How to Filter Muddy Well Water (The 2023 Ultimate Guide)

There are plenty of obvious benefits to owning a private well. You get free water on tap, and that water tends to taste better than normal tap water due to its lack of chlorine and its high mineral content.

But well water is susceptible to contamination from soils and mud underground, which may make it look and taste dirty. Muddy well water might even be unsafe to use.

In this guide, we’ve shared the best ways to filter mud out of well water.

📌 Key Takeaways:

  • Muddy well water may be caused by damage to your well’s structure, a poorly constructed well, an oversized well pump, or a degraded well screen.
  • Your muddy-colored well water may also be caused by organic matter (such as sand and dirt), iron rust from corroded pipes, iron bacteria, or manganese.
  • To filter muddy well water, use a sediment filter or an iron/manganese removal filter, depending on the source of the contamination.

📖 How to Filter Muddy Well Water: Step-By-Step

Read on to learn the key steps to cleaning your mud-colored well water.

Step 1: Identify The Cause

First of all, you need to know exactly what the mud in your well water is, and what it might be caused by.

Fill an empty glass with cold water from your tap, then look at the color. If it has a brownish hue, you may be dealing with contaminants including mud, ferric iron, sediment, manganese, and other materials.

If you’re convinced by the smell, taste, and appearance of your drinking water that it’s contaminated with actual mud, it may be caused by one of the following:

Damaged Or Degraded Well Screen/ Casing

Your well shaft should be lined with casing (made from iron, steel, or PVC plastic). Wells also contain a well screen, which traps large particles of sand and gravel, preventing them from getting into the well pump.

If the well casing is cracked, damaged, or degraded, it may allow surface water containing dirt, mud, and sand to be pumped into the well. The same goes for your well screen – if it’s degraded, mud will have free passage into your well.

The only solution to this problem is to replace the damaged or worn part.

Concrete well cap not sealed properly

Oversized/ Too Low Well Pump

Your well pump draws water out of the aquifer and pumps it into your home. If the pump is too big for the aquifer, it’ll provide too much suction force, pumping silt, sand, and mud along with water.

The well pump’s position could also be a problem. Over time, sand and mud may build up at the bottom of the aquifer. Dirt and sand may accumulate so much that the pump starts to draw this unwanted sediment into your water supply.

If your well pump is too low, you’ll need to get it raised.

Poorly Constructed/Damaged Well

A properly constructed well shouldn’t let any mud into your drinking water supply. Experienced well drillers know exactly how to drill a well to the correct depth and with the correct methods.

If your well is drilled by an inexperienced contractor, however, you may end up dealing with the side effects of a construction mistake. Incorrect drilling may cause your well to pump muddy water. You can ask an experienced contractor to examine your well if you’re concerned about construction.

In some cases, you might think you have muddy water, but it turns out that your brown water is caused by another contaminant or issue. Consider these causes if you have brown water that might not be caused by mud:

Rusty Pipes

Rusty or corroded pipes in your plumbing system could be causing your well water to turn brown or orange. This is especially likely if your water pipes are old and haven’t been replaced for as long as you can remember.

You can resolve this issue by replacing your rusted pipes. Ask your local plumber to examine your plumbing system and advise on whether the whole system or just a few pipes need to be replaced.

rusty pipes in home

Tannins, Sand, & Sediment

Yellow-brown water is likely caused by organic matter, such as tannins. Sand and sediment can also give a dirty water appearance and taste.

Organic matter is most likely to contaminate the water in shallow wells (less than 50 feet deep). During periods of heavy rainfall, runoff may carry organic matter into your well, making your water look brown and muddy.

Iron & Manganese/ Iron Bacteria

A combination of iron and manganese in your water may give it a red/brown muddy water appearance. Some soils and rocks are naturally high in these minerals, and may dissolve into water as it flows into the aquifer.

Iron bacteria is another potential cause of muddy well water. These bacteria are a combination of iron, oxygen, and bacteria, resulting in a black, slimy material that sticks to well components, pipes, and plumbing fixtures.

Iron bacteria in water

Step 2: Get Your Well Inspected

You might already be certain of the cause of your well’s muddy water. In that case, feel free to skip this step.

If you still haven’t figured out the cause, we recommend getting your well inspected by a professional contractor.

A contractor will use a camera to check the condition of the well’s components and highlight any potential damage or wear-and-tear that could be affecting your water quality.

Step 3: Test Your Water

Even if you’re convinced that you know which contaminant is causing your well water to turn brown, testing your water can provide enlightening results beyond what you may have imagined.

We suggest getting a well water test by a certified laboratory, which will give you clear information on exactly what your water contains.

📌 A laboratory will ask you to collect a water sample using their provided test kit, then send it back to the laboratory for testing. You can pay to get your water tested for specific contaminants that you think may be the problem, such as iron or manganese, or you can choose a complete water test that covers all the most likely well contaminants (including dissolved solids, bacteria, fecal coliform, iron, pH, and hardness) in your area.

Using a licensed, certified lab will give you accurate results that inform you of the best methods of treating the problems that are detected. You’ll receive results within two weeks of sending off your water sample.

completed tap score water test

Step 4: Flush Your Well

If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to solve the problem of muddy well water by simply flushing your well to pump out the mud and “resetting” your water quality. It’s worth flushing your well before deciding on a form of long-term water treatment.

To flush your well, switch on a garden hose connected to the well system, then wait until the water running out of the hose is clear.

Make sure to point the hose at a drainage system so that you don’t flood your own septic system or a nearby public sewer.

You may want to shock your well with a bleach solution to disinfect your water once the mud has been pumped out.

Step 5: Install a Water Filtration System

Most well water supplies are raw, which means they need some form of treatment. If you don’t already have a filtered water system installed in your home, that’s probably why you have discolored, contaminated water.

Choose the right water filter system to purify muddy water depending on which contaminants have turned your water brown:

Best For Large Particles Of Sediment: Spin-Down Sediment Filters

A spin-down sediment filter spins water in a centrifugal motion, forcing contaminants to the bottom of the filter. This type of water filter is ideal for treating large sediment particles that can be seen with the naked eye, such as sand, silt, mud, and dirt.

The handy thing about spin-down sediment filters is that they can be cleaned and reused, extending their lifespan to several years.

Spin-down and cartridge sediment filters explained

Best For Mid-Sized Sediment: Cartridge Sediment Filters

Cartridge sediment water filters use filtration media to physically trap mid-sized particles of sand, rust, dirt, and dust. These filters may be used for standalone sediment filter treatment, but they’re more commonly installed as pre-filters to a large whole house filtration system.

A cartridge sediment filter needs to be replaced frequently (usually once every 6-9 months) when the media becomes clogged with contaminants.

Best For Iron & Manganese: Backwashing Iron Filters

A backwashing iron filter, such as an air injection/ oxidation system, will target mineral contamination that often leads to brown, orange, or red water.

This type of filter will also work as a particle filter, removing sediment along with minerals.

Make sure to install the filter downstream of your pressure tank to provide enough water flow for the system to backwash automatically.

Springwell water softener and iron filter well water treatment system

📝 Final Word

Muddy or discolored water in your well is pretty off-putting, but identifying and treating the problem is thankfully easy.

If in doubt, contact your local well contractor. They’ve seen it all before, and they’ll be able to advise you on the best possible treatments for your water quality issue.

About The Author