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7 Causes of Yellow Water from Tap & How to Get Rid of It

Scott Winfield
Last Updated on
by Scott Winfield

Yellow tap water can be a worrying sight, especially since water serves critical human needs. Should you start worrying about your health? What could be the cause?

The primary cause of yellow coloration in tap water is rusty iron pipes. Iron pipes corrode over time due to oxidation, forming rust. As water flows through pipes, it gets contaminated by the rust’s yellow pigmentation.

yellow water
yellow water

Why Is My Water Yellow All of a Sudden?

Your water is suddenly yellow because of:

  • Rusty pipes
  • Rusty water heater
  • Change in water source
  • Pipe maintenance
  • Burst pipes
  • Corroded faucets

1. Rusty Pipes Can Cause Yellow Tap Water

Rust is the common cause of yellow color in water. If your home’s plumbing has iron, the pipes will likely corrode over time. The yellow hue in your water lines results from oxidation.

When iron comes into contact with oxygen in water, it reacts and forms rust. Unlike rust formed in everyday appliances, the rust in plumbing pipes has a deep yellow pigmentation.

Rusty Pipes
Rusty Pipes

Deep yellow rust is produced when oxidation occurs in a high moisture environment. Yellow rust, also known as iron oxide-hydroxide, is soluble in water.

A high amount of rust sediments may accumulate on the inner lining of your pipes and cause corrosion. The darker the yellow color in your water, the rustier your lines are.

Rusting occurs naturally within iron pipes, and the yellow water is typically safe for household use.

2. Rusty Water Heater Can Cause Yellow Coloration in Water

While water heaters are designed to resist rust, they’re also in danger of corroding. Using your water heater for years can lead to rusting.

Rusty Water Heater
Rusty Water Heater

Water heaters have a sacrificial anode rod that prevents the rest of the tank from rusting. The anode plays a “sacrificial” role by oxidizing itself so the rest of the tank can be rust-free.

If you notice a yellow tinge in your heater’s water, the tank has accumulated rust from the inside. The water heater will spill tiny quantities of rust into the hot water, leading to yellow discoloration.

3. Frequent Pipe Maintenance Can Contaminate Water

Pipe Maintenance
Pipe Maintenance

Maintaining plumbing pipes ensures a consistent supply of clean water. So, your local water supplier will likely conduct pipe maintenance at some point.

If the main pipe is old or has accumulated rust sediments, the local facility might repair or replace it. During maintenance/repair, rust and pollutants might find their way into your tap water.

The local facility may flush the pipes on the public water system. Flushing the pipes involves increasing water pressure for a while.

Then, the water runs through the pipes at high speed, dislodging rust attached to the taps’ inner surfaces.

When the flushed water reaches your home, you will notice yellow water coming from the taps.

4. Change in Water Source Can Cause Yellow Tap Water

Many reasons could lead to a change in the water source. For example, water suppliers can look for other options if the current water source becomes dry.

Change in Water Source

Changing a water source such as a river or reservoir can lead to yellow discoloration in the water. The switch can disrupt water flow.

If water from the new source comes with higher pressure than before, it might dislodge rust and other impurities on the water.

Switching water supplies can affect the water quality as the new water source might have contaminants. Some of these contaminants include iron, lead, zinc, and copper. If they find their way into your water pipes, the water’s look, odor, and taste can change.

5. Corroded Faucets

Corroded Faucets
Corroded Faucets

Most manufacturers use corrosion-resistant materials like stainless steel, brass, and zinc alloys when making faucets.

However, when used for years, the interior parts of the faucets can wear away, cause the corroded parts to mix with water as it flows form the faucet.

6. Burst Pipes Can Change Water Color

Burst pipes results from corrosion/damage and can change the water color.

Burst Pipes
Burst Pipes

The burst pipe will collect impurities and sediments from the environment, turning your water yellow. Unlike rust, pollutants in your water can cause serious health issues.

7. Fire Hydrant Use Can Cause Water Discoloration

The fire department may need to use the nearby fire hydrant in an emergency. Emergencies that use fire hydrants require large volumes of water at high pressure.

Fire Hydrant Use
Fire Hydrant Use

This may cause pressure fluctuations along the pipes. The water will dislodge rust and other sediments on the lines, causing water discoloration.

How To Get Rid of Yellow Water

Here are detailed steps to help you get back to the clear and crisp water.

Step 1: Locate the Source of the Yellow Water

Make sure to discover what’s causing the yellow discoloration in your water. Since there are several causes, be meticulous to avoid fixing areas that won’t help.

First, compare hot and cold water coming from various taps. Put hot water in a clear glass and repeat the same for cold water.

If the hot water is has yellow color, your heater could be a problem. On the other hand, if the cold water is colored, your taps or faucets could be the problem.

If it’s your faucets, you can determine the faulty ones by turning them on. Water from the corroded taps will have yellow discoloration.

In case all your faucets are okay, you could be dealing with rusty household plumbing. Call your professional plumber to assess your pipes and determine the cause of yellow water.

What if all your home pipes are okay? The yellow water could result from the mainline or water source.

Step 2: Adopt a Solution Based on Your Findings

After pinpointing the source, it’s time to find the ideal solution.

Replace the Pipes

If you’re sure your plumbing is the cause of yellow water, you can replace it with a new system. Call your plumber to determine the corroded pipes and do a replacement.

If possible, update the entire home plumbing system to avoid having the same problem with the older pipes.

If the discoloration results from a burst pipe within your home, repair it or call your plumber for assistance. Replacing pipes might be expensive, but new conduits will stay for years without rusting.

Sometimes, your conduits could have small amounts of corrosions that don’t require replacement. Your plumber might recommend flushing the pipes to get rid of the corrosion.

Fix the Water Heater

The best way to fix a rusty water heater is by flushing. Ensure to flush it thoroughly through the drain valve and drain all the water-carrying sediments.

Next, check the sacrificial anode rod to determine whether it’s rusty. You can call your plumber to replace the rode.

Flushing and replacing the sacrificial anode rod might not help much if the water heater is over ten years. The problem is likely to reoccur after a few days. With such a water heater, the best solution is to replace it.

Replace Corroded Faucets

Corroded faucets within your home are the simplest to fix. Before replacing, you can try flushing water for some time.

If the water pressure is high, it might dislodge all the corrosion from your faucets.

Alternatively, pour undiluted white vinegar onto the affected part. The vinegar will dissolve all the residue on your faucets. Next, turn the taps on to flush the residue out.

The two solutions might not be helpful for old faucets. The best way to get rid of the yellow water is to replace the faucets.

Replacing the taps on your own could result in shoddy work. Instead, call your plumber for assistance. Your plumber will also recommend stylish, high-quality faucets which complement your home décor.

Request Your Water Suppliers To Fix the Problem

Call your water supplier if the yellow water doesn’t come from faulty pipes, faucets, or water heaters. Perhaps they are conducting pipe maintenance or changing the water source. In most cases, your water supplier will inform you about the changes.

If your local suppliers are not aware of a burst pipe, you can inform them to fix it. Keep in mind that repairing a line might take longer.

What if it’s an emergency and the fire department uses the nearby fire hydrant? Pressure fluctuations will likely lead to water discoloration. Before the yellow discoloration clears, you can switch to bottled water or alternative sources.

Step 3: Implement the Solution and Check for Clean Water

You’ve now identified the problem and the solution. The next step is implementing the solution.

Whether calling your plumber for assistance or requesting the local water suppliers to fix the problem, be sure to do it right away.

You don’t want the yellow water to inconvenience your loved ones. If it’s an issue you can fix on your own, don’t postpone it.

Allow water to run for a while, and replace faucets or your water heater. Aim at doing an excellent DIY job to avoid the problem from recurring.

Conduct another water test after fixing the problem. Turn on all your faucets and put water in different glasses of water. If the water is clear, rest assured the issue is gone.

Clearwater doesn’t always guarantee safe water for drinking. Smell and taste the water to ensure your water doesn’t have a funny smell and taste.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is bathwater yellow?

The yellow color in your bath water is likely due to rust. When the iron in your pipes gets into contact with oxygen in water, it reacts through oxidation, forming rust.

When there’s a high accumulation of rust in your home plumbing system, your bath water will have a yellowish tinge. Other causes of yellow bath water include rusty water heaters, corroded faucets, and rusty water from your suppliers.

What’s the cost of getting rid of yellow water?

For small tasks such as unclogging your faucets or replacing them, expect to pay $120 to $300.

The costs of replacing your old plumbing system will vary between $2000 to $15,000. Expenses might be higher depending on pipe location, the number of pipes, and how many rooms your home has.

Will yellow water go away naturally?

If the yellow tinge in your water comes from a change in water source, repair of main pipes, or recent flush of the mains, it should go away naturally. Leave your faucets on to clear all the residue in your lines away.

If your pipes or water heater are rusty, the rust will clear itself up after flushing them thoroughly. The clear-up will depend on the quantity of rust in your water heater and pipes.

How long does it take for yellow water to go away?

Yellow water in your home plumbing system should go away in about five to 10 minutes or less. However, time may vary depending on the cause of the discoloration.

If it’s due to repairing or replacing the mains, the yellow water might take hours to go away. Sometimes it takes more than 24 hours if your water suppliers have changed the water source.

Is yellow water safe to drink?

Yellow water resulting from a rusty home plumbing system is safe to drink. However, it’s advisable to know the materials used for making your pipes. If it’s copper, the yellow water can be unsafe.

If the yellow water comes from the main pipes or the source, you should not drink it. Instead, contact your suppliers to know the cause and, in the meantime, drink bottled water.

Is yellow water safe to bathe in?

Bathing in yellow water is safe. It could be your pipes, faucets, or water heater that are rusty.

But no one wants to bathe for days in yellow water. Call your plumber to determine the source of the problem and fix it. If it’s coming from your source, call them to learn about the cause of yellow discoloration.

Can a water softener cause yellow water?

Water softeners can turn clear water yellow. A water softener distributes sodium molecules to make the hard water soft.

Once softened, the water contains excessive minerals and byproducts that cause yellow discoloration in your tap 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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