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How do you remove rust (iron) from your water?

by Mark Timmons September 11, 2007 99 Comments


Under some circumstances, a water softener will work for a while, but the resin bed will gradually become fouled with iron over months or years, decreasing its efficiency at removing the iron.

To totally remove iron, one must utilize the following: (1) Oxidation and filtration; or (2) Sequestration using polyphosphates.

POLYPHOSPHATES - We will discuss sequestration of iron with polyphosphates first. Sequestration of iron with polyphosphates does not remove it from the water supply, but keeps the iron in solution, so that it does not produce stains. This is often used when individuals or businesses want to keep the iron from staining in irrigation systems. It is accomplished by injecting a small amount of polyphosphate into the water, typically with a chemical injection pump and a solution tank containing a supply of polyphosphate.

However, it is not perfect in removing iron, as evaporation of the water can still leave an iron residue and the iron often precipitates when the water is heated. Results may very dramatically with sequestration, depending upon a variety of factors, not the least of which is water chemistry.

OXIDATION - Almost any concentration of iron can be oxidized by feeding an oxidizer such as chlorine, ozone, pottasium permanganate, hydrogen peroxide or even oxygen into the water supply. The oxidizer reduces the iron to a small particle (precipitate), which is then mechanically filtered from the water, typically by a backwashing filter with a dense media containing carbon or materials.

In my thirty-plus years of experience, I have personally tried every method known to man to remove iron. Today, I primarily use hydrogen peroxide, as it is a much better oxidizer of iron than either chlorine or potassium permanganate and does not leave excess air in the water like oxygen systems. Unlike chlorine, hydrogen peroxide is simply hydrogen and oxygen and produces no harmful chlorination byproducts.

A hydrogen peroxide system consists of a chemical injection pump, solution tank, in-line static mixer, and a backwashing filter to remove the oxidized iron. I prefer the hydrogen peroxide system because it completely removes iron and sulfur with totally predictable results. It is my opinion that other methods are not as predictable or reliable in function. A hydrogen peroxide system will remove 100% of the iron. PERIOD!

For homebuilders that build large custom homes with irrigation systems on iron-bearing waters, the hydrogen peroxide system will totally eliminate any staining in irrigation systems, and throughout the home, for that matter. Additionally, a water softener will not have to work nearly as hard once the iron is completely removed. This is not to say that other methods can't work. I am just stating my opinion based upon my extensive experience in treating problem water.

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October 03, 2009 mark

Sheri, Here’s the link: You would still need a softener if the water is hard, but it would not use nearly asuch salt.

November 15, 2009 mark

Sandy, You could probably use your Rainsoft Softener and add the OXi-5 system ($2,595.00), which would use $300-$400 of peroxide a year. The iron would be eradicated and your Rainsoft would not have to work very hard to just soften the water. Here’s the link:

November 16, 2009 paul h

Hi I’m not a water expert or anything near to what some of these people are saying on here I’ve got an allotment with a small brook that run through it from a long pipe that runs from a reservoir a mile or two away. There is a mass of orange soil in the alloment in the pond where the steam runs into it.The water looks clear until it starts raining heavy then you can see the orange coming through the water. I would like to keep some fish in the pond eventually and would also like to clean the pond up is there anyway of catching or filtering the iron/rust from the pipes out before it hit the pond.

November 20, 2009 mark

Paul, I do not have enough information to even make a guess. I would need to see an analysis of the source water.

February 20, 2010 MARGE TOURVILLE


February 24, 2010 mark

To remove the iron, you may need to use a product like RUST -OUT or if that doesn’t work you could try 17% hydrogen peroxide or muratic acid. Try this: The best thing to do is to remove the iron BEFORE it gets to your shower. Tell me more about your water…

March 02, 2010 Esse

Hi Mark, I am trying to find out where you purchase a hydrogen peroxide system for a well and how much does it cost. We built a new house with a well and have a lot of iron in the water. We thought about getting a softener but our water is not hard, they tested it and it was about the same as the city water except that it has a lot of iron in it and thus causes a lot of staining. From what I’m reading a regular softener will do nothing for that, but would you still recommend buying one plus using the “rust-out” with it? Thank you for the advice.

March 05, 2010 Jeff

i used rust out in my water softner now my water has a smell to it (not a rotten egg smell) i have tried regen twice but smell still there.

March 08, 2010 mark

Esse, Try here: Give them (us) a call.

March 08, 2010 mark

Jeff, You need a water test. Try this: and, I usually don’t respond when you use a “Fake” e-mail address.

March 09, 2010 Jeff

mark thanks for the responce please be assured that the e mail address is not fake if you had a problem i am sorry here it is again

March 09, 2010 Jeff

PS. i forgot to mention that i didnt have a odor prior to using the rust out. Thanks

May 17, 2010 mark

Craig, I always recommend an “oxidation” filter ahead of a water softener, when you have that much iron. It costs more, but it will work better. Here’s what I recommend:

June 07, 2010 Rose Hammond

I have well point that uses strictly for irrigation system. I have problems with staining (Fe) my house, sidewalk and the driveway. I do not know how much ppm fe in the well water. I am a chemist myself, and I used test metals in the water for the Districtof Fl. I am no longer works there either. I read many articles in several website. I kind of like your thought using the hydrogen peroxide. Could you please give me a details about how the system could install. Thank you, Rose Hammond 813-398-6225 The Water Doctor Replied: Here’s a good link to how it works:

January 25, 2020 Jhon Martin

Nice blog. It will surely help beginners update their knowledge. The efforts you have put in to create the posts are quite interesting. Looking forward to seeing you soon in a new post. With at least 5% concentration in the earth’s crust, iron is one of the most common contaminants of groundwater. Ranking next to municipality added impure minerals like chlorine, iron contaminated water poses a threat to us even if mixed in small quantities in drinking water. As it can cause damage in more than one way, it is imperative to detect it early on.

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