It’s frustrating isn’t it, you turn your tap on, only to see brown water coming right out of it. Your first thought is, how do I get rid of brown well water? Well interestingly enough it might not even be coming from your well.

There are four reasons you have brown well water, either rust, iron, tannins, or silt . If it’s rust, then it’s coming from your pipes and not your well water, but the rest of the causes are because of well water.

This article will cover exactly how to get rid of brown well water as easy as possible.

Identify the cause of brown well water

The first thing you need to do to get rid of brown well water is finding the cause. Without reason, you won’t know the fix.

Read through the four different causes and how to test for them below.


Iron is a common cause of brown well water. Not only will iron ore turn your water brown, but it will stain your fixtures and turn your clothing brown, too, so it’s essential to fix it the issue as soon as possible.

There are a few types of iron that can be in your well water which are:

  • Ferric – Ferric iron is dissolved iron in your water, meaning that you won’t be able to see it as your water will be a clear colour, however it will leave hard water stains on ceramics and clothing, so if you begin to see your clothing turn red or brown after washing them, this could be an indication of ferric iron.
  • Ferrous – Ferrous iron is the result of iron oxidising in the water, which turns the water a mix between orange and red colour.

There are a few ways to identify Iron other than your drinking water being brown, which are:

  • A red or pink coloured slime in the toilet tank, which is the result of iron bacteria feeding on the iron in the water.
  • Cloudy orange or yellow water which is the result of the iron oxidising.

The easiest way to identify iron water is to use a water testing kit for iron which you can find here.


Rust is a common cause of rusty water which appears as brown water, but sometimes gets confused with iron; however, it’s not the well-water causing the issue when it comes to rust.

The inside of your pipes that run throughout your house could be rusty; ultimately, this leaves it falling into your water, causing your tap water to turn brown. This is quite common if you haven’t had your pipes inspected before as they will eventually rust.

The best way to check for this would be to try other taps in your house, as it’s doubtful that all your pipes will be affected at the same time.

If the water in all your other taps is clear, but the water turns brown in a specific tap, this generally leads to rust being the issue. Likewise, if the water is a different shade of brown in some taps, this also points towards rust being the problem.

Rust is important to get rid of, because it will ultimately leave rust stains over time.


Plants, seeds, bark, wood, leaves, and fruit skins typically contain tannins. When it rains, and theirs any prior on the ground, the water will run through them, taking tannins with it. These tannins then find their way into your aquifer, which turns your well water brown.

To test if tannins are the problem, rake the leaves outside your house and any other plant-based debris, wait until it rains, and see if the well water is still brown. If your water stays clear, tannins are the issue.


Dissolved solids are called silt. These can find their way to your well water. Depending on the composition of the deposit, this could cause discolored water; in addition to this, depending on the sediment composition, this could cause health problems and cause pump failures, so it’s essential to fix the issue if you have one.

To tell if sediment is in your water, let the water from the house tap rest in a glass for a few hours; any deposit will fall to the bottom of the glass.

Fixing the cause of brown well water

Now you’ve identified the cause of your brown well water, it’s time to fix it, find the reason for your brown well water below, and see our methods for fixing it.

Removing Iron

If you find that iron ore is the culprit, then the most common way to make iron disappear is to use a water softener system. A water softener system works by cleaning the magnesium and calcium through ion exchange; this is typically for hard water increased in PH hardness. However, a water softener system will remove iron from the water too. Lastly, a water softener is an economical solution.

However, you can also use some of the following methods to remove iron and get rid of brown well water.

  • Filtration
  • Greensand
  • Ion exchange (Most typical for removing iron)
  • Aeration (Least common for removing iron)

Removing tannins

To remove tannins it’s very tricky, and there is no guaranteed solution.

However, the first thing to try is to keep raking your leaves and plant debris outside your house; if you can keep up and keep the water clear, then perfect.

However, some tannins will still find their way into the aquifer.

To thoroughly remove Tannins, you will need to invest in an Ion exchange system, reverse osmosis system, or an oxidation system. You will also require someone to do the plumbing; for more information, check out this page .

Removing silt

Silt typically enters the well water through ground disturbances, and it can be easy to remove from your water supply.

Because silt sinks to the bottom of the water, the cause of it being in your water could be that the water table has lowered and your pump is now too low.

If your pump is too low, it will be sucking up the sediment resting at the bottom of your well water.

The fix? Move the pump higher.

You can also get a filtration water system with well drilling if the pump is not the cause to filter out any sediments that the pump may have sucked up. This will leave your house with clear water.

Removing rust

To get rid of rust, it’s pretty simple, but it sometimes gets confused with iron.

You need first to identify which is the rusty pipe, simply by seeing which taps are releasing brown water and then following the lines.

Once you have found the pipes that contain rust, you need to replace them, preferably by getting a plumber in to do the job.

After replacing the pipes, you should have clear water again.

A water heater could also be the culprit if there is rust in it. If it’s just the hot tap that produces hot brown water, then your water heater is most likely the culprit as the hot water comes straight from the water heater.

Why does my well water turn brown during low pressure?

If your water turns brown during low pressure, there could be several reasons for this. One of the most common causes is that the water is being forced through a sediment filter. Sediment filters are used to remove particles from the water, and these particles can cause your water to turn brown during low pressure.

The best way to avoid this is to make sure that your water pressure is always above 25psi. You can also install a bypass valve on the sediment filter so that you can turn it off when low pressure is an issue.

Why is my well water brown and smells?

Brown well water and a strong musty or earthy smell are usually caused by surface water that has seeped into your well. This is most common in areas with shallow groundwater levels, but it can happen in any area.

Water from the surface is less pure than groundwater, so it contains organic material and minerals that give water a brown color. The musty smell comes from decaying organic material.

This is a common problem. The most likely cause of this is that your well has been contaminated by surface water (rainwater or snowmelt) and the water is coming in contact with the casing of your well. If this happens often, you may need to have a deeper well drilled so that surface water has less of a chance to enter your well.

There are two ways you can solve this problem:

1) Install an isolation valve on the casing of your well, which allows you to isolate the casing from the rest of your plumbing system. This is a good option if you have severe well contamination problems and are planning to drill a deeper well in the near future.

2) Install an air gap, which is a device that sits between your well casing and the rest of your plumbing system. This allows you to connect your plumbing above or below the air gap, while keeping surface water out of contact with your well casing.

Is it safe to drink brown well water?

Yes, as long as your well water is not contaminated with harmful bacteria or nitrates.

How do I test my water for contaminants?

At Kitchenoa, we recommend using the free online tool from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to test your well water for a contaminant.

The EPA’s Well Water Testing Tool can help you find out if your well water contains potentially harmful contaminants.

The EPA recommends well owners test their water for bacteria, nitrate and other contaminants annually. Testing your water is the only way to know if you have a problem with contamination in your well

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