If you have ever had a hot water brown and cold water clear situation in your home, you may have wondered what was going on. As we all know, it’s not normal to see anything other than clear water coming out of your faucet.

The good news is that there are several simple explanations for why this could be happening and none of them requires expensive repairs or replacement parts.

Let’s take a closer look at why you might have brown water coming out of your hot water faucet and what steps you can take to fix it.

Why are my hot water brown and cold water clear?

There are 5 typical reasons why you might have brown water coming out of your hot water tap. How you resolve the issue will depend on the cause.

Do You Have Rusty Pipes?

One of the most common causes of brown water in the hot tap is rusty pipes.

Over time, metal pipes can start to corrode from exposure to oxygen and moisture, causing a layer of rust to form on the inside of the pipe. This rust will then mix with any loose sediment in your plumbing system, creating a reddish-brown color that may look alarming but is usually harmless.

To fix this issue, you will need to contact a licensed plumber who can inspect your plumbing system and replace any pipes that have become too corroded. Doing so should help eliminate any further discoloration in your hot water.

Is High Iron Content a Problem?

Another common cause of brown water is high levels of iron in the plumbing system.

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Although iron itself is not harmful, its presence in large quantities can give water a yellow or red tint which may look more like brown when mixed with air bubbles or sediment particles.

In these cases, an iron filter is usually needed to reduce the amount of iron present in your home’s water supply and restore clarity to both your hot and cold taps.

Has Sediment built up in your pipes or heater?

Over time, sediment can accumulate and block the flow of water through your pipes or heater, leading to discoloration in both your cold and hot water taps.

While this can occur anywhere in your plumbing system, it is more common in homes that use a well as their main water source.

To resolve this issue, you can drain some of the water out of your pipes or heater to remove any built-up sediment and ensure that the water flowing through your pipes is clear.

A dirty or clogged water heater inlet valve might be the problem

If your hot water seems to be discolored near the top of your water heater, it may be caused by a dirty or clogged water inlet valve. This is usually a result of sediment build-up that blocks the valve’s normal functioning and causes it to be unable to fully close.

If this is the case, you can try flushing the valve by opening and closing it several times or replacing it with a new valve of the same type. However, if the problem persists, you may need to contact a plumber for professional assistance in resolving this issue.

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Mineral Deposits

If neither rusty pipes nor high levels of iron are responsible for the discoloration in your hot tap, mineral deposits may be the culprit.

As hard water passes through metal pipes over time, it can leave behind calcium carbonate deposits which can lead to clogged fixtures and discolored water.

To remedy this issue, you may want to consider installing a whole-house softener system which will help reduce mineral buildup throughout your home’s plumbing system. 

Check Your Water Heater Temperature Is Not Set Too High

Many people often overlook setting their water heater temperature, but it is an important step that can help prevent brown water in your hot tap.

If the temperature of your water heater is set too high, the resulting hot water may be so hot that any air or sediment in your pipes will start to boil and become suspended in the water, which can cause discoloration.

To avoid this issue, make sure that your water heater is set to 120°F or below. This will help ensure clear and safe water for you and your family without needing any additional repairs.​

Final Thoughts

With some basic troubleshooting and the help of a qualified plumber or contractor, it should be fairly easy to identify why your hot tap has suddenly begun producing brownish-colored water – and how best to fix it.

In most cases, rusty pipes or high levels of iron are usually responsible for discolored hot water while mineral buildup often affects both cold and hot taps alike.

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To address the root cause of the problem, you may need to flush your pipes or install a water softener system. In addition, it is also important to ensure that your water heater temperature is set at an appropriate level and that no sediments have built up in your inlet valve.

Whatever the issue causing brown hot water and clear cold water in your home, taking the time to identify and resolve it will help ensure that you and your family are able to enjoy safe, clean water in all of your taps.​

About the author

I started working as a quality control manager with the Water Authority of Nassau County in 2005. After a few years, I moved into Water Waste Prevention, where I currently work as the production supervisor. I love my job and the people I work with, but most of all I love spending time with my family.