Plumbing Issues: What Does Having Rust-Colored Water Means

When you turn on your kitchen or bathroom faucet, you may take clear running water for granted. It’s likely not even something you think about even when you use it several times a day. But then one day, you wake up in the morning to rust-colored water coming out of one or more faucets in your house. This can be a surprising situation that will force you to scramble for a solution.

Is Rust Colored Tap Water Dangerous?

Tap water can have a tinge of yellow, red, or rusty brown when it contains excess sediment, the most common of which are iron and manganese. These deposits get into your water supply through different causes, mainly due to plumbing damage.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Secondary Drinking Water Standards set non-mandatory water quality standards for 15 contaminants. These contaminants may cause the water to appear colored, taste foul, or smell bad, but are categorically safe to use. Unfortunately, these property changes may lead many people to stop using their public water system’s water, even if the water is actually safe to drink.

Despite these EPA standards, it can be difficult to imagine actually drinking or using rust-colored water. Losing one or more faucets can be a hassle at best and can derail your entire day at worst. How can you prepare for the workday if you don’t have running water? How can you wash your dishes or cook

When it comes to plumbing issues, it’s important to find the primary cause so you can reverse it as soon as possible.

What Causes Rust Colored Water?

  1. Rusty pipes – When you turn your faucet off and on, the pressure inside your pipes changes repeatedly. With time, these pressure changes can cause rust inside the pipe to dislodge and get into your tap water. Galvanized pipes are prone to rusting, so replacing them with copper pipes can help remedy the problem.

A vast majority of plumbing infrastructure in the United States is very outdated, so if your hot and cold water comes out brown, it’s likely because of a broken and old water main.

  1. Sediment buildup – If discoloration occurs only with your hot water, there may be sediment buildup in your water heater’s tank. Most heater tanks are lined with porcelain to protect the steel structure, but this covering eventually wears out over time. When steel begins to corrode, the rust-colored flakes settle into the water heater and discolor the water.
  2. Anode rod rusting – Water heater tanks also have a metal anode rod that protects the steel lining through electrolysis. After several years of use, the anode rod becomes coated in corrosion and will no longer function. For this reason, Anode rods need to be replaced regularly.

How Do You Fix Rust Colored Water?

If your hot water is discolored, try to drain and flush the water heater tank. Removing sediment buildup once or twice a year can help prevent hot water from turning thoroughly brown. But if your water heating system is newly installed or recently flushed, you need to seek professional help.

If discolored water only comes out of one or two faucets, running them at full pressure for 10 to 20 minutes can clear the sediments out. If this doesn’t work, it likely means your pipes have corroded, and you need to get them cleaned or replaced immediately. Call your local plumbing company to diagnose the problem.


Rust-colored tap water is caused by a large amount of sediments finding their way into your pipes or your water heater. If flushing your faucets and heater doesn’t get rid of the discoloration, you should call in professional plumbers to help. They will get to the root of the problem and clear everything up before they go.

Professor Plumb provides plumbing and drain services in Columbiana, AL. Our technicians are licensed, insured, and bonded with over 20 years of experience in the industry. We provide eco-friendly, affordable, 24/7 plumbing service. Contact us today!  

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