Asked on Jun 17, 2014

Black stuff in home water supply.

Jim Jakes
by Jim Jakes
This black oily or paraffin type stuff sometimes comes through my hot water line in the second story. Have talked to the water company. They say it isn't them or their water, it's in the house. I know about anode rods, yes. I have drained the water heater, yes. I have replaced the electric water heater (a few years back) but it did it after I replaced the heater as it did before I replaced it. Current heater is 6 yrs. old. I have not changed the rods. I have looked everywhere I can to see if a previous owner spliced in some rubber hose but see none and it would have rotted through by now. A plumber said it is phosphates that collect in hot water and can not collect on a worn anode rod. But I have drained and replaced as I said. This has been going on for years. At a minimum I would like to get it analyzed just to see what it is. If I change the water heater as I did before I fear it will just come back in a short time. Ideas or advice on this? How often do you have to drain a hot water tank, do people really change anode rods? How often should you replace your hot water heater. I always did it when they went out. I never drained one and never changed rods, because I NEVER experienced this before and I have lived in a lot of different homes and apts.
Black oily or paraffin type debris.
  36 answers
  • Kathy Kathy on Jun 17, 2014
    Has this place been on well water in the past 10 years? It looks like the black stuff you get with shale. If it is in your line, you would have to flush it all. You may have to do that anyway. Check to see if there is a cooperative extension in your area. they can analyze the stuff to tell you what it is. It might help identify where it is coming from.
  • Adrianne C Adrianne C on Jun 18, 2014
    If you have old copper pipes, it would come from that. I had that problem myself. That mixed with hard well water. Even though I got Culligan on my well, the damage had been done.
  • Mlcapaci Mlcapaci on Jun 18, 2014
    Does this happen only with your hot water lines?
  • Elaine Simmons Elaine Simmons on Jun 18, 2014
    I had that in an older home I owned but only noticed it in the toilet. I always wondered about it too but sounds like Adrianne might have hit the nail on the head.
  • Virgi S Virgi S on Jun 18, 2014
    I get this occasionally, but it isn't as heavy as yours. I've asked the water department and two plumbers. One said it might be the washers deteriorating, but these fixtures are newer than the others. It's been occurring about 3 years and our home has 42 year old copper pipes. It only appears in one bathroom on the main level that we can detect. Maybe it is only hot water that has it. Waiting for a solution.
  • Rosemary Kelly Rosemary Kelly on Jun 18, 2014
    Health Departments will usually analyze water for free. I have a gas water heater, so I'm not sure about the rods. I know some water treatment places will also analyze it. It's probably nothing, but I'd make sure it isn't black mold, which can make you sick.
  • Jim Jakes Jim Jakes on Jun 18, 2014
    Well Good replies from all and thanks. Hope more sign on to comment. More info: i have replaced or rebuilt all faucets, toilets and anything with a rubber fitting or gasket. The pipes are old and copper so that may be a good tip. No well water here local water company. They have made a site visit and explained there is no rubber gasket at the mail leading to the house. Years ago I had the main to the house replaces with rolled copper. Still it persists. Keep them thoughts and ideas coming before I go nuts! I can't tell you how this has confounded me for the past few years well about 15 off and on. Thanks all.
  • Wendy Johnson Wendy Johnson on Jun 18, 2014
    I would just go find out what it is, then you can start figuring out where it came from.
  • Dana J Grant Dana J Grant on Jun 18, 2014
    Have your water checked and have your water pipes checked. You may have to have your pipes replaced.
  • Chris Andersen Chris Andersen on Jun 18, 2014
    My husband works for our town in the water department. He says you should flush your hot water tank every three months. What temp is your hot water? Check your gauge. He says your hot water may in fact be TOO hot, so turn it down. Also, he said to get a water softener which will filter out a lot of the hardness. Do you have a hydro transformer on or near your property? If you have copper water lines, the transformer could cause static electrolyte buildup. If this is the problem, you will probably need to replace the copper with plastic/PVC.
  • Sherry Omey Sherry Omey on Jun 18, 2014
    Before going to the expense of replacing pipes and heaters call the water and health departments and see if the can do an analysis for you. If not see if they can recommend someone qualified. That will tell you what it is, any risks from having it in your water and where it is coming from. Hopefully your family is drinking bottled water till you find what it is. Good luck.
  • Bonnie Bonnie on Jun 18, 2014
    I would definitely get the water coming out of your pipes checked by the health department to be sure it isn't some kind of bacteria too. They can culture it.
  • Sue Walker Sue Walker on Jun 18, 2014
    Having the water tested can identify what is in the water. If you aren't getting this downstairs, then there is something between faucets that is causing the problem. I hope someone can help you isolate the problem soon.
  • Kris Erb Kris Erb on Jun 18, 2014
    What type of hot water heater do you have? I know there is one brand of "on demand hot water heater" that lots of people reported having this type of problem after they had one installed. We have this problem at times but have a well and it is magnesium from the ground water- will smell like rotten eggs when you turn on the tap and run. Here I know the local county extension office will test water if you bring them a sample. Good luck.
    • See 1 previous
    • Kerrie Johnson Kerrie Johnson on May 15, 2021

      This is happening at my house!! We are a NEW BUILD! This house is less than a year old. We have a brand new tankless water heater. (We had the first brand new one replaced as well as the kitchen faucet.) We just went to Lowe’s and bought a complete water analysis test and are waiting for bacteria results. Our water company says the water is within normal ranges at the meter. It is so frustrating!!! Our new quartz kitchen island counter top is stained beyond repair. And yes that is a picture of a tooth brush rinsed with water from the master bath and put into a ziplock air tight bag. We thought the issue was only at the kitchen faucet... but I guess not.

      pic of water heater—- is mine that brand?

  • Ann Kenopic Ann Kenopic on Jun 18, 2014
    We have that same kind of water from our well. Yes it does smell.Not in the cold just hot water at the do you get this to go away. We did put Javex down the well .hope it is gone when we get back this weekend.
  • Carolyn Carolyn on Jun 18, 2014
    Hi Jim. We experienced this in our Delta kitchen faucet with a pull-out head, only when we had been away for a couple of days, hot water mostly. Likely culprits were the water company and the water heater, we thought. We had municipal water and new plumbing and water heaters so they shouldn't have been the issue. Water company employee thought it was in the black hose connected to the pull-out faucet; deteriorating rubber-like compound lining the pullout hose; he had seen it several times with similar faucets. We contacted plumbing distributor who contacted Delta rep, who promptly sent new faucet. No more problems!! Hope this helps.,
  • Jim Jakes Jim Jakes on Jun 18, 2014
    I am getting in touch with the health dept. and should have done this long ago.
  • Michele C Michele C on Jun 18, 2014
    My husband is a service manager for a national water treatment company. He agrees with Chris Anderson's reply. He also said that your anode rod should replaced every 2 yr or 3 yrs. He has always been told the water heater should be flushed every 3 months. Based upon what he has seen and your pictures, it looks like the same stuff he has seen on anode rods. A water softener will help that. He suggests you search for a company in Ohio that does a broad spectrum water analysis. He also suggested that you switch your anode rod to an aluminum one.
    • Jim Jakes Jim Jakes on Jun 19, 2014
      Thanks Michele. I just want things to be normal. I have never lived anywhere where this happened, we would just replace the heater when it went bad. I guess water isn't like it was in the old days!
  • Holly R Holly R on Jun 18, 2014
    Hi Jim! I have the answer!! It's your expansion tank that has gone bad. I actually asked this same question as one of my first posts here on Hometalk ( ). I had those black specks too, and they would get worse when it was hot water versus cold water. They were most noticeable when I would run a hot bath, but then they would smear and get all over everything when I tried to touch them. It was kind of like melted rubber in a way. Although your photos look like your situation is WAY worse than mine. Basically the inside of your expansion tank is just "chipping away" and getting into your water supply. It will NOT get better or go away on its own. I ended up getting my expansion tank replaced and all has been fine ever since. In fact, I got a new hot water tank about a month or two ago and the gas company was pleased to hear that I had already updated my expansion tank so we didn't need to do that again. Good luck!
    Black specks in my water?
    • See 1 previous
    • Mimi Baker Mimi Baker on Dec 25, 2019

      I have the same problem and no expansion tank ... it is so annoying! I put a filter on my shower head and it shoulda lasted 6 months, instead it was filled with gunk in 6 weeks. Heeellllpppp

  • Jeanette S Jeanette S on Jun 19, 2014
    For years I have begged my sister to have her well water tested and put a good filter system on her system! The water corrodes the inside of her dishwasher with a dark brown substance and eats the finish off her brass fixtures! I shake my head and remind her to have her water tested and she responds, "yes, I know I should do that!" Telling her that her insides are a lot more delicate than brass does not good! She and her husband now suffer from neurological problems, but heck, let's not get the water tested!
  • Jim Jakes Jim Jakes on Jun 20, 2014
    Well the county tells me they do not test water. Contacted the state who fwd my request to anoother state agency which set the beuacratic wheels in motion of contacting the water company, who I had already talked to. So he came and tested the water for chlorine and dirt because they don't test for other stuff. All in all no one so far will even take my sample because of course they have to be there to actually see t so they know for sure it came from my water supply. I have to find a private testing company to do it which I will. I am pretty sure its is a rubber based gunk from the feel of it and don't thunk rubber is in the water heater. There is none on the connections njust a standard diaelectric union. One thing did come up though of interest. I use the braided steel supply lines in on all the sinks toilets and they are lined with rubber. The water is not too hot because I can hold my hand under it without getting scalded. The lines are not old and I had the problem before I replaced them. So I am going to run around in circles until I get a test done which will undoubtedly be costly and also will probably show it is rubber. Stick with me folks.
  • Sarah DeRoch Sarah DeRoch on Sep 25, 2014
    I just solved the same problem here which we have been dealing with for over 3 years. It was the flex hoses going into and out of the water heater. They also have the rubber like lining which was deteriorating and leaving those lovely black floating smudgy specks in the bathtub.
    • Virgi S Virgi S on Jul 14, 2015
      @Sarah DeRoch I had called the water dept and asked plumbers and nobody had heard of this. When we needed a plumber he said we have copper pipes so that couldn't be the problem. I asked him to replace the flex hose because it had worked for someone on Hometalk. He didn't want to, but it did the trick. I so appreciate taking a bath in clean water! Thanks
  • Irie Dremz Irie Dremz on Sep 26, 2014
    jim...hey...did you ever get this problem solved? i live in nashville, too, and we have a similar issue. i tried to read your complete reply (june 20) but couldn't access it. i've heard nashville has notoriously foul city water.
  • Jim Jakes Jim Jakes on Sep 26, 2014
    You know Sarah, there is one more place I have not changed the flex line and it connects the hot water heater. Duh! I am going to try that. I wanted to get the water analyzed but hace to find a company as no county or state services will do it. I will post if this works.
    • Jim Jakes Jim Jakes on Sep 29, 2014
      Well after years of wondering, asking plumbers, getting the run around buy others, Sarah has answered my question. Hats off to you lady! And thanks a million. Re: the photo. The top is the cold incoming. The bottom is the outgoing hot. The hot water (set at proper temp) over time has deteriorated the rubber lining allowing it to leach into the hot water supply. As it floats, it went up to the upstairs shower. I had changed everything rubber in the entire house until... Sarah posted her solution. Under the insulation was braided stainless line with the black rubber inside. I have now changed to corruagated copper and should not experience this problem any more. Fingers crossed. This problem was solved on HOMETALK!
  • Joe Pruett Joe Pruett on Feb 07, 2015
    I appreciate this forum. Having the same black specks in my hot water only and didn't recall any hoses, until I looked at my heater just now. There they were, two braided flex hoses attaching my heater to the plumbing system of the house. Will unscrew and check them out soonish. Just flushed today, but it didn't help. GE water heater was installed Nov 2012.
  • Donna Soares Burt Donna Soares Burt on Apr 29, 2015
    We had problems similar just not black. We tried to change the rod but wasn't able to get it out. Bottom of water heater rusted out and we had a flood. This happened twice so the third time we said no more water heaters. Had a tankless one installed and no more gunk coming from the hot water. It was a bit of an investment but well worth it. You can run the hot water all day and it will never run out. Our spa bath tub could hold the entire water heater and then you had to wait till it heated up again. Not with this heater.
  • Lorenzo Lorenzo on May 20, 2018

    Ive worked installing BLACK COAL inside the County water filtration system b4 & I wonder if it's THAT....& their NOT bothering 2 explain it??

    I TOO hv recently moved & experiencing the SAME ting 2 look INTO! I'm AWARE that the County WILL check the water for I'm looking 2 hv THAT done; but I WILL b prepared 2 delegate that iv installed black rocks in a county water tower b4 to help filtrate the water & GET IT RESOLVED if it MAY b actually THAT??

    Instead of having a home owner WORRY....I NEED 2 KNOW the TRUTH!!!!! ☝

    • Todd Todd on Nov 16, 2018

      I've seen numerous posts here about the County testing or not testing water. Most Counties in the United States do free water testing on private wells. I don't know of any Counties that test public water for 2 reasons. 1) Public water is tested on a daily, weekly, monthly, etc.. basis. When they test is based on what contaminant they are testing for, some need to be tested daily and others monthly, bi-annually or annually. 2) Imagine if Counties were to be able to test public water, everybody and their brother would be having their water tested. Based on $30 (or higher, depending what you're testing for) per test, imagine what your taxes would be to just cover the water testing that is already done by the supplier.

  • Mimi Baker Mimi Baker on Dec 25, 2019

    Jim, did you find out what this is and how to fix it? I have the exact same problem. It’s awful.

  • Jim Jakes Jim Jakes on Dec 29, 2019

    I did and strangely enough I was responsible. I had installed stainless Steel braided connecting lines to my hot water heater. They are flexible and have a black rubber core. After time (two years) the black core deteriorated and would periodically disperse the film out the hot side, thus my problem. I replaced these lines with copper flex and have had no more problems.

  • Darin Whitehead Darin Whitehead on May 18, 2020

    As a WTP operator i have seen this alot. Check your supply lines..if they are stainless check inside...most have a black rubber tubing that degrades and causes an oily sticky black residue..shut off the water and remove 1 end of the tubing,use a Q-tip and run it inside the tubing if is black theres your answer...good luck :)

  • Yijia Lu Yijia Lu on Aug 08, 2020

    This post is really helpful, and I have the same issue recently. My problem is that my water heater hose is corruagated copper, and my second floor bath tub hot water comes with same black stuff. I will try to change new one and see the result. Thanks for all the input.

  • Kerrie Johnson Kerrie Johnson on May 15, 2021

    This is happening at my house!! We are a NEW BUILD! This house is less than a year old. We have a brand new tankless water heater. (We had the first brand new one replaced as well as the kitchen faucet.) We just went to Lowe’s and bought a complete water analysis test and are waiting for bacteria results. Our water company says the water is within normal ranges at the meter. It is so frustrating!!! Our new quartz kitchen island counter top is stained beyond repair. And yes that is a picture of a tooth brush rinsed with water from the master bath and put into a ziplock air tight bag. We thought the issue was only at the kitchen faucet... but I guess not.

  • Johnavallance82 Johnavallance82 on Jan 10, 2023

    Call in a professional to get advice and or to fix this for you. They have probably dealt with it before.......

  • Thu Thu on Jun 13, 2023

    i am also having trouble with water in my house i hope someone can see my comment and give me the solution you did with your house. I asked a lot of people in many places but they all said they have never seen anything like me. Thanks a lot

  • Mogie Mogie on Jun 16, 2023

    Iron and manganese are common minerals that show up in trace amounts in residential water supplies. Although typically not found in dangerous levels, it still results in unsightly black specks. Excess minerals could be coming from the municipal water supply, which can only be corrected by your local government.

  • Michael Lybarger Michael Lybarger on Aug 18, 2023

    I have it at home and at work in Dallas, Texas and looks exactly like that! Black oily specs that smear when you wipe the bathtub!!! I think its old pipes or old water heaters. Its only the hot at both home and work.