Nine Telltale Signs There's Too Much Iron in Drinking Water

Consuming water with high levels of iron can be damaging to your health and your home. Learn how to tell if there's too much iron in your drinking water.

Darrell Smith
02.2020 in Water Contamination
Signs There's Iron in Water
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Five percent of the earth's crust is made of iron. Because it's so abundant, iron can seep into your drinking water, along with other metals and contaminants. In fact, one common cause of iron in well water is runoff after rain.

The amount of iron present in drinking water rarely reaches high enough levels to make people sick on its own. But there are other reasons to be wary of too much iron in your water.

How can you tell if there's iron in drinking water? What can be done if you find out iron is present? Continue reading to find out.

What Causes High Iron Levels in Drinking Water?

Well water is more susceptible to high iron levels than city water, but it can occur in both types.

Iron in the soil can be washed into well water during periods of rain. If the ground has large deposits of iron below the surface, this can cause the levels in your drinking water to rise too high.

With either city or well water, your pipes can also be to blame for high iron levels. Old pipes may leach tiny amounts of iron or copper into your drinking water that may build up over time.

Although city water is normally thoroughly treated, the possibility exists that it can become contaminated through old pipes or water runoff.

Health Effects of Too Much Iron

Generally, high levels of iron in your water don't directly cause adverse health effects for most populations. Certain groups may be more susceptible to iron overdose, however, and children are at the highest risk.

Children shouldn't drink tap water with high levels of iron because it can cause digestive issues and discomfort or even more serious symptoms.

The main health issue with iron isn't necessarily the iron itself — it's the things that attach to the iron, such as bacteria. As the iron travels through your pipes, it can bring harmful organisms into your water that could lead to negative health issues:

  • Nausea, with or without vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Problems with the pancreas, liver, and heart

These are just a few examples. The exact symptoms would depend on the bacteria type and how much was ingested along with the iron.

9 Signs of Iron in Drinking Water

There are many signs you might have too much iron in your drinking water, most of which revolve around the harsh staining properties of iron.

Below are nine telltale signs there's too much iron in your drinking water. See if you notice any of them in your home.

1. Discolored Water

High levels of iron change the color of the water. The color varies but is usually a form of yellow, rusty orange, or brown.

Water may be discolored as soon as you turn it on. Other times, water will change color after it sits a while in a cup, sink, or other container.

2. Rotten Egg Smell

If your water has a rotten egg smell, this likely indicates the presence of sulfur, but it could also mean too much iron. The smell will be most potent when the water is running and can linger after in places like sinks, toilets, or showers.

3. Reddish-Brown Stains on Clothes

Iron sticks to many materials, including clothes. If they're coming out of the washer with reddish-brown stains on them, this may be a sign of high iron levels. Watch out because these stains are difficult to get out of clothing and may ruin them.

4. Fixtures or Sinks Have Rust Stains

Iron can also stick to your home's fixtures, causing rust stains in your sinks, toilet, faucets, and shower. It's possible for other appliances to be affected as well, such as a water dispenser hooked up to the fridge.

5. Pumps and Pipes are Clogged with Slime

High levels of iron can stick to the side of pipes and pumps carrying water in or out of your home. Eventually, there may be enough build-up to clog your pipes, resulting in a thick slime that doesn't allow water to travel freely through.

6. Water Has Metallic Taste

If your drinking water tastes like metal, this is a common sign it has too much iron in it. This metallic taste is similar to when you bite your tongue and taste blood.

The metallic taste won't just affect your water, but also certain things you cook in it. Vegetables, for example, may absorb high levels of iron in the water and start turning black as they cook.

7. Your Skin Is Excessively Dry

Iron dries out your skin and renders soap less efficient. If your skin becomes excessively dry and starts to wrinkle and peel, your water might be to blame.

8. Your Teeth Are Yellowing

Iron can also stick to your teeth and stain them yellow. Not only this, but iron may carry bacteria with it that can cause oral-hygiene problems. In these cases, brushing may not help like it should because you're using high-iron water.

9. Dishes Have Yellow or Brown Stains

Your dishes, too, can be affected by high levels of iron in your drinking water. Because the water is the cause, dishes can have yellow or brown stains after they're washed.

What to Do If You Think You Have High Iron Levels in Water

If you believe there are high levels of iron in your water, there are a few things you can do:

Water Testing

The first thing you should do if you believe there are high levels of iron in your drinking water is to test it. This can help you be sure the issue is too much iron and not something else.

Testing can be done in a few different ways. You can purchase a home water-testing kit to do yourself. This is a typical course of action for people who have well water.

If you have city water, you can call the city with your concerns. They might test the supply water for iron and other contaminants. Also, some companies offer professional water testing.

Some forms of testing also tell you if the iron is ferrous or ferric, which can help you determine the best solutions for reducing it. Ferrous iron dissolves in water, while ferric iron doesn't.

Water Softener

If ferrous iron shows up in your water, it can be treated with a water softener, which uses ionic exchange to make water "softer." What is commonly called "hard water" is filled with minerals, like iron, that cause issues like those mentioned above.

Water Filter

A traditional water filter generally removes ferric iron, while some newer water filtration systems can soften and filter water simultaneously (thus eliminating both types of iron).

There are many different types of water filters. Some attach to faucets, while others need to be installed beneath your sink.

There are also pitcher filters, but these won't work for high iron levels in your showers or washing machines. They can be used as an additional step to purify your drinking water if desired.

No matter which type of water filter you choose, please carefully read which contaminants it's able to remove from your water. You'll, of course, want to find one that specifically filters out iron.

The bonus of using a water filter is that it'll remove other metals and impurities as well.

Do You Still Have Questions About Iron in Drinking Water?

Contact us today. We'd be happy to answer any questions you might have. Or, you can check out our other blog posts to find a wealth of information about healthy drinking water.

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