Home » Contaminants » Well Water Feels Oily [Causes & Solutions]

Well Water Feels Oily [Causes & Solutions]

Updated on March 21, 2023

Possible Causes behind Well Water Being Oily

Iron Bacteria in Well Water

EPA has not set a maximum contamination limit for iron bacteria in well water as they are usually harmless but may provide favorable conditions for disease-causing bacteria to grow. Iron bacteria can grow inside your well, plumbing lines, fixtures, and appliances. These bacteria often make the water unusable, making it slippery and oily.

The common sign of iron bacteria in well water is the reddish brown stains on sinks, bathtubs, and faucets. You may also notice a metallic taste and smell in your well water.

may also notice a metallic taste and smell in your well water.

Water Softener Problems

Most people install a water softener with well water to make it soft. However, a faulty softener will add more salt to water than required, making it extra soft and oily.

A salt-based water softener works on an ion exchange process. It removes calcium and magnesium ions from hard water and replaces them with sodium and potassium ions. The resultant water is soft, but it is slimy and oily.

You may feel the difference if you recently installed a salt-based softener or if it has gone bad and adding too much salt to your water.

Decaying Organic Matter

Your well is designed to prevent organic matter from entering the water. The bottom of the well is a well screen that acts like a sediment filter for organic matter and rocks. However, smaller particles can always find their way inside your well. The top of the well, well cap also prevents organic matter like leaves, tree debris, and grass from getting to your well.

The organic particles decay once they are in your well and release hydrogen sulfide. Hydrogen sulfide makes water oily and adds a rotten egg smell to water, making it unusable.

Your well water may feel oily for other reasons, such as a leaking well pump. Hence, it is recommended to get your water tested if it goes oily or slimy without any reason. Moreover, private well owners must test well water at least annually or whenever there is a noticeable change in water quality.

Solutions to Remove Oiliness & Sliminess in Well Water

Shock Chlorination

The best solution is to disinfect your well to kill iron bacteria and other microorganisms in well water.

The disinfection process is known as shock chlorination. It is a simple process in which household bleach is used to disinfect the well, plumbing lines, and appliances. The volume of bleach required to disinfect depends on well diameter, depth, and static water level in the well.

Private well owners must shock chlorinate their well every 3-5 years, after floods or if they repair/modify their wells.

Chlorine Injection System

A chlorine injection system is best for private wells with recurring bacterial contamination problem. The injection system adds measured chlorine to well water. The water supplied to your home is free from bacteria and not oily but rich in chlorine taste and smell.

Please note that a chlorine injection system also requires additional filters to remove chlorine taste and smell.

also requires additional filters to remove chlorine taste and smell

UV Purification System

A hassle-free and 100% effective way to remove iron bacteria from well water is to install a UV purification system. A UV system is often a part of drinking water systems, but it is also available as a whole-house unit. UV systems are more costly than chlorinators but require less maintenance.

UV systems are more costly than chlorinators but require less maintenance

Check your Water Softener

The settings on your water softener may be out, or it needs servicing. A water softener usually lasts for 10-15 years. You may need to replace the unit if it is old.

Use a Salt-Free Water Softener

Salt-based water softeners are difficult to use and maintain. They need salt replacement, brine discharge, and periodic servicing. Salt-based water softeners are also banned in a few states. You can use a salt-free softener or water conditioner to make water soft. The added benefits of using a salt-free system include no maintenance, no brine discharge, no salts in water, and no oiliness in water. 

no maintenance, no brine discharge, no salts in water, and no oiliness in water

Well Maintenance

Check the well screen, cap, and clean the area around your well. Don’t forget to check the oil pump, as a leaking oil pump may also add oil to well water.

You can hire a professional to assess why well water is oily, but it is better to check yourself and save some money.

Is Oily Well Water Harmful?

Oily well water is usually harmless, but you won’t be comfortable using it. Iron bacteria in well water often indicate the presence of disease-causing bacteria. It is better to get your water tested and get to the root cause of the problem.

Can I shower in Oily Well Water?

The oily well water is more of an annoyance than a health risk. You can shower in oily well water, but it’ll feel awkward while showering in slippery or slimy water.

Why is Soft Water Oily?

Soft water is oily because of the sodium and potassium ions in it. However, the oiliness in a properly working softener is not too much. The softener may not be running properly and adding more sodium to the water, making it oily.


  • Roy Jones

    Roy lives in Anderson, Texas, and has been a part of various certified well drilling firms. He has extensive 20 years of working experience in water wells maintenance, repair, and drinking quality. Roy has been guiding neighbors on well issues and writes to educate private well owners about various well water issues.

Leave a Comment