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How to Remove Iron Bacteria from Well Water

Is your home’s plumbing filled with rust-colored sludge from iron bacteria? You may have spotted the signs when you returned from vacation and rust-stained water poured from the faucet. On the other hand, the signs could be more subtle, like an oily sheen on the water in your toilet bowl or the faint smell of rotten vegetation when you get in the shower. Removing this nasty bacterium from your home’s plumbing can be challenging, but it is possible.

rusty colored water, lakeland flWhat is iron bacteria?

Iron bacteria is a living organism in many private wells across Florida. It thrives in hard water because it uses iron, or manganese, as an energy source. It is not harmful to ingest. However, drinking water from pipes lined with iron bacteria can be risky because this sludgy bacterium creates the conditions for more harmful bacteria to flourish.

How to spot the signs of iron bacteria?

Unlike many other microorganisms, it is often easy to detectable iron bacteria. Indicators of iron bacteria in your water include:

  • Water that tastes or smells like rotting vegetables or petroleum.
  • Yellowish, orangeish, reddish, or brownish-colored water—often most noticeable when you turn on the water after it hasn’t been used for a while.
  • An oily, rainbow-colored sheen on the top of the water when you’ve filled up a glass, bucket, or bath.
  • Rust-colored sludge staining your bathroom or kitchen fixtures.

If you want confirmation that the problem with your water is iron bacteria, you can have your water tested. Tri-Florida Water Treatment offers free in-home water analysis for residents in Lakeland, FL, and the surrounding area.

Why remove iron bacteria from well water?

Preventing harmful bacteria from growing in your plumbing is the top reason to remove it, but it isn’t the only one. Iron bacteria is also tough on your plumbing system. It turns iron, manganese, and other nutrients into rust-colored sludge that builds up on well casings, your home’s pipes, and appliances. Over time, it can corrode pipes, especially at joints, and severely restrict water flow.

In addition, iron bacteria can stain bathroom, and kitchen fixtures, flatware, laundry, and other surfaces you regularly clean with water.

water treatment cartridge, plant city flHow do you get rid of iron bacteria?

Removing iron bacteria from water can be challenging and expensive. It often requires a combination of physical removal by a licensed professional and chemical water treatment. Therefore, it is wise to work with a licensed water treatment specialist who will work with you to determine the best treatment.

Physical Removal Process

The process to physically remove iron bacteria involves the following:

  • shutting off your water and taking apart the plumbing equipment
  • cleaning pipes and joints with brushes

Often, a chemical treatment follows these two steps.

Chemical Water Treatment 

The water treatment specialist you work with may recommend one of these three chemical treatments:


  • An acid cleaner is a strong option but can also be the most dangerous to use. If you use an acidic cleaner, remember never to mix it with chlorine!
  • A disinfectant like chlorine is another effective option.
  • A surfactant or detergent-like chemical such as phosphates. Usually, this treatment is used along with a disinfectant like chlorine.

All three of these chemical treatments can be risky to use without the help of an experienced water treatment specialist. You don’t want these chemicals to linger in your water when you use it for drinking and cooking.

If you have well water that’s contaminated with iron bacteria, contact Tri-Florida Water Treatment. We will test your water to determine the extent of the problem and work with you to develop the best solution to purify your well water.