What to Do When you Encounter Rusty Water

Have you ever turned on your shower and were greeted with an unexpected stream of rust-colored water? We expect water coming from our tubs and faucets to be clean and clear, so why are you seeing rust-colored water?

If the color and taste of your water has suddenly changed, then it could be possible that rust is the culprit. Before you make assumptions as to where it’s coming from (inside your house or from your water source), you first want to ask yourself a few questions:

  • How old are the pipes in your house?
  • How old is your water heater?
  • Are you getting your water from a well?
  • If using public water, how old is the system in your neighborhood?

The next step is to try and draw some conclusions –

  1. Does it have a rusty odor (metallic-like)?
  2. Is the water a reddish brown, yellowish or more brown color?
  3. Are you seeing ‘rust’ stains in your sink, tub, or toilet?

Is it safe?

For most people, rust in the water will not pose a health hazard, but since rust particles are basically oxidized iron, it’s a good idea to solve the problem as soon as possible and avoid drinking excess amounts.

How to determine whether it’s coming from your water supply or your home

There are a few steps you can take to troubleshoot the source of the problem. Of course, you should always consult with a professional before making any repairs. You won’t want to deal with additional repairs at the expense of breaking a valve, or cracking an old pipe. Try these tests first before you call your favorite plumber:

  • Start by running the water from the fixture that is producing the rusty water. Does it run continually rust-colored or just the first few seconds? Try this a few times to see if there is a difference.
  • Run the cold tap a few times and test the water, then run the hot water a few times with the same test.

If you’re only seeing discolored water coming from the hot water tap, or if it starts out with the appearance of rust then runs clear, then it’s likely that the heart of the problem is in your home. If the water is continuously running rust-colored, then you should call your water authority immediately and report the problem.

If the problem is inside the home, what could this mean?

If your sample test determines that the problem is coming from your home water system, then it could possibly mean that corrosion may have built up on your pipes if it’s coming from the cold water tap. If the rust is coming from your hot water tap, then it may mean your hot water tank is corroding as well. Muddy water or increased amounts of sediment in your water is a sign that it is time to consider a replacement. Once the unit begins to corrode, it will continue to corrode until it ultimately fails. If you’ve had your water heater for more than 5 years, you may need a new anode rod to draw corrosive particles out of the water (most units last 8-12 years, on average). Considering a tankless water heater? You can read more about the advantages in our recent blog.

If you’d like an inspection performed on your water heater, or concerned about the possibility of corroded pipes in your home, contact us today to speak to a technician.