How to Fix Rusty Water

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How to Fix Rusty Water

How to Fix Rusty Water
By: Sarah Boudreau


Do you ever wonder why your water has rust? What causes this problem? Is it even fixable? Do you have rusty water? Well let's talk about what causes rust in your water, and how to get rid of it! Let’s start off by talking about the three most common types of iron in well water. 

The three most common types of iron in well water are:

  1. Iron bacteria, which show up as reddish slime in toilet tanks
  2. Ferric iron, also known as red iron, which turns water a cloudy orange
  3. Ferrous iron, also known as clear-water iron. Ferrous iron doesn’t affect water clarity, but it stains ceramics and clothing and has a rusty taste. Dollars to doughnuts, that’s the type you have.


Iron pipes rust over time, and since the rust has nowhere to go, it ends up in the water stream. Luckily this rust normally forms a sediment that settles on the bottom of the pipes and remains there so that it doesn't come out the tap. If it gets disturbed or if there is an excessive amount, however, it will show up when the faucet is running. Sediment can be stirred up by repairs to the pipes and by changes in pressure.

Locating the Source

Rust sediment could be coming from either the main source or from the pipes inside your home. An easy way to determine the source is to run the outside faucet that is closest to the main. This is usually in the front of the house, but could be in the backyard if there is an alleyway. Let the water run for two minutes then fill up a cup and look for signs of rust. If there is rust in the water, it is probably coming from the main supply, but if the water is clear, the problem is with the plumbing in the house.


The easiest way to get rid of rust sediment is to flush the pipes. Open three to four cold water taps in the house and let them run for about 20 minutes at top pressure. This should be long enough to clear the pipes of rust sediment, but if it doesn’t, wait about 30 minutes and then flush them again. Instead of opening faucets in the house, run the hose at full capacity for 20 minutes and use the water on landscape plants to clear the rust.

Replacing Pipes

A small amount of rust on iron pipes is normal, but if there is a large amount of rust and the pipes are deteriorating then it just may be time to replace them. This is a major home improvement project and will likely require the assistance of a professional. In severe cases, however, it may be the only way to clear the water of rust sediment.


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