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My Toilet Water Is Brown (Is it Dangerous?)

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Don’t put up with brown water in your toilet. Find out the causes and what to do about them.

If you notice brown water in your toilet, you need to take action. Brown water is unsightly and can lead to heavy staining of your porcelain toilet. It also indicates an issue elsewhere in the plumbing system.

So, if you’ve ever asked, “why is my toilet water brown?” We have the answer and suggestions on how to fix it.

Dirty Brown Toilet Water

The biggest culprit for brown-colored toilet water is rusted pipes. Old water pipes are made of iron, which corrodes over time and turns the water a sludgy brown color. If there is no chlorine to reverse the effects of rusting, the problem gets worse until you have to replace the pipes at great expense.


Is Brown Water In a Toilet Dangerous?

Discolored water in your toilet bowl is not dangerous, but it is unsightly. Dirty water can leave stains on your porcelain, making your bathroom fittings look unhygienic.

It can be caused by something as simple as going on holiday and leaving stagnant water in the toilet bowl. When you return home after a vacation, the water in your toilet has turned brown.

However, don’t breathe a sigh of relief just yet because rusty sediment in your toilet is a red flag that there’s a problem elsewhere. And if you want to get rid of this dark water, you might need to do some investigation work.

Why Is My Toilet Water Brown?

Top view of dirty toilet bowl with limescale stain in the bathroom

To get to the core of the problem, you need to know the possible causes. Here is a list of the usual suspects and solutions to the problem.

Rusty Pipes

This is a problem in older houses with cast iron pipes and drains. Modern homes use plastic pipes that don’t rust, so you will likely have another issue if your water turns brown.

The Problem

Over time, water corrodes the pipework, causing them to rust. When that happens, the water flowing into your toilet turns brown. If left unchecked, the problem will only get worse.

How to Fix It

There are two ways to fix rusted pipes: one permanent, the other temporary. If you flush water softener and chlorine through the pipes, it reduces rust. However, the cloudy water will come back, so maybe you should consider the permanent option.

Replacing your pipework with modern equivalents will remove the dirty water issue and give you hassle-free service for years to come. It could also be an ideal opportunity to remodel your bathroom.

We realize that this solution is expensive and beyond some people’s means, but rust in your pipes will progressively get worse.

Mineral Deposits

Water contains microscopic natural minerals. Some areas have soft water, while others have hard water. Where you live makes a difference to the amount of damage scaling does.

The Problem

Mineral deposits coat the pipework that feeds water to your home. As the scaling gets worse, it can turn the water in your toilet a dirty brown color. Mineral deposits harden with age, and the problem gets worse.

Luckily, the solution is easy.

How to Fix It

You can go the natural route or use powerful chemicals to remove limescale. This Bioclean Hardwater Stain Remover is an excellent example of a shop-bought solution. It eats away at the minerals to leave your toilet bowl clean.

However, when you flush away the water, it washes the chemicals into the water system, poisoning the planet. A safer and more environmentally friendly fix is to use white vinegar and water.

Mix some vinegar into a spray bottle with water and apply it to the limescale. Wait 20 minutes before wiping the mineral deposits away with a cloth. You may have to do this a few times before the toilet is completely spotless.

Top Tip

Use a specified product for cleaning, like this Harris 30 Percent White Vinegar solution. It has a lower pH for less impact on the soil.

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Clogged Pipes

Water contains minerals and microscopic deposits that cling to the surfaces of your pipes. As they harden, they narrow the channels.

The Problem

Clogged pipes could cause brown water. As the channels narrow, the waste matter gets trapped and turns the water a filthy brown. This isn’t ideal because human waste sitting in your pipes is unhygienic and smelly.

It also restricts the free flow of water, even after flushing, which could worsen the problem and lead to a blockage.

How to Fix It

Luckily, you can buy products like Green Gobbler Liquid Clog Remover. It dissolves the mass in your waste pipes, allowing the water to flow again.

The other way to remove the issue is to use a drain snake, like this Drainsoon 25-Foot Auger. You feed it into the toilet bowl to remove the blockage.

Take Note

Your pipes will clog more rapidly if you flush face wipes and other sanitary products down the toilet. It may not happen straight away, but sooner or later, they will become blocked.

Broken Pump Filter

If your toilet has a weaker flush system, a water pump helps to recirculate the water and increase the flow. Like all mechanical components, they malfunction from time to time.

The Problem

Your pump needs water pressure for it to work correctly. Unfortunately, the mineral deposits in the water coat the working parts and silt up gaps between the components. Continued exposure to water leads to corrosion, which discolors the water.

How to Fix It

The best and cheapest solution is disconnecting the pump and cleaning it with a dry rag. You can also use WD-40 on rusted spots because it is a lubricant and cleaning agent.

If the pump is beyond salvage, the best option is to buy a new pump.

Valve Leak

Plumber fixing water hose on toilet cistern

Your toilet has a fill valve and attaches to a water supply valve. If either of these develops a leak, it could discolor the water.

The Problem

Any leak will rust the metal parts of your toilet (hinges, brackets, bolts) and turn the water brown. Leaks are also bad news because they could cause untold damage to floors, ceilings, electrical wires, and walls.

How to Fix It

If the fill valve is the culprit, it may be time to swap it for a new one. You will need to drain the tank by flushing the toilet several times. Then, unscrew the damaged fill valve and insert the new one.

Luckily, fill valves, like this Fluidmaster Universal Repair Kit, cost a small amount and are easy to replace. If your water supply valve is the problem, you may need to source a new valve and replace it.

Toilet Waste

One of the biggest reasons your toilet water turns brown is due to human waste sitting in the bowl. If left unflushed, the waste matter breaks down and discolors the water.

The Problem

Fecal matter and other waste material left in the toilet bowl will stain the porcelain when the water turns brown. Not only is it unhygienic and smells, but it’s also unsightly.

A blockage could be another reason why waste matter sits in your toilet. If you are unaware of a blockage, the first sign could be when the water changes color.

How to Fix It

Flush the toilet to remove the waste material. If the water turns brown after flushing, you probably have a blockage. You can use a drain unblocker, as mentioned before, or a drain snake. Another handy tool to use is a plunger.

This MR. SIGA Plunger and Brush Combo is popular on Amazon and does an excellent job clearing most blockages. Push the plunger up and down, and it should force the mass down the drain and into the sewer.

Another method of clearing a clogged toilet is to fill a five-gallon bucket with hot (not boiling) water and pour it into the toilet from height. The force of the water breaks up the blockage and pushes it down the drain.

Be Aware

If the blockage doesn’t shift using this method, you risk flooding your bathroom as the water backs up.

Municipal Work

Some things are beyond your control, especially when your municipal water company works on the supply line. It can contaminate all aspects of your water system, from the toilet to the septic tank.

The Problem

Your municipal water supplier may make regular repairs and upgrades to the system. This can sometimes disturb sediment or soil that finds its way into your toilet. A great way to tell if the issue is external is to turn on a faucet.

If the water in your toilet is brown but not in the sink, the problem lies with your toilet. If all the water is discolored, the issue sits with the supplier.

After Heavy Rain

When it rains hard, that water has to drain away somewhere. If there is enough excess water, it can overwhelm your drainage system.

The Problem

If you are unsure that the weather is to blame, check the water in your faucets. After a deluge of rain, the sewer and drainage pipes can flood, causing mud and silt to back up into your water supply. All of a sudden, this causes your toilet to flush dirty water.

If they run with discolored water, heavy rainfall is likely to blame.

FAQs

Why is My Water Brown In Only One Bathroom?

If you have brown water in one bathroom but not the other, you will likely have a blockage in that toilet. It could also be caused by a leaking valve or excess mineral deposits that have rusted the metal fittings.

Is It Safe to Shower In Brown Water?

While it is safe to shower in brown water, it isn’t recommended because the water is heavily laden with iron deposits.

Is Brown Water Safe to Drink?

Always assume that brown water is unsafe to drink, even when not. Brown water contains high levels of iron, which could affect your health. Also, brown water doesn’t look very appealing.


Final Thoughts

While brown water may not be as hazardous as it looks, it is still brown water! No one wants to drink or bathe in brown water, so why would you tolerate it in your toilet?

If left unchecked, it will stain white porcelain and leave your toilet looking unhygienic and unappealing.

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About the Author

Mark Weir

Mark spent 24 years working in real estate, so he knows his way around a home. He also worked with contractors and experts, advising them on issues of planning, investments, and renovations. Mark is no stranger to hands-on experience, having renovated his own home and many properties for resale. He likes nothing better than seeing a project through to completion.