How To Use Iron Out in a Water Softener (Step-by-Step)

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Rust is a big problem in water softeners, causing fouling of the resin and reducing its softening and recharging efficiency.

Luckily, there are a few products designed to target rust and eliminate iron buildup in a water softener resin, and Iron Out is perhaps the most popular.

In this guide, we’ve explained how to use Iron Out in a water softener to effectively remove iron from your water softener resin tank.

📌 Key Takeaways:

  • Iron Out is a rust removal powder that’s used to remove iron deposits in appliances, fixtures, and water softeners.
  • To use Iron Out in a water softener, dissolve the powder in water, then add the solution to the brine tank and program the system to manually regenerate.
  • Iron Out is safe to use in a water softener as long as you carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

🤔 What Is Iron Out?

If you’re already familiar with Iron Out and its purpose in a water softener, feel free to skip straight to the below section for our step-by-step guide.

Iron Out is a multi-purpose rust stain removal powder that can be used to prevent and remove rust stains in sinks, bathtubs, washing machines, dishwashers, toilets, and other water-using appliances and fixtures.

Iron Out has also become popular as a water softener iron stain removal solution, and is a great tool for preventative maintenance in water softener units.

Iron out

How Does Iron Out Work?

Iron Out works by changing the state of iron, causing it to dissolve into water, which breaks up rust stains and allows the iron particles to be washed away down a drain.

Sodium dithionite is the active ingredient in Iron Out. This reduced sulfur-bearing compound reduces iron from +3 to +2 valence, rendering it soluble (dissolvable in water). In its soluble form, iron stains are lifted from the resin and flushed out of the system in the softener discharge.

Once the water softener regenerates and flushes the Iron Out (and iron particles) out of the unit, it’s ready for softening your water one more.

📖 How To Use Iron Out In A Water Softener: Step By Step

To use Iron Out in a water softener, follow these steps:

One-Off Or First Time Use

For a one-off or a first time application, you’ll probably need to clear out more iron build-up and rust because the iron ions have accumulated over a long time.

The instructions for a one-off or first-time application of Iron Out are as follows:

  1. Prepare the powder – Dissolve the Iron Out powder in water. The ratio for thorough cleaning is half a gallon of cold water for one cup of Iron Out.
  2. Pour the solution in the brine tank. Open the lid of the brine tank (the water softener tank that holds salt) and pour the solution into the brine well.
  3. Manually regenerate softener. Use the control panel to program the softener to perform a maunaul regeneration cycle. This will flush the Iron Out out of the system.
Pouring iron out in water softener

Regular Use & Preventative Maintenance

Ideally, you should be using Iron Out regularly in your water softener. Periodic cleaning will prevent an excess of iron in the system. It’s much easier to remove rust and foreign matter in a mildly fouled softener than in a heavily fouled unit.

Here are the instructions for regularly cleaning iron deposits in water softeners with Iron Out:

  1. Prepare the powder – You’ll need less powder since the iron deposits shouldn’t be as severe. Add one quarter-cup of Iron Out to half a gallon of cold water.
  2. Pour the solution in the brine tank. Open the salt brine tank lid and pour the solution into the brine well.
  3. Manually regenerate softener. Program the softener to perform a manual regeneration cycle. This will flush the Iron Out out of the system.

✅ Is Iron Out Safe To Use In A Water Softener?

Yes, Iron Out is safe to use in a water softener – assuming it is used correctly, as advised by the manufacturer.

Iron Out is intended to be used during water softener cleaning, when the system isn’t in operation. That means the product can be washed out of your water softener system while the unit is in bypass mode, so there’s no risk of contamination of your cold water supply.

⚠️ Keep in mind that some of the ingredients in Iron Out may be toxic to humans, so it’s essential that you follow the steps to properly flush this product from your water softener or water conditioner resin tank before you use the system for softening your drinking water.

If you have any doubts or concerns, contact your water softener manufacturer.

📆 How Often Should I Use Iron Out In My Water Softener?

It’s a good idea to use Iron Out or another water softener rust remover regularly in your softener to prevent iron build-up in the resin.

The longer that iron particles are allowed to accumulate in the resin bed, the more difficult they’ll become to remove.

Ideally, use Iron Out or another resin bed cleaner once a year, or every six months if a water test reveals that your water supply has high iron levels.

water testing with tap score

🔎 How To Know If Iron Out Works

Wondering how to know if Iron Out or another water softener rust remover works?

You might notice a few promising signs, including:

  • Reduced orange staining of the resin beads
  • Orange-tinted water flowing out of the softener drain pipe when the system regenerates after the resin bed cleaner is used

These are both signs that the iron particles have been lifted from the resin bed and sent out of the resin tank.

Rust stains in a resin bed aren’t always noticeable, though, so you might not see any signs at all that Iron Out has worked in your softener. You just have to have faith in the product and believe that it’s making a positive difference.

🧐 Why Don’t Water Softeners Remove Iron?

You might be wondering why you need an iron remover product like Iron Out in the first place. Wouldn’t it be easier if water softeners removed iron themselves?

Actually, most salt-based softeners can remove low levels of iron (usually up to 1 PPM). Some water softeners use a resin that’s specially designed for iron removal, which make them slightly more effective at the job.

However, when a water softener regenerates, the brine solution that flushes the resin bed struggles to lift iron deposits. While the hardness minerals are flushed down the softener drain with the discharge, iron deposits are left behind.

Over time, the iron particles build up in the resin beads, reducing their sodium holding capacity and making them less effective at softening water.

The only way to thoroughly remove these iron particles is to use a dedicated iron remover.

🔀 How Else To Reduce Water Softener Iron Staining

We know that a water softener rust remover dissolves iron in resin beads, but how can you prevent iron staining in your water softener’s resin bed? We’ve shared a couple of options below.

Install An Iron Filter

If your water supply contains a lot of iron (more than 1 PPM), consider using a dedicated iron filter installed ahead of your water softener.

An iron filter will remove iron before it can enter the resin and salt tank. So, rather than using a resin bed cleaner like Iron Out to fix the problem of rust build-up, you’ll prevent it from happening in the first place.

👨‍🔧 Good water filters for iron removal are air injection/oxidation systems, which oxidize iron and trap it in a media bed. These systems also reduce manganese and sulfur.

Springwell water softener and iron filter well water treatment system

Use Rust Defense Water Softener Salt

You should be able to reduce iron accumulation by using a special type of water softener salt that reduces rust accumulation.

Brands like Morton and Diamond Crystal have dedicated softener salt products for fighting iron and reducing rust. When you add these salts to the brine tank, they should do three things:

  • Prevent rusting in the salt tank
  • Prevent buildup of iron in the resin tank
  • Remove iron alongside hard water stains

Don’t expect rust defense water softener salt products to completely eliminate iron buildup in your softener’s salt tank and mineral bed. However, you should at least benefit from reduced resin fouling.

❔ How To Use Iron Out In A Water Softener: FAQ

Can I put iron out in my water softener?

Yes, you can put Iron Out in your water softener. Just make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to ensure the water softener cleaning solution is properly flushed away once it’s done its job in the resin tank.

Does iron out water softener salt work?

Iron out salt, or salt for water softeners that reduces iron fouling, does work. If you use this salt in the brine tank, it should reduce rust stains more than standard softener salt. However, the salt doesn’t offer complete protection against iron and rust stains. You’ll still likely have to use a dedicated water softener iron stain cleaner if your water supply contains a lot of iron.

Does Iron Out work?

Yes, Iron Out, the branded water softener resin cleaner, does work. It’s specially formulated to alter the charge of iron particles stuck to the softener resin, dissolving it in water, so it can be flushed out of the system. This should reduce iron fouling in the mineral bed and enable it to last longer before new resin is needed.

Can you use Iron Out in a Culligan water softener?

Yes. If you have an existing Culligan water softener that has iron fouling in the resin bed, you can use Iron Out to reduce this iron buildup.

What’s the difference between Iron Out and Super Iron Out?

Iron Out and Super Iron Out are the same product. Super Iron Out was rebranded to Iron Out a few years ago, but some sellers still sell the product under its old name. The formula and end result are exactly the same in both products.

What are some alternatives to Iron Out?

Iron Out isn’t the only product on the market that reduces rust staining in water softeners. Other iron removal products that are safe and effective in water softeners are Pro Rust Out (made by Pro Products), which has an identical formula to Iron Out, and Out Filter Mate (made by Summit Brands, the manufacturer of Iron Out), which uses citric acid and removes lower iron concentrations of up to 1 PPM.

  • Brian Campbell
    President & CEO, CWS, CWR

    Brian Campbell, a WQA Certified Water Specialist (CWS) and Certified Water Treatment Representative (CWR) with 5+ years of experience, helps homeowners navigate the world of water treatment. After honing his skills at Hach Company, he founded his business to empower homeowners with the knowledge and tools to achieve safe, healthy water. Brian's tested countless devices, from simple pitchers to complex systems, helping his readers find the perfect fit for their unique needs.

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