Having brown water coming from your faucet can be alarming, but it's more common than you might realize. Discolored water can happen for several different reasons, and it's important to understand them so you can deal with the issue. This guide will take you through the leading causes for brown water coming from the faucet and how to fix it.
Brown or discolored water can happen literally overnight, but it means something has been wrong for some time. It's caused by the build-up of materials in the water which discolor it. This is generally rust, sediment or other minerals. There's a number of key reasons for this:
Filter Not Working
You may not know this, but the water that comes from the faucet is filtered a lot before it reaches you. This is done by the government or council with water treatment plants to keep the water sources pure. Sometimes, old and outdated equipment can mean that the filtration system isn't working properly. This is extremely rare but can happen in smaller towns or rural areas.
Corrosion on Old Water Lines
Older water lines date back to the 1950s and 60s. These were largely made from steel which, over time, can rust. This, in turn, leads to rusty sediment building up, and over time there will be enough to corrupt your water supply. If this is the case, then after a few minutes the water will run clear as the rust sediment flows out, so it will be easy enough to find out if this is the problem.
Changes in Pressure of City’s Water Lines
Periodic building work, maintenance, and city-wide flushing of the pipes can lead to changes in water pressure in the water lines. This can cause the water to become murky or brown and will impact all your faucets, not just one. As more suburbs are looking to upgrade their water infrastructure, it's becoming a more common problem, so if your water changes suddenly, then this is most likely the cause.
Changes on the Water Table
Water supplies are heavily impacted by increased usage and high levels of rain. This causes the water table to rise or fall, and filtration systems can be put under strain. It can also mean that alternative, less pure water sources are being tapped into. This can cause impurities in the water, and therefore brown water can flow from your faucet. Changes to the water table can have severe impacts, but they will likely only happen in extreme climates.
Poor quality water supply
Every water supply is slightly different and has a different makeup of mineral deposits. If your water supply has too much of a specific mineral, especially iron, then over time, it will build up in the pipes. This can then lead to discoloration in the water.
How To Get Rid Of Brown Water: Step By Step Guide
Brown water needs to be treated, or it can become a real issue in your home. Without knowing the exact reason for the brown water, there's a couple of steps you should take to try and get rid of it:
- 1Run The Tap
Simply switch the faucet on and let it run for 20 minutes. Keep it on cold and see if the brown water starts to run clear.
If running the tap doesn’t work, you’ll need to look into a filtration system. These can be added to your water pipes to remove any minerals or impurities to help your water run clear. You can also use a water softener for a similar effect.
- 3Check Your Water Heater
Test your tap on hot to see if the issue is still there. If the water continues to run brown, then your water heater/boiler needs to be flushed out. You should consult a qualified plumber for this, so you don't damage your water heater.
- 4Look For A Wider Issue
If none of the above haven't worked, you need to know if it's impacting you or the neighborhood. Check with your neighbors to see if they're having similar issues. If they are, then you'll need to contact the city to see what can be done.
- 5Call A Plumber
If you're still unable to achieve a resolution, you need to get a professional involved. Get a registered plumber to come and take a look and see if they can solve the issue.
Is Brown Water Dangerous?
Brown water isn’t always safe, and you should avoid using it if possible. Brown water can cause the following:
Impact your health
Brown water often has harmful bacteria within it. When you ingest it through drinking, it can harm your internal organs, and if consumed in large enough quantities, it can cause serious issues. Generally, a small amount won’t be toxic, but you should still avoid drinking it if possible.
Damage to clothes and fixtures
Water is commonly used to clean, but brown water can have an adverse effect. Bacteria, minerals, rust, and other impurities can stain. This will ruin your clothes and stain surfaces if you’re cleaning.
Damage to pipes
Bacteria and mineral deposits in the water can damage your pipes and lead to cracking. This, in turn, can lead to mold and mildew building up in your home from leaks, and it can cost a lot of money to replace broken piping.
Disruption to routine
Brown water may not be toxic, but it can smell and will be unpleasant to use. If you have to shower with it, it will not be a great experience, and brown water can disrupt your daily routine.
How to Tell If Water Is Unsafe to Drink
Having access to clean drinking water is essential. When your water is brown, it doesn't necessarily mean it's unsafe, but you need to check whether it's safe to drink or it can make you sick. The following factors can indicate it's unsafe:
Cloudy water indicates there could be harmful chemicals that could be bad for your health. If you can't see through it, you should avoid it.
Slimy Hands After Washing
Hard water will cause your hands to feel slimy once you've washed them. This is due to build-ups of calcium or magnesium and means the water could be unsafe to drink.
Water that's anything other than clear indicates a build-up of minerals. You shouldn't drink this, especially if it's yellow, as that's been linked to causing cancer in the past.
Water Smells Like Bleach
Water that smells like bleach likely has too much chlorine in it. Chlorine is typically used to keep water systems pure, but if there's too much, it can be harmful to drink.
Water Smell Like Rotten Eggs/Waste
If your water smells like waste or rotten eggs, it likely means there's too much hydrogen sulfite in the water. If consumed, this can make you sick. This article will tell you more about why your water smells like sulfur.
Water Smells Fishy
Fishy smelling water means there's an excess of barium in the water supply. If consumed, this can impact your heart, kidneys, and muscles, so you should avoid it.
A metallic taste to the water means there’s too much iron or copper in it. This can be caused by rusty pipes and can be harmful if you drink too much of it.
If there’s an oily film on top of the water, it means that grease has somehow made its way into your pipes. This isn’t safe to drink and will not taste good.
People Also Ask (FAQs)
How long until water should clear up naturally?
The length of time it'll take for your water to stop being brown will depend massively on what the cause is. Generally, if it can be sorted naturally, it will have done so in 1-2 days.
How can I remove laundry stains caused by brown water?
Treating the stain with baking powder should help remove it. There are also specialized products on the market to help deal with tough stains.
Why does brown water often come out of my bathtub faucet?
There are a few reasons why brown water is coming out of your bathtub faucet, but it is most likely caused by a mineral deposit build-up in the pipes.
Can rusty pipes cause health problems?
Yes, if you ingest too much of the discolored water, it can damage your internal organs.
Brown water coming from your faucet is common and can happen quickly, but by knowing the reasons, you can quickly act to remedy it, meaning you can get back to normal as soon as possible. So, use the information here and keep an eye on your faucets so you can keep your water healthy and clean.
Holly Curell is the editor extraordinaire for Plumbing Lab. Having grown up in Michigan, Holly has spent time living in New York, Virginia, & currently North Carolina, where she lives with her husband & family. Holly loves DIY & has years of experience with at-home plumbing problems that arise from having 3 kids & living in colder climates. When she’s not writing about her plumbing knowledge, Holly enjoys reading, hiking & relaxing with family.