Can a Water Softener Remove Iron from your Home’s Water?

The purpose of a water softener is to remove hardness minerals from your water in order to prevent the many issues associated with hard water. As a side effect of the water softening process, water softeners can also remove small traces of a few other contaminants, including iron. But just because a water softener can reduce iron levels in your water doesn’t mean you should necessarily count on it as a primary source of iron removal. Today we’re going to talk about how a water softener interacts with iron in water and whether or not a water softener should be considered an iron removal system!

First, identify what kind of iron is in your water

Before we talk about whether or not a water softener can effectively remove iron, it’s important to understand what the kinds of iron might be present in your water.

There are two primary types of iron that are found in water: ferrous iron and ferric iron. Ferrous iron is a fully-dissolved form of iron that does not take on a visible form. You can recognize ferrous iron if you pour a glass of water that starts out clear but changes red or yellow in color after sitting out for a few minutes.

The second type of iron is ferric iron. This is not a dissolved form of iron, so you can actually see ferric iron particles in your water as soon as you pour it into a glass.

If you suspect that your home’s water contains iron, schedule a water quality analysis with EPA Water so we can determine what kind of iron is present and at what levels.

How does a water softener interact with iron in water?

Water softeners interact with ferrous and ferric iron in different ways. Let’s first take a look at ferrous iron. Like hardness minerals, ferrous iron ions have a positive charge. As a result, ferrous iron is attracted to the resin beads inside of a water softener’s tank. If your water contains ferrous iron, some of it can be removed during the water softening process. If your water contains a large amount of ferrous iron, however, the iron can actually rust out the internal components of your system.

Ferric iron is a physical particle that is not attracted to the resin beads inside of a water softener. As a result, water softeners have no impact on the levels of ferric iron in your water.

How can you help your water softener deal with iron in water?

As we mentioned above, water softeners are designed to soften your water, not remove iron. So even though a small amount of iron can be removed by a water softener, you should not count on that as your sole source of iron removal. Instead, consider the following options for helping your water softener deal with iron:

  • Use “iron out” salt. By using “iron out” salt in your water softener, you can improve your unit’s ability to remove iron from your home’s water. This salt will not remove enough iron to ensure your water’s iron levels are at a safe level, but it will definitely help prevent your unit from rusting out.
  • Use a separate iron filter before softening. The best way to remove iron from your water is to run your water through a dedicated iron-removal filter before it enters your water softener’s tank. You can do this by installing a separate unit alongside your water softener, or you can install a system like the WaterMax by Hague that will filter and soften your water using a single, compact unit.

If you have any questions about whether or not a water softener can remove iron, or if you’d like a water system serviced or installed in your home, contact EPA Water Consultants, your water softener and water filtration system dealer in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. We provide service all over the Eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including towns like Quakertown, Allentown and Newtown, PA.

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