How to Clean Out Iron in Private Well Water

Ferrous (clear water) iron, ferric (red water) iron, organic iron and iron-related bacteria can contaminate water. Although the iron types and bacteria don’t pose a health hazard, iron contamination can cause odors and unpleasant tastes. It can also discolor water, leaving behind yellow, red, brown or black stains on surfaces, and clog pipes, shower and faucet heads and filters. To clean out iron in private well water you must first determine the type of iron contamination and then choose a water treatment method or methods.

Step 1

Test your water.  Hire a water specialist to test the water or use a water test kit purchased from a water treatment or DIY store. If you purchase a kit, follow the kit instructions to take water samples and then send the samples to a laboratory.  Most kits provide the address of a professional laboratory associated with the kit manufacturer that will test the water—typically at no additional cost.

Step 2

Go to a water treatment store to determine the type of water treatment system that can work with your budget and specific iron contamination issue.  Most municipal areas have at least one water treatment store and small town/rural well owners can typically find a store in the nearest major city. The sales representative at the store—usually a certified water specialist—can cover the pros and cons of various systems that include filter, ion exchange/water softener, chemical oxidation and aeration systems. 

Step 3

Purchase your system and self-install based on the instructions provided by the sales representative or schedule installation with a water treatment system installation technician employed or subcontracted by the store. 

Step 4

Change your filters and/or any chemicals in your water treatment system regularly after installation to maintain efficiency.  Refer to your treatment system's user manual or contact your sales representative for removal/replacement instructions.

Things You Will Need

  • Water test kit
  • Water treatment budget
  • Water treatment system


  • If a water treatment system doesn't efficiently remove the iron contamination as desired, contact a well-drilling specialist to discuss reconstructing your existing well to extend it deeper into the groundwater to an area where the iron concentrations don't exist, or constructing an entirely new well in a different location. Although the upfront cost of well-drilling is usually more than most water treatment methods, the long-term cost of extending an existing well or creating a new one may actually be less than costs associated with changing filters or maintaining filtration systems.


  • Never use an ion exchange or water softener system if you're on a sodium restricted diet as these types of systems increase the amount of sodium in water.

About the Author

Based in Southern Pennsylvania, Irene A. Blake has been writing on a wide range of topics for over a decade. Her work has appeared in projects by The National Network for Artist Placement, the-phone-book Limited and GateHouse Media. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Shippensburg University.