Do You Have Manganese or Iron in Your Water?


If you have ever experienced orange, red or black staining on your laundry, plumbing fixtures or dishes, you are likely to be already aware that you have a water quality issue. This type of staining is usually a result of iron in your water, and where you have iron, it is likely that you will also have manganese. So, is this a major problem or something you should just ignore?Do You Have Manganese or Iron in Your Water? 

How Iron Gets in Water: 

Both iron and manganese are common elements found in the Earth’s crust. It is present in rocks and soil, which is usually how it enters water supplies. As rainwater passes through sediment, rocks, and soil to collect in underground aquifers, it dissolves the iron and manganese, allowing it to pass into the water supply.  

There are numerous forms of iron, but for ease of explanation, they can be sorted into two categories; ferrous or soluble iron and ferric or insoluble iron. Ferrous iron is usually not noticeable until the water is exposed to air when it oxidizes. This creates brownish red particles which settle in the water. You may have noticed that your water appears crystal clear when it comes out of the tap, yet develops these colored particles after a glass of water has been left on the countertop for a few minutes. This indicates the presence of ferrous iron. Ferric iron behaves a little differently. It is usually more immediately obvious since the water will appear to have a rusty or yellowish tint. Ferric iron is also more likely to have a distinct metallic taste when you drink the water.  

Is it Dangerous? 

In many cases, the presence of iron and manganese in your water is likely to be nothing more than a nuisance. Unless there are significant levels, it is unlikely to pose a health risk. This does not mean that the problem should be ignored. In fact, iron and manganese can cause a number of problems around your home. The most obvious issue is staining. Your laundry, plumbing fixtures, dishes and glassware can be affected. Unfortunately rewashing stained items is not likely to have any effect, since regular detergent and cleaning products will not remove the stain. In fact, if you resort to harsher cleaning products such as bleach based detergents, you may find that the staining becomes even more obvious. This means that your clothing can be ruined and your plumbing fixtures can look old and worn.  

Another problem you may notice is that slime develops in your toilets, sinks, and bathtubs. This is due to the presence of bacteria, which feeds on the iron or manganese resulting in a red or black slime respectively.  

One less apparent issue caused by iron and manganese is that water heaters, pipes, and water using appliances can become clogged with scale. This not only compromises efficiency, but can also reduce the item’s potential lifespan.  

If you have concerns that you may have iron or manganese in your water, speak to your local water treatment professional. There are a vast array of water softeners/water conditioners, and filtration systems on the market to eliminate iron and manganese from your water. Be sure that you choose a water treatment professional who is fully WQA certified. This will ensure that they can resolve your issue with equipment that not only meets, but exceeds industry standards.

About The Author, Terry Reeh, EcoWater Systems of Nebraska:

With more than 25 years experience in the residential and commercial water treatment space, Terry is a WQA (Water Quality Association) certified water specialist, LEVEL 3, as well as a WQA certified sales representative. Terry currently sits on EcoWater Systems (a Berkshire Hathaway Company) national Peers committee, as a water treatment expert advising other water professionals with less experience on best trade and technology practices. EcoWater Systems of Nebraska is one of the biggest water treatment and water delivery businesses in the state.

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