Why is My Toilet Water Brown?

Nothing is more gross and embarrassing than a dirty toilet. But what do you do when you’ve cleaned your toilet but the water is still brown? Read on to lean the reasons why the water in your toilet is brown and how to fix it. 

White toilet in bathroom with white tile.

Why is the water in my toilet brown?

Believe it or not, mineral and rust stains in your toilet or tub — greenish stripes, a brown ring, lime scale — aren’t caused by anything you’re doing wrong in your cleaning regimen. It’s simply something in the water. Calcium, lime, magnesium and iron, naturally found in hard water, attach to just about every surface they come across. Even if you have filters or water systems in place to soften the water, some of these minerals still slip through.

What causes different colors?

The rust-colored stains you find under your faucets or in your toilet turn up when iron meets air. Green or brown stains in the toilet usually indicate lime buildup. Lime scale forms as hard water evaporates and leaves a mineral buildup behind. As it dries, it picks up any dirt particles along with it, and slowly the stain builds, layer by layer, on the inside of the toilet bowl. Yuck!

The most common cause for brown water in your toilet is rust. This rust can be affecting your entire plumbing system, or just the pipes leading to your toilet. The discoloration could also be caused by a well issue, or a blockage somewhere in your plumbing.

How to determine what is causing the stain

When you flush, the toilet is the water that refills the bowl coming out brown or discolored? Are you only noticing this in your toilet and not coming from any other taps (shower/sinks/etc.) throughout your home?

Finally, it’s possible you have one or more clogged pipes. To fix this, try using water softeners or chlorine to lower the iron content in your water. If the issue persists, call a professional plumber to diagnose and fix the issue. 

There are still other possible causes of brown tap water. For instance, if the murky water is coming only from your hot water tap, it would be wise to check the water heater. If it’s more than a decade old, chances are it’s seen better days and needs to be replaced.

How to test for iron in water

DIY water testing kits will give you an indication of how much iron your water contains in PPM or mg/L. You’ll be provided with testing strips and a color chart. Simply dip a strip in a sample of your water, then wait for the strip to change color. Compare the strip to the color chart to work out your waters iron levels.

If you checked every tap in your home and only your bathroom has brown water, it means the issue could be a rusted toilet part. While still may have rusty pipes, it’s possible that your toilet is connected to a different water line than the other taps in your home, and that your pipe simply rusted. Another possibility is that the parts inside your toilet are rusted.

What not to do

Don’t use bleach in the toilet bowl. It won’t work on hard water stains and can damage a septic system. And never, ever, mix bleach and ammonia. The resulting fumes can irritate respiratory passages and can even be fatal. Don’t scrub the toilet bowl with anything metal or super-abrasive. You’ll ruin the porcelain.

How do you get rid of brown water in toilet?

Time needed: 20 minutes

Learn how to get rid of brown water in the toilet caused by hard water minerals like iron.

  1. Empty the toilet bowl

    Find the water valve and switch the water off. It is usually behind the toilet at the base of the bowl. Flush the toilet to empty the bowl. Hold the handle down so it drains fully.

  2. Spray cleaner onto the rust stains

    Spray WD-40 or CLR onto the stains and let it sit for 10-15 minutes.

  3. Scrub the stains

    Use a toilet brush or pumice stone to scrub off the hard water stains. Repeat adding the WD-40 or CLR onto the stains if necessary.

  4. Turn water back on

    Turn valve back on to fill the bowl back up. Flush toilet again to remove cleaner.

Why is the inside of my toilet tank greenish-brown?

Green or brown stains in the toilet usually indicate lime buildup. Lime scale forms as hard water evaporates and leaves a mineral buildup behind. As it dries, it picks up any dirt particles along with it, and slowly the stain builds, layer by layer, on the inside of the toilet bowl.

Why is my water brown in only one bathroom?

It is possible that there is rust leeching from an old galvanized iron pipe. If you notice the discoloration first thing in the morning or if you after being away from home for a while then it might be the supply line. This is especially true if there is only one faucet in your home producing brown water.

Why does my water come out brown at first?

This type of brown water is caused by small corrosion spots in the pipe that occur with stagnant water. The water is brown or reddish brown because loose rust particles are flushed out when the tap is first turned on. It is not dangerous for your pipes or health.

Can rusty water pipes make you sick?

Rust can affect the color and taste but isn’t a health concern. Corrosion from copper and lead pipes can be dangerous if it leaches into your drinking water. Rust caused by iron corrosion won’t don’t do much more than make the water taste metallic and is still safe to drink.

Does water softener remove iron?

Water softeners can remove small amounts of iron but isn’t designed to treat high levels or iron in your water.

Why is my toilet water brownish-yellow?

The water may be contaminated. If the water in the bathroom supply line mixes with the waste water sewer lines this can cause the water to be contaminated and look yellow or brown.

Check out how Andrea Jean cleans her stained toilet bowl with a pumice stone:

Adrienne Carrie Hubbard
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