Pool Iron Removal. Why a Bucket and Pillow Stuffing Works (Sometimes)

May 13, 2018 3 min read 5 Comments

If you have been looking for a solution for discolored water in your pool caused by iron, you have probably already come across a few "miracle" internet solutions. One of the more popular youtube videos shows how you can simply take a five gallon pail, pack it with pillow stuffing, fabricate a connection to your pool filter's return hose and be crystal clear the next day. Does it work? Well, sort of, but not for the reason that people might think and the conditions have to be exactly right. I know, I know, there are comments from people where it cleared their pool. A good number of our customers have tried this method without success and we have actually done some experimentation ourselves to uncover the truth. Read on to reveal our findings.

What actually clears the iron rust from the pool water.
In a few words: The pool filter. I know what you are saying.. What? No way! I have been running my filter for days or weeks and there was no change! In reality, there has been a change, but not enough for you to notice. I'm going to fill you in, but bear with me. You need to know a little about filtration if you want to fully understand what is happening to the iron.

To filter something out of a liquid, the spaces that the liquid passes through must be smaller than the target particle. The dirtier a filter gets, the more efficient it becomes since larger particles lodging in the spaces leave a remaining smaller space and smaller particles fill them in. At some point, it becomes so efficient that even the liquid that you are trying to clean will no longer pass through it and it would need to be cleaned or replaced.

Pillow stuffing is just a fairly loose bundle of tangled plastic threads. The space between the threads is fairly large when compared to the size of a rust particle. Comparing how they relate in terms of commonly know items, it would be comparable to expecting a window screen to catch baking flour. Your main filter (even a basic one) is capable of capturing much smaller particles.

At the point the people get desperate enough to try to build a stuffing bucket, their filter already has material trapped in it. The pressure in the filter can stretch the openings in the filter, allowing much of the smallest material (like iron/rust) to pass through continuously.

What is Really Happening
If you review all of the youtube videos, you will notice that they all have one thing in common. The bucket is elevated a number of feet above the surface of the water and is horizontal. Some settling will occur in the bucket and a  portion of the iron/rust will settle below the outlet holes, making it appear that it has captured the iron/rust. Some will also get caught in the fibers. With the water having to rise to this higher level, more pressure is pushing back on the filter and the flow through the filter itself is slowed. This will not only reduce the "stretch" of the spaces in the filter material, but also slows the velocity of the water flow. The filter, which is already partially blocked with normal debris and iron particles, becomes more efficient and can sometimes begin to gather the iron particles. The problem is that the filter needs to be very dirty to begin with for this to work at all and the height needs to be sufficient to slow the flow. Just by the rule of averages, some will actually have success, while the majority of pool owners will be left wondering what could possibly have gone wrong.

A Picture Worth A Thousand Words
Above is a "before" and "after" picture sent in by one of our customers who had just replaced their liner and refilled the pool. The after is the result of using our Brown-B Gone (now known as the Aquabag FE). Notice the bucket on the ladder? So did we. We asked about it and you guessed it. It didn't work...

We received an email containing a warning from another one of our customers:
Your filter did a wonderful job on my iron darkened pool. Unfortunately, I found it after damaging my pump by trying to use a sock to filter the iron (yes, yet another internet miracle tip). My breaker blew over night and after resetting, the pump was running, but it blew again and the pump would not run anymore. The kicker is that my pool didn't look much, if at all, better. Considering the size of your filter and the amount of iron it collected, I'm thinking that the sock restricted the flow and caused the pump to burn out. Expensive lesson learned. You may want to share this info on your website.

5 Responses

Susie
Susie

May 23, 2023

I watched my neighbor spend a Saturday creating the bucket and stuffing thing. It took almost a week and it was still not completely clear, so it does work I guess for whatever reason. I got a pool as a gift and gave myself an Aquabag for the iron (our well water is terrible). My water is clear after two days. Thanks for this article. It saved me a lot of grief!

Paul
Paul

April 08, 2022

I tried the DIY bucket thing ta few years ago. After investing a day in buying the parts and making one, it didn’t work for me either. This filter works, was easy to use and I just bought another one as a gift.

David Apthorpe
David Apthorpe

April 08, 2022

I used the bucket and stuffing method and after several days it worked as advertised. The problem for me was fabricating the bucket and getting a seal that was right and rigging it and rinsing etc. etc. I don’t have unlimited time and it wasn’t a solution I was interested in pursuing again. I’m going to try the rust filter because it’s a way more cost-effective solution if I place any value on my time.

Joe
Joe

December 04, 2018

This article makes complete sense after my experience. I looked at the youtube videos of the bucket and gave it a whirl. No dice! The most popular video uses a small stuffing filled soda bottle and they also add a chemical. I don’t want to swim in even more chemicals and I believe that it was the chemical and not the filter that removed (or just hid) the iron. My pool was crystal clear in two days using the brown b gone. I wish that I had found this sooner and just bought one for my in-laws for Christmas. Maybe they will use their own pool more next year. Ha!

Carlie Gainey
Carlie Gainey

July 11, 2018

This product is great. I give it a 10 out of 10. We had real rusty water and tried everything to get it out. We bought this hooked it up to our pump and saw a difference with in hours. This product works 100%.

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