Don’t Ignore Rusty Water

You go to take a drink of water from your faucet, just like you always do, but it tastes funny. You take a closer look and notice a slight rust color, or strange bits floating in the water. What’s the problem? You could be dealing with rusty pipes, and if that’s the case, you need to get them checked out immediately.

First things first: figure out whether or not you’re really dealing with rust. Rust is fairly easy to identify, even if you’re not a scientist. It has a distinctive reddish-brown color, and it both smells and tastes metallic. It can also stain your appliances and towels, so if you notice red-brown stains, consider rust as a possible source.


There are a number of ways that rust could get into your water supply, and although it can be unpleasant, it’s not necessarily a health hazard. Even so, you probably don’t want to drink and cook with rust-flavored water, or wash your clothes in it. People who are sensitive to iron may also have issues, so either way, it’s better to figure out the source and remedy it as soon as possible.

Most rusty water doesn’t come directly from the city itself, but it is possible. If you live in an area where the pipes may be older, it’s possible that rust is getting into the city’s water supply directly. However, most cities have infrastructure in place to avoid this.

Which means the problem is most likely coming from your own pipes. To test your home for rust in the water, run both the cold and hot water for several seconds before filling a glass to check for rust color and odor. Rust that’s present only in hot or cold water, or rust that goes away after you run the water for a bit, both indicate that the problem is your own pipes. Cold water rust or hot water rust mean different things, as well. Rust in your cold water indicates that it’s your home’s plumbing system that’s the problem, while rust only in the hot water indicates that your hot water heater is the source.

So, you’ve determined that you have rust in your water. Now what? Well, unfortunately, there’s no way to treat your plumbing for rust that will be effective. You have to consider replacement. It’s better to do this sooner rather than later, because untreated rust never gets better, only worse. Eventually the rust will corrode your pipes or water heater to the point that they break or fail, and then you’ll have an even bigger (and costlier) problem on your hands. A qualified plumber should be able to find the corroded pipes and replace them easily enough. If the problem’s with your water heater, you should also consider replacement, even if it’s a larger cost.

As far as prevention, there are some treatments or equipment that a professional plumbing company can install. Most water heaters come with an anode rod, which attracts rust and other corrosive elements to prevent them from latching on to the water heater itself, extending its lifespan. Ask your favorite local plumber for their recommendations.

No matter what, you’ll want to get rusty water fixed sooner rather than later. Don’t let it get worse!