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Water Problems 101 – Iron and Other Water Stainers

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Water is an intimate natural resource where we highly depend on for everything we do. However, there are a lot of challenges presented by water contaminants that make us worry about the inherent safety of our water supply. Moreover, there are effects of water-related issues that come forefront in our households, such as the unsightly rust stains on taps, toilets and other surfaces.

These orangey-brown iron and rust stains are the results of hard water and high levels of iron. They definitely disturb the sanitary look and cosy aesthetics of your bathrooms and kitchens. Not to mention how they can damage your sinks, toilets, tubs and appliances.

This article highlight the water-related causes of stains that affect your plumbing system:

  • Iron

Water that contains a high concentration of iron (even as little as 0.3 ppm) manifest the obvious indications such as rust-colored stains on sinks and plumbing fixtures, metallic odour emanating from drinking water and taps, rusty stains and particles marking freshly-washed clothes and beverages such as coffee or tea becoming inky or black.

Rust is formed during oxidation, the process where iron reacts with air and water and most iron-related issues fall into one of the following categories:

  1. Soluble

Soluble iron is unnoticeable since it does not affect the clear and colourless appearance of water that is drawn from the tap. It is usually referred as “clear water” iron. Even so, the iron oxidises after coming in contact with air, resulting in red or reddish-brown particles in the water.

Problems caused by soluble iron are often treated with a water system consisting of a softener and filter. An iron filter oxidises the iron by recharging with chlorine or potassium permanganate. This will allow the rust particles to attach to the resin inside before being washed away.

  1. Oxidised

In some cases, the iron in the water supply oxidises and precipitates (turns to rust) before it is drawn from the tap since it has already been exposed to sufficient air, especially in wells and surface water. The removal of “red water”iron (due to the reddish, rusty particles visible in the water after it gets to the tap) simply requires a high-quality filtration system.

  1. Bacterial

Iron bacteria are microorganisms which may dwell in your pipework and fixtures that feed on iron in the water. Although the bacteria are harmless, they produce a brown gelatinous slime when they disintegrate dissolved iron in the water. This slime can accumulate in wells which results to extremely discoloured water and may obstruct fixtures, pipes, and water heaters if they form into large clumps.

Shock chlorination can get rid of the iron bacteria by introducing high levels of chlorine into the plumbing system and letting that flow throughout the fixtures and appliances. For severe cases, chlorine must be fed continuously to stop future growth.

  • Copper

Although copper is rarely present in a water supply, it usually results from corroded copper pipes. Blue or green stains on sinks and plumbing fixtures, unpleasant metallic tastes, green soap curds and corroded aluminium fixtures are usually the signs of copper contamination.

Copper is not significantly dangerous to humans but concentrations of 1 5 ppm may lead to obnoxious tastes, colour variation in hair toners, mostly blonde and other side effects listed above. Further, copper is toxic to aquarium fish.

Water softeners are often used to remove minimal to moderate amounts of copper. However, the best treatment for copper-related problems is to get rid of corrosion. Ensure that dielectric unions are installed for connectors between galvanised and copper pipes. You can also raise the pH of the water and pour silicate and/or polyphosphate chemicals into the water to aid in protecting your pipework from the effects of corrosion.

  • Manganese

Iron and manganese are chemically similar water contaminants that can usually be found together in groundwater. Although, the latter usually comes in much lower concentrations. They can naturally occur in deeper wells where water has been touching a rock for a longer period.

Both create a metallic taste to the water and cause stains. Initially, water containing high levels of high iron and/or manganese may look colourless. When water comes in contact with oxygen, that is the time orange-brown (iron) or black (manganese) stains or deposits quickly appear. There are also manganese bacteria similar to iron bacteria that may create the same nuisances.

Most treatments for iron are usually effective for manganese. However, if there is a significant amount of manganese present, then there might be necessary modifications to the iron removal equipment.

  • Iron and Manganese

The telltale manifestations of high contents of iron and manganese in your water supply include unpleasant metallic taste and rust and black coloured stains on laundry, sinks and plumbing fixtures. They may also be accompanied by hydrogen sulphide gas which definitely needs right removal treatment.