For a minute or two one afternoon, we had water with a brownish tint coming out of one of our bathroom sinks, and only when the hot water handle was on. The cold water was normal, and our other taps seemed to be fine. Is this a sign that some rust or silt build-up got knocked loose in the hot water pipe leading to that sink?

We weren't running hot water elsewhere at the time before the water turned clear again, so I can't rule out the water heater being the culprit. Is this a sign that it needs maintenance?

And in case someone asks, we've had a lot of rain lately, but no extreme weather otherwise (meaning, no frozen pipes).

  • Do you have galvanized pipes?
    – Tyson
    Mar 28, 2017 at 19:01
  • 3
    Do you have a well or town water? (If the latter, did they recently do a flush? unlikely but possibly culprit). Meanwhile, try draining a couple gallons from the water heater (tap down at the bottom). If it's full of crud, then at a minimum you should flush out the heater. Mar 28, 2017 at 20:07
  • I agree with @Carl witthoft on flushing the water heater even if on city water. also if that tap had not been used for a long time that could have been part of the problem.
    – Ed Beal
    Mar 28, 2017 at 20:11
  • We have town water, not a well. We weren't notified of a flush, so I don't know if that would have been the case, especially if our other faucets were fine. Ed - good suggestion, but the tap is used multiple times throughout the day, so it's not the case that water has been sitting in the pipe for a long time.
    – Derek
    Mar 30, 2017 at 17:22

3 Answers 3


My water heater eventually started leaking several months after I posted this question, so I can only assume that it was in fact due to corrosion on the inside of the tank that was a sign of things to come. I've since gotten a new water heater installed, and my water has been fine.

  • Derek sorry about the maintenance setback, but thanks for returning and answering on the outcome.
    – elrobis
    Dec 15, 2017 at 21:21

I had the same problem with a cheap faucet on a sink. I fixed the problem by replacing the faucet with a new MOEN faucet. I never knew where the brown water came from, and I have city water. The problem was the fault of the faucet since the new faucet does not have the brownish water.

  • In my case, the cold water was fine, so I don't suspect the faucet being the culprit, at least past the point where the hoses connect to its underside.
    – Derek
    Mar 29, 2017 at 0:37

Somewhere in your piping you have steel components where the galvanizing has corroded away ( or possibly was not galvanized originally). It will make a lot of brown water (rust) before it corrodes through. I have several situations like this in my sprinkler system ; I don't expect leaks in my lifetime.

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