You’re about to brush your teeth but when you turn the water on a stream of brown, cloudy mush drizzles out. Yuck! Rust colored water isn’t normally harmful, but it can be disturbing. If you have water coming out brown from your faucet, it could be due to corroded pipes, mineral build up or utility company operations.
Seeing rusty water pour from your home’s tap can be a traumatizing experience, especially if you don’t know why it’s happening. That’s why we put together this primer to explain why your water is rusty looking and how to fix rusty water in your home’s plumbing system. If the reason for your home water discoloration is rusty pipes, we’ll explain what you can do about it. We want all Los Angeles residents to have clean, safe drinking water in their homes.
Why Is My Water Rusty?
Tap water looks rusty brown, yellowish, or reddish when it contains an excess of sediment or minerals.
The most common discoloring minerals present in water are iron and manganese. Tiny metallic deposits of these minerals can get into the water stream via several different sources – natural or manmade. These minerals can also be responsible for any unpleasant tastes or smells your water might have.
While these minerals aren’t harmful to humans, manganese and iron in water may mean that your tap water smells bad or tastes funny. A plumber can test the water quality in your home to make sure nothing else is going on.
Is Rusty Water Dangerous?
It depends on the particular minerals in your water, but probably not. The EPA regulates the treatment of drinking water contaminants according to primary and secondary standards. Dangerous contaminants like lead and arsenic are covered by the primary regulations. If these contaminants exceed a maximum contaminant level in a water supply, that water (usually) isn’t supplied to the public.
The secondary EPA regulations cover contaminants like iron and manganese. These contaminants aren’t dangerous to health but taste, smell, or look bad and could stain clothing or cause skin rashes. Public water systems are compelled to test for primary contaminants on a regular basis but testing for secondary contaminants is unfortunately voluntary.
Often, customers ask: is rusty water safe to bathe in? or is rusty water bad for your hair? While drinking or bathing in high mineral water won’t hurt you, it’s not great for your hair. Additionally, hard water can make it difficult for soap to lather properly and you may find yourself working harder to get clean.
What Causes Rusty Water from Your Faucet?
Any of the following three scenarios could be the cause of brown water from your faucet:
1. If all your water (hot and cold) suddenly goes brown:
Sudden change from clear to rusty water could be the result of nearby utility maintenance or a break in a city-operated water main or fire hydrant. Much of America’s plumbing infrastructure is outdated, so water main breaks that release sediment into the water supply happen frequently.
When utility companies perform line maintenance, they shut off the water for short periods. When the water gets turned back on, it may contain some accumulated sediment up front. Run your faucet for a few minutes to clear the problem.
There are also possible internal reasons for the change. Your water heater or your water supply pipes have become rusty or corroded, and that brown water from your tap is the beginning sign of those changes.
2. If only your hot water is discolored:
Sediment or rust may have built up in your water heater’s tank. Your plumber can trace the reason for this.
3. If you get brown water from your cold tap and only certain faucets:
The problem is probably with a particular water supply pipe. Home plumbing clogs and corrodes over time, especial if your water has a high mineral content.
How To Fix Brown Water From Faucets
Now that you have an idea of what caused your rusty water discoloration in the first place, you know where to start:
If all your hot and cold water suddenly goes brown:
Call your water supply company. Chances are, something happened to a water main or a nearby fire hydrant. It’s also possible that the city is conducting maintenance on the pipe system, and they inadvertently stirred up some sediment. They should be able to tell you when your water will clear up again and what they’re doing to fix the problem.
Once the utility work is done, run your taps for a few minutes until you no longer see orange water coming out of your faucets. Brown water in toilets should disappear after a couple of flushes refresh the water supply.
If all your hot water is discolored:
Try draining and flushing your water heater’s tank. Rusty hot water is often the result of sediment that’s built up over time. It’s a good idea to drain and flush your tank twice a year either way. Sediment buildup isn’t just bad for your water; it’s one of the most common causes of water heater leaks.
Also check to see that your anode rod hasn’t dissolved. This rod attracts corrosive minerals in water away from your water heater tank to extend its life. After 5 years or so, your anode rod will dissolve away and your local plumber can replace it for you.
If you flush the tank or have a newer water heater and your hot water is still off colored, you may have a more significant problem. Call a professional plumber to diagnose the issue. Too much sediment buildup could permanently damage your water heater, or (in rare and extreme circumstances) cause it to explode!
If your cold water is only discolored when it comes out of a few faucets:
Start by running those faucets at full pressure for several minutes or until the water clears completely. Sometimes, a small amount of rust may dislodge from the inner walls of a pipe and enter the water supply. If the problem is that minor, simply running the water should clean out the rust and clear the water again.
If your water still looks rusty after running it, however, or if the problem returns shortly after you flush the rust, it may be because your pipes have corroded. When too much corrosion or rust builds up on the pipe walls in your home’s water supply pipes, those minerals will leach into your water. Until you replace the affected pipes, you will continue to have brown water from your cold tap.
If you have a corroded or rusted pipes, you should have them deep cleaned or replaced ASAP, before they cause even more serious problems. Corroded pipes can lead to clogs and possible leaks or breaks in your water line.
Get Rid of Brown Rusty Water in Your Home
If you’re wondering why your bath water is brown and you have rusty water coming from your tap, Mike Diamond has your back. Give us a call, and we’ll diagnose why your faucets are spewing out that ugly brown stuff. We’ll make sure your pipes are transporting clean, clear water to you and your family once again.
Nobody in Los Angeles should have to shower in–much less drink!–rusty water. We’ll make sure you never have to.