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Removing Tannins from Water: Effective Guide

Paul Billings
Last Updated on
by Paul Billings

When you have a private well, there typically comes the day when you need to learn how to remove tannins from water.

It’s hard to get away from tannins simply because they’re the result of the natural decaying process that takes place each day in your backyard. As leaves, tree bark, and soil break down, they deliver tannins into the soil.

You’ll notice a bitter taste and an earthy smell after turning on your faucets and using water that’s become affected by tannins. The water will also turn brown, red, or yellow.

In this article, you’ll learn more about this organic material and the process for removing tannins from water.

How to Remove Tannins from Water

You can remove tannins from water by using an organic scavenging anion exchange resin., This typically includes a water softener or a reverse osmosis system.

Removing Tannins Through Ion Exchange Softening Process

Springwell whole house water softener

You might know that ion exchange water softeners remove hard minerals like iron. However, the cation/ion exchange treatment process also works well to remove tannins. These systems are usually whole-house water softening systems that you install at your home’s water entry point.

A positively charged ion exchange resin removes tannins from the water because the tannins carry a negative charge. The resin bed stays fresh and clean via salt. The salt helps during a regeneration process that ensures a well-functioning ion exchange softening action throughout the system.

Reverse Osmosis To Remove Tannins

Defender Commercial RO Filter
Uswatersystems Whole House RO System

You can also use a whole-house reverse osmosis filtering process to remove tannins from your water. These systems use multiple components such as:

  • Pre-sediment filter
  • Carbon filter
  • Reverse osmosis membrane
  • Post-filter cartridge

A reverse osmosis system is typically more expensive than other options. However, it’s usually installed at your home’s water entry point, which ensures clean, tannin-free water from every faucet in the house. These systems trap many types of small contaminants and remove fluoride, chemicals, and bacteria, too.

What are Tannins in Water?

Tannins in water

Tannins result from the decaying process that occurs as leaves, earth, plants, and other vegetation break down.

You’ll also hear tannins called fulvic or humic acid. They’re most commonly found in coastal areas, on marshy ground, and in other low-lying locations. The decaying organic matter eventually shows up in shallow wells after seeping into the ground.

Do Tannins Cause Any Harm?

You won’t experience any negative health results from tannins. The reason you want to learn how to remove tannins from water is that they cause problems with the smell, appearance, and taste of your water.

The organic fulvic acid substances and contaminants cause many problems that affect your quality of life. For example, tannins stain things easily. You’ll notice that white porcelain and white laundry items will eventually turn yellow when tannins exist in your wash water.

Your drinking water ends up having a tangy taste to it. It will smell bad and look murky, almost like iced tea. Any water-based appliances in your home can end up with permanent damage due to the staining and fouling qualities of tannin contaminants.

Removing tannins from water is a good idea because these substances affect the way your family uses water in the home.

Even though it’s not unsafe to bathe in water containing tannins, no one enjoys washing off with foul-smelling or dirty-looking water. Your family won’t want to drink dark water with a bad odor. This can increase costs when you need to buy bottled water instead.

How Do Tannins End up in Well Water?

Tannins affect well water in the same way they do lakes and rivers. If you’ve ever seen a river or lake with a brownish-orange color, then you’re most likely looking at the effects of tannins in the water.

A river, for example, turns this color as the water rushes over decaying organic materials like plant matter and soil. Again, these particles aren’t harmful to humans, but they do cause color changes.

The same process causes problems when tannins enter a private well. Water from rainy or snowy weather seeps into the ground and carries decaying vegetation and soil with it. When these tannins eventually reach your well’s aquifer, you’ll end up with well water that turns amber in color.

How To Avoid Tannins From Entering Well Aquifers?

There isn’t a lot you can do to eliminate the chances of tannins entering your well. You can stay vigilant with keeping leaves, vegetation, and other yard debris away from the area.

However, you’re still likely to end up with tannins in the water when you have a shallow well. If you’re building a new well, then consider digging as deep as possible to try and keep it farther from the surface. A well-constructed well, without holes or cracks, also helps keep tannins from entering.

In the end, you’ll typically end up using ion exchange resins or reverse osmosis to remove the tannin problem.

How to Test for Tannins

Test for Tannins

A laboratory test is the best way to know if tannins exist in your well water. You can do your own simple test first:

  • Fill a glass with water
  • Let the glass sit overnight
  • In the morning, check to see if the water is the same color throughout

If the water remains the same color, then you have tannins in it. If the discoloration settles to the bottom of the glass, then that indicates manganese or iron.

Keep in mind that even if the water remains the same color and you conclude that you’re dealing with tannins, then it’s still a good idea to professionally test the water.

It’s common for other contaminants like sulfates, hardness minerals, and iron to exist along with tannins. A lab will test for tannins and iron separately since iron might create a tannin “false positive”.

Related Guide: How to Remove Manganese in Water

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About Paul Billings
Paul Billings
Paul has operated multiple water filtration businesses throughout the past few decades and brings a lot of practical experience and knowledge about water systems to Water Filter Spot.Jennifer and Paul collaborate on information on this website, research products together, and discuss the state of the industry and what is available to households and businesses for their clean water needs.
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