Black Specks in Your Water: Ew! How to Get Rid of Them?

Doron Wise (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0]/ Wikimedia Commons/flickrMaybe we take it too much for granted -- that flow of clean, colorless water we can usually activate just by turning on a tap. One thing for sure: we certainly begin to appreciate the value of clear H2O when suddenly what our faucet is producing is full of yucky black specks. Ew! What causes those particles ... and are they dangerous? Most importantly, how in the world do we get rid of them?

Here's a troubleshooting guide to common causes and solutions for black specks in your water.

  1. Mineral Traces

Black specks may be caused by manganese and/or iron in the water system. These minerals are harmless for humans or animals to ingest, but they give your household water an unaesthetic appearance, as well as possibly staining plumbing fixtures and your "clean" laundry or dishes. As a result, the Environmental Protection Agency recommends their presence be limited to 0.3 milligrams per liter for iron and 0.05 mg/L for manganese. Whether or not this recommendation is actually enforced is up to your local government.

Sand or Silt

If you source your water from a private well, you might find your H2O contains small black or brownish pieces of sand or silt. The liquid is not harmful to drink ... though it may be a tad crunchy. However, the particles can damage your well pump and in addition, wear out your washing machine and dishwasher more quickly than normal. Possible remedies are: allowing the water to run for several days (in the case of a new well), screen installation or replacement (for a sand and gravel well), or installing a liner in a sandstone well.  

Rust Particles

Rust particles in the water are commonly brown or orange in color, but may sometimes be black. Stemming from rusted steel water mains or plumbing pipes, they can be identified by their irregular shape and size and their hard texture.

If these fragments come out of all the faucets in your home -- but only in cold water -- and don't disappear after you run the tap for a few minutes, the trouble likely stems from your municipal supply. Call the water authority if it persists. However, if the problem is confined to your home's hot water, affects only 1 or 2 faucets, and temporarily clears up after you let the tap run, the steel pipes in your house are probably rusting. Call a good plumber to check on them before they spring a leak.

Granular Activated Carbon (GAC)

Many home water filter systems use granular activated carbon (GAC) as the filtration agent in their cartridges. GAC particles are uniformly shaped, extremely hard, and similar to large coffee grounds in appearance. Check the system manufacturer's directions for the steps to take in solving this problem. You will probably need to replace the filter cartridge.

Disintegrating Rubber

Oily, smudgy debris in your water is generally a clue that a flexible rubber hose somewhere in your home plumbing system is disintegrating. Chlorine or chloramine added to the water supply as a disinfectant will tend to eventually corrode rubber. The most frequent culprit in this situation seems to be the flex hose leading to your water heater. It is likely that you will need to have a plumbing professional replace the hose. Fortunately, the newer versions are usually protected with a water disinfection-resistant lining.  

Laura Firszt writes for

Updated December 27, 2018.

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