treating a well with bleach

bill7(NW MN)August 24, 2008

Anyone ever hear of this? It would be to get rid of the smell. I have been told it is (iron sulfate?). My neighbor just puts 3-4 gal of bleach down the pipe, then waits 24 hrs. Then runs water through all the fixtures until the bleach smell is gone. He said it usually last for 1-1/2 years. Our water is relatively "soft," but does have a bit of iron in it. We have the filters but no softener. Any ideas?


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kydaylilylady(z6 KY)

That sounds like a whale of a lot of bleach to me. We used to have an old well that we used like a cistern for cleaning the milkhouse and parlor. For sanitization purposes to keep right with the milk inspector we used to put a cup of bleach in it about once or twice a month, depending upon the time of year and amount of usage. I'm not sure that it would be very good for you to be drinking water with a couple gallons of bleach in it.

Just my opinion though.


    Bookmark   August 25, 2008 at 9:12AM
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Yes I've heard of it. It's called shocking and is done especially if there is a lot of iron in the water.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2008 at 9:59AM
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I've done it a couple of times, but I only used a gallon of bleach. I now have a whole house system that treats the water so I don't have to do that any more.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2008 at 2:34PM
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paulns(NS zone 6a)

Here's a document put out by our provincial dept. environment. It recommends the bleach be diluted in water first, says to make sure you don't use scented bleach or any kind with additives, and that shocking is usually done because of bacteria concerns.

Where you see 'litre' or 'L', read 'quart' - close enough.

Here is a link that might be useful: shock chlorination

    Bookmark   August 25, 2008 at 2:38PM
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bill7(NW MN)


Thanks for the link. That is an interesting article. We did have the well tested last year and was neg. for E. coli and total coliform. This treatment is purely for the smell.


what kind of house treatment system do you have? Plumbers, etc. have recommended water softeners, but I am not sure that is the answer.

Thanks for all the replies.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2008 at 9:17AM
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paulns(NS zone 6a)

I was wondering about the iron - why it would cause bad odor. We have a good deal of iron in our water but it just tastes and smells faintly of iron. But this article explains about bacteria that feed on iron, which are what cause the smell problems, if I understand correctly.

Here is a link that might be useful: iron reducing bacteria

    Bookmark   August 27, 2008 at 4:36PM
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I have been putting a quart of bleach in my well for 30 years. We have iron and it keeps down the iron eating bacteria. That is what turns your rinsed dishes black and smells. I do it in spring after the rains.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2008 at 6:37PM
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bill7(NW MN)

Thanks again. I am a math idiot, so I will have to figure out the amounts of bleach to use. I really do not know how deep the (length of casing) the well is.



    Bookmark   August 28, 2008 at 9:27AM
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Dibbit(z7b SC)

Bill, if you look on the well casing somewhere, there should be a small metal plaque with the depth written on it. At least, here in the Carolinas, there is one....

For the "static level", you may, if the well isn't sealed, be able to drop a LONG rope with a weight on it down, and then measure where it is wet or dry. When I had to have my pump replaced last summer, the static level at that time, on a 380' well, was 52'. But, the static level can change, depending on how high the water table is, so do a fresh test.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2008 at 1:18PM
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People with Iron Bacteria here use the shock method and it seems to work well for them. You can get filters that should take the Iron Sulfide out of the water. There are many concerns in the US about "Organohalides" and the link to cancer, especially breast, since water systems here still use Chlorine to sanitize and Fluorine to strengthen tooth enamel. One of the big advatages of well water is that you can avoid those hazards, but adding hypochlorite to your well exposes you to them.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2008 at 6:49PM
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bill7(NW MN)

So, has anyone tried any of these products? I guess shocking the system with bleach is cheaper, as long as it works. The problem with the "Terminator" is that it doesn't really get to the issue, so shocking the system may still be a good idea, no?
I want to thank everyone who has replied. My family is taking off this weekend, so I am thinking of trying this out this weekend. Wish me luck. I am a bit nervous about putting the bleach down (i.e., I hope there aren't any stripped wires down the casing). I can go a day or so without a shower!


Here is a link that might be useful: Iron Terminator

    Bookmark   August 29, 2008 at 8:22AM
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I have iron bacteria, iron and hard water. I have a water softner and a chlorinator.

I was remodeling the kitchen and 2 baths, and didn't want the new fixtures/tiles to turn orange. I've been very happy with my whole house system.

I looked at Culligan, Anderson, and then the plumbers at my local hardware store. The local hardware store was the most reasonable, and I like giving them my business.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2008 at 1:20PM
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Dibbit(z7b SC)

Bill, just be sure to draw enough water to flush the toilet, and have water for pets - the bathtub is good for this. A bit to have a sponge bath would be nice, and enough, really clean, to make coffee or tea (whichever is your beverage of choice) or drink straght, as well as to cook/wash veggies and maybe even wash dishes would be frosting on the cake.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2008 at 1:34PM
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bill7(NW MN)

Again, thanks for all the info. Since the family is leaving for the weekend, and I am staying home with the dog, cats, and some sheep, I figured it was a good weekend to do it. I'll fill the sheep's water, save some for the dog, cats, and myself.

My plan is to mix some bleach with water and pour it down the pipe (probably a couple of gallons, as I am sure it has never been done). I know I should probably try to figure out all the numbers and such, but frankly, that sounds like too much work. I know, I should figure it out. I will then let it sit between 18-24 hrs, then flush, run, etc. the water.

Am I wasting my time? Please feel free to comment on my plan.

Thanks in advance. I will update this post with the results.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2008 at 4:29PM
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bill7(NW MN)

Well (pardon the pun), I did it. Last night after soccer practice, I dumped 2 gal. of bleach (one was mixed with a bucket of water) down the hatch. I went inside and flushed the toilets a few time to get the water running through the system, ran some water, etc. The problem is that I didn't smell bleach at all. Perhaps the distance from the well to house, etc. is more than just a few flushes. Anyway, I will leave it until late this afternoon and flush the system.


    Bookmark   August 30, 2008 at 8:06AM
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bill7(NW MN)

I think my experiment is done.

I ran water outside seemingly forever, until I smelled bleach. I wasn't the strongest smell, but it was bleach. I then came inside and flushed toilets and ran taps so the bleach would get into the "entire" system (minus the dishwasher and washing machine). I then ran water through two outside faucets for another while (on to the gravel driveway) until I didn't notice the smell, came inside and flushed/ran water to get the remaining bleach out.

I then changed the filter on the system (for sediments). It was a dark red/brown all through the thickness of the filter! Usually it is just dirty with a bit of fine sand at the bottom of the cartridge housing.

Anyway, I hope it was a success.

Thanks again for all the info.


    Bookmark   August 30, 2008 at 7:59PM
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paulns(NS zone 6a)

Thanks for the report Bill. I wouldn't have used any pure bleach, which is corrosive (super alkaline) but I hope you get good results. After looking at the orange slime in our toilet tank I'm thinking it's time to shock our water too.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2008 at 9:56AM
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Dibbit(z7b SC)

From the amount of gunk you say was in your filter, if it were mine, I might repeat the process in another month or two, just to be sure all was well (to repeat your pun!). Glad the 'operation' was a success.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2008 at 10:38AM
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bill7(NW MN)


I was amazed at the color of the filter. The bleach was 6% hypochlorite( sp?). Time will tell if it improves the situation. The water doesn't have the nasty smell anymore, that is for sure. I am a little paranoid that I didn't get it flushed, but I have run the dishwasher, washed clothes, showered, etc. I have used a lot of water. I suppose there might be a bit of lingering bleach, but not much. We'll see how long this lasts. Maybe I can get away with just a small amount of bleach once a year, instead of the shocking...
Thanks to all for the input.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2008 at 6:32PM
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terran(zone10/Sunset20 CA)

Since you have a well, do you also have a septic tank and leach field? Bleach is counterproductive in the tank and field.

I wonder if Effect Microorganisms (EM) would work to alleviate the problems in your well?

I started to use this product around the house and grounds about two months ago. We have a tank and field, but no well.

This URL might also be of use.


Here is a link that might be useful: EM-1

    Bookmark   September 14, 2008 at 3:00AM
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I've read this with interest. What do you put the bleach in to shock the whole system, and is it really necessary? We've lived on a well for years, and never done anything to it. We also have a septic system. We have orange water in the toilet tanks, but I just put bleach in the back of them occasionally.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2008 at 3:31PM
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bill7(NW MN)

My problem was the smell as well. The iron will always be there. I shocked the well to rid the bacteria that feeds on the iron. One of the posts/links above explains it well. It has worked so far. The smell has not returned, yet.

I will probably look into getting a whole house system in the future, to take care of the iron.


    Bookmark   September 22, 2008 at 8:52AM
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We have to do this tomorrow as well. We've been getting a problem with the iron worse and worse lately. From staining dishes in the dishwasher, to getting a somewhat bitter taste from time to time.

Now finally since last week, we've been getting a sulfur smell in the water to accommodate all of this. That's the final straw. I drink lots of water, and I'm not going to drink water that smells like rotten eggs. We've apparently done this once before about ten years ago and it was fine until now!

    Bookmark   April 12, 2011 at 1:34AM
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I don't have a problem with smell I have a problem with my coold water not wanting to come out the hot water runs fine what can I use to clear my pipes

    Bookmark   July 23, 2011 at 12:27PM
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