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Discolored Water: Causes, Fixes & Prevention


plumbing system that provides clear running water is a commodity often taken for granted. When the faucet begins to spew brownish or red-tinted liquid, however, it becomes a matter of concern. What changes the color of tap water on these occasions, and how can it be fixed? Better yet, how can one prevent it from happening in the future?

What are the Causes?

The rusty discoloration of faucet water is normally caused by the loosening of iron and manganese sediment from the bottom of the pipes. This event can be induced by a variety of operations that increase or change the flowing water’s velocity. When a main breaks, water is often rerouted during the repair. The change can cause vibrations in the pipe, stirring up sediment. Firefighters’ use of hydrants can also interfere with the consistent flow through the lines. Sometimes a water treatment facility is started up or shut down and affects the speed of the traveling water as well.

Discolored water can occasionally occur when old, galvanized iron pipes release rust into the moving water. In this case, the problem is chronic and somewhat common in neighborhoods with closed loop plumbing systems. If the tinge of color appears only when hot water is running, it could be the result of a faulty hot water heater.

How Can It Be Fixed?
Discoloration usually goes away after the water has been running for a few minutes. The flushing may need to be repeated several times, but the issue should be resolved within a few hours unless the hot water heater is failing. If the problem persists, a plumber can flush the main or replace the pipes. The rust may be detected in water from only one faucet, requiring a simple repair. On the other hand, the damage might be quite extensive, possibly involving a large part of the internal plumbing as well as the water mains in the street.

Various water resource authorities have tested discolored water for coliform bacteria and found none. The small amounts of iron and manganese oxides that turn the water a red, orange, or brownish hue are not harmful but can stain white clothing. Homeowners should refrain from doing laundry until the discoloration is eliminated.

How Do I Prevent It?

The best form of prevention is maintenance. Hot water heaters and filtering devices should be routinely flushed and kept in good repair. Old rusted pipes should be replaced. Copper is a popular choice, although other products are on the market such as PEX (cross-linked polyethylene).

Bring in a plumber into your Oklahoma home to look over your plumbing system and make the necessary corrections. Call Hull Plumbing at (405) 246-9763 today!

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