Iron and Manganese in Drinking Water- Should You be Worried?

Water is one of the greatest gifts given to us by mother nature. From fulfilling our thirst to keeping us healthy and alive, its importance in our life is immeasurable. Moreover, we are lucky enough that such a blessing exists for free.

However, since most of our water comes from rain and ground, it gets contaminated by various naturally existing minerals.

Today, our topic will cover two of the most important minerals, namely, Iron and manganese.

By mass, Iron is the most commonly occurring mineral on Earth and can be found either as a free substance or in combination with others. Similarly, manganese is also a mineral, but it is less abundant in nature and is found as a compound substance, mostly combined with iron.

Now, as we have a basic idea about both the substances, let’s briefly discuss their effects, detection, and removal from our drinking water.

Sources of Iron and Manganese

As discussed earlier, these minerals invade mainly from the ground and contaminate the rivers, lakes, and underground water.

Furthermore, iron refining plants or industries also have a massive contribution generally in the form of wastage.

Other sources may include agricultural waste, household garbage, and iron-containing pipelines or containers that help in the supply of the water.

Effects Of Iron And Manganese

As per the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the recommended levels are 0.3mg/L for iron and 0.05mg/L for manganese.

Above this limit, these substances result in numerous complications.

Altered Water Properties

Iron and manganese have the ability to change the properties of water. It becomes metallic in taste, unpleasant in odor, and reddish-brown or black in color.


Iron causes reddish-brown discoloration of laundry, dishes, utensils, sinks, fixtures, and concrete.

Similarly, manganese also causes black staining of the aforementioned materials.

Most detergents are not able to remove these stains and bleaching chemicals such as Chlorine, sodium, and carbonate may even intensify them.

Clog Pipelines

These minerals stack up inside pipelines, tanks, and water heaters. As a result, they restrict the water flow and more energy and pressure is required to push it through the pipes.

Ultimately, this damages and shortens the life-span of these tanks, pipelines, and heaters, and increases your electricity and repair costs.

Health Effects

Since our bodies have a built-in mechanism to deal with excess load of iron and manganese, even the concentrations up to 14-15gms may not cause any noticeable side-effects.

However, if taken in higher doses, it can cause diseases such as kidney and liver damage, neurotoxicity in old-aged people, and low weight childbirths.

Iron and Manganese Bacteria

As the name suggests, these bacteria feed on iron and manganese in the water. These bacteria are usually harmless and do not cause any health problems.

However, they form reddish-brown to black slimes, which result in clogged tanks and pipes.

They also change the properties of the water, which lead to stains on laundry, dishes, sinks, and other utensils.

In short, these minerals do not cause any harmful health effects unless taken in large quantities. Nevertheless, the other damages they cause are enough to kick them out of your drinking water.

Detection of Iron and Manganese from Drinking Water

The detection of iron and manganese is simple compared to most minerals. You can easily detect them by the taste, odor, and color of your drinking water.

However, the confirmation may require proper testing. You can either take a sample of your drinking water and take it to water-testing laboratories or buy a testing kit which eases up the process.

Testing kits such as the Swiss Labs Water Test Kit are easy to use and efficiently detect up to 14 different substances, including iron.

On top of that, the kit comes with 150 strips so that you can test your water as frequently as you want.

Check out our reviews on some of the best water test kits available in the market.

Elimination of Iron and Manganese from Drinking Water

Now that we know how to detect these minerals, we have to go through one final step before we can remove them.

This step consists of finding out the state in which iron and manganese is present in water.

If they are present in a dissolved state, the water will look clear initially but will change to red after getting some exposure to air.

In contrast, if they are present in particulate form, the rusty or blackish looking water will come out of the tap. Also, you will be able to see red or black particles settling down to the bottom of the glass.

Let’s get to the essential point, that is, elimination of these minerals to enhance the aesthetics and quality of the drinking water. We will discuss the ones that are more effective and convenient.

Chlorination and Filtration System

This method effectively removes bacteria and works for both states of iron and manganese.

The first step includes chlorination of the water to oxidize dissolved iron-manganese, and to kill bacteria.

The water then passes through a filter with activated carbon, which filters out the particles along with chlorine.

Filters such as RO systems and under the sink water filters are excellent options here!

Water Softener

A Water softener works well for the dissolved state, and when the concentration of the particulate form is not higher than 5mg/L.

This system works on the phenomena of ion exchange. It introduces sodium ions into the water, which reacts with iron and manganese and precipitates them out.

Raising pH and Particle Filtration

If corroded pipes are the source of iron/manganese particles in the water, raising the water’s pH and using a sediment filter is the simplest solution to counter this problem.

Faucet Filters

If you want a quick and cheap fix, a faucet filter is the best choice.

However, keep in mind, these filters are less powerful as compared to the other choices, and only work for low concentrations.

Other Filters

Almost all filters with activated carbon feature are able to filter iron.

These filters can range from RO systems to more advanced under-the-sink water filters or the whole house water filters. They not only deal with iron and manganese, but also remove other contaminants and microbes.

For further information, you can read the comparison between different water filters and choose the one that suits your need!

Chemical Methods

These methods include using phosphate and oxidizing agents such as hydrogen peroxide to eliminate iron. However, your water remains metallic in taste, and traces of iron enter your body.

In short, these minerals aren’t harmful unless taken in large quantities. However, they still cause significant damages. For instance, they stain our clothes and household items, damage our plumbing system, and increase our electricity and repair bills. In addition to this, they make our drinking experience awful and unpleasant.

Therefore, we must get rid of these impurities in order to enjoy a blissful glass of water, stain-less house items, and no extra bills!