

Air injection systems oxidize well water and filter out transformed ferric iron precipitates. However, these systems are susceptible to bacterial iron and can also cause air buildup in your tanks, which in turn causes pipes to “spit.”

Conclusion

We don’t recommend relying on a sediment filter or a softener alone to remove the iron from your well water. Sure, water softening units are capable of eliminating ferrous iron. Still, it comes with a tendency that the filtered iron will end up clogging the system in the long run, even though you might think your water has very low iron levels in it.

So it’s only a matter of choosing between purchasing an entire system, or manually selecting each part and building the system yourself. We’ll leave it to you to make that decision since it really depends on how much time you have on your hands and how much basic plumbing skills you have.

But f you decide to do it manually, here’s the set-up I recommend:

Best Sediment Filter: Rusco 1-1/2-250-F Polyester Screened Spin-Down Filter System

  • Highly customizable and may be tweaked depending on where you live and how contaminated your deep well is

Best Water Softener: Tier1 Essential Series High-Efficiency Digital Water Softener

  • Gives you the best bang for the buck because of its efficiency and low power requirement, and can be installed outdoors, so long as it gets ample shade from extreme heat

Best Additional Chemical: Pro Pot Perm Plus Potassium Permanganate Free Flow

  • Makes any filter last longer after breaking down larger sediments to nothing but slush, which is easy to flush out and will not clog filters.

However, if you’re looking to buy an entire system, our overall winner would be the Aquasana Whole House Water Filter System. There’s really something genius about the upflow system that keeps your water colorless, odorless, and tasteless (as it should be) for a long time. 

Its size is also just about right for the average household with about four members, and since it uses no salts, the recurring cost is almost non-existent. That’s not to mention there’s not a lot of maintenance required since it doesn’t even need manual flushing. I think that aside from the monetary costs, this thoughtful design allows you to save on something much more important: time. 

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