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Manganese and Iron in Water

If there is iron in your water, you probably know it! Iron can cause rusty water, which leaves black, orange, or red stains on your plumbing fixtures, toilets, and other surfaces. This mineral can also give you water that tastes like metal. And when you have iron, you typically have manganese in the water as well. Learn more about iron in water from US Water Systems, as well as how to remove it easily.

Problems with Iron in Water?

Testing for Iron

Iron is one of the most common minerals on EarthWhen you have high levels of iron in your water, you will likely know it from the black or red stains left by this mineral. These stains not only accumulate on toilets and showers, iron can discolor your clothing and anything else that untreated water touches. Iron is often found with manganese, another mineral that leaves black or dark brown stains and which can build up deposits in your pipes. Water with high levels of iron and manganese most often comes from wells or other private water sources.

It is common for water that contains iron to also have levels of hydrogen sulfide and/or arsenic. In many cases, all of these contaminants can be removed in exactly the same manner that you remove iron.

How Does Iron Get in My Water?

Iron in water typically comes from the rocks and soil around the water source. As water moves through the rocks and into the well or aquafer, it dissolves the iron that's naturally found in the environment. Manganese is often found in the same sources as iron, although it's less common.

There are many types of iron, but for our purposes we generally divided them into two main categories: (1) soluble or ferrous iron and (2) insoluble or ferric iron. Soluble iron, or "clear water" iron oxidizes to insoluble or red iron in the presence of oxygen either in the well or in your home. You can tell if you have soluble iron in water by pouring a glass of cold clear water. When allowed to stand in the presence of air, reddish brown particles will appear in the glass and eventually settle to the bottom. When insoluble iron, or red water iron, is poured into a glass, it appears rusty or has a red or yellow color. Insoluble iron can create serious taste and appearance problems in water.

Are Iron and Manganese in Water Dangerous?

In most cases, the amount of iron in water from a well is more of a nuisance rather than a health risk. Most people don't like it when water tastes like metal or has a red or brown tinge. Since both iron and manganese can stain plumbing fixtures, laundry, and other items, it can ruin clothing and leave sinks and tubs looking dirty, even when they aren't. Very high levels of manganese in water can cause neurological symptoms.

Another reason that you might want to treat high iron water is that certain types of bacteria need it to survive. These bacteria can form an unpleasant yellow or brown slime in your plumbing, and often produce a bad odor. Although they are not particularly dangerous, most people prefer to get rid of these bacteria.

Testing for Iron in Water

If you're concerned about iron or manganese in your water, it is imperative that you perform a good water analysis. This type of water testing is not just for iron and manganese, but includes a number of other contaminants, like hardness, pH, nitrate, tannin, sulfur, TDS, and more. The inter-relationships of the different competing contaminants will help in choosing the best technology to solve your specific iron, manganese, sulfur and/or arsenic problem.

Click Here for the Best Well Water Test for Iron and Manganese

Removing Iron from Water

Once you've had a good water analysis, US Water will be able to confidently recommend the appropriate treatment and will provide a Performance Guarantee with the system you choose. There are several different methods for removing iron, sulfur, arsenic, and manganese from the water, and most operate on the principal of oxidizing the iron to convert it from a ferrous (dissolved or soluble) to a ferric or undissolved state. Once it is converted to the ferric state, iron can be filtered out. US Water Systems has more than 40 years of experience in using iron and manganese water filters successfully all over the country. You have come to the right place if you want to solve your problem once and for all!

Treating Rusty Water with a Water Softener

In instances where the iron in water is high and the pH is low (below 5.8), a water softener can be used to remove some iron and manganese. This method often only has a limited impact, however, especially if your pH is neutral or higher. In most cases, iron and manganese need to be oxidized to be removed. Other contaminants, like sulfur, will not be removed by a water softener.

Fusion Backwashing FilterBackwashing Iron Filters

A backwashing iron filter is the most widely used system for removing iron from water. Iron filters work by exposing the mineral to an oxidizing agent, which makes it insoluble, and then filtering it out through the media bed. This type of filter needs to be backwashed, which means that water is pumped through the filtering media backwards, removing most of the accumulated contaminants and loosening the media so that it can be used again.

The best medias at removing these contaminants are those that are manganese dioxide based or coated. Birm is coated with less than 0.5% of manganese dioxide, which is why it has limited application for this purpose. Greensand Plus is a little higher in manganese dioxide, while Filox, Pyrolox, and MangOx are 60 to 80% manganese dioxide.

While backwashing filters with manganese dioxide media are effective for removing iron from water, they do have problems. The most common reasons for filter failure are a lack of flow in the backwash cycle or regenerations that are not frequent enough. Most manganese dioxide-based medias are extremely heavy (up to 120 pounds a cubic foot), which makes them extremely difficult to backwash. For example, to backwash a 1.5 cubic foot tank (10" x 54") of Pyrolox or Filox or any typical manganese dioxide-based media would require at least 15 gallons per minute (GPM) of water and the backwash and rinse time can be up to 20 minutes. Some systems waste up to 300 gallons of water per regeneration and most need to backwash daily or at least every other day.

Old-style iron filters are rapidly becoming obsolete due to their inherent inefficiency and massive wasting of water, to say nothing of the fact that many don't work very well. Additionally, many use either potassium permanganate or chlorine as an oxidizer to regenerate the media. Potassium permanganate dissolves into water and gives it an intense pink or purple color, and will forever stain things it comes into with if the concentration is too high. Both potassium permanganate and chlorine are also toxic chemicals and must be stored and used very carefully. If you use chlorine, then you will need to add a backwashing carbon filter after the iron or sulfur removal system to remove the chlorine and the by-products it creates.

Ozone Systems

Ozone is an excellent oxidizer, which means that it can go a great job of making iron and manganese in water easier to filter out. Unfortunately, the inherent high cost of generating ozone and the equipment needed makes it cost prohibitive for removing iron from water for most residential applications. We hear many people say "I had an ozone system and it didn't work very well." What they say is probably true, because it was likely undersized or misapplied. An ozone system for a typical three bathroom home would consist of the following components:

  • ozone systemsOxygen Concentrator/Air Dryer - Prepares the oxygen so that ozone can be created
  • Corona Discharge Ozone Generator - Needs to be adequately sized so that more ozone is made than is actually needed so that the oxidation is complete
  • Injector Manifold Assembly - Insures that the ozone is properly injected into the water
  • Vacuum Break - Prevents water from backing up into the ozone generator
  • Contact Tank - This is where the raw water comes into contact with ozone-enriched water
  • Circulation Pump - Continuously circulates ozone so that the contact tank is always saturated with ozone
  • Ozone Destruct Device - Ensures that any excess ozone is destroyed before entering your home
  • Catalytic Carbon Backwashing Filter - Completes the oxidation process and destroys the ozone completely

The picture above is a skid-mounted ozone system, which includes all of the components listed above. Such a system can cost $8,000 to $12,000, but it will do a great job for many years with virtually no maintenance. In the case of ozone, it's go big … or go home. If you are not willing to spend the money, ozone should not be a consideration for removing iron from water. There are now companies who are introducing a tiny amount of ozone into a backwashing filter tank and claiming that it does all kind of fabulous things. If you believe that, we may have a bridge that we could sell you. To oxidize water properly, a significant amount of ozone must be added.

Chemical-Free Oxygen Systems

Over 20 years ago, we begin experimenting with introducing air (which is 21% oxygen) into a backwashing tank of manganese dioxide based media as a way to treat iron and manganese in drinking water. We did this with a water softener valve that was modified to suck in air instead of salt brine. While we do not claim to be the first to do this, there weren't many other companies that we were aware of who were. Others have used air pumps, air injectors, and micronizers, all of which added 21% oxygen to the system.

Oxygen is an excellent oxidizer of iron, sulfur, and manganese and recently, US Water introduced the next generation in its line of oxygen systems called the inFusion Chemical-Free Iron and Sulfur Eradication System. It is built on a commercial water softener platform with a 1" high flow (up to 35 GPM) control valve that draws in oxygen from the air to oxidize the iron and sulfur. It does not use the typical manganese dioxide media, but rather uses the lighter and much more effective catalytic carbon, which acts as a catalyst between the oxygen and the iron and sulfur.

As mentioned earlier, atmospheric oxygen is of a 21% concentration, but the inFusion system takes it a step further (well maybe 4 or 5 steps further) by offering the option of an oxygen concentrator, which concentrates the oxygen up to 93%, which is about 450% better. So, if you have really bad sulfur or iron in your water, this chemical free method will handle about any level thrown at it. No chemicals, no high cost of operation, and no ozone – just clean, fresh water!

Katalox Light

To begin with, Katalox is a revolutionary new media developed in Germany. It is engineered with a unique manganese dioxide coating technique on ZERSORB (which is a very lightweight media). It has a manganese dioxide coating of 10%, which makes it much lighter and easier to backwash than other manganese dioxide-based medias such as Filox, Pyrolox, or just about any media ending in "lox." Katalox Light is ANSI/NSF 61 Certified for drinking water applications and has met the ANSI/NSF 372 lead-free compliance.

The Katalox Light media has a very high surface area that filters down to 3 microns and immediately stops oxidized or precipitated forms of iron and manganese from passing into the water stream. It generally needs to be backwashed every two to three days, unlike other heavier media that requires daily backwashing.

Katalox Light is a revolutionary media that is changing how to remove iron from water. We are so confident in its ability to remove iron and manganese that we offer a one-year money-back guarantee. Please note that we do not recommend it when iron or sulfur-reducing bacteria is present. To find out if Katalox Light or another type of filter is the right solution for removing iron from water for you, call one of Certified Water Specialists at 1-800-608-USWA or e-mail us at [email protected] .

If you want to go salt-free in your quest to treat iron in water, we also have our Green Wave Salt-Free Water Conditioners coupled with our inFusion, Katalox, or Oxi-Gen systems.



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Our price is lower than the manufacturer's "minimum advertised price." As a result, we cannot show you the price in catalog or the product page.

You have no obligation to purchase the product once you know the price. You can simply remove the item from your cart.