If you ever lived where iron was a problem in the water, you were probably glad if you were able to move away! It is one of the most overt problems with drinking, cooking, and cleaning water because of the flavor, stains and color.
Iron problems in water are in two different ionic forms. Ferrous iron, or iron(II) oxide (FeO) is the first. Water out of the faucet containing FeO is clear and colorless. However, FeO rapidly oxidizes when exposed to air and forms ferric oxide, or Fe(III) oxide, or Fe2O3. This iron compound is reddish brown and is used as a cheap red paint pigment. This is the form of iron that causes the red and brown stain in the sink, toilet, and tub.
This ferric oxide also stains the laundry. Whites lose their whiteness and the problem won’t go away. It doesn’t take much, only .3 parts per million, to cause these problems. When we lived in the country on well water, my white shirts gradually lost their whiteness, especially on the sleeves. The water was not clear or bad tasting, but the presence of iron showed up in the laundry. It was finally solved when my wife added borax to the water when she washed whites.
As if the staining weren’t bad enough, the iron also leaves an unpleasant metal taste in the water. Plus, you’ve probably noticed, the iron reacts with the tannin in tea, coffee, and alcohol, giving it an ugly gray to black appearance.
To determine which form of iron, if any, you have in your water, try this simple test. Fill a clear glass with water and leave it alone for twenty minutes. If the water becomes clear as the iron settles to the bottom, you have ferric iron in your water. This means that the particles are large enough to filter out, about five microns or smaller.
In such a case, an activated charcoal cartridge filter will be able to remove the iron and clear up the water. The particles will lodge in the filter and can be backwashed or scrubbed out when the filter is cleaned.
On the other hand, if the particles did not fall to the bottom, then a cartridge filter will probably not be able to remove them. In this case either a water softener or an iron removal system will be needed. This article cannot deal with these.
When you filter drinking water with a cartridge charcoal filter, there is an added bonus. Whether or not iron is a problem with the water, many other contaminants, including some that are harmful, are also removed. These include heavy metals, pathogens and bacteria, chlorine and chlorine compounds, nitrates and nitrites, and many hydrocarbons.
Yes, our bodies need iron but not in the form present in contaminated water. Ferric oxide ruins flavoring and stains clothing and plumbing fixtures. Removing iron(III) from your drinking water by means of a cartridge filter is a relatively inexpensive fix.