Why Is My Toilet Water Brown? (& How to Fix It)

So, you know toilet water is not that clean to begin with. But you just flushed your toilet a few times, and the water is still brown. For people living in older homes and buildings, this can be a fairly common occurrence. Now, it can of course be a bit disconcerting if your toilet water is always brown because after all, it doesn’t look very nice.

With that being said, the problem isn’t caused by what you think it’s caused by, at least not usually. Let’s figure out why your toilet water is brown and how to fix it.

Why Is My Toilet Water Brown? (& How to Fix It)

Is Brown Toilet Water a Problem?

So let’s just say that in most cases, brown toilet water is not caused by residual waste. Although in very rare instances it can be, this is generally not the case. Now, as far as brown toilet water goes, it’s usually not a problem, especially not if the rest of your house is not suffering from brown water.

For the most part, brown toilet water will just end up staining the toilet bowl and will force you to clean it more often.

As you will see, the cause of brown toilet water is pretty straightforward and it’s really nothing to be worried about, at least not if the water is just in your toilet and is not coming out brown out of your sinks and showers.

What Causes Toilet Water to Be Brown?

Alright, so now that we know that brown toilet water is usually not caused by residual waste and that it’s really not much of a problem, let’s figure out what it is caused by.

1. Rust

First and foremost, the most common cause of brown toilet water is rust in the water. Now, this is generally something that happens with older homes that have galvanized steel pipes or even older iron pipes. As you might know, rust forms when iron molecules react with oxygen in the air, thus creating a chemical reaction, which in turn causes rust to form.

In other words, iron, after the particles have been exposed to both oxygen and moisture, causes a chemical reaction that forms what we know as hydrous iron oxide, the technical term for rust.

As the water flows through the pipes, it reacts with those pipes and thus causes rust to form, and then that water comes out through your toilet. For the most part, this is just caused by water flowing through pipes that are very old and made out of iron or galvanized steel, but it may also be caused by the fact that the water itself contains high amounts of iron and other minerals.

In other words, if you have hard water in your house, then it may very well cause rust to form in the pipes or even in the toilet bowl itself. As you can probably tell, rust forming in the toilet bowl, besides the fact that you will need to clean it on a regular basis, is not all that much of a problem.

2. Sediment

The next cause of brown toilet water is simple sediment. Yes, some people would classify rust as sediment, but here we are just talking about small particles such as dirt and other types of debris. If your house doesn’t have a good water filtration system, especially a mechanical filter that filters out various small debris, then you might have a lot of sediment in your water.

Sometimes sediments such as sand can be reddish or brown in color, thus causing your toilet water to also appear brown. Generally speaking, unless you are drinking this water then it is not much of a problem, especially if it is just coming out of your toilet.

3. Mold and Algae

Other causes of brown toilet water are both mold and algae. That toilet tank of yours, because it is always wet and dark, is a perfect breeding ground for both of those things. Mold and algae will usually not make the toilet water brown, but they can. Instead, algae and mold tend to make the toilet water cloudy and sometimes take on a greenish or bluish color, or sometimes even greenish-brown.

4. Residual Waste

Yes, in some cases the water in your toilet bowl might be brown due to residual waste, or in other words, your toilet is not flushing properly and therefore leaving some of the waste behind.

What Should You Do About It?

Alright, so seeing as the most common cause of brown toilet water is rust. This is the main issue that we are going to teach you to deal with, but that said we will address all of the other possible causes as well.

What to Do About Rusty Toilet Water

If your toilet water is rusty, then the pipes are the most likely culprit. If this is the case, if you are really worried about that brown toilet water, even though besides a bit of extra cleaning, it’s really not going to cause any problems, you can always have the pipes in your home replaced so that they are made out of PVC or CPVC instead of galvanized steel or iron.

Old iron and galvanized steel pipes are the main cause of this issue, so getting rid of them should solve the problem. This is however going to be an expensive undertaking and something that really only a plumber can do.

Now, if the pipes in your home are not the problem, but you do know that you have hard water, then the other solution is going to be to get a water softener for your home. If the iron is not coming from the pipes, then it is already present in the water, which means that you can filter it out with the right kind of water softener.

What to Do About Sediment Filled Toilet Water

If your toilet water is brown and cloudy due to a buildup of sediments, such as dirt, sand, and other debris, then chances are that the water in your whole home is exactly the same. If your water is not properly filtered when it comes into your home, then those small particles can make their way through the pipes, and if there are enough of them, they can indeed make toilet water brown and cloudy.

The only real solution to this problem is to get a whole home water filter that performs high-quality mechanical filtration of solid debris. These will usually cost a few thousand dollars for a decent model.

What to Do About Mold and Algae

If you see that the problem starts in your toilet tank and the water has more of a bluish or greenish tinge than brown, then you can rest assured that either mold or algae is the problem.

If this is the case, pouring about half a liter of vinegar into the toilet tank every couple of weeks should be enough to kill anything in there. Lastly, if this does not do the trick, then you can always use a professional mold killer. These should only cost you a few dollars.

What to Do About Residual Waste

Although it’s not often the case, brown toilet water can be caused by residual waste that has not been flushed down properly. If this is the case, then you want to make sure that your toilet is not clogged, and moreover, you also want to make sure that it is flushing properly with the maximum amount of water possible.

The problem might just be as simple as a clogged toilet not allowing all of the ways to go down, in which case a toilet plunger or toilet snake could be more than enough directed by the situation. For more on unclogging toilets, check this article.

Summary

Now that you know what the common causes of brown toilet water are, as well as what the various solutions to those problems are, you can get back to having clear toilet water.