How to Fix Discolored Hot Water: Milky and Rusty Water DIY Repair Tips

Are you tired of turning on your hot water and seeing discolored, murky water instead? Don’t fret – we’re here to help!

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll show you how to fix discolored hot water, covering common causes like milky appearance, rusty pipes, sediment buildup, and corrosion.

We’ll provide expert tips and advice so you can ensure your hot water is clean and clear. Say goodbye to discolored hot water and hello to a refreshing shower with our guide. Let’s dive in!

rusty water
photo: pixabay

How to Fix Discolored Hot Water: Causes and Solutions for the Rusty (Brown) Hot Water Problem

If you have an old or poor-quality water heater with a storage tank that has a porcelain lining falling apart or is corroded, discolored hot water can become a problem. Even newer models with advanced features can produce rusty, milky, or brownish hot water. The reasons for water discoloration can include steel tanks, the water source, plumbing pipes, porcelain coating wear, poor maintenance, and water pressure. Potable water in residential homes should be clear and colorless with no residues.

Rust in the water heater is not necessarily coming from the metal tank corrosion. It might result from non-toxic iron-reducing bacteria found in places like the water well, soil, or piping system. Soluble iron in the water is actually the food for bacteria, and the result of that process is rusty hot water.

The bacteria presence can affect the water heater anode rod, so regular check-ups and maintenance are recommended.

If potable water used for heating has an increased level of manganese or iron, little or no dissolved oxygen, and the temperature below 138 F, bacteria will sustain. It will become even worse if you use softeners (for hard water problems), well water, and if water is subjected to long periods of no movement.

As with the rotten egg smell that is again caused by the bacteria, the solution is very simple: chlorination of the system.

Follow the manufacturer’s guide for the treatment. You might want to repeat the process if the plumbing system is heavily infected.

Chlorination Process to Remove Odor and Sediments

Chlorination described below is the solution for these hot water heater problems:

  • Turn off the gas and/or electric supply and cold water.
  • Drain all the water from the tank.
  • Remove an anode rod and close the drain valve.
  • Use one gallon of chlorine bleach for every 25 gallons of tank capacity.
  • Bring the anode back.
  • Refill the system.
  • Draw the chlorinated water to every single tap in your home. Do not forget the dishwasher and washing machine.
  • Let it stay for one hour.
  • Drain the tank again.
  • Close the drain and refill the tank.
  • Continue flushing until the water is clear and without the chlorine odor. Don’t forget plumbing pipes.
  • Run the heater using instructions found in the manual.

Another reason for rusty hot water might come from sand, mud, and clay sediments that enter the heating system through well systems, during major water main breaks and repairs, or when new houses are built.

Over years of use and thousands of gallons passing through the system, rust and other particles will collect at the bottom of the tank.

The solution for all these conditions is to drain and flush the heater’s tank.

Note: This kind of hot water heater problem is not covered by warranty.

How to Fix Discolored Hot Water: Causes and Solutions for Milky (Cloudy) Water

milky water in plumbing

Milky or cloudy water doesn’t have to be a problem in water heating systems as it can also occur in cold water lines. You can experience discolored water with old units and recently installed ones as well.

A few factors might be involved in the color change of water, and most of them are related to home plumbing or the city’s piping system.

Gases such as oxygen, carbon dioxide, chlorine, and other soluble ingredients, when released from heating water due to pressure increase, will make the water appear milky.

Additional air might be present at the city’s pumping stations when the utility company switches the well source, due to aerators at faucets, by low pressure that does not allow gases and oxygen to dissolve properly or when the incoming water temperature changes, causing the air to expand.

The solution is to allow water to stand for several minutes so dissolved gases, in the form of small bubbles, can separate and make the water clear.

If the issue persists and happens often, you can either reduce it with aerated faucets or call the water utility company to check.

Milky and rusty hot water are just a few of the most common hot water heater problems that are easy to deal with, often with preventive maintenance or service.

Also, keep in mind that these problems do not mean that the heater is going bad, but it is not for drinking or cleaning. The unit should last at least ten years.

If the problem cannot be solved, hot water is not clear for a long time, and the unit is not performing as it used to, check with the plumber.

Also, if efficiency is much lower, there is a strange noiseleaking, and higher energy bills, then the problem is getting serious, meaning you should talk to an expert.


There are several ways to fix discolored hot water depending on the underlying cause. Flushing the water heater tank and pipes, installing a water filtration system, or adding a water softener can help improve water quality and prevent discoloration.

It is important to identify the cause of the problem before taking any action to avoid further damage to the water heater or plumbing system. Regular maintenance and inspection of the water heater can also help prevent discoloration and ensure the longevity of the unit.

If the problem persists or if there are concerns about water safety, it is recommended to seek the advice of a professional plumber.


Is Discolored Hot Water Safe?

Discolored hot water may or may not be safe, depending on the cause of the discoloration. If the discoloration is due to sediment or minerals, the water may be safe to drink but could have an unpleasant taste. However, if the discoloration is caused by bacteria or rust, the water could be unsafe to drink and may contain harmful contaminants. It is always best to have the water tested to determine the cause of the discoloration and to follow any recommended steps for remediation.

What Causes Discolored Hot Water From a New Water Heater?

Discolored hot water from a new water heater can be caused by high levels of minerals in the water source such as iron or manganese. Incorrect installation and poor maintenance of the water heater can also lead to sediment or particles accumulating in the heater, causing the water to appear discolored.

Related Articles

Similar Posts