Why is my Toilet Water Brown?


When you flush your toilet, the last thing you want to see is brown water. Not only is it unsightly, but it can also sometimes be a sign of a bigger plumbing issue.  Before you start to worry, let’s look at some of the most common reasons why your toilet’s water may have turned brown in color.  In this article, we’ll discuss the top six reasons why toilet water might turn brown and whether or not it’s harmful. We’ll also give some tips on how to fix the problem and when to call a professional.

Common Reasons for Brown Toilet Water

So, why is your toilet water brown? There are many common causes of brown toilet water, ranging from harmless to needing immediate repair.  Let’s take a look at six of the most common causes:


Rust can cause toilet water to turn brown or red. If you have an old home with iron pipes, this may be the culprit.  Rusting pipes are by far one of the most common causes of toilet water turning brown. Over time, the metal components in your toilet tank can start to corrode and rust. As the pipes rust, they can release small particles of iron into the water. This is usually not harmful, but it can cause the water to take on a brown or yellow tint.  Additionally, if the direction, speed, or flow of the water in your pipes changes suddenly, it can stir that rust up in the pipes and cause that discoloration in your water.

If you notice your toilet water starting to turn brown, you should check the pipes for signs of rusting or damage. If you find any, you should call a plumber to have them repaired or replaced.


Another common cause of brown toilet water is sediment buildup in the pipes. Sediment can build up in your toilet tank over time, especially if you have hard water. This can also happen if there is a lot of mineral buildup in your water, or if the pipes haven’t been flushed in a while.

Sediment can also build up if there are leaks in the pipes. If you notice sediment in your toilet water, you should try flushing the toilet a few times to see if the water clears up. If it doesn’t, you may need to have your pipes cleaned or replaced. 

Sometimes, this sediment can get stirred up if there is construction being done near your home.  All of the movement from the construction can actually stir up the sediment and cause the brown color that you see in your toilet.

While sediment in your water is usually not harmful, it can be a sign of a problem with your water supply. To fix it, you can install a water filter or have your water professionally treated.

Septic Tank or Well Problems

Brown toilet water can also be caused by problems with the septic tank. If the tank is full or has leaks, it can cause the water in the toilet to turn brown. A small issue with your septic tank can often lead to a much larger problem.  This is why it is especially important to get your septic tank fixed right away.  After all, its job is to collect and dispose of the sewage from your home.  The last thing you want is to have that backing up.  There are many other signs of a septic system having an issue that you can keep an eye out for.  These include water backing up into your home, especially green grass near your tank, trees and shrubs near the tank, a pool of water in your yard, a rotten egg smell, or drains that are especially slow.

On the other hand, it may be an issue with your well.  The most common reason that a well would create brown water is due to something dissolving in the well.  If this happens, you will definitely want to look into getting your well fixed.  If something dissolved in the well, that means the water has been contaminated with something.  Sometimes this is just harmless sediment, like we mentioned earlier.  However, once in a while it can actually be a harmful material.  The well water will affect all water sources in your home, not just your toilet.  This means that it can also get into your drinking water, like in the sink.  So, while the issue may bother you because the toilet water is brown, you will also want to make sure your drinking water stays safe as well.

main drain signs

Using Excess Toilet Cleaner

Using too much toilet cleaner: If you use too much toilet cleaner, the chemicals can react with the water and cause it to turn brown. To fix it, simply stop using toilet cleaner for a while and see if the problem goes away.

Clogged Toilet

This might not be the normal kind of clog that you are used to.  These are usually the clogs that are occurring farther down in your toilet’s plumbing system.  Usually a deep clog such as this one will be caused by continuous flushing of products that should not have gone down the drain – these include baby wipes and feminine products.  The brown coloration that you are seeing is usually some of the blocked particles coming back up to the surface of the water.

Since it is not a surface-level clog, there is likely nothing that you can do on your own.  You will want to call a professional to come and clear the system out.  This is not an issue that you want to let sit for a long time, as it will clog even more.  Avoid a catastrophic mess and contact a professional to help clean out the clog in your toilet.

Mineral Build-Up

Build-up in the toilet: If there’s a build-up of mineral in your toilet, it can cause the water to turn brown. Usually a mineral buildup occurs in older plumbing systems, especially those with harder water.  There are minerals in your hard toilet water that you probably don’t consider on a daily basis.  These minerals include manganese and calcium.  Both of these minerals will turn the water brown when they react with the oxygen in the tank.  Sometimes these minerals build up when you use certain toilet cleaners.  The brown coloration sometimes is not even in the water, but is staining the toilet itself.

To fix this, you’ll need to clean your toilet regularly.  Luckily, using a little bit of vinegar and baking soda can have your toilet looking normal again in no time!

Contacting a Professional

If your toilet water is brown, don’t panic! In most cases, it’s not harmful and can be easily fixed. If you’re not sure what’s causing your toilet water to turn brown, you should call a plumber. They have the expertise to diagnose the problem and recommend the best course of action in order to fix it. While in most cases, brown toilet water is not harmful, but it can be a sign of bigger problems with your plumbing – such as with your septic tank. If you’re concerned about the safety of your family, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

If you’ve tried all of the above solutions we have mentioned and nothing seems to work, this may be another reason to call a plumber to have your pipes inspected. Sometimes, if the problem is serious, you may need to have your plumbing replaced.

White’s Plumbing Can Fix Your Toilet Water

In most cases, brown toilet water is not harmful. However, if you’re concerned about your health, you should contact a plumber or water specialist. If you are located near the Youngsville, North Carolina area, reach out to us here at White’s Plumbing, LLC!  Our expert plumbers are happy to come out and test the water to see if there are any contaminants present.  Then, depending on the results that we find, we are able to determine the best solution to get your toilet’s water back to a normal, clear color.  Contact us by using the form on this page or give us a call to set up a time for a plumber to come to your home.  We’ll have your toilet’s water color back to normal in no time.

Request a Quote
Top Services

Request A Service Call

We’ll get in touch with you as soon as we can!