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4 Reasons For Brown Hot Water & Solutions

Scott Winfield
Last Updated on
by Scott Winfield

Why is my hot water brown all of a sudden? Water supply contamination, sediments at the bottom of water heater or rusty pipes are common causes of brown hot water.

What To Do if Your Hot Water Is Brown

1. Sediments Gathered at the Bottom of Water Heater Can Cause Brown Hot Water

Like many household appliance, water heaters need routine maintenance to run properly. Failing to have your water heater regularly maintained may cause minerals and other sediments to gather within the heater. The most common sediment deposit found in residential water heaters is calcium carbonate.

Sediments Gathered at the Bottom of Water Heater
Sediments Gathered at the Bottom of Water Heater

Sediments can kill a water heater over time without proper maintenance. Ensure to flush the tank each year to prevent excessive scaling.

The flushing process of a water heater involves turning off the heat source — electric or gas — then draining the water tank.

How To Flush Your Hot Water Heater

  1. Shut off the heat source. If it’s an electric water heater, turn off the electric switch. If it’s gas, put the water heater in pilot mode.
  2. Stop cold water supply into the heater by putting a hose into to the bottom of the water tank at the drain valve. Place the other end of the hose outside, in the bathtub or on the floor.
  3. Turn on the hot water at the faucet and open the drain valve. Allow the water to drain through the hose until the tank is empty.

Refill your empty tank with water from the cold water supply. Ensure that the drained water runs clear before finishing the process.

2. Corroding Water Heater Can Make the Hot Water Brown

A rusting or corroding water heater is another reason for hot brown water. Without proper maintenance, you may be unaware of the rapid deterioration of your heater. Typically, water heaters serviced routinely have a lifespan of about 15 years or more.

Corroding Water Heater
Corroding Water Heater

When there’s noticeable rust on the outside of your water heater, it will likely rust or corrode inside. It’s only a matter of time before it fails to function. Unfortunately, if rust is your problem, that usually calls for replacement.

Once replaced, establish a schedule for routine maintenance. Keep an eye on the heater for any signs of rust – the sooner you notice it, the better.

Identifying Corrosion

Corrosion occurs when oxygen from water reacts with the water heater. It’s possible to recognize corroding by looking at the outside of the heater.

Here are a few things to look for:

  • Rusting valves and pipe fittings
  • Leaking water tank
  • Rusting connection pipes

If you identify water heater corrosion as the main cause of brown hot water, contact a professional to have a look.

3. Older Galvanized Pipes Can Turn Hot Water Brown

Galvanized pipes have a zinc coating to prevent rusting. Plumbing systems in homes built before 1960 have a higher chance of using galvanized pipes.

Older Galvanized Pipes
Older Galvanized Pipes

Over time, the pipes rust from excessive water exposure, resulting in brown water. The easiest way to figure out if you have galvanized pipes is to check both hot and cold water. Galvanized pipes affect both temperatures, not just hot water.

The remedy is to replace the old galvanized pipes with erosion-resistant PVC pipes.

4. Brown Hot Water Might Be a Sign Of Water Supply Contamination

Although the Safe Drinking Water Act protects tap water quality, contaminated water supply is still a problem in many cities.

Water Supply Contamination
Water Supply Contamination

Signs of contaminants in your water supply include:

  • Cloudy water
  • Yellow water
  • Brown or orange water
  • Chlorine smell (water treatment plants use chlorine to decontaminate water)
  • Metallic taste

How Concerned Should You Be?

Clean water is a necessity for many things in your daily life — cooking, cleaning, bathing, drinking, and washing hands. Sometimes, brown water takes care of itself, but if you live in a rural area, it may cause more concern. Brown water is often the result of a deeper issue, such as corrosion, and not the only problem with your water system.

Ignoring brown water places the health of your loved ones at risk. Water quality affects more than just you. It also affects domestic animals and people that may be immunocompromised.

Is Brown Water Safe to Drink?

No, brown water isn’t safe to drink. Never consume brown water. Even if the reason is as simple as excess iron or calcium carbonate, the after-effects aren’t worth the risk.

Is Brown Water Safe for Bathing?

Though unappealing, brown water may be less harmful for bathing and showering. Showering would be the superior choice, as you aren’t soaking your entire body in rust.

If you smell sulfur or chlorine, don’t bathe unless you have no other options.

Can I Boil Brown Water?

Technically, yes, you can boil brown water. However, it’s not ideal for drinking. The only exception is if your city issues a boil water advisory.

Boil water advisories are issued upon identification of the contamination source. If you take it upon yourself to boil your brown water (without a boil water advisory), there’s no guarantee that you killed any bacteria.

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Scott Winfield
Scott Winfield
My name is Scott Winfield and researching and writing about water filters and other strategies to purify water has become my full time passion in recent years. I'm glad that you found our site and you can look forward to authoritative and well researched content here to help you get the best in water.
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