So you just rose from the bed and you are about to sit in the bathtub for the morning soak before heading to work.
You turn the tap and…surprising enough, a brown mush drizzles down!
You rush to the sink hoping things are different, turn the tap, only to receive the same rusty drizzle.
So, What Does It Mean When Your Bathtub Water Is Brown? Is Brown Water Safe to Bathe in?
Discolored tap water is a sign of sediments leaking into your main water lines. Whether you can or can’t bathe in this water depends on the cause of the discoloration. The browner your water gets, the less likely it is safe for use.
Still, it’s an issue you must solve. While brown water may not look good on your white stainless steel sink or porcelain tub – unless you are certain of the presence of harmful dissolved chemicals – you can use it for almost every other purpose except drinking. In most cases, brown water clears on its own within hours. If it persists, you will need to take certain steps (more on this later).
What Causes Home Water to Turn Brown?
1. Old Pipes
Dissolved minerals and/or soil sediments are some of the top causes of brown tap water.
If you live in an old home or don’t maintain your plumbing the right way, chances are the plumbing has aged and needs to be replaced. Old plumbing eventually rusts, ejecting all that much into your water supplies.
It could as well be a result of a disturbance somewhere in your water supply system. If turbulence occurs in the pipes, it ends up stirring the deposits on the walls of the plumping, turning the water into a brown solution.
2. Construction Nearby?
Sometimes it has something to do with issues in the main supply lines or construction work taking place nearby.
3. Increased Demand
Other causes include an increase in water flow in the plumbing due to, say, increased demand or when your local fire department tries to use the fire hydrants to put out a fire.
Again, in these two cases, the abrupt increase in the flow of water may dislodge some debris and mineral deposits stuck on the walls of the pipes, releasing them in the water.
4. Water Pressure
Another often-reported cause of brown water is pressure-related turbulence which causes oxidized iron and rust to dislodge from the walls of the plumbing into the water.
Water pressure – measured in psi, or lbs. per square inch – represents the force with which water enters your home’s plumbing from the mains. The normal water pressure in American homes falls anywhere between 30 – 80 psi.
Restoring the normal pressure often causes turbulence in the plumbing and may alter the appearance of water.
Related: Why Is Your Tub Creaking?
Is Brown Water Dangerous?
As aforementioned, it depends on the cause of discoloration, but probably not.
This includes regulating the treatment of residential and commercial water supplies in line with both primary and secondary safety standards.
Dangerous contaminants such as arsenic and lead are placed in the primary category. If this class of contaminants builds up past the maximum contaminant point, the water (normally) is not channeled to consumers.
These contaminants aren’t dangerous to your health but may alter the smell, taste, or look of water.
They will stain your bathtub, ruin your clothes, and even cause skin rashes.
Public water suppliers are asked to test their water for primary contaminants often enough to stop the supply immediately in the event of contamination.
Testing for secondary class contaminants is voluntary but equally important.
In other words, brown water dripping down your tub tap may look disgusting and inconvenient, but it is not entirely inappropriate to bathe.
So, The Water My Tub Water Is Brown, Now What?
Under normal circumstances, the water should clear after a few minutes of flowing.
So the first thing you should do is to let the tap run for some time to clear off the brown water. You will lose a few precious liters but you don’t have many options at this point.
If you have been drawing your water from a typical well and you’ve had to deal with heavy rains lately, the problem could be a change in the local water table.
Sometimes the fluctuation in the local water table can be large enough beyond what your current water treatment equipment is designed to handle or sufficiently filter out the dissolved iron oxides.
Also, check if your brown water is originating from cold or hot water.
If it originates from your hot water supply line and nowhere else, then there’s a strong likelihood your water heater is dirty and needs to be flushed.
Maybe you allowed the scale to accumulate in your tank beyond ‘acceptable’’ levels.
If the scale is left to form in the water heater for a long time unabated, it can build up to a point where it will start to fall on the bottom of the tank and ruin the quality of your water.
Rust could also be a sign that your home’s water heater has seen better days and it is time to find a replacement.
If your tub water remains brown for over 24-hours, leave your home and check your surrounding neighborhoods to see whether everyone else has the same problem.
Consider contacting your local council because the issue is more likely to be beyond your home’s plumbing.
Your regional water supplier will inspect your plumbing and local mains supply, identify the main cause of the problem, and even use the hydrant to pump out all the brown water until you get a fresh and colorless flow.
You can proceed to ask whether they screen their water for both primary and secondary contaminants.
What does it mean when your bathtub water is brown?
Is brown water safe to bathe in? Discolored tap water is a sign of sediments leaking into your main water lines.
Whether you can or can’t bathe in such water depends on the cause of the discoloration – the browner your water gets, the less likely it is safe for use.
But it is still an issue you want to solve.
While it may not look good on your white stainless steel sinks or porcelain tub, unless you can suspect the presence of dissolved chemicals, you can use it for almost every other purpose except drinking.