What to Do When Rusty Water Comes Out of the Faucet

Rusty water running into a white sink

You turn on the faucet, expecting to fill your glass with clear, clean water. Instead, brownish stuff gushes out of the tap. What’s wrong with your water, and do you need plumbing repair? Can you use this water for drinking, washing dishes, showering or doing the laundry?

If your water looks brown, it might be due to rust. While this water is probably not dangerous to drink, the high mineral content isn’t good for everyday use. It may stain your hair and clothing, and can also make it more difficult to keep dishes and other objects clean. Here’s how to tell what’s wrong with your water so you can make the appropriate plumbing repairs.

Where is the rusty water coming from?

You might be able to pinpoint the cause of the rusty water, depending on where the water is coming from. For example, if it’s only rusty when you’re using hot water, it could be an issue with your water heater. If the water is rusty in just one location, this indicates that a local pipe might be to blame. If your entire house is experiencing rusty water, then there may be an issue with an outdated water main.

What causes rusty water?

Rusty water can be caused by internal and external factors. For example, if you own an older home with outdated plumbing, you might have rusty water due to galvanized pipes. Alternatively, your hot water heater may have an excess of sediment buildup, sending rusty water through the pipes and out the faucets. Determining where, when and how the rusty water is occurring will help you figure out any potential internal cause. In many cases, you may have to replace your pipes or hot water heater.

However, the problem might not be with your plumbing at all. Public water mains can accumulate rust, especially if work has been done on the water mains or fire hydrants have been recently flushed. This disturbs the water pressure and may kick up rust and other sediment as normal water pressure builds back up. This means the rusty water will be present in every faucet and fixture in your home. It may clear up within a few hours. In the meantime, refrain from bathing, drinking or doing laundry with tap water.

If the rusty water doesn’t disappear after a few hours, it may be time to call for plumbing repair.

What to do when you notice rusty water

Once you notice rusty water, the first thing you should do is determine whether it’s an internal or external problem. If it seems to be external, call your water supply company to find out if there’s a known issue with the system. It may clear up on its own, or the water company may handle the issue on your behalf.

If the problem is internal, call your local plumbing repair service for assistance. The team at PlumbSmart Plumbing Heating and Air can help find the source of the problem and make any necessary repairs or replacements.