Whole House Water Filter Turns Brown? Here Is What to Do!

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If your whole house water filter turns brown, there are a few different possible causes for this.

Thankfully, there are also solutions.

Here is what you need to know about why your whole house water filter turns brown and how to resolve the issue!

Key Takeaways

If you whole house water filter turns brown:

  • It may simply be time to replace the filter.
  • Have your water tested to find out what’s causing the brown color. It may be iron, manganese, tannins, or silt.
  • If contaminants are causing the brown color, consider installing additional filters to remove them.
  • Replace rusted pipes and old water heaters if they are the source of the problem.

The Causes of Discoloration – Why Is My Water Brown? 

Once you know what has caused your whole house water filter to turn brown, you’ll understand how to prevent it. In the meantime, skip on drinking the water when it’s brown. 


One of the most common causes of water discoloration is high levels of iron or rust. This can cause your whole house water filter to turn brown, as well as affect the taste, smell, and appearance of your water.

Iron and rust are typically found in well water or older homes with iron pipes or old appliances – think water heater. If you have a private well, you should have your water tested regularly to ensure that it meets safety standards.

There are different types of iron that can turn your water brown:

  • Ferric iron: This is the most common type of iron found in water. It is typically reddish-brown in color and can cause staining on your fixtures and clothing.
  • Ferrous iron: This type of iron is usually found in groundwater low in oxygen content. It is not as visible as ferric iron, but can still cause your water to have a metallic taste.
  • Iron bacteria: These are microscopic bacteria that live in water and use iron to survive. They can cause your water to turn brown and also create slime on your fixtures.

brown whole house water filter


Manganese is a naturally-occurring element that can be found in rocks and soil, hence it gets into groundwater. While small amounts of manganese are not harmful, they can cause your water to appear brown or yellow.

Manganese is rarely found in water alone. If your water has iron or rust, it’s likely that it also has manganese.


Tannins are organic compounds that are found in plant materials like leaves, bark, and wood. When tannins dissolve in water, they can cause the water to appear yellow, brown, or red. While tannins are not harmful to your health, they can give your water an unpleasant taste and smell.

Tannins are often found in surface water sources like rivers and lakes. If you get your water from a private well, tannins may be leaching into your water from the surrounding soil.


Silt, or sediment, is a type of fine particle that can be found in both surface and groundwater. If you have a well, the silt may enter if any of your well components are damaged. If your water is silt-heavy, it may taste unpleasant and appear cloudy.

Silt is also often found in areas with high levels of erosion. If you live near a construction site or an area where there is a lot of land disturbance, silt can enter your water supply and discolor your whole house water filter.

Is Brown Water Safe?

Brown water is not necessarily harmful to your health, but it can indicate that there are high levels of metals or other contaminants in your water.

If you’re concerned about the safety of your water, contact your local water utility for more information.

Resolving Brown Water Problems

While brown water doesn’t usually pose serious health risks, you’re still better off without it. Here are things you can do to maintain your water quality and prevent your water and whole house filter from turning brown.

Test Your Water

If you’re not sure what’s causing your water and filter to turn brown, the first step is to have it tested. A water test will reveal the levels of contaminants and whether they exceed safety standards.

A water test by a professional may cost more than doing your own water test, but it does provide useful information on the exact concentration of all impurities. If you get your water from a public utility, you can request a free water quality report. If you have a private well, you’ll need to hire a certified well contractor to test the water for you or use one of the many available DIY test kits.

Install a Water Filter

If you suspect that contaminants are causing the brown color, you can install an additional filter to remove them.

Iron and Manganese Filters

If you have high levels of iron or manganese in your water, you’ll need an iron and manganese filter, obviously.

Tannin Filters

If tannins are causing your water to turn brown, you’ll need a tannin filter. Tannin filters work by adsorbing the compounds onto carbon media, which removes them from the water.

Sediment Filters

If sediment is causing your whole house water filter to turn brown, you can install an additional sediment filter. Sediment filters work by removing the suspended particles from your water, which clears and prevents it from turning brown again.

whole house water filter cartridges of different sizes

Change Your Filter Regularly

It’s important to change your whole house water filter regularly, even if your water isn’t discolored. Most filters should be changed every 3-6 months to ensure that they are working properly.

Use a Water Softener

If you have moderate levels of iron or manganese in your water, you may also benefit from using a water softener. Water softeners work by exchanging ions in water with sodium. This process not only removes impurities but also prevents them from binding to surfaces like pipes and appliances.

Replace Rusted Pipes and Water Heaters

If you have iron pipes or an old water heater, they may be rusting and causing your water filter to turn brown. It’s best to have them replaced. Unless you are highly skilled in dealing with pipes, you should contact an expert to do the job.

These are some of the most effective ways to resolve the issue of a brown whole house water filter – but if nothing seems to work, be sure to call a professional and get the issue looked at properly.

If you have any questions about whole house water filters turning brown please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!

About the Author Gene Fitzgerald

Gene Fitzgerald is one of the founders of BOS and currently head of content creation. She has 8+ years of experience as a water treatment specialist under her belt making her our senior scientist. Outside of BOS, Gene loves reading books on philosophy & social issues, making music, and hiking.
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