What Causes Rusty Hot Water At Home?

What Causes Rusty Hot Water?

what causes rusty hot water

The reason behind rusty colored water is actually pretty straightforward. Since only iron and iron alloys can rust, any rust in your water is due to iron particles and contaminants.

Where does the rust in water pipes come from?

Many pipes are made of iron or iron alloys. When they corrode due to age or damage, the water picks up some of the rust on the inside of the pipe as it flows past. The iron and rust are usually so fine that it tints the water’s color sort of the same way food coloring does.

Many things may be causing your tap water to turn red or yellow with rust:

  • An influx of minerals from a well-water system or a rusty pipe.
  • More significant problems like damage to the hot water heater or entire hot water system.

Since well water and spring water are sourced from deeper in the ground rather than an open lake, it’s more likely to pick up minerals and metals along the way. These same minerals and metals are exactly what helps to filter and purify the water, making it taste better than lake water. However, when there’s too much it’s a problem.

Another factor that can cause excessive rusting and brown water is the heat. Cold water is less likely to contain rust than hot water because hot water creates the ideal environment in the pipes for bacteria to grow.

As a result, certain bacteria can speed up corrosion and leave more sediment behind that later gets flushed out as rust colored water.

Can You Get Sick From Rusty Water?

can you get sick from rusty water

As with most minerals, you won’t get an actual illness from consuming them if the water doesn’t contain additional bacteria. In the case of iron, it’s actually a vital part of our diets although we don’t normally consume amounts high enough to see. 

Remember that rust is merely oxidized iron so drinking water with a tiny bit of rust isn’t all that unusual.

Drinking or cooking with rusty water

If the water is only discolored, with no flakes, it’s generally safe to drink and cook with. However, it definitely can taste bad and, in the case of cooking, may ruin the food’s flavor. It is always best to only drink or cook with clear, filtered water.

While it’s unlikely and would take a lot of exposure, excessive rust consumption can make you sick. Too much rust in the water is unsafe. Consuming high levels of iron can lead to iron poisoning, which can lead to death.

With that being said, if you see a piece of rust in the water you shouldn’t drink it or even cook with it. If it’s large enough that you can see it, there’s a possibility that it cut you and lead to infection, internal bleeding, and iron poisoning.

What Are the Side Effects of Drinking Rusty Water?

Getting iron poisoning from water is unlikely. You have a greater chance of getting iron poisoning from taking too many supplements than from drinking tainted water.

However, it’s still a good idea to know the side effects of iron poisoning just in case. The effects include:

  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Dizziness
  • Racing or weak pulse
  • Low blood pressure
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fluid in lungs
  • Jaundice, gray, or blue skin
  • Seizures
  • Liver failure
  • Circularity system shock
  • Death

In the event of iron poisoning seek medical treatment right away. Iron poisoning typically takes a few days but can lead to severe consequences and death.

Is It Ok To Shower in Rusty Water?

is it ok to shower in rusty water

There is nothing inherently dangerous about showering in rusty hot water. The color is unpleasant looking and you may notice a different feel or smell to the water, but it won’t hurt your body or your skin.

Bathing in rusty water is a bit different. Bathing in rusty hot water may cause skin irritation or lead to yeast infections but you should be fine unless you have open wounds.

Rust can also leave your skin and hair feeling dry and odd-smelling and may even turn blonde hair orange, but it’s not dangerous. I don’t recommend getting rusty water near clothing or other fabric materials as they can be stained by it.

How Do You Fix Brown Hot Water?

how do you fix brown hot water

Calling a plumbing service is the best way to care for rust-colored water. Sometimes, you may need a water heater replacement or repair or just a tune-up to a rusty pipe. Whatever the situation, calling a professional plumber to get a professional opinion is usually the best option.

If you’re handy with tools and plumbing you can do it yourself, however. If you try to fix the problem on your own, you’ll first need to identify the source of the rust.

  • If the source of the rust is old pipes that are corroding, you’ll need to remove and replace them. If the rust is coming from further up the water supply chain you may need to call your town water supplier to check their pipes.
  • You should also check the hot water tank as the rust in the hot water system could be coming from something within that. (Rust in a water heater isn’t unusual as they age and sometimes replacement is necessary.)
  • Additionally, you can adjust the pH in the hot water system or add filters to your taps. Of course, if you add filters, you’ll need to clean and replace them after a time too.
James Marshall

About the author

James is a business management professional and consultant with a former background in maintenance, repair, and hands-on projects. He enjoys DIY tasks and maintenance around the home as well as part-time writing. Read more »