How Do I Remove Iron and Manganese from Well Water It's Brown

Nobody wants Brown Drinking Water! Iron and Manganese Contamination

Iron and manganese are metals that are commonly found in well water in New England. The good news is that there are water treament options. They are naturally occurring in the soil and are washed into drinking water from rain and surface water run-off that seeps through the ground. You do not have to live with contaminated water.

Iron or manganese in your water can be a nuisance. It gives drinking water a metallic taste, it can stain your laundry, clog valves and other plumbing parts and leave an oily or “crusty” sheen on the surface of your water. For this reason, many people opt to treat water with higher levels of iron and manganese.

Because of the bad taste, the staining and overall nuisance they cause, the federal government set aesthetic standards for iron and manganese in the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974. There are no state health-based standards for these metals in drinking water, but the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services warns that elevated levels of manganese in drinking water can be a health concern for formula-fed infants. Recent studies suggest that infants cannot process excess manganese in their system. Infant formula contains manganese, so NHDES recommends that water used to mix formula have the lowest level of manganese possible.

Testing for Iron and Manganese

The bitter, metallic taste and the orange-brown staining on bath fixtures makes it easy to identify elevated levels of iron or manganese in a home’s water supply. Before treating the problem, however, it is important to test your water to determine the concentration, or amount, of iron and manganese in your water, as well as the chemical form of these metals.

There are two common forms of these metals in home water: reduced and oxidized. Water with “reduced” iron and manganese will initially look clear but over time will form solid particles that are orange-brown or black. Water with “oxidized” iron and manganese will have visible solid particles when it’s immediately drawn from the well.


Once you test your well water and find out what kind of iron or manganese is in your water supply, you can narrow down the treatment options that will work best in your home.

Oxidation filtration injects oxygen into the water to remove impurities. While it is effective in removing iron, it requires additional chemical treatment, including chlorine bleach, to remove manganese.

Learn more about water treatment options for contaminated well water

A water softener is typically used to treat hard water, but it can also remove small amounts of reduced iron and manganese. Water softeners use an ion exchange process, during which the iron and manganese are replaced with sodium. These metals are then removed from the softener filtering resin through a backwashing process.

Learn more about water softeners

Point-of-use reverse osmosis treats water at an individual tap, typically where the home’s drinking and cooking water is drawn. This filter uses a membrane to remove unwanted molecules from the water while letting purified water pass to the other side. While this method is easy to install and is common, it uses more water. For homes that wish to only remove iron and manganese from the drinking water, it can be an economical option.

Learn more about RO - Reverse Osmosis


Because the kind of iron and manganese determines your treatment options, it is important to properly test your water before making any purchases. Skillings & Sons has more than 250 years of experience and can provide you more information on testing and treatment. Contact us to speak with a water treatment expert.