Is Rusty Water Unhealthy?

Rusty Water could be pipes or water heater

According to the EPA, rusty water doesn’t pose a health problem. But it’s not something to ignore.

It’s critical to find the cause of the rusty water.

What Causes Rusty Water?

Rusty water is reddish-brown or a yellowish color. It’s caused by a chemical reaction. When minerals in water (such as manganese) combine with metal (usually iron or steel alloy) and oxygen you’ll get corrosion.

That corrosive process literally eats away at the metal. In the process, tiny flecks of iron oxide and mineral sediments enter the water, causing the cloudy reddish-brown color and sometimes even a foul smell or taste.

Likely Sources?

So where could the discoloration originate? Here are the most likely sources:

  • water heater
  • old metal water pipes within your home
  • municipal pipe breaks
  • iron or manganese bacteria in well water

How to Identify if the Water Heater is the Source

First, turn on the cold water tap only. Does the cold water run clear? If it does, turn off the cold water. Then turn on only the hot water tap. If only the hot water tap runs rusty, you’ve quickly found that the water heater is most likely the source, especially if it’s eight or more years old.

Water heaters have a shorter life expectancy in our area. That’s because of the high mineral content in our tap water. The higher the mineral content in water, the faster the internal tank of a tank water heater corrodes.

Likewise, if you have a tankless water heater, the high mineral content causes the heat exchanger inside to corrode.

At first the corrosion in either a tank style or tankless water heater will result in fluctuations in hot water or inefficiency. But eventually the corrosion will actually rust through and leak or even flood the surroundings.

High Mineral Content in Fallbrook, Bonsall, Temecula, Vista and Oceanside Water

The high “hardness” level in the water in our area means we have a high mineral content. You can find the hardness level in the “Consumer Confidence Report” required by the EPA by visiting the water company’s website:

If Rusty Water Comes Only From Hot Water – Check Water Heater

The most likely source of the rusty water is the water heater if only the hot water is rusty. And it’s primarily the minerals in our tap water that shorten the life of our water fixtures and appliances, especially our water heaters.

So if your tank water heater is eight or more years old and your hot water looks rusty, it’s time to replace the water heater BEFORE the corrosion eats through the entire tank and causes flooding.

Not the Water Heater? – Then Hot Water Pipe

If your tank water heater is less than eight years old, it’s a good idea to drain it and look at the drain water to see if it looks rusty or contains excessive sediment. If it does not look rusty, then the rusty water may be coming from a metal portion of the hot water piping in your house.

The hot water pipe or portion of the pipe has become corroded from high mineral content. In that case, we can replace the portion of the pipe that’s corroded.

Prevent or Delay Corrosion in Water Heater & Pipes

You can lengthen the life of your tank or tankless water heater and other water appliances in two ways. First tank-style water heaters need to be drained and flushed twice a year.

We offer a drain and flush service for tank-style water heaters. We can check your anode rod inside a tank water heater at the same time. An anode rod is a metal rod that “sacrifices” itself to corrosion inside the tank, thereby saving the metal tank from corrosion. We can replace the nearly-devoured anode rod before it is completely eaten away by corrosion.

This water heater had been drained by homeowner but not properly flushed.

Here is mineral sediment from a tank-style water heater. We drain old tank water heaters before removing them.

We offer draining and flushing services. Tank water heaters need to be drained and flushed at least once a year. Draining and flushing delays corrosion to lengthen the life of water heaters.

This is the inside of a tankless water heater. The turquoise color is actually corrosion of the heat exchanger caused by minerals in our hard water. This tankless water heater had never been flushed.

Tankless water heaters need to be flushed at least once yearly. We offer this service to lengthen the life of your tankless water heater.

Corroded Heat Exchanger in Tankless Water Heater

let us flush a tankless water heater to keep it working efficiently and extend its life

We want to help you lengthen the life of your water heater by servicing it at least once a year. However, when it is time for a new water heater we can help you decide whether a tank water heater or a tankless style is best for your needs and budget. We offer both. Find out more here.


Water Softeners Also Help Prevent Corrosion & Rusty Pipes, Lengthening Life of Water Heaters, Water Appliances and Water Pipes

By removing most of the minerals in our tap water, water softener systems will help prevent rusty water and corrosion. All your water appliances will sparkle too. Find out more here and here.

Water softeners also lengthen the life of metal water pipes. You may have water pipes that have portions of PEX pipes mixed with metal pipes from previous pipe leak fixes.

Of course we offer re-piping and fixing pipe leaks, but we want to help you to prevent them in the first place. Water softeners will help reduce minerals that cause corrosion within any part of the water pipes that are metal.

If Both Hot & Cold Water Run Rusty

Test to see if both hot and cold taps run cold separately by turning them on and off. If they both run rusty, it could be a break in a the municipal water line. You can find out by calling your water company.

Or if you’ve been on an extended vacation, both the hot and cold could run rusty because the water has sat inside the pipes and you have metal pipes or metal portions of both pipes. In that case, you can run both taps for until both run clear. Of course try to save that water in containers to use for plants. It’s a good idea to not drink water from your tap immediately when you return after an extended time. That’s because bacteria builds up in stagnant water. Read a study about bacteria in a home’s water line and how water quality impacts our immune system here.

If Your Well Water Runs Rusty

If your well water begins to run rusty from both hot and cold pipes, it usually means you either have old iron pipes that have become corroded or high iron and/or manganese in your soil.

We can test your well water. And again, although the rusty-looking water isn’t harmful, it does stain your porcelain and even clothing.

So it’s a good idea to install a water treatment system to reduce or eliminate most of the minerals.

If your home needs re-piping, we can of course do that too!

Call us! 760-594-1226 We’re Expert Troubleshooters!

Regardless of the source of your rusty water, we will find it. We guarantee your satisfaction. Plus we’re the lowest-cost, highest-quality plumber in the area.

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