Why Is My Bathwater Yellow?

After a long, tiring day, you decide to draw a bath to relax with a glass of wine and the soothing comfort of a warm soak. To your dismay, you turn on the water to your bathtub, only to find yellowed water pouring out of the spout. So, now what?

Although this new turn of events can be alarming, it might not be a big deal, or is it dangerous bacteria? Our guide reviews the most common causes of yellow water in your home (plus how to fix them), so continue reading to learn more!

Why Is My Water Yellow All Of A Sudden?

If your bathwater suddenly became a yellow color, a few potential culprits could be causing the issue. Generally, yellowed water is the result of rust at some point in the system, but it could also be the result of water table changes affecting your well system (if applicable).

Water Table Changes

In rural areas, homeowners with well systems might notice yellowish water in the spring. The tinted water is the result of water table changes due to spring runoff. As the water rises, this can allow naturally occurring minerals (can include iron or manganese, which are common in groundwater) into your well water, causing discoloration. 

Generally, this isn’t harmful to humans, although the water might taste somewhat different than usual. After the water table stabilizes and returns to its normal level, the issue goes away on its own. Until then, you might want to consider drinking bottled water, but you can still shower and bathe in this water. 

Rusty System

Rust is the most common cause of yellowed or discolored water from your bathtub spout, and it can overtake the plumbing in your home, your bathtub spout, water heater, or water supply, causing yellowed water. 

If you notice the water is slightly yellow when you first run the taps throughout your home in the morning, it could be due to rust in the plumbing system. Generally, the yellowish hue will dissipate within a few minutes of running the faucet (if this is the case).

Alternatively, it could be the faucet in your bathtub that is rusty. Sometimes, the components within the spout may corrode, allowing rust to take hold. When you run the tap, the water that comes out is yellowish. So, if the problem is isolated to the tub spout, it’s likely corrosion within the spout itself. 

In some scenarios, the water heater is the problem. When the water heater is causing the issue, usually due to rust or sediment in the tank, you’ll notice discolored water throughout your home when the hot water runs. The problem will only arise with hot water, as cold water doesn’t pass through the water heater on its way to your faucet. So, if you notice the problem is isolated to hot water taps in your home, the water heater is likely the culprit.

Sometimes, the problem lies with the water supply as a whole. Rust can overtake parts of the city water supply, causing discolored water in your home. If the problem persists throughout your entire home, regardless of the faucet location or water temperature, the city water supply might be the culprit. This one can be tricky, as it could also be your home’s plumbing system. 

How To Fix Yellow Bathwater

If your bathwater boasts a yellowed hue, there’s likely rust somewhere in the system. Of course, if you have a well system and live in an area with significant water table changes at certain times of the year (such as snowmelt runoff in the spring), it could be due to these changes. 

However, for most folks, rust is the culprit. To correct the problem, you’ll need to pinpoint its origin. Start with the bathtub faucet – is the issue isolated to the tub spout? If yellow water only comes out of this spout, it’s probably an issue with corrosion in the fixture itself. So, you’ll likely need to replace it to correct the problem. 

If that’s not the case, check the hot water supply – is the problem isolated to the hot water taps in your home? If it is, the problem likely stems from your water heater, which probably has corrosion or sediment buildup in the tank. You can either clean the tank yourself (if you’re an experienced DIYer) or have a professional plumber service the system (expect to pay $150 to $450).

The last two issues can be a bit tricky to differentiate: is it your home’s plumbing or the city water supply? To determine whether the problem is isolated to your home, check with your neighbors to see if they’re experiencing the same issue. 

If they are, it’s probably an issue with the city water supply. However, if your home is the only one experiencing the issue, it’s likely isolated to your system. To correct this problem, you should consult a professional to determine the best course of action based on the severity of the corrosion. 

On the other hand, if the city water supply is the issue, call your city water company for more information. Alternatively, you can install a whole home water filter to minimize discoloration in your home’s water supply. 

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