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Why Is the Water in My Toilet Orange/Brown?

Troubleshooting from George Brazil

Wondering what’s causing that nasty rust color in your toilet?

We’ll help you troubleshoot the problem. But first, do this: Turn on other cold/hot water taps in your house.

Do you see that rust color in other plumbing fixtures (sinks/showers/etc.) as well?

If so, you may have too much iron in your water.

But if you see that orange/brown color in just your toilet it may be a supply pipe to the toilet that is rusting.

Let’s go into more detail about each of these scenarios and how to fix each problem.

Rust color just in toilet? You may have a rusted pipe

Every home has a main water supply line that brings water into the house. The main supply line pushes water into smaller pipes that feed all of your water appliances, including your toilet.

If a smaller supply pipe that feeds only your toilet is beginning to rust, you’ll see red, orange or brownish water in just the toilet.

Why is my toilet pipe rusting?

Rust is a normal chemical reaction that occurs when when iron and oxygen come in contact with water. Outdated pipe materials like galvanized steel are more prone to rust than newer plastics like PVC or PEX.

Rust isn’t necessarily harmful to your health, but it does cause problems like:

  • Reduced waterflow or clogs, due to rust and mineral deposit buildup
  • Leaky pipes because the metal is weakened from the rust

How can I fix a rusted pipe?

Hire a plumber to find and replace your rusted pipe. If the rusted pipe is in a small, secondary line the fix should be fairly easy. But if you see that orange/brown color in other parts of your home, you may have a bigger problem…

Rust color everywhere? You may have too much iron in your water

An excess of iron in your home’s water creates rust (iron + oxygen), which means you’ll notice orange/brown colors in multiple plumbing fixtures. In severe cases of iron excess, you could have iron bacteria, which live and multiply by oxidizing dissolved iron.

If you have too much iron/iron bacteria, you’ll also notice signs like:

  • Metallic or bloody tasting water
  • Musty or swampy smell
  • Stained clothes

Why your water has too much iron in it

Most often, an excess of iron or iron bacteria comes from residential iron pipes that have corroded, which lets the iron mix with the home’s water. If your home was built before 1960, you may have cast iron plumbing that is beginning to corrode.

Iron excess is also more common if you have a private groundwater source, such as a well, where iron from the surrounding soil can seep in when the soil is saturated.

How to reduce iron in your water

If you notice any of the signs we mentioned above, contact a plumber to test your water’s iron levels. If the test indicates you have high concentrations of iron, your plumber may recommend a water softener or chemical treatment to reduce the amount of iron in the water (which will cut down the bacteria).

In serious cases of iron excess, your plumber may recommend an aeration system, which converts iron into a form that can be easily filtered and removed from your home’s water.

If you have iron bacteria in your water, your plumber may recommend using chlorine or shock chlorination to kill the bacteria.

Does your home’s water have too much iron in it? All of your plumbing may be rusted out

Like we mentioned earlier, your home’s plumbing system is made up of many interconnected supply pipes. If you’re seeing that orange/brown discoloration in many plumbing fixtures in your home, it could mean that your home’s old steel pipes need to be replaced with newer, rust-resistant pipe materials like PVC or PEX.

Repiping can be expensive, but if you have widespread rust, it’s necessary to prevent serious leaks or water damage to your home.

Contact a plumber for an estimate on repiping your home if you suspect most or all of your pipes are rusted. Steel pipes generally start rusting after about 40-50 years, so if your pipes are that old, it may be time to replace them.

Read our related article about repiping, “8 Signs You Need to Repipe Your Arizona Home.”

Need an AZ plumber to get rid of that gross color?

Contact George Brazil Plumbing to schedule an appointment with one of our trusted plumbers. We’ll fix your rusted pipes or iron excess so you don’t have to worry about that gross color anymore.

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