Skip to Main Content

Iron Bacteria (Iron Ochre) In Wet Basements


Iron bacteria creates a sticky, slimy gel that is usually rusty red in color but may instead be yellow, brown, or gray.

Most homeowners do not tend to think much about the water that comes through their faucets. However, if you start to notice an odd, rust-colored slime creeping around your basement or plumbing, you might have an iron bacteria problem. 

Iron bacteria are found in most parts of the world and are not harmful on their own. However, if they somehow find their way into your pipes, they can easily build up and clog your plumbing. Clogged plumbing may then cause your basement to flood on an annoyingly consistent basis. 

What exactly are iron bacteria anyway? What kind of damage can it do to you or your home? How can a specialized interior drainage system prevent its growth?

When you’re ready to solve your iron ochre problem once and for all, we’re ready to help! We have specialized drainage systems designed specifically for basements with iron bacteria problems.

For a free, no-obligation iron ochre waterproofing system quote, contact us by phone or e-mail today! We serve Minneapolis, St. Paul, Fargo, Bismarck, and many nearby areas in Minnesota, North Dakota and Eastern Montana.

Problem Signs to Watch Out For

Because iron bacteria are microscopic, you cannot exactly keep an eye out for it by itself. However, there are other more prominent signs an average homeowner will notice if they have iron bacteria building up in their plumbing. 

  • Rust-Colored Slimy Substance 

Perhaps the most obvious sign that you have an iron bacteria problem is the presence of iron ochre, a waste by-product of iron bacteria. Iron ochre is often described as rusty in color and gelatinous or slimy in texture. It is not toxic to touch it, but this substance can leave unsightly stains on whatever it touches. It will not help that concrete pores will often absorb iron bacteria-laden water and spread these stains even further along your basement walls or floor. 

Oftentimes, iron ochre stains are incredibly difficult to remove. Even if you apply hardy chemicals to remove these stains, they will simply reappear if any new iron ochre-filled water so much as splashes against the same surface. This is why it is crucial that you cut out the source of iron bacteria growth before it has the chance to spread. Innovative Basement Authority can install just the waterproofing solution to permanently rid your home of iron bacteria issues. 

  • Musty Smell 

If you have an iron bacteria problem, then you might smell it before you see it spread around your home. Iron ochre is said to have a particularly foul smell likened to sewage, rotted vegetables, and even cucumber, of all things. You may even smell it in the tap water you drink. 

Additionally, iron ochre build-up will also likely encourage sulfur bacteria to grow in your water as well. This will result in an especially rank rotten egg-like smell all around your home. Using aerosol sprays or airing out your home will simply not be enough to rid your home of this stench. You need to call an expert at Innovative Basement Authority to check out any iron bacteria problems you are having. 

  • Clogged or Corroded Pipes 

Iron ochre will attach itself along the inside of your pipes and anywhere else it is able to spread. Layers of this reddish, rusty sludge will build up within your plumbing over time, effectively clogging it up. You may also find this slime at the end of your faucets, on your laundry machine screens, inside any water tanks in your home (including in toilet bowls), and within pumps or other plumbing. 

Large portions of this ochre may occasionally break off to spread further down your pipes. It may even infiltrate your tap or bathwater. Iron ochre can spread fairly quickly. It may overcome your entire well system within just a matter of months. 

If enough iron ochre is allowed to accumulate, it will start to corrode your pipes or other plumbing equipment. Nearby stainless-steel surfaces are especially at-risk for permanent damage, as the iron bacteria will use it as fuel to spread further. 

  • Leaks 

If iron ochre is clogging your plumbing, it is highly likely that your pipes will either start to leak water out or even burst if you continue to leave it untreated. This can lead to your basement constantly flooding. You might even find your pipes becoming misaligned from the pressure, leading to bigger leaks in the future. 

Fixing your pipes alone may not be enough, especially if iron ochre growth has already gotten out of hand. These leaks may continue to crop up every now and then if you do not cut out the source of clogging or misalignment. 

You should also keep in mind that mold, mildew, and pests are highly attracted to damp spaces. If you do not fix your leaks in time, you might find yourself with an unhealthy infestation on your hands. 

  • Strange-Tasting Tap Water 

Tap water in most cities is often safe to drink. Trace amounts of pollutants may creep into your plumbing now and again, but often, they are not toxic nor will you even be able to taste them. 

Iron ochre in your pipes, on the other hand, may make your water taste unpleasant. This taste may be even more noticeable to you if you have not used your sink in some time. 

  • Health Issues 

It must be emphasized that iron bacteria themselves are not the cause of any health issues you or your family might face. Iron bacteria are not harmful to humans in any way if accidentally ingested. Rather, it is the other bacteria that may be causing you or your family members to feel sick. 

Iron bacteria often breed other organic materials along with it, which can lead to more harmful bacteria growing in your pipes or water well, too. This includes sulfur bacteria. If ingested in copious amounts, sulfur bacteria can cause diarrhea, which in turn may make you dehydrated. 

You should also have your water tested for nitrate and coliform bacteria. Finding trace amounts of both in your water is not necessarily harmful. However, ingesting excess amounts of nitrate can affect how your blood carries oxygen to various parts of your body. This can be especially dangerous for infants, who can become seriously ill or even die from this. Adults, on the other hand, may also experience decreased blood pressure, increased heart rate, headaches, stomach cramps, and even vomiting. 

Coliform bacteria on their own do not necessarily cause illness. They are often signs that there are other sorts of pathogens within your water system, though.

How Can the BasementGutter™ Iron Ochre System Prevent Iron Bacteria from Growing in Your Home?

It is difficult to rid your home of iron ochre stains once they settle along your walls. That is why the best solution is prevention. Because iron bacteria thrive in clogged pipes, you need to find a clog-free solution that will push any and all iron bacteria far, far from your house. How can the BasementGutter™ Iron Ochre System interior drainage solution help protect your home? 

  • Clog-Free, Guaranteed 

If you find your pipes constantly clogged or leaking iron ochre-laden water all over your basement walls and floor, then you need a better drainage solution. A reliable drainage system like the BasementGutter™ Iron Ochre System interior drainage solution is guaranteed never to clog up, no matter what. Whether soil, mud, gallons of water, iron ochre, or other debris finds itself in these pipes, this system will drain it all away with ease. 

  • Can It Get Rid of Iron Ochre? 

Iron bacteria are found in all parts of the world, naturally occurring within soil, groundwater, and even in limited amounts of surface water. Provided these bacteria have a large enough food supply, however, they may thrive in just about any moist space. 

Groundwater tends to take on the characteristics of the soil and rock around it. Because iron is one of the most abundant elements on Earth, it is only natural that this water takes on some amount of iron and iron bacteria. Iron bacteria are also abundant in soils that are sandy or have high organic material mixed into it. This means that homes with higher loam or clay content are less likely to deal with iron bacteria or iron ochre in their plumbing systems. 

Iron bacteria can also infiltrate your well through well drilling or pump installation operations. All in all, it is very easy for iron bacteria to find its way into your pipes. The BasementGutter™ Iron Ochre System is a powerful system that can drain away anything that falls into its pipes. It is built to withstand the toughest conditions, redirecting gallons upon gallons of water and debris far away from your home. 

  • SafeDri™  Sump Pump 

A reliable sump pump like our SafeDri™ sump pump system is crucial to the entire drainage system set-up. The water that travels along the drainage system is collected here. It is specifically built to collect water that trickles down your floor and wall joints, where water is most likely to pool inside your basement. Once the water reaches a certain level within the pump, it will self-activate and work to pump out any water or debris the drainage system collects to a better drainage point. 

Along with having a powerful motor, the SafeDri™ also has a built-in alarm system to let you know when it is working and when it is at low battery capacity. The pump also has a stand that elevates its intake port off the ground to prevent any clogging from substrate or iron ochre.

Iron Bacteria


Iron bacteria are largely composed of iron, as its name suggests. However, these bacteria and the ochre they produce will also be made up of other elements as well. 

  • Ferrous Iron and Manganese 

Iron bacteria thrives off of minerals dissolved from water, namely ferrous iron and manganese. These elements on their own are not at all toxic or harmful. Ferrous iron and other iron minerals, however, are more susceptible to rusting, which can stain the water you drink, your plumbing as a whole, and even your laundry as it washes. 

Manganese is actually quite healthy for humans to ingest in small doses of well under 0.05 milligrams per liter. However, like copious amounts of ferrous iron, it can stain your water an unsightly brown color. This water may also stain other materials it comes into contact with. 

Together, these elements can be hard to remove from surfaces, requiring heavy-duty chemicals or even mechanical treatments. The best solution, however, is in a clog-free drainage system like the BasementGutter™ Iron Ochre System. You will never have to worry about your pipes clogging with gross, rusty residue nor a flooded basement ever again with this system at work. 

  • How Does Iron Ochre Form? 

Iron ochre is a waste by-product of iron bacteria. Essentially, it is created when the ferrous iron in iron bacteria oxidizes (or rusts). This occurs because the iron will react with the oxygen found in the water to form rust. It is a natural chemical reaction that cannot exactly be prevented, especially if it takes place in your plumbing without your knowledge. 

It will not help if the iron bacteria infestation is still in its relatively early stages. Ferrous iron is also referred to as “clear-water iron” because it will first appear to be clear when you pour it into a glass. Over time (usually within a day), however, it will turn a rusty red or brown in color. If enough iron ochre oxidizes in your pipes, then this discoloration may be more immediate (such as when you turn on your faucet). 

This is why you need a fast-acting, powerful drainage system like the BasementGutter™ Iron Ochre System. Its pipes will never give iron bacteria a chance to oxidize enough to make iron ochre. Iron bacteria will simply wash out of the system entirely.

You might suspect that your water has been contaminated with iron bacteria but are unsure of how to confirm this. Luckily, there are quite a few easy ways to tell if your water has iron bacteria in it—no fancy chemical kits or laboratory tests required! 

  • Leave a Cup of Water to Sit Overnight 

Any homeowner can test to see if their plumbing has an iron bacteria problem. First, you need to ensure that you do not use your pipes for some time. This allows them to settle and “flush out” so you can get the best result. 

Then simply fill a cup with water from your tap to sit on your counter overnight. Watch out for any discoloration or sediments settling in the bottom of the glass. If you do notice any sediment, pay attention to its appearance. Iron ochre will have a reddish, fluffy texture to it, making it look somewhat like stray cotton fibers. This is when you will know that you have excess amounts of iron bacteria in your plumbing. 

  • Look Out for an Oily or Oddly Colored Sheen in Your Water 

If your iron bacteria problem has grown to the point where iron ochre has infiltrated your plumbing, then you might notice that your tap water has a strange oily sheen to it. It may also take on a rainbow-colored hue that can be quite unappealing to look at and drink. 

You may also immediately notice red, orange, brown, or yellow discoloration to your tap water after pouring it from your faucet. This discoloration is directly the result of the rust color of the iron ochre washing out into your water system.

Innovative Basement Authority Can Help You Address Iron Ochre in Your Basement

Clearing a flooded basement can be aggravating. Having to drain all that water away and clear out ugly splotches of iron ochre, on the other hand, is a downright nightmare. No homeowner wants to deal with an iron bacteria issue on top of other issues. 

Our service area includes Fargo, Bismarck, St. Paul, Minneapolis, as well as Saint Cloud, Bismarck, Grand Forks, Eden Prairie, Anoka, Andover, Minot, and many areas nearby.

Let the experts at Innovative Basement Authority help protect your home. Our BasementGutter™ Iron Ochre System interior drainage system and reliable sump pumps will never clog up or give in. These are powerful solutions that keep your basement dry and iron ochre-free. Contact us to schedule a free basement inspection and quote on our drainage systems today!

Publish Date:

Last Modified Date:

Innovative Basement Authority Service Map

Our Locations

Fargo, ND

1330 41st St. N
Fargo, ND 58102

Minneapolis, MN

6265 Carmen Ave.
Inver Grove Heights, MN 55076

Rush City, MN

1325 S Frandsen Ave
Rush City, MN 55069

Sioux Falls, SD

101 S. Reid Street, Suite 307
Sioux Falls, SD 57103