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7 Reasons for Yellow Toilet Water & Effective Solutions

Scott Winfield
Last Updated on
by Scott Winfield

Flushing your toilet only to see the toilet bowl filling up with yellow water can be a disconcerting experience. While it may not harmful, yellow toilet water looks bad, might smell bad, and may discolor the toilet bowl in the long run if the root cause is not addressed.  

A number of issues, such as contaminated water, rusted pipes, and more, can cause the water in your toilet to turn yellow. Let’s go over potential causes and discuss solutions.

Yellow Toilet WaterSolutions
Rust and calcium buildup in toilet tankClean yellow stains with vinegar or borax powder OR Replace toilet pipes (if build-up is inside pipe) AND install a water filter & softener combo (We recommend the Springwell Filter & Softener Combo)
Rusted toilet pipesReplace iron toilet pipes AND install a whole house filter system (We recommend the Springwell whole house filter for tap water OR the Springwell iron filter for well water)
Rusted bolts in toilet cisternClean toilet water tank and bolts
Municipal water repair in progressWait for repairs to be completed
Contaminated water from sewer linesFind and patch leaky pipes
Stagnant water in toilet bowlRegularly flush your toilet
Water softener salt leaving residue in waterChange your water softener salt, OR get a salt-free water softener (We recommend Springwell salt-free water softener) OR Check water softener resin beads

Why Is My Toilet Water Yellow?

The most common culprit is rust and calcium buildup which usually manifests as hard water. In addition to rust and limescale buildup, water contamination at the source (tap or well water), or the salt in your water softener can also cause this problem.

Here’s a rundown of the common reasons why your toilet water is yellow:

1. Rust and Calcium Buildup Inside Toilet Tank Causes Yellow Toilet Water

If your water supply contains high amounts of minerals such as calcium and magnesium, then its a sign you’re dealing with hard water. Calcium and magnesium aren’t dangerous when present in small quantities but when combined with rust, they build up in your toilet tank and pipes which causes the water to turn yellow over time.

Rust and Limescale Buildup in Toilet Bowl Yellow Water
Rust and Limescale Buildup in Toilet Bowl

Depending on the location of the buildup, you’ll have to clean the limescale deposits or completely replace the toilet pipes. It’s easy to spot hard water deposits on the toilet, as they leave a crusty, white film over surfaces. If these deposits are in an easy-to-reach place like the sides of the toilet or the tank, you can clean them by scrubbing thoroughly with vinegar or borax powder. 

If limescale build-up are in the toilet pipes, then you may have to replace them with new ones. It’s best to hire the services of a qualified plumber. They will either replace the problematic pipes or clean them professionally.

However, before replacing pipes, we advise that you also lookout for other common signs of hard water such as skin irritation, difficulty using soap with water, e.t.c, to be absolutely sure you’re dealing with hard water.

Once you’ve confirmed hard water to be the cause of yellow toilet water, alongside replacing the toilet pipes, you should also install a water filter and softener system to remove the sediments & hard water minerals once and for all. The best water filter & softener combo to get is the Springwell Filter & Softener Combo.

2. Rusted Toilet Pipes Causes the Water to Turn Yellow

Similar to limescale buildup, rusted pipes is another very common reason for yellow toilet water in many homes. Toilet pipes made of iron corrodes over time which discolors the water to a dark brown, red or yellow color.

Rusted Toilet Pipes
Rusted Toilet Pipes

The best way to deal with rusted toilet pipes is to contact a professional plumber to replace the problematic pipes. If possible, beyond just replacing rusted toilet pipes, we’ll advice that you change all the iron pipes in your house since they’ll inevitably rust eventually.

Alongside replacing pipes, you should also install a water filter system (if you don’t already have one) to remove rust and sediment residue. We recommend the Springwell whole house filter for tap water OR the Springwell iron filter for well water.

3. Rusted Bolts in Toilet Cistern

If rusted toilet pipes aren’t the culprit, then it might just be the toilet tank itself. The toilet cistern is usually held together by iron bolts, and they’re susceptible to rust due to their frequent exposure to water. This, in turn, leads to colored water in the bowl.

Cleaning Rusty Toilet Cistern
Cleaning Rusty Toilet Cistern

You can easily check if this is the issue by lifting the lid of the cistern and peering inside. If you see rust, empty the tank and clean the rust with a bristle brush. Scrub gently to avoid damaging the cistern. When you finish, flush a few times so there is no rust residue at the bottom.

If the bolts are too rusty and you can’t clean them, then you need to replace the bolts.

To prevent further issues, flush the toilet tank with a cup of hydrogen peroxide once a month. Hydrogen peroxide solution prevents limescale scale and rust accumulation in the toilet tank.

4. Municipal Water Repairs in Progress

When repair works are in process, the water from your local municipality might turn yellow. 

Municipalities usually cut off the water supply for repair works and turn it on when it’s over. The sudden influx of water stirs up the accumulated dirt particles in the water supply pipes, delivering them to your faucets and toilet tank.

In addition, the municipality sometimes flushes the system to eliminate any organic components and dirt. The components pass through household systems, resulting in yellow or brown water, but it should turn clear once the dirt is flushed out.

You can ask your neighbors whether they are suffering from the same problem to check if this is the issue. If that’s the case, call related local departments or authorities to confirm whether a municipality flush has happened.

If municipality water repair is in progress, wait until it’s back to normal.

5. Contaminated Water from Sewer Lines

On rare occasions, wastewater in the sewer lines can find its way to your toilet. It inevitably results in contamination and might lead to yellow or brown water, accompanied by unpleasant and invasive smells.

Sewer-contaminated water clearly poses a health hazard, especially if it reaches faucets and taps. If you think your water has sewer contamination, act fast and call a qualified plumber to do an inspection and disinfect your toilet bowl.

Furthermore, schedule regular inspections of your toilet’s water supply and sewer pipes. If any pipes have structural damage or leakages, arrange for an immediate fix.

6. Stagnant Water in Toilet Bowl

Stagnant water in the toilet bowl can turn yellow due to dust, bacteria accumulation, and chlorine residual. This is an issue especially if you rarely use your toilet.

As a general principle, the longer you leave the stagnant water, the higher the chances of water discoloration. The only solution to stagnant water in toilet bowl is to regularly flush your toilets.

Stagnant Water in Toilet Bowl
Stagnant Water in Toilet Bowl

Alternatively, hire a local property manager to manage your house when you’re away. They regularly inspect and maintain your property.

If you’re going on vacation, you can treat your toilet with baking soda or household bleach beforehand. This keeps your toilet stain-free and prevents unpleasant smell.

However, don’t use harsh bleach in the cistern as it corrodes vital system components.

7. Water Softener Salt Leaving Residue in Water

Although very rare, another possible reason for yellow water in your toilet bowl is that your water softener salt is leaving residue in the water. This particularly happens if your use pellets salt (i.e salts in yellow bag) in your water softener.

While the yellow stain may eventually go away without intervention, it’s best to avoid the problem altogether by using a different type of water softener salt or switching to a salt-free water softener if the issue persists.

Asides the salt, another problematic aspect of a water softener that can cause your toilet water to turn yellow is if you recently installed a new water softener resin. This isn’t a serious problem and the yellow water should return to normal after a couple of regenerations, however, it may persist for longer if the resin is of poor quality or is solvent-free. So, it’s important to use a high-quality resin in your water softener.

Lastly, also consider the resin beads in a brine tank. These beads are often yellow in color and may discolor the water when they break.

Conclusion

The yellowness in your toilet might be caused by easily solvable issues such as yellow softener salt, municipal flushes, or stagnant water in toilet bowl. However, there are more complex cases like rusted pipes, water hardness, broken resin beads, or contamination, which may require you to call a professional plumber.

Regardless, it’s best practice to regularly test your water.

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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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