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The presence of Iron (Fe) is a very common water quality problem, particularly in water from deep wells. Water containing even a significant quantity of iron may appear clear when drawn, but will rapidly turn red upon exposure to air. This process is called oxidation, and involves the conversion of ferrous (dissolved) iron, which is highly soluble, to ferric (precipitated) iron, which is largely insoluble. The ferric iron then causes red/brown staining on clothes, fixtures, etc.

Iron concentration is measured in ppm or mg/l (milligrams per liter, where 1 ppm = 1 mg/l). Staining usually becomes a problem at concentration greater than 0.3 ppm.