Orange Well Water Causes and Treatments

Orange well water is commonly known as iron water. Apart from orange, well water can get yellow, cloudy, or brown. Orange well water is mostly due to iron contamination.

How does your Well Water get Orange?

Iron is the main culprit behind orange well water. Iron enters well water when it moves underground as it dissolves heavy metals, and minerals. Similarly, rainwater seeps down and dissolves iron from the rocks; it then enters the aquifer supplying water to your well. Corrosion of old water pipes can also be the reason behind orange-colored well water.

Orange well water can happen due to following types of iron.

  • Iron Bacteria – It gives an orange or reddish-brown color to water and is usually found in toilet tanks and water storage tanks.
  • Ferric Iron – It is also known as red iron and imparts an orange-brown or cloudy color to your water.
  • Ferrous Iron – Ferrous iron is colorless but gives a metallic taste and smell to the water.

Treating Orange Well Water (Iron in Well Water)

Department of Health, Minnesota recommends following treatments of orange well water.

Physical Treatment – Physical treatment involves two steps.

  • Removing and cleaning the well equipment such as well pump and well cap
  • Scrubbing the well casing with brushes

Chemical Treatment for Iron Bacteria (Shock Chlorination) – Chemical treatment is best for eliminating iron bacteria in well water. It can be done in three ways.

Disinfection or Chlorination: Household bleach containing chlorine is used to shock chlorinate the water well to kill bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms. You can chlorinate a well yourself if you know about the well depth, volume of water, and how much chlorine to be used. Sometimes well experts recommend a chlorinator for wells with recurrent bacterial contamination problem.

Surfactants: These are phosphate-based detergents used with chlorine to kill the iron bacteria. If only phosphate surfactant is used, it can become the diet of iron bacteria and provide a breeding ground.

Acid Treatment: It removes iron deposits, kills bacteria, and clears off the bacterial slime. Make sure you don’t add chlorine in acids and work carefully around them.

Water Filters for Ferric Iron – Insoluble iron is removed using a sediment filter. The right sediment filter for iron removal depends on iron particles size in well water. Sediment filters also remove other suspended particles from well water like sand, dirt, silt, and debris.

Recommended Sediment Filter: SpringWell’s Spin-Down Sediment Filter

SpringWell’s Spin-Down Sediment Filter

The 1-inch spin-down filter is best to remove iron, sediment, sand, dust, and debris from well water. It is often installed before a water softener/water filter to extend the filter life and enhance performance.

The unit has a flushing valve to clear the accumulated gunk on the filter mesh. The filter gives a 25 GPM flow rate and is a 1-inch in/out for plumbing, so you don’t experience pressure drops.

Water Filters for Ferrous Iron – Oxidation filters are used to treat dissolved iron. The air pocket in the filter oxidizes iron which is then captured by a filtration media and flushed out during discharge. Some water softeners can also remove iron from well water but it limits their softening capabilities and calls for frequent maintenance.

Recommended Oxidation Filter: SpringWell’s Whole House Well Water Filter System

SpringWell’s Whole House Well Water Filter System

SpringWell’s whole house iron filter for well water can remove iron up to 7 PPM, 8PPM hydrogen sulfide, and 1 PPM manganese. The unit can be paired with a UV purification system, RO water filter, and a salt-based water softener for holistic water treatment.

It is an easy-to-install filter with a lifetime warranty and low maintenance needs. It may be more costly than ordinary filters, but it lasts 10-15 years without any issues.

Common Factors behind Orange Well Water

Rust

Rust in well water

Rusty water pipes can make your well water orange/brown. This may lead to orange water at a few taps or entire home. Old homes with copper plumbing pipes often face this issue.

Solution – You may need to replace a section of the plumbing or the entire plumbing of your home.

Well Infrastructure

Damaged well infrastructures such as a well cap or pump, well screen, and well casing can become an entry point for ferric iron and iron bacteria.

Solution – Get your well inspected by a state-licensed contractor and make necessary repairs/modifications.

Tannins

Tannins are a by-product of the organic decomposition of tree debris and leaves. They are harmless to human health and can get into your water due to the seeping of rainwater. Tannins impart a yellowish orange color to well water.

Solution – Keep the area near your well free from tree debris. Install concrete pads around your well according to your state laws to protect rainwater seepage. You can install a tannin removal filter or a sediment filter to remove suspended tannin particles.

Orange Color in Hot Water Taps

Orange well water

Iron bacteria in water heater can impart rotten egg smell or orange/brown color to hot water.

Solution – Flush the water heater or replace the magnesium anode with an aluminum anode rod.

Health Effects of Orange Well Water

Orange water is mostly harmless to health but bathing with it can lead to damaged skin and hair. It also smells awful. Some people can suffer from nausea, vomiting, and headache.

Damaging Effects of Orange Well Water

  • Stains on plumbing fixtures, bathtubs, appliances, laundry, crockery, sidewalks, and garage.
  • Orange water can clog your water pipes, well pump, pressure tank, and water filters/softeners.
  • Reduced flow rate.

How can I prevent Orange Well Water?

  • Only use disinfected water for drilling, repair, or priming well pumps. Avoid using water from lakes and ponds.
  • Ensure that well casing is closed, watertight, and extends according to the state and local laws.
  • Don’t place water pipes, pumps, and other equipment on the ground while doing repairs. Use a plastic sheet or a table.
  • Disinfect the well, well equipment, and plumbing system after repairs or new drills.
  • Install a proper filtration system to remove iron from water.
  • Shock chlorinate your well every 1-3 years to avoid bacterial growth inside your well system.

How to get rid of Orange Stains?

Here are a few tips to remove orange stains from appliances, clothes and plumbing fixtures.

  • Lemon juice or white vinegar can remove the stains if applied quickly after the stains appear on any surface. Rubbing the surface with an old toothbrush will give better results.
  • Scrub the stains with a paste of vinegar and baking soda.
  • A mixture of salt and lime or hot water and borax is also effective in dealing with yellow stains.
  • Commercial products specifically designed to remove iron stains (yellow, red, orange, and brown stains).

How can I find out what’s causing Orange Well Water?

The best way to find out the real reason behind orange well water is to test your water. You can test water at home using a testing kit or hire the services of a water testing facility.

Final Words

It is critical to get your well water tested whenever you notice a change in its color, taste or odor. A water test will help you select the best treatment option for orange well water and other contaminants found in well water.

Author

  • Earl Rojo

    Earl Rojo has been a senior mechanic in well drilling and maintenance firms for 3 years. He is from Longview, Texas, and he loves sharing his experience with others. He frequently writes on various well water issues with a special focus on well maintenance and drinking water quality.

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