What to Do If Your Tap Water Looks Rusty

6 Jul

One of the most startling things to see as a homeowner is rusty, brown water coming out of your faucets or shower. Imagine being under the showerhead, enjoying the cool, refreshing water, only to open your eyes and see a cloudy, discoloured stream running over you. Not only is this a common nightmare, but it’s also happened regularly to many people. Below, we’ve created a guide on why your tap water may be rusty or discoloured and what you can do to resolve the situation.

What makes it brown?

Before you start freaking out at the sight of brown, dark water, remember that it’s not what you think it is! Brown water that comes from your tap is not actually feces, waste, or sewage. Discoloured water is usually reddish, yellow, or brown and comes from built-up deposits of minerals, sediment, or rusted pipes. Iron and manganese are common culprits. Keep in mind that rusty brown water may also have a bad smell and taste, so if you notice something unusual when drinking tap water, take a closer look.

How dangerous is it?

Many new homeowners who have never encountered this situation often worry that the brown, discoloured, or murky water is hazardous to their health or well-being. Often, however, this is not the case, and the discoloured water is not poisonous or toxic. While it does depend on what minerals and sediments are causing the issue, iron and manganese are not dangerous in tap water. However, they affect the colour, smell, and taste of your water and may stain your clothes or cause rashes in the short term. Left untreated, however, rusted pipes can be dangerous and breed bacteria, as well as further damage your water pipes and expose them to other contaminants. So, it’s still important to act promptly, though you don’t need to be worried if you accidentally drank or bathed in the water before realizing it. Just don’t make a habit of it or continue to drink it, as this is not recommended.

Causes of Discoloured Water

Now that we’ve covered what actually contributes to the brown, murky colour of discoloured tap water, we can explain some of the main causes of this type of water. Keep in mind that there are different reasons why your water could be discoloured and may even be from multiple issues. Sometimes, there may be a problem with your main water supply pipe or a break in a nearby fire hydrant. Below are some of the most common reasons as to why you may be experiencing discoloured tap water.

Damaged or New Water Pipes

This is the most common reason for discoloured, brown tap water in residential homes. Did you recently switch your water pipes? The commotion and change in pressure during the switch may have caused some old rust to move into your water supply and present itself in your water. If you haven’t had a change in pipes, then it may be because your existing water pipes are damaged and now need to be replaced.


Nearby construction can cause debris and dirt to infiltrate your water supply. Take a look outside to check if there is construction near you or new developments or buildings going up around you. If this is the cause, it’s usually temporary, and the water should return to normal after a couple of hours.

Rusted Pipes

Another common reason for discoloured water coming from your faucet is rusted or corroded pipes in your water system. Rust from these pipes can break off and taint your water supply. This will happen more frequently and be more noticeable when the water pressure gets higher and flows quickly through the pipes.

Water Heater Issues

One way to tell if it is your water heater causing the issue is to determine whether the discoloured water is coming from hot water only or both hot and cold water. If it is only rusty or discoloured when the hot water is turned on, then the issue is likely from your water heater needing to be replaced or flushed out. If this is the case, you may need to have your water heater inspected to determine the problem and have it fixed.

What to Do

If you notice a change in your water’s colour, you should first try running it on cold for about 30 minutes to see if it clears up. If this doesn’t clear it up, you may want to ask your neighbours to see if they are also having issues. If they are also having problems, it may be something that your town’s utility provider can assess and correct. If you are the only one that seems to have an issue, contact a professional who can check your pipes and address the problem. Here at Brothers Plumbing, we have a dedicated team of plumbers and technicians who provide both commercial and residential water services.

Now that you know why your tap water becomes rusty and what could be causing it, you should be better equipped to deal with rusted pipes in a calm and efficient manner. While you should work to get the issue resolved quickly for you and your family’s comfort, rest assured that it is most likely not as dangerous or gross as it looks.

For more information on plumbing and water services or to get help with your rusted pipes, call Brothers Plumbing at 800-742-0018 or contact us here. We have served Richmond Hill and the Greater Toronto Area for decades. Our team of trusted professionals would be more than happy to provide our expertise and knowledge to help serve you and address your needs.

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