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My wife and I just moved in to a brand new house and have started to notice that the water in the toilets is an orange color, and is starting to leave stains in the bowl. After looking online briefly, I have seen the suggestion that perhaps there is rust in the plumbing. I know that all of the plumbing in our house consists of what appears to be plastic piping... is there any other explanation? What steps should be taken to fix the problem?

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do you have a well or municipal water source? –  mikes Apr 4 '12 at 23:18
    
Our water comes from the city. –  Brendon Dugan Apr 5 '12 at 1:24
    
If it's sediment, like clay in the pipes from a messy installer, then clean your aerators and toilet fill valves. But I'm guessing woodchips is right on the bacteria suggestion. –  BMitch Apr 5 '12 at 11:27
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3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

If the house was vacant for a long period of time, there might be build up in the pipes. Try running a number of facuets for a while and flush the toilet over and over. Assuming your incoming water isn't orange, it should go away after you flush out the pipes.

Also open the tank and have a look in there - maybe there is a component of the toilet that is rusting, or maybe there is some type of cleaning tablet present (usually they are blue but you never know).

EDIT: You mentioned in your comment that there is orange sediment on the bottom of the tank. I can't really guess at what this is (maybe orange soil as someone in the comments suggested), but I would suggest that you turn off the water to the toilet, flush it to empty the tank, and then using a sponge, scrub it off, or at least disturb it enough that it will wash away when the tank refills. Turn the water back on and flush it away.

If it comes back after some time then you'd need to investigate further..

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+1 for looking in the tank. Is the water in the tank orange? Is it orange when the tank is refilling itself? –  Caleb Apr 4 '12 at 21:12
    
The house is brand new, but my wife and I have lived in it for about two weeks now. During the last two months or so of construction though, the water was running and was used fairly frequently. Opening the tank reveals water that appears mostly clear, but a layer of some sort of orange sediment at the bottom of the tank. Could this be from when the water was first turned on? –  Brendon Dugan Apr 4 '12 at 22:00
    
Any chance you have red dirt in your area? –  Kellenjb Apr 4 '12 at 22:34
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If you have potassium thiocyanate you can test for ferric (Iron-3 aka rust) by dropping a few drops into the toilet. If it's rust, it will turn blood red. Ferric isn't terribly damaging as far as health-effects go, but it is definitely gross. I'm testing one of the drinking fountains at my school right now with the AP Chem class. Based on my research, it could also be Chromate or Pervanadyl, which could cause potential health risks. Good Luck.

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This is clearly not rust in this case, nor is it probably sediment, but bacteria. They are probably living on something in the water, and often that is iron.

Does your hot water also smell a bit, with a bit of rotten egg smell?

If so, then you probably have either iron or manganese in your water supply to the house. Bacteria live in your hot water tank, and your toilet tank.

Get rid of the iron to get rid of the things it causes. To do that, you will need to remove it somehow, and there are several treatments available once you figure out how much iron is there. Start with a home test kit, which you can buy inexpensively from your local home store.

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