Why is Brown Water Pouring Out My Pipes?
When Your Tap Water Clearly Isn’t
Is your tap water looking brownish? It’s not a good look. Discolored water means sediments are getting into your water. You could drink it or wash with it. Not to worry, there’s nothing dangerous about brown water. But it’s still a problem you want to resolve. And it isn’t a good look for your porcelain or stainless steel sinks and toilets. In many cases, brown water clears up within a few hours. But if it doesn’t, there are steps you can take. This blog post covers:
- Why water turns brown
- Whether brown water is dangerous
- How to get rid of brown water
- When you need to call a plumber
Why is My Water Brown?
Minerals, sediment, or rust can accumulate in water mains over time. When the water from your tap is brown, this indicates a disturbance in the water main or the pipes in your home that stirs up these deposits. There are a number of reasons why this can occur.
Main breaks and adjacent construction can also stir up these sediments and cause the water to change color. Other causes include a surge in water flow through the pipes due to increased demands and even if the local fire department has opened a hydrant to get water for an emergency. Again, in both cases, the increase in water flow dislodges mineral deposits that have adhered to the interior of the pipes over time.
The most common reason for residential brown water is oxidized iron, or rust, dislodged from the repair of leaky pipes or replacement of water pipes adjacent to old rusty pipes. This is because the water pressure in the pipes changes or drops altogether during repairs. When normal water pressure resumes, loose rust tends to get blown out long with the water.
The good news is that usually, the water will clear on its own within a few hours. If, after a few hours the water has not cleared, then you will need to call for a professional opinion.
Is Brown Water Dangerous or Harmful?
In a word, no.
Most people have experienced brown tap water at one time or another. Don’t worry, it is not a serious health concern.
But it is more than just a minor inconvenience. It can damage your clothes as well as your fixtures. The brown water you are seeing is the result of too much iron content. Iron is a common, naturally occurring metal in soil, and is present in your drinking water, though typically in much lower quantities. According to Berkeley Wellness:
“Though rusty water may look and taste unpleasant—and possibly stain sinks and clothing—it is not a health concern. A possible exception is people with hemochromatosis, a rare disorder that causes excess iron accumulation in body organs.”
That said, just because brown water is not dangerous or harmful, we still do not recommend drinking it. For one thing, as you might expect, it tastes metallic. Plus it looks disgusting.
You can still shower with it, though it might not be a pleasant experience, but pick up some bottled water for drinking if the problem persists. If brown water doesn’t clear up in a few hours, that’s now a problem beyond a minor inconvenience. You most likely have a leak from a rusted plumbing pipe. And that can be hazardous.
Rusted water in your pipes is a breeding ground for various forms of bacteria. Rust build-up can also corrode and crack plumbing pipes and exposes your water supply to contaminants in the air. Leaking pipes can lead to mold and mildew to fester in homes, resulting in a major health hazard.
And from a purely cosmetic standpoint, brown water stains sinks, toilets and showers and even fabrics run through the wash. That’s because minerals like iron attach to nearly every surface they encounter. Indeed, even water clear to the eye can leave stains if it sits in a tub or toilet. That’s because iron levels as low as 0.3 parts per million can cause stains. If 0.3 parts per million don’t sound like much, it’s because it isn’t.
There are, by the way, a variety of methods to remove iron stains, including hot water combined with dishwashing soap, baking soda, or vinegar. However, you don’t want to be constantly doing that. You want to fix the problem at its source.
But, before you call a plumber, first determine if the problem is temporary or not.
How to Try to Get Rid of Brown Water
Follow these steps to determine if you can eliminate brown water and, if not, what actions might resolve the problem.
- Run the cold water from your tap for about 20 minutes. If the water turns clear, you needn’t worry further.
- If the water clears but still has bits of brown water, you will need to consider a water filter system and/or water softener. These systems actively remove iron particles from your water supply. Of course, these systems require regular maintenance, most of which can be handled by the homeowner. Certain filtering systems, however, may require a professional water treatment technician to perform regular maintenance.
- If your water is still brown, check with your neighbors if they are having the same issue. If so, more than likely the problem is with the city water system. Call the town or city to ask the city’s utility provider to inspect the pipes and flush out the pipes on their end. If the utility doesn’t find an issue and brown water is still appearing, or if the problem is only at your home, go to step 5. If you don’t have city water and use well water, go to step 4.
- If your water comes from a well and you have lately experienced heavy rains, the issue could be significant changes in the water table. In many cases, the water table fluctuation can be so severe that existing water treatment equipment won’t be able to handle the excess iron. You may need to consider a filtration system or some other kind of iron removal solution.
- Check if the brown water is coming from hot or cold water. If water is brown from hot water only, then your water heater needs to be flushed out. Scale inside of the water heater fell to the bottom and muddied the water, or the inside of the water tank could be rusting. Rust is also an indication that your water heater is reaching the end of its lifespan as well. Whatever the issue, if brown water is only coming from the hot faucet, get your water heater inspected by a qualified plumber.
Can’t Flush Out Brown Water? – Call a Plumber
If you still can’t eliminate brown water, it’s time to call in a professional plumber to determine if there is a leaky or damaged pipe in your house. Even if it is just a matter of high iron content in your water, this is definitely not a do-it-yourself project of hauling off to a big box store to get a water softener off the shelf and installing it on a Saturday afternoon. Selecting and installing a water softener is actually a much bigger project than it might at first sound. In fact, a water softener might not even fix the problem. You need a local expert knowledgeable about water quality in your area who can properly analyze the problem and recommend an appropriate filtration system that corrects it.
You can count on Benjamin Franklin Plumbing to effectively inspect your pipes and repair leaks. And when it comes to ensuring the quality of your drinking water, Benjamin Franklin Plumbing technicians provide various water treatment services that make your water cleaner and healthier. Our plumbers provide water softener services and water purification services to keep your family away from minerals and contaminants in your drinking water.
We take to heart the words of our namesake, Benjamin Franklin, who famously said, “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.” We’ve built our company around bringing a higher level of excellence to every customer experience. Benjamin Franklin Plumbing and our licensed plumbers proudly offer an on-time guarantee and a 100 percent customer satisfaction guarantee to meet all your plumbing service needs. Because we’re locally owned and operated, our plumbers are familiar with the plumbing challenges you face. If there’s any delay in providing your service, we pay!
And, by the way, to avoid ever having a problem with your pipes in the first place, regular maintenance ensures smooth flowing pipes. Who was it that said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”? Right, none other than Ben Franklin himself. Yet another reason why our local plumbers live up to the philosophy of our founding father.
Benjamin Franklin Plumbing answers your service calls 24 hours a day at 800-259-7705. Or go online to request an appointment.