Is Your Water Reddish? It Might Be Iron

Water tap faucet with flowing contaminated muddy and dirty water in a white bathroom sink.

If the water coming out of your taps is reddish-brown, then it’s likely that you have iron in your water. It is a common contaminant in water, and can sometimes combine with other chemicals to produce organic iron or tannins, which tend to turn water yellow.

Is Iron in Your Water Dangerous?

Iron in tap water is not considered a hazard to human health. In fact, a bit of it in your water can be beneficial, as it is an essential nutrient. Instead, it is generally considered an aesthetic contaminant, however, it is definitely one you don’t want to deal with.

Too Much

Too much iron can cause a number of problems:

  1. It can ruin the taste of your food and beverages. Too much can make tea or coffee turn black and taste harsh. Further, it can make the water itself taste bad and can affect how food cooks. Also, it can turn vegetables cooked in it black, although they are still edible and safe.
  2. It can stain your fixtures, tableware, and laundry. Iron stains can be hard to remove. This is generally the most common problem with high levels in the water. Removing stains generally requires some kind of acids such as vinegar or lemon juice.
  3. Deposits that form in pipes can clog pumps, sprinklers, and dishwashers, potentially causing flooding and water damage.
  4. Iron can promote the growth of bacteria. Further, the bacteria is harmless but can create an unpleasant biofilm that can clog plumbing and create a bad smell. The most common place for this bacteria is in the toilet tank, where the film is visible in the bottom.

Iron is most often a problem in households that depend on wells. The bacteria, in particular, tend to find their way into well systems during construction or repair; if the bacteria appears soon after you have a pump replaced then this is a likely source. For the most part, iron contamination is not an issue with public water systems, although iron can sometimes get into the system from rusty pipes and fittings both in your home and in the water system in general.

High levels are most common in areas where the underlying geology contains a lot of ore but can happen anywhere. Local concentrations result in a contaminated well while a neighbor’s remains iron-free.

How to Deal With Iron in Water

The easiest way to deal with high levels of iron in your water is the appropriate filtration. A whole house filtration system and water softener will lower the levels of iron and other minerals in your water. The system will also soften your water and improve taste and odor. A test will help confirm what kind of contamination you have and whether you also have bacterial contamination (the latter may require shock chlorination of your pump if you have a well). This will help you establish the best way to treat your problem. An expensive option is to relocate your well, but this is seldom necessary and should be considered only if you have multiple problems.

If you use a well, it is particularly important to have whole house filtration to keep out iron, other minerals, and soil bacteria that might find their way into your water system. Advanced Water Softening offers whole house water softeners that also include activated carbon filters that can remove most contaminants from your water. The taste of your water will improve and your appliances and fixtures will last longer.


If your tap water is leaving red stains on your sink, bathtub, laundry, etc, then you may have an iron problem. Contact Advanced Water Softening to find out how our water softeners can help remove iron contamination from your water and thus improve your life and the taste of your food.