If you’ve recently noticed unpleasant brown particles in your toilet water, you’re no doubt wondering what could be causing this issue, and what exactly you can do to remedy it.
In this article, I will explain the most likely why your toilet water is brown and I’ll also provide some actionable solutions to help you prevent this embarrassing and unsightly problem.
6 Reasons Toilet Water Turns Brown
The most common reason toilet water turns brown is rust. Whether it’s rusty toilet components or rusty water pipes, rust can cause a reddish-brown discolouration of toilet water.
Rust isn’t the only cause of toilet water turning brown, so below, I’ve outlined six reasons your toilet water has turned brown and simple solutions to fix the problem. By the end of this article, you should be able to identify why your toilet water is brown and be able to get it fixed quickly.
1. Rusty Water Pipe
As I mentioned a few seconds ago, rusty water pipes are the number one reason toilet water turns brown. The buildup of rust causes a reddish-brown discolouration in the water that is unsightly and may or may not smell bad.
Unfortunately, rusty pipes can be anywhere in your home. Older homes typically have galvanized steel or iron pipes that eventually rust, causing water discolouration and sediment. If this is your issue, you may see brown water coming from other water sources in your home such as faucets, the washing machine, and the dishwasher. You may even notice brown stains on the clean clothing you take out of your washer.
How To Fix It
There is a temporary solution to this issue and a permanent one. The temporary solution is to install a water softener. The added salt in your water supply will deter rust and help keep it from forming throughout your entire plumbing system. It will also extend the life of any appliances that use water.
The second solution to this problem is to replace the plumbing in your home. This is a time-consuming and costly venture, but it will take care of the issue permanently. On the bright side, this solution gives you a chance to remodel your bathroom as you will need to tear out walls to access the rusty pipes.
2. Toilet Isn’t Fully Flushing
The second most common cause of brown toilet water is unflushed waste due to the toilet not fully flushing. A toilet flush should be able to remove toilet paper and human waste without a problem. But sometimes, the water pressure isn’t high enough to move the waste sufficiently, resulting in some or all the offending bundle remaining in the toilet bowl. Not only is this issue unpleasant to look at, but it also leaves behind an unpleasant odour as well. It is an annoying problem that often occurs with low-flow toilets.
How To Fix It
This is a simple fix. All you need to do is convert your low-flow toilet into a high-flow model to maximize its flushing potential. To do this, you reposition the tank/cylinder float to allow more water to enter the toilet tank. This should increase the water pressure and allow your toilet to efficiently push toilet paper and human waste in one flush. The water should return to a clear state almost immediately once you raise the float inside the tank.
3. Rusted Toilet Tank Components
The components inside your toilet tank are made of plastic, rubber, and metal. Unfortunately, all these internal parts can deteriorate over time, with the metal components becoming rusty, which can cause discolouration of the water. In my case, this was the reason my toilet water turned brown.
Allowing rusty toilet components to remain inside the tank can result in further damage to your toilet, not to mention, cause foul odours to boot. It’s a good idea to address this issue sooner rather than later to avoid a bigger problem in the future.
How To Fix It
Open the toilet tank and look for any parts that look worn or rusty. Replace them as necessary. Metal toilet parts that are susceptible to rusting include the base bolts and nuts, metal handles, metal supply hoses, and tank bolts. Your local hardware or home improvement store should have the replacement parts you need – just remember to jot down the make and model of your toilet to ensure you get the right parts.
4. Clogged Pipes
A clogged toilet or clogged pipes can cause water to backflow into the toilet, bringing with it debris that can make the water turn brown. This often happens when you flush items that shouldn’t be flushed like baby wipes and condoms. Eventually, these items get stuck along the way and will clog the drain and result in discoloured water and insufficient flushing.
How To Fix It
You have a few different options here for unclogging your toilet and/or pipes. Plungers are effective at pushing surface clogs along. You can add a couple of tablespoons of dish soap to the water before plunging to help the clog slide through the pipes.
Another solution for unclogging a toilet is a toilet auger. If the clog is stubborn, a toilet auger should punch through anything in its path. Just be aware that the auger may bring back with it some pretty nasty stuff.
Finally, pouring a cup of Epsom salt into the toilet followed by a bucket of hot water can break up some clogs in the plumbing. After pouring the salt and water into the toilet, allow it to sit for 15 minutes before checking the results. You should see that the brown water has disappeared, and flushing should bring back clear water.
5. Mineral Build-up
If you have hard water, your toilet may have brown water from time to time. Hard water is simply an excess of minerals like manganese and iron in the water. These minerals can build up and cause brown stains in the toilet bowl, making it appear as if the water has turned brown. If you aren’t in the habit of cleaning your toilet regularly, this issue may happen more often.
How To Fix It
There are many toilet cleaners on the market, but most of them contain harsh chemicals that can be bad for your health and your toilet. Some of these chemicals can eat away at the porcelain surface of your toilet, resulting in permanent staining.
A more natural cleaner – vinegar – will not only get rid of brown water but will also help keep mineral buildup to a minimum. Just pour four cups of white vinegar into the toilet tank and then flush. If necessary, use a toilet brush to remove any mineral deposits present in the bowl. Pouring vinegar in the tank periodically will prevent hard water from causing brown toilet water.
6. Sediment In Supply Well
If you get your water from a well, you may notice sediment in the toilet bowl that turns the water brown or looks brownish. This isn’t a common issue, but it deserves a mention because it can happen, especially if there is any major construction work taking place nearby. The vibrations can cause the sediment in your well that’s normally settled at the bottom to rise and make its way into your toilet with every flush.
How To Fix It
There isn’t anything you can do about this on your own. To stop sediment from entering your home’s plumbing, you will need to contact a plumber or your utility company to have your well inspected.
Verdict: Why Is My Toilet Water Brown
The bottom line is that brown toilet water can be caused by several things. From rusty pipes and toilet components to low-pressure issues and clogged plumbing, you must figure out why your toilet water is brown before choosing a solution to fix the issue. Hopefully, the information I’ve provided above helps you get rid of your brown toilet water issue, so you won’t blame your children for the discolouration as I did.
As a retired Master Plumber Jamie has over 30 years of hands-on experience, making his plumbing knowledge second to none. He has also worked on both residential and commercial HVAC installation and repair projects.