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Why Is My Water Rusty?

Why Is My Water Rusty?

Your tap water can turn rusty if your home's water pipes or plumbing are older than 6 to 10 years. Rusty water is caused by sediments containing iron and copper that get into the pipes when water runs through them. They don't pose a health threat to humans, and the taste of rusty water is unpleasant but harmless. However, if left untreated, they may damage your plumbing system in the long run, so contact a knowledgeable plumber immediately. Mr. Rooter Plumbing can help before or after you need a plumbing service.

There are several reasons why your water might be rusty. Most of the time, it does not cause concern. However, if you live in an area with iron-rich water or are concerned about your water quality, use our guide to identify what's causing your rusty water and take steps to fix it.

Mineral Sediments

Water can be clear, but if it has a reddish tint, it's not necessarily safe to drink. This is because the color of the water is often the result of mineral sediments in the water.

Mineral sediments can have many causes:

  • Rust from metal pipes
  • Hair dye, which contains synthetic pigments that can stain water
  • Sediment deposited near natural reservoirs or lakes by wind or rain

The presence of rust in your home's plumbing system may cause red or orange stains on your bathtub, sinks, and toilets. These stains are caused by iron particles from deposits inside galvanized steel pipes, and this type of stain is common in older homes.

City Planning or Construction

The plumbing may be the culprit if you recently moved into a new home or apartment. Sometimes after construction is complete, the rubber gaskets used in plumbing joints can leak rust-colored particles into the water supply. If this happens at your home or apartment, call your landlord immediately to report it so they can get it fixed.

If you notice rust in your water, chances are good that it's due to something outside your home. Rusty water can occur when a nearby building site disturbs the ground and exposes iron-rich soil to rainwater runoff. This runoff is then carried into nearby streams and rivers and deposited into municipal water systems.

If you have rusty water from your tap, there's likely an issue with your plumbing system — a vent stack (or "stack") or trap in your drain system. Rust builds up inside these pipes over time, and the buildup can eventually restrict flow. The vent stack connects the drain pipe to the roofline vent stack (if present) and allows air pressure to equalize between the drain pipe and sewer line, so wastewater flows smoothly out of the house. A clogged vent stack will cause wastewater to back up in your drains, leading to extra strain on your plumbing system.

Old Pipes

Rusty water is a common problem, and it can be caused by several factors, including old pipes, water heater tanks, and service lines.

The water in your home flows through pipes made of different materials, such as copper, lead, and galvanized steel. These pipes are subject to corrosion from chemicals in the water supply and oxygen in the air. Over time, rust can develop inside these pipes, causing them to deteriorate and leak.

Another cause of rusty water is an old hot water heater tank. If you have an older tank, it may have been damaged during installation or over time by freezing temperatures or improper maintenance. A corroded tank can leak rusty sediment into your hot water supply.

Rusted service lines are another common source of rust-colored water. These underground pipes carry drinking water from the street into your home's plumbing system. If they become damaged — usually due to tree roots growing around them — they can leak into your good pump or septic system and contaminate your drinking water supply with rust particles that turn it brown or orange in color.

Mr. Rooter Plumbing

In the end, it comes down to a couple of causes. Usually, rusty water is a sign that your water system has too much iron in it. That being said, other factors could affect rusty-water production as well. Well-maintained and well-installed pipes are not an issue—the problem usually lies beyond your control. If you continue to experience issues with your water going rusty, consult Mr. Rooter Plumbing or ask your local city office how to proceed. Our plumbing service will consider any and all options for your specific needs.