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. While there are some other reasons associated with these colors, orange well water is mostly the result of a high percentage of iron in well water.

In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about orange well water (iron water), including the reasons behind it, its effects, and how you can get rid of it.

How does your Well Water get Orange?

As we already mentioned that orange water is iron water. When water moves underneath the ground, it dissolves heavy metals and other minerals and elements. If the iron concentration is higher in the water table, you are more likely to have orange well water. Similarly, rainwater seeps down and dissolves iron from the rocks; it then enters the aquifer supplying water to your well. This is the reason why your well water gets yellow after it rains. Corrosion can also be the reason behind orange-colored well water. Old water pipes start to corrode when they are exposed to oxygen and water. This process is known as oxidation, and it forms rust. The rust can enter your water and give a yellow color.

Following types of iron, contamination is usually related to private wells.

  • 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.

Health Effects of Orange Water

Fortunately, orange water does not have any health risks for human beings. EPA has classified iron as a secondary contaminant, and it poses no health risks. The maximum contaminant level for iron is 0.3 mg/L.  Iron bacteria can add unpleasant odors such as rotten egg, swampy, sewage, gas, and cucumber smells to the water. Excessive iron and prolonged exposure can lead to discoloration of hair and skin. It will only happen if you frequently bathe with orange water. You must avoid taking a bath in the colored water. However, it can be damaging to your home. Let’s look at the damaging effects of orange water (iron water).

Damages Caused to Your Property

Stains – Iron water or orange water can cause stains on the washroom fixtures, toilet tanks, seats, sinks, and bathtubs. Red, orange, and brown stains are indications of a high percentage of iron in the water. These stains may appear on sidewalks and anything which is frequently exposed to high-iron water, such as crockery and laundry.

clogged pipes

Clogged Pipes – Orange water can also cause clogging in your water pipes. Iron deposits can lead to plumbing problems and can reduce the water flow rate. It can also impact your well pump, pressure tank, and other water treatment machines connected with your well.

Damage to the Appliances – Orange water is not good for your appliances as well. When washing machines, dishwashers, and sprinkler systems use iron water, their age decreases, affecting their working capacity and efficiency.

Treating Iron Water (Orange Well Water)

To remove iron and orange color from water, the following treatments are recommended by well experts.

Physical Treatment – The first treatment employed by many well experts is physical removal. It is like a pre-requisite for wells infected with a high percentage of iron. It includes the following.

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

Chemical Treatment for Iron Bacteria – Chemical treatment is regarded as the best treatment to eliminate iron bacteria giving orange color to well water. The three common substances used for this purpose are disinfectants, surfactants, and acids. A common disinfectant is household laundry bleach containing chlorine. You can chlorinate a well yourself if you know about the well depth, volume of water, and how much chlorine to be used.

Surfactants are phosphate-based detergents which are 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 is used to remove iron deposits, kill bacteria, and clear off the bacteria slime. Handling acids can be hazardous; therefore, it must be performed by experts only. Please keep such materials out of reach of children and NEVER mix chlorine in them.

Water Filters for Ferric Iron – To treat not dissolved iron in well water, sediment, or cartridge filter are the best option. They remove suspended iron from water and hence make your water crystal clear. The choice should be made depending upon the iron concentration in water and the amount of water you use. Sediment filters need a drain pipe for backwashing, and cartridge filter needs periodic filter replacement.

Water Filters for Ferrous Iron – To treat ferrous iron, a water filter is the best option. Specific models are available in the market, which is designed for well water users. You can also use a water softener to remove iron from water. Oxidation filters are also best when it comes to removing the dissolved iron from water.

Other Factors behind Orange Well Water


Rust in well water

Rust from water pipes can also make your water appear orange/brown. The chances of this happening are common in homes with old plumbing systems. If your home was built recently, you don’t need to worry about it. It is also possible that only a single washroom or one tap is giving rust and orange color.

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 to enter your water and impart orange color.

Solution – You need to get your well inspected by a state-licensed contractor. They will check the well pump, well screen, and well casing and suggest you the best possible remedy.


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.

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. A more professional way to deal with this problem is to install a sediment filter. If you already have a water treatment plant installed with your well water, don’t worry about tannins as they will be filtered by the sediment filter in the filtration machine.

Orange Color in Hot Water Taps

Orange well water

It is possible that only hot water taps are giving an orange color. It can happen due to issues with water or water pipes linked with it.

Solution – You can resolve this problem by flushing the water heater. If the problem persists, you will need to replace the water pipes linked with it. You may need to get a new water heater if the problem continues.

Preventing Orange Color in Well Water

If you succeed in stopping iron bacteria from entering your well, you will be able to finish the orange color problem for good. The following tips can help you achieve an iron bacteria-free well.

  • 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.

How to get rid of Orange Stains?

We have already discussed treatment and prevention for orange well water. Let’s look at how to remove the stains caused by it.

  • 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 prove more fruitful.
  • Use a paste of vinegar and baking soda with a toothbrush to scrub the stains. It is a common household remedy and is being used by people all around the world.
  • 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) are available online and in hardware stores. Remember to read the applying instructions before using these sprays.

Can’t locate the Source?

EPA recommends that all well owners get their water tested when they notice a change in color, taste, or smell of the water. Yearly testing is suggested for bacteria and a 3-year test for other contaminants. Once you get the water tested, you will be able to locate the source of yellow water and deal with it in the right way. Regular water testing is crucial for maintaining the quality of well water.

Conclusion – What to Do?

We have listed all the possible causes and solutions for the yellow well water problem. We suggest you adopt the one according to the problem identified in the water tests. If you go for a random method, you may end up wasting your time and money.

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