Shocking a well is the process of adding a high amount of chlorine into a well which then gets distributed through the water system. It’s one of the best (and most inexpensive) ways to manage how much bacteria is present in the well and keep the water nice and clean.
But a common problem people run into is that after shocking their well, they find that it has a brown or ‘rusty’ look instead of nice clear water, which is not exactly ideal.
So in this article, we’re going to look at what causes this unwanted brown water, as well as share some tips on how to get rid of it quickly so you can have your water looking clear and clean in no time.
Why is your well water brown after shocking?
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While shocking a well might seem very simple at first glance, throw some bleach in the system, run the taps a bit, and everything should be good!
However, there are many small steps you have to follow to ensure the chlorine is flushed correctly through the system and can do its job.
When steps are missed or rushed, the chlorine cannot properly clean the system and can leave behind large amounts of dissolved iron bacteria or scale, which all contribute to that unsightly brown-colored water.
But don’t worry! This is a fairly common occurrence and means you must be a little more thorough with the shocking process to ensure it’s as effective as possible.
Here’s a rundown of why this is happening:
Using the right product
Luckily you don’t need to use expensive, specialized products to shock a well. Any generic household chlorine bleach, such as Javex or Chlorox, works excellently. There are a few things to keep in mind when picking what product you will use.
- Chlorine can lose up to half its strength in as little as six months through evaporation. So try not to use old bleach hanging around the cleaning cupboard for years. Make sure you buy a brand-new bottle to be as strong as possible.
- Don’t use scented bleach. These bleach types often contain added chemicals to give their scent and are intended for household applications only. You don’t need your well to smell good. Just be clean and clear. So be sure to use a generic bleach and not introduce extra chemicals to the water.
It doesn’t matter how often you shock the well; if contamination comes in from an outside source, such as a loose lid or broken seal, then the water will continually keep discoloring until the source of the breach is identified and sealed up.
Not enough bleach
Sometimes people can be too conservative with how much bleach they use in the system, and this is very smart as you’re not looking to damage the insides of pipes or liners. But of course, if you don’t use enough, then it won’t adequately clean the water, leaving it discolored.
Didn’t wait long enough
After the chlorine has been applied to the well, it’s usually recommended to wait anywhere from 4 to 8 hours before continuing to flush the system. However, in many scenarios, and depending on the extent of the contamination, this can take much longer.
Try giving the chlorine solution more time to work, and you’ll be surprised!
High iron presence
A high amount of iron in well water can manifest as a brown color. These high iron levels in water can negatively affect the body, including making your hair discolored and brittle when absorbed through the scalp. It will also give it a distinct and unpleasant metallic odor too.
Chlorine and filtration can help to reduce dissolved iron bacteria levels in the water. However, if the iron levels are high, you will continue to see that brown color after shock chlorination which means other iron needs to be removed.
Dislodged scale and rust
Part of the shock chlorination process means running the chlorinated water through every faucet in your home. If these pipes already have a large amount of scale or rust, they may become dislodged and circulate through the water, further contributing to the brown color.
These will need to be further filtered out to get the water clear.
Wasn’t circulated well
After the bleach has been allowed to sit, it should be thoroughly circulated through the system. However, if you forget to run a particular faucet or shower head, there may still be dirt or old water sitting in them that gets re-introduced back into the system.
How to fix brown well water after shocking
Now that we’ve looked at the primary causes of this problem let’s look at some easy solutions to fix it. Most of these processes are ones you probably already did the first time, but you need to do it ‘more’ to counter the water’s high iron and contaminant levels.
1. Using the right product
At first, finding the ideal product to use to shock a well might seem challenging. There are three relatively simple criteria you should consider meeting. It will work just fine if your bleach solution has these three things.
The first is that it should have a chlorine concentration of at least 5% or 5.25%, as it’s not the bleach that kills the bacteria and algae in the water. It’s the chlorine content.
On that note, you should also ensure it’s a new bleach, as chlorine can lose its effectiveness over time.
Finally, you should make sure it’s an unscented bleach so you can be sure you’re not introducing unwanted chemicals into the system.
2. Find the source of the contamination
Suppose you feel that the water contamination has come from an outside source. In that case, it’s essential to identify where that is coming from, or the water will turn brown again after the water treatment.
Check for construction-related faults such as loose lids, broken seals, unsealed side walls, etc. Any breach where contaminant could potentially make their way into the well.
3. Use more shock
It’s undoubtedly a good idea to be a little bit conservative with how much bleach solution you use to avoid damaging anything. However, you may need to use more of the stuff if you still have brown and discolored water after water treatment.
4. Give it enough time to work
Sometimes people are too conservative with how long they give the chlorine solution to work. Consider 8 hours a minimum, but the most straightforward and safest solution here is to leave it overnight and return to it the next day.
Then if you still have brown well water after flushing, you know it’s not because you didn’t wait long enough.
5. High iron levels
Iron can continually enter the water supply system through rusty pipes and plumbing. Even after shocking, the water will return to that brown, rusty color.
In addition to the normal shocking process, you will also want to ensure your water filters are replaced with new ones, as they may not be effective enough at filtering these high iron levels.
6. Pipe rust/scale
If the shocking process has dislodged scale and rust from the inside of the pipes, it can become lodged behind faucets and shower heads, continually introducing that rusty brown discolored water as it comes out.
Here you should consider removing the faucet aerators when flushing the system to allow any scale or rust chips too big to fit through the aerator a chance to leave the water system and flush away.
7. Fully circulate the water
Finally, you should ensure that when flushing the system after the shocking process, you are running the water supply to every faucet on the system as if one is left dirty and uncleaned, it may re-introduce that back into the system, causing it to become brown again.