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The Home Depot

Why is My Sink Water Yellow?

Pro Referral > Home Guides > Plumbing > Why is My Sink Water Yellow?
Why is My Sink Water Yellow?

Yellow water, most of the times odorless, is a common problem, especially if the house is old. Families that have just moved into a vacant house or families coming back to their house after a vacation often find the water in their sink or bathtub has a yellow cast to it. The color is often not visible unless the water is collected in a bowl or in the bathtub. The color often goes away when the water is let run for several minutes. In extreme cases, the water may appear deep yellow or yellowish brown while running. In some states, this can be a periodic occurrence.

  1. 1.Safety First: Should You be Concerned?

    Should you be concerned for your health if you, or your child or pet inadvertently drink the water? No, you shouldn’t. The yellow, brown, and reddish-brown tinge in the water is caused by of a high concentration of iron and manganese. Iron and manganese mixed in water are absolutely harmless to the human body. The human body, in fact, needs these minerals in small quantities to function correctly. No, this does not mean you should be gulping down this water though.


    Some of the water color may be iron bacteria that thrive on the iron found in your pipes. The iron bacteria are harmless, but they cause yellow stains and can hold-up your water system.


    What you should be concerned about, however, is the fact that the iron and manganese will cause difficult-to-remove stains in your clothes and furniture. If your clothes become stained, you will need to clean them with a rust remover. Do not use chlorine with this type of water, as it reacts adversely with the iron and manganese minerals. The water also tastes bad (metallic) and it does not mix well with tea or alcohol.


    If vegetables are cooked in it, they will taste wrong and appear blackish. You do not want your guests pointing this out and you do not want your quality of life undermined because of this problem. There are health implications here and after a long day’s work, you do not want a devastated or damaged dinner. That is not icing on the cake but mustard!

  2. 2.Distribution Center Problems

    Why is the water turning yellow? It might be a problem at the distribution center. In some cases, the Water Board in your area is conducting repairs or replacement on a water main. A fire hydrant nearby might have stopped working or someone might be using it.


    Most water distribution centers carry out an annual flushing program. In this program, they increase the pressure of the water, which scours away all the rust and other debris stuck in the pipes. In this case, the water absorbs all the rust and becomes yellow.


    An easy way to see if this was a water distribution center problem is if your water was clear earlier and is now suddenly discolored, and if only your cold water is affected. If the water is still discolored after running for several minutes, it’s still a distribution center problem. Perhaps you can give them a call and ask them. You can probably check out their website to see if they have announced anything to save you time from having to call them up. They would be saving themselves time as well. This is just a courteous and sensible thing to do.

  3. 3.Galvanized Pipe Problems

    If it’s not a distribution center problem, there is a pipe with your galvanized pipes. Galvanized pipes are generally made of iron or steel, and are common with old houses. The galvanization process applies a zinc layer over the steel or iron, which protects it from rust. But over time, the zinc layer begins to wear off, leaving the underlying steel or iron vulnerable to water and rust. Eventually, galvanized pipes will begin to rust from the inside, which causes the formation of plaques. These plaques will be dislodged with time and dissolve in water, causing the yellow, red, or brown color to appear in the water.


    An easy way to see if your galvanized pipes have rust, your water should lose the yellow tinge if you allow it to run for several minutes. If this happens daily, it’s an almost sure sign it’s a problem with your galvanized plumbing. Also, if the discoloration is restricted only to a single faucet, in your bathroom or your sink, for example, then too it is a sign that a single galvanized pipe has rusted. This pipe will have to be repaired or probably replaced.

  4. 4.Copper Pipe Problems: Green-Blue Water

    Sometimes the water has a greenish tinge to it, and green-blue stains will form in your bathtub or your sink. This is a problem in houses with copper plumbing, your faucets or your brass fittings. The copper in the pipe mixed with the water and lends it a green cast. The copper can leave behind stains as well when the water evaporates and a copper compound is left behind.


    Copper can be harmful to humans in large quantities and can cause gastrointestinal diseases and kidney or liver damage if ingested long-term. If you think your copper pipes have problems, have them replaced immediately!


    The other colors to watch out for include black, blue, pink, and green. Black stains points to the growth of mildew. Blue water indicates that your toilet tank, including the blue disinfectant, has sprung a leak and is mixing with your regular water supply. The pink color is harmless and is an organism that grows in certain conditions and climates. Green means the growth of algae, which can be cleared away easily enough.


    Yellow water in your sink, bathroom or bathtub, while not a health hazard, can taste bad and even smell. The water may also have a brown, red or brownish yellow tinge. Call a local plumber to fix the problem.

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