"Well water" issues...

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    Mar 09, 2014 11:40 PM GMT
    Staying at my mom's this week. She is in the "country" and has well water. It is tested regularly and is safe....but the SMELL and TASTE! BLAH! And it is very high in iron....stains the sinks, toilets and shower with a "rust" color.

    I am here for a week.....any suggestions on how to not have my laundry take on a "rust" tint? I am already drinking bottled water and got a Brita for drinking water....but showers stink and my body absorbs that smell and laundry?......
    Suggestions are welcome..... I have to physically be in the house so a motel is out, too far out of town for a laundry mat.....is there an additive or a sheet to put in the wash to clear the iron out of the water in the laundry? Thanks. Some one said lemon and baking soda but not sure about this...
  • Timbales

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    Mar 10, 2014 12:28 AM GMT
    Distilled white vinegar may help neutralize the smell
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    Mar 10, 2014 12:58 AM GMT
    Citric acid (lemon) does chelate and solubilize ferric iron. It might help get it out of clothing but it would be best not to get it in there in the first place. Any acid will help leach it out too (e.g. the vinegar) but might not be too good for the clothes. (Baking soda would tend to "fix" the iron in the fibers - the opposite of what you want.)

    The classic problem with trying to "filter" out iron is that in the ground, it is ferrous iron, which is colorless and completely soluble. You can't physically filter it out. Once it comes out of the tap and mixes with air, it oxidizes to ferric iron, which quickly reacts with water to make ferrihydrite (rust) which is insoluble and makes stains and sediment. (Manganese and sulfide may be part of your problem too, but the solution is the same.)

    If this happens inside the fibers of your clothes, it may be impossible to get it out. (I used to tie-dye T-shirts in acid rock drainage for project souvenirs.)

    So to get it out of the water, you have to oxidize it all then filter it. One simple but not very efficient way to do it is to just let it sit for a couple of days in a holding tank. The rust will eventually settle to the bottom. Then you pump the water through a column of sand to filter out the rest.

    But the fastest way to do it is to go down to your nearest culligan dealer (or the like) and buy a "green sand filter" that contains sand of a mineral called glauconite. This will simultaneously oxidize iron, manganese,and sulfide, and filter them out. The more expensive ones are self-regenerating and last for a long time. They may want a water analysis done to make sure you get the right filter. It hooks into the house plumbing just like a water softener.
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    Mar 10, 2014 1:06 AM GMT
    Fabric softener?

    Do a google see if there is anything
    What is on the local super market shelves

    Local hardware store for TSP
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    Mar 10, 2014 1:29 AM GMT
    You didn't describe the odor, but likely hydrogen sulfide. Tends to go along with iron. Small amounts (depending on the pH) can be removed by activated charcoal. (e.g. the Brita or any other common filter.) If it's more concentrated, the greensand filter will remove it.

    And... actually, there are a couple of additives that they used to put in laundry detergent to chelate iron - ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) and nitrilotriacetic acid (NTA.) But I think those have been banned since the 80's. (Banned as laundry detergent- they're still used in lots of other things.) They're not very biodegradable and go right through sewage treatment plants and into the river icon_cry.gif Chances of finding a jar of either in a small town are pretty slim... IIRC, Some Canadian laundry detergents still had NTA, but I actually worked on that project... good grief, in 1984 or 1985, so I'm not sure what has happened since. Wouldn't hurt to check a few labels.

    But I'm not sure how efficient they would be if you have a lot of iron.

    (edit: maybe the Canadians were the ones who banned it? Damn... sucks getting old. Old facts like that get squeezed out of my skull to make room for more porn star's stats. )
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    Mar 10, 2014 2:07 AM GMT
    lol they always say the drinking water is "safe"
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    Mar 10, 2014 2:21 AM GMT
    I think Mindgarden offered the best advice here. Buy your mom a water softening system. All that extra iron can't be too healthy.
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    Mar 10, 2014 2:25 AM GMT
    Yeah, you might be able to find purified citric acid as wine-making or canning supplies. (This is what we typically use in the lab to make ferric-iron solutions - turns a jar full of rusty sediment into a clear amber solution.)

    Another late-firing neuron suggests another possibility. EDTA and NTA were added to detergent in the first place in order to replace sodium triphosphate (which was previously banned), the stuff that made old-school detergents really work. There might be polyphosphate fertilizer in the garden center that would do the same thing... used to be about 30% of the detergent.

    Also note: Bleach will make it worse!

    LOL, by the time he checks out all this stuff, he'll be long gone from the well water.
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    Mar 10, 2014 3:21 AM GMT

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_bacteria


    Mom had this problem at her farm out our way. The solution was an automatic timed chlorine pill dispenser on the well head, then routing the water through a declorinizing tank. Eventually after several years the bacteria in the well had died out. No more chlorinization necessary.


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    Mar 10, 2014 3:42 AM GMT
    YourName2000 said
    mindgarden saidYeah, you might be able to find purified citric acid as wine-making or canning supplies.

    Yup...I sell it for $9 a kilo, lol.

    It's also used in soap making to make those bath bomb things and in candy making for it's tart properties. It shouldn't be too hard to find in larger amounts, maybe at at bulk food store. It does work great to eat away rust. Not sure if it would totally remove any and all stain though, but it might be worth a shot. But it's also a surprisingly powerful acid, lol. Not sure what it might do to colors/fabrics/etc...or the soap itself. Mindgarden??


    Oh come on... it's not just laundry, it's a science experiment!
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    Mar 10, 2014 3:45 AM GMT
    meninlove said
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_bacteria


    Mom had this problem at her farm out our way. The solution was an automatic timed chlorine pill dispenser on the well head, then routing the water through a declorinizing tank. Eventually after several years the bacteria in the well had died out. No more chlorinization necessary.




    Um... that's not quite what happened. She just pumped enough water to suck all the old water with iron in it out of the ground. Iron-oxidizing bacteria are always present. If there's reduced iron there, they will grow. Most of what you hear about "iron bacteria" is plumber's-superstition. I mean, hey, I love growing them, and if you want to pay me, I'll sure test for them. But it's a waste of time. What you need to test for is the actual iron and manganese.

    Iron-oxidizing bacteria get energy from catalyzing the reaction between reduced metals and oxygen. But the reaction does not require a catalyst. It will proceed almost as quickly in a sterile environment.

    I don't usually recommend home-based chlorine dispensers. Generally to get them to work, the chlorine concentration is set way too high. Then the water is loaded with by-products. Chloromethanes, chloramines, etc. Municipal systems are more tightly regulated and control the by-products, but water from the home-based systems that I've tested are way over in the DefCon cancer-alert range.

    If one is trying to control bacteria, a UV-based system is much safer. But it will not control an iron problem.

    What chlorine can do for iron, is oxidize it rapidly, so that it settles out in a holding tank, as per my original post. But it still causes all the problems with by-products. A bigger holding/aerating tank would be better than adding chlorine. The only cases that I recall where holding tanks were a better solution than greensand filters (or were actually needed before the filter) were some wells on remote ranches in Colorado where there was so much iron that the water was actually orange, and there was no alternative source. (Or a few guys who just wanted something that they could build themselves.)
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    Mar 10, 2014 4:36 AM GMT
    Buy some in expensive generic clothing for the trip.
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    Mar 10, 2014 4:14 PM GMT
    Ok thanks for the tips and chemistry lesson. The laundry is ok....mom has this stuff called "iron out" to reduce the iron in the clothes and also tosses in a washer sheet from SHOUT that is a color catcher. It worked. Whites were white.
    But the shower water smell of rotten eggs ....wow strong. Still not sure what to do to keep my skin from absorbing this odor.....cologne and rotten eggs is just gross. Lol.
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    Mar 10, 2014 5:04 PM GMT
    Sporty_G said... the shower water smell of rotten eggs ....wow strong. Still not sure what to do to keep my skin from absorbing this odor.....cologne and rotten eggs is just gross. Lol.


    not sure there is a lot of money floating around at the farm house. So not much you can do.

    hate to say this but does your mother smell like rotten eggs? Likely not. You will not either.
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    Mar 10, 2014 7:18 PM GMT
    Sporty_G saidOk thanks for the tips and chemistry lesson. The laundry is ok....mom has this stuff called "iron out" to reduce the iron in the clothes and also tosses in a washer sheet from SHOUT that is a color catcher. It worked. Whites were white.
    But the shower water smell of rotten eggs ....wow strong. Still not sure what to do to keep my skin from absorbing this odor.....cologne and rotten eggs is just gross. Lol.


    As noted above, if it's below about 0.5ppm, charcoal filters will take it out. But you need to change them regularly. For more than that, a reactive filter, like a greensand filter, which would also remove the iron.

    (A cool science experiment would be to trickle the water through a column of small gravel and let sulfur-oxidizing bacteria grow on it. They remove the sulfide and form long streamers of white snot.)
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    Mar 11, 2014 2:39 AM GMT
    I lived with friends in a house for a short time in south Florida back in the 80s which had well water. Gorgeous house, fun people but I lasted only 2 or 3 weeks before I couldn't handle that egg water any more. It's gross. Then I wound up owning a house with well water but only for irrigation. Totally stained the house where water hit it. Smelled like rotting eggs, faintly, but only when it would first crank up, then it was okay.

    Now I've another Florida house with well but also city potable water. The well I'll use for irrigation. But I've already pumped to see how productive is the well, I think I was getting about 38 gal/min of very good water. No smell at all. Tasted fine. A number of my neighbors use it untreated as their potable water supply.

    Meanwhile, our city water here sucks. So I'm considering converting back to using the well for the house as well as garden and keep the city water hooked up for backing up any pump failure.
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    Mar 11, 2014 3:59 PM GMT
    What ever your water source a great health alternative if you want to afford it is run your refrigerator cold water and ice off a RO filter.