The Most Common Causes of Discolored Tap Water

The Most Common Causes of Discolored Tap Water
  • Opening Intro -

    Water is an essential part of our day-to-day lives.

    We use it for cooking, cleaning, and, of course, hydrating our own bodies.


It’s such an integral part of our existence that we often don’t even think about it, until we turn on the tap and find that our once crystal-clear water is now coming out white, orange, yellow, or brown.

If you’ve found yourself in the alarming situation of having unclean tap water and aren’t sure what to do, don’t panic.

Knowing what causes tap water to become discolored can help inform your next steps.

Air in the Water

If one were to pour a glass of water from the sink only to find the water coming out a cloudy or milky color, their natural first instinct would be to think it’s horribly contaminated. However, in many instances, cloudy water is perfectly natural and safe.

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That’s because the clouded, white color comes from air bubbles that have worked their way into the water. If you aren’t sure if your clouded water is due to pollution or air, simply pour a glass of water and allow it to sit for a few minutes.

If the water begins clearing from the bottom of the glass to the top, the air bubbles have escaped the water. If it’s still clouded, then the water may be polluted.

Pipe Maintenance

Discolored tap water isn’t always consistent among pipes in the home. These water changes could point to the reason your home’s tap water has become discolored.

If your water color changes only when you run cold tap water, this may be a sign that local powers-that-be are attempting to clear out the pipework, especially if the water is a faint yellow color. This should hopefully point to a relatively temporary issue.

Corrosion in Pipes

When water is tinted a darker color, such as orange or green, this is usually due to corrosion inside of the pipes. Orange or reddish corrosion comes from rusted pipes, while green water may point to copper pipes becoming oxidized.

This is especially common in older buildings where the pipework is much older.

Broken Water Mains

Local water mains break for a variety of reasons, from cold weather to natural wear and tear. Whatever the reason, these kinds of breaks lead to a drop in an area’s water pressure. And when the pressure drops, that can lead to dangerous contaminants entering the water system.

When water is dark-colored or coming out at an unusually low flow from all of your faucets, it may be a sign of a water main break somewhere.

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What To Do if Your Tap Water Is Discolored

If your water is discolored, that doesn’t automatically mean it’s dangerous or toxic. However, you don’t want to make assumptions before you drink it.

Your first step as a homeowner should be to contact the city to ask whether the water is safe. They can tell you if or when you are safe to use it again.

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Image credit: the most common causes of discolored tap water Adobe Stock Image #249167281 By vladk213

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