Why is My Toilet Water Brown? 5 Reasons & Fixes
Author: Omar Alonso | Editor: Omar Alonso
Review & Research: Jen Worst & Chris Miller
You go into the bathroom to use the facilities and automatically look into the bowl as you prepare to do your business. The water is brown. That can't be, right? Why is my toilet water brown? The porcelain looks fine, but the water is murky. You flush, and the water returns still with the brown coloring.
Why is there brown water in the toilet? What's causing the problem? Is it something I need to worry about? Shockingly, the water doesn't run clear after a few flushes. Is it time to call the plumber, or is this something you can check on and fix yourself? Let's explore five reasons why your toilet water is brown.
How to Fix Brown Toilet Water - 5 Reasons & Fixes
Invariably, among our 5 possible causes for dirty toilet water that takes on a brown color below, you'll find one of them being the issue at hand. Let's cover each and provide the solution while we're at it.
1) There's Waste in the Toilet
The most obvious reason the toilet water is brown is human waste lodged under the neck of the downpipe going out the back of the toilet. There might have been a problem with a light flush from the last user, or you might be dealing with a blockage.
To check what's going on, give the toilet a flush and see what happens. If it was a weak flush by the last person using the bathroom, this action should be enough to clear the waste and return the water to a clear state.
If the water starts backing up towards the brim of the toilet bowl, you're dealing with a clogged line. You'll see the toilet water rise and then drain repeatedly. Clogs are a problem. There are two types, minor and major clogs. You'll see the water starts draining away after a few seconds or minutes if it's a minor clog.
What to Do – Unclog the Pipes
Most minor toilet clogs free themselves, give it a few hours and tell everyone in the household to avoid using the toilet until it's clear. You can put some salt and hot water (not boiling water) into the toilet bowl when the water recedes to help free the clog.
You have a problem on your hands if it's a severe clog. These clogs don't go away by themselves. If you flush the toilet again, it's likely to send the toilet water over the sides of the bowl, contaminating the floor and adjacent rooms. You'll have one big mess to clean up, and it presents a health threat to the people living in the home.
You'll need to grab some type of toilet plunger and use it on the toilet to free the clog. Call a professional plumber to handle the task if that strategy doesn't work. They'll use a "plumbing snake," a specialized tool designed to release the clog in a few seconds.
2) You Have a Rusty Toilet
The next reason for brown water in the toilet is rust. The toilet isn't only made of porcelain and plastic parts. There's plenty of metal in the system as well.
The steel components in your toilet are prone to corrosion and developing rust. Rust can leech from the rusty parts and enter the water, creating a brown color to the water in the bowl. Unless you already have a brown colored toilet as a decorative choice, you probably have a white toilet. Let's keep it that way.
Depending on the state of the rust in the cistern, you could keep flushing the toilet and see the water come back a brown color.
What to Do – Replace Rusty Parts
Open the cistern and look at the metal parts inside. In most cases, the problem will be with the water line drawing new water into the tank. This pipe may be old and rusted on the inside, bringing rusty water into the cistern.
Chances are you don't have the technical skills to complete this repair yourself. It's a good idea to call a professional plumber and have them replace the corroded pipe for you. If the corrosion is inside the toilet, the good news is you can at least enjoy one of the newer types of toilets when you replace it.
3) Corroded Water Pipes Around Your Home
Local water supplies could be the source of the problem. Some areas have hard water containing a high mineral content.
Over time, this hard water speeds up the corrosion of the water pipes around your home. Like the previous problem, the pipes in your home could be old, especially if you recently moved into an old property.
Check if any other taps in the bathrooms and around the house are running brown water. If that's the case, you need to replace the pipework.
What to Do – Replace the Pipework
Replacing the pipework around your home is a challenging task. Once again, you will need a professional's assistance to handle the problem. Not only is the task of replacing the pipework challenging technically, but it also costs a fortune for the job.
Get three quotes from plumbers and choose the one with the best reputation and favorable pricing. You'll have to pay out of pocket for these repairs if you own the property. If you're renting, it's the landlord's responsibility, so they'll pick up the tab for the repair.
4) A Water Pump Is Broken
Older plumbing systems using french sewers or any types of septic tanks may operate through water pumps that pump water back to the toilet after you flush. Why is my toilet water brown? A corroded or broken water pump is a possibility.
It's possible this pump malfunctioned or corroded, creating the brown water you see in the toilet. If that's the case, you'll need to replace the pump to stop the problem and get the toilet running clean again.
What to Do – Change the Pump
Unfortunately, like the other corrosion problems with your pipework, this isn't a repair task you can handle yourself. You'll need the services of a qualified plumber for the job. Call three plumbers and get your quotes, compare them, and choose the best one for the job.
Avoid going with the first plumber you call. Always look for alternative quotes. Most plumbers will inspect the toilet and find the source free of charge. They'll also give you a free quote for the work, but that doesn't mean you're obliged to take it.
Compare quotes, and you might find a large discrepancy in pricing between plumbers. Remember, if one of the plumbers has a very low estimate and the others are within the same range, the cheaper quote could be trying to trick you into hiring them.
They'll often repair the job halfway and say they found another problem, which will cost you more money. At the end of the job, you end up paying more than the other quotes. It pays to shop around and use common sense.
5) Root Penetration Into Pipes
Another common reason for brown water in your toilet is due to roots penetrating plastic pipework. If your outdoor plumbing runs near trees, this is likely the cause of the problem.
When your home was originally built, the tree was probably small, but it's turned into a 30-foot behemoth over the decades. As the tree grows, its roots spread through the soil.
In many cases, the roots will move around the pipework. However, you might get unlucky, and one of them might burst the pipework.
Roots are strong and have more than enough strength to punch through the piping. This organic matter might sometimes push through at the bowl's bottom.
What to Do – Call a Professional Plumber
Call a professional plumbing service. The company will send someone to run a scope through the line. They position the camera on the end of a movable line and send it through the plumbing to look for where the root is entering the pipework.
They'll need to dig up your yard to find the leak and repair it. It's a costly fix but more affordable than replacing all the pipework in your home. In most cases, a plumber can fix the problem in less than a day.
FAQ's Regarding Brown Toilet Water
When people find their toilet water is brown all of a sudden, or otherwise have discolored toilet water, there's a couple of questions that immediately arise. Let's cover those real fast in short order.
How Do I Fix My Toilet if the Water is Brown?
If you have a minor clog with human waste causing discoloration, you don't have to do anything to resolve the issue. Just wait a few hours, and the materials will break down, and you can flush them away.
If it's a severe clog, you should use a plunger to take care of the situation or call a plumber to have them assess it. All the other reasons involved with brown water require the professional services of a plumber to fix the problem.
Can Brown Toilet Water Make Me Sick?
If you have a clogged toilet causing brown water, it's likely due to some human waste in the line. If you leave that for too long, it releases bacteria into the air and the water that could make you sick. However, if the coloration is due to rust, there's no health threat from the brown water.
Why is My Toilet Water Brown & Discolored All of a Sudden?
One of these six common problems is likely the cause of the problem with your toilet. Hopefully, you're dealing with a minor clog, and the problem goes away by itself in a few hours. All the other causes require costly repairs by a professional plumber.
Remember our tips for sourcing the right plumber for the job. Always get three quotes for the work and compare them. Choose the mid-range quote, and you'll usually get a good result.
You can also check Google Reviews and Facebook reviews on the plumbing company you're thinking of hiring. Ensure they offer good service and check their star rating before approving the work. Why is my toilet water brown? They can tell you and fix it, but so can you in many instances using the info above.