Now Offering Pipe Bursting! Replace Your Sewer Line WITHOUT Digging Up Your Yard! Click here to learn more!

Close this search box.

Why my hot water is brown?



If your water heater’s tank is like most others, it is made of steel, but there is also a layer of glass. If water seeps through that glass though, then rust will develop along with the tank, causing a leak. The problem is, you probably can’t be aware that there is rust forming until the leak actually happens. And if a leak is coming from the tank itself, then you cannot fix your water heater; you will have to replace it altogether.

That being said, you can still take measures to prevent rust in your water heater. Actually, you have a rust-fighting element included in the water heater, and this is the cathodic anode (it could also be called the sacrificial anode). This anode can be three to five feet in length, and its diameter is a quarter-inch or so. A hex bolt fastens the anode in place at the tank’s top. It is imperative that this anode stays in optimal condition, otherwise, rust could creep in. And so could some nasty odors.

A minimum of two times each year, you need to ensure that this anode is in good working condition:

  • Switch off the power to the water heater
  • Cut off its water supply (at the inlet valve atop the heater)
  • Use a wrench to detach the anode
  • Examine it for any signs of breakdown

If the cathodic anode isn’t looking great, all you need is around $20 bucks and a half hour to spare for DIY maintenance. The tricky aspect could be finding the part that you need, as hardware stores don’t often carry these anodes. You can try a plumbing supplier instead. To find the right anode, you can tell them what make and model is listed on the water heater’s label.

Once you have the part in hand, here is how you install the new cathodic anode:

  • Switch off the power and cut off the water supply
  • Loosen the anode’s hex bolt and take out the rod: if it’s might be stumpy and rusty, this could mean you might just be in the nick of time with the replacement.
  • Put in the new anode and tighten the hex bolt. (Don’t forget to line the threaded fitting with Teflon tape)
  • Restore power and water to your heater.


Have you noticed that occasionally the water in your home appears brown, dirty, or discolored? If so, you’re probably wondering if it’s safe to drink the water and if you have a major plumbing issue on your hands that needs tackling.

Your water is brown, what should you do? Occasionally, tap water can appear slightly brown because sediment in the water main has been stirred up. You see, some water mains are made out of iron, and as time passes, rust deposits can settle inside the pipes, causing that “dirty” water that can concern homeowners.

Essentially, the rust settlement can be disturbed if all of a sudden there is a change in the speed, direction, or flow in the water main near the home. What would cause such a change in the flow of water? It can happen for several reasons, such as:

  • There was a burst on the water main.
  • Construction nearby can stir up sediment.
  • Routine flushing that’s meant to clean out pipes.
  • The water main was put back into use after repairs.
  • The water had to be re-routed due to a change in demand.
  • A local fire department had to use a lot of water in order to handle an emergency.

If your water is dirty, brown, or discolored, the first thing you want to do is run cold tap water in the kitchen faucet for 30 minutes, or until the water turns clear, whichever happens first.

Once the kitchen faucet is running clear water, run cold water through the rest of the faucets in your home until each of them are all clear. Taking this step ensures that all dirty water is eliminated from your pipes.


Until your water runs clear, you want to take the following precautions: do not drink the water until it is back to normal, and to avoid depositing dirty water into the hot water tank, do not use the hot water until the water is clear.

If the dirty water does not go away after a few hours, feel free to contact our Kansas City plumbers at A-1 Sewer & Septic Service Inc. We would be glad to get down to the bottom of the issue for you and resolve it.