If iron algae exists in your home’s water supply, it has the potentially to clog up and/or ruin virtually every appliance that uses water, not to mention all of your plumbing. Thankfully, there are some simple ways to find out if iron algae is the root of your water problem.
1. Presence of iron-colored sludge/slime/mud in your sediment filter. Any normal person looking at a sediment filter covered with iron-like sludge would probably think that filter is doing a pretty good job. The truth of the matter is, if your sediment filter is collecting a slimy, iron-like substance, you probably have iron algae or some form of iron bacteria.
2. Presence of iron-colored sludge/slime/mud in your toilet tank. Anybody who knows anything about bacteria knows it thrives in cold, dark, moist environments. This is why it is usually the first place water professionals check to identify it. It usually ranges from very dark brown to a bright orange color. In more extreme cases, an iron, almost copper looking film will grow across the water like pond moss. Typically, the water is being flushed often enough that you don’t run into that, but it occasionally happens. More often than not it will be a .25mm-2cm sludge building up on the sides of the inside of the tank.
3. Presence of rotten-egg/iron odor. Usually if a family/business is experiencing iron-bacteria-related issues, the smell is one of the first things the people spending time there will mention. Typically, iron algae will create an odor similar to what’s called the “rotten-egg smell” or the “sulfur smell.” A lot of people will actually think they have sulfur because they are convinced the odor smells just like it. Because sulfur-removal systems(chlorination systems, high-capacity sulfur filters) can be more than twice the cost of iron-algae-removal systems(iron filters, multistage Watermax-style systems), it is clear why identifying the source of odor is crucial.
4. Iron Staining/Iron Deposits. Along with iron odor, the staining caused by the many forms of iron can be one of the first signs noticed by the homeowners. I’ll put my opinions on how to address this simply: If you have any type of orange, black or brown iron staining appearing on your water fixtures, appliances or plumbing, call a water profession and have your system checked for iron bacteria and iron algae. If there is iron present in your water, there is a pretty good chance there is some form of ferric(bacterial) iron somewhere in your water supply. It is better to have it checked regularly and be sure than to let it get to a point where it has ruined plumbing and appliances.
5. Low Water Pressure. Iron algae build-up is obviously not the only thing that can cause low water pressure in your house, but if you have any of the other signs of iron algae, chances are it is building up in your pipes as well. There is no easy way to diagnose this problem without cutting into your pipes, but if you address the problem and have a water conditioner installed, the installer will be able to show you what the inside of your pipes look like when he cuts into the line.
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, I would strongly suggest scheduling an appointment with a water professional. Unfortunately, there are a lot more “salespeople” or “do-it-all plumbers” in the water treatment industry than true professionals. Fortunately, there are some great water conditioning companies out there as well. Personally, I have been particularly pleased with my experience with Hague Water Conditioning in central Ohio, but I have dealt with Hague in multiple states and each time I’ve gotten great results. They are big on being an American-owned company with American-made products, so that is a plus as well.