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Why Is My Water Rusty Looking?

brown water

If brown water is coming out of your pipes, you likely have rusty water. Rust occurs over time when iron, oxygen and water combine. If your plumbing system is made up of iron pipes, this could be the source of your problem. The rust will dislodge from the pipes’ interior lining, mix with the water, and travel with it into your home.

Causes Of Brown Water

If you are asking yourself “why is my water rusty looking?" there are a few possible causes. If a water main breaks or there is nearby construction, sediment could find its way into your piping. Eroded substances infiltrating the water supply could be a cause for that brownish tint.

If it is in fact rust, it could be due to a damaged or recently replaced pipe. During a pipe repair or replacement, the water supply may be turned off and back on again. That powerful change in pressure could knock the rust right off the pipes. Other external factors like a fire hydrant activation could also cause a massive shift in water pressure, dislodging existing rust on your pipes.

How Do I Know If I Have Rust In My Water?

One way to be sure the brownish color in your water is rust, and the water supply itself is not contaminated, is if the discoloration only comes from certain faucets, shower heads, etc. rather than throughout the entire house.

Another tell-tale sign of rust is if it is only visible when the water is hot. This could be due to a damaged or failing water heater. If your water heater is getting old, it may be rusting into the water.

Is Rusty Water Safe?

If you do not know the exact source of the discoloration, it’s always safest to avoid drinking it until the issue is resolved.

Rusty water is usually an aesthetic contaminant, rather than a dangerous one. Iron is an essential nutrient that helps supply oxygen to red blood cells, assists with fatigue, dizziness and shortness of breath, as well as contains benefits for your skin, nails and hair. Many people even take iron supplements on a daily basis.

That being said, iron occurs naturally in some drinking water sources but if your water has so much iron that it’s become discolored, we don’t recommend drinking it, cooking with it or bathing in it.

What Rust In Your Pipes Means For Your Home

To put it simply, you do not want rust inside your plumbing system. If too much builds up, it will flake off and cause a high volume of corrosion which could lead to cracks in the pipes. Cracks in the pipes could cause leaks in your home, resulting in potentially expensive repairs.

If leaking is not immediately dealt with, water damage can cause mold to grow in your home. Exposure to mold can cause nasal stuffiness, throat irritation, coughing or wheezing, eye irritation, or, in some cases, skin irritation. As soon as you notice rusty water,your pipes should be thoroughly inspected.

Rusty water is also inconvenient because it can stain clothes in the wash, dishes in the sink, etc.  Avoid washing special or delicate items of clothing as well as fine china until the issue is resolved.

How To Fix Rusty Water 

Interested in purging the rust yourself? There are a few methods you could try. These methods include:

  1. If the rust only appears when hot water is running, try draining your water heater tank. We recommend flushing out the tank twice a year to get rid of any potential sediment buildup.
  2. Replace the anode rod in your water heater, which attracts corrosive elements in water. 
  3. If your water source is a well, a water softener is an inexpensive way to remove low levels of iron (3 ppm or lower).
  4. You could also install an iron water filter in your well, which removes excess iron and other contaminants from the water.

With severe cases, you will almost certainly need the assistance of a plumbing professional.

Let The Plumbing Professionals At John C. Flood Get Rid Of Your Rusty Water

Although not always harmful, rusty water stains, looks alarming and should not be kept around long-term. Especially in older homes, iron pipes age quicker on the inside than they do on the outside, making it difficult to know when your pipes are due for a water and sewer line inspection or repair.

If you are unsure of the source of your rusty water, or if you are interested in a plumbing inspection or repair, contact the experts at John C. Flood to take care of it.