Is it safe to drink water from a rusty kettle?

By | December 13, 2023

A common sight in many homes, especially in kitchens, is rust, a reddish-brown corrosion that develops on iron and steel. Rust may not seem like a big deal, but it can make people wonder if using appliances is safe, particularly when preparing food. The kettle is one such item that rust usually damages.


What is rust?

Iron oxide is the component that makes up rust. Iron oxide is a chemical molecule that consists of iron and oxygen. It can have varying chemical structures and properties depending on the form it takes. A reddish-brown substance called iron(III) oxide, also known as ferric oxide (Fe2O3) and often expressed as Fe2O3 • nH2O, is the most well-known type of rust. Iron and steel react with oxygen and moisture in the air to generate rust. The reaction, which is a type of corrosion, progressively erodes the metal’s surface over time. Rust usually has a reddish-brown color, which provides surfaces made of oxidized steel or iron a unique look. The rusting process may quicken in the presence of water. Although pure rust is not thought to be dangerous, when it flakes off or contaminates food or water, it can cause issues.


What happens if rust flakes are consumed by people?

It is generally safe for people to consume small quantities of rust. Iron can only enter the human body in an ionized state. Iron oxide is what rust is. In most cases, rust (iron oxide) cannot be absorbed by our body since it is not ionized iron. Due to its extreme stability, iron oxide must meet certain requirements in order to be absorbed and broken down. The majority of rust that is ingested and goes through the digestive system undigested will be eliminated in the feces. It’s possible that some iron will be liberated from the rust, but it might not be in an absorbable form. Iron that has been released into the digestive system may bind to other molecules, reducing its availability for absorption even further.


Toxicity caused by an excess of rust consumption.

The body can easily absorb iron when it is in its ionized condition, but it finds it much more difficult to absorb iron when it is in its oxide state, which is what rust is made of. However, excess rust consumption can result in iron overload, a condition that can harm the liver for a number of reasons.


a) Gradual Absorption

Rust can release some iron ions even with a much decreased absorption rate, particularly when gastric fluids are present. This can occur gradually over time, increasing the body’s iron levels gradually but steadily.


b) Cumulative Effect

A single instance of rust consumption is not likely to be harmful, but cumulative iron intake and repeated exposure raise the danger. Over time, iron overload can be caused by even tiny levels of ingested iron.


c) Individual Differences

Different people absorb iron through different processes. Even with low rust consumption, those with faster absorption rates or those with diseases such as hemochromatosis (a genetic susceptibility to iron excess) are more likely to develop iron overload.


d) Increased Absorption with Other Factors

Acidic foods or drinks that are taken with rust have the ability to cause the release of iron ions from their oxide form, which may result in increased absorption.


e) Damage to Gut Lining

Consuming too much rust can cause irritation and damage to the gut lining of the stomach, which can further enhance the absorption of iron by interfering with regular digestive functions.


The main organ in charge of accumulating and digesting iron is the liver. The liver is one of the organs where extra iron accumulates when blood iron levels are higher than the body can process. Inflammation, scarring, and ultimately liver damage may result from this. Although there is less chance of iron overload from eating rust than from ionized iron sources, it is still possible, particularly with prolonged exposure and individual susceptibility.


The maximum amount of iron that can be consumed.

Although iron is necessary for good health, too much of it can cause hemochromatosis, or iron overload. Fatigue, weakness, joint discomfort, and organ damage are signs of iron excess. The tolerable upper intake level (UL) for iron is 45mg/day for adults. Rust eating alone is unlikely to reach the UL for iron since iron oxide has a low bioavailability. The maximum safe intake of iron depends on various factors such as age, sex, and health conditions. Here’s a breakdown:

Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL):

Adults (19+ years): 45 mg/day (both men and women)

Children (14-18 years): 40 mg/day

Children (4-8 years): 27 mg/day

Children (1-3 years): 10 mg/day

Infants (7-12 months): 11 mg/day

Recommendations for pregnant and lactating women:

Pregnant women: 27 mg/day

Lactating women: 9 mg/day

These ULs are determined by taking an amount of iron that is not expected to have negative effects on healthy individuals. It’s crucial to remember that everyone has different needs, and that some people may still have negative effects from smaller dosages.


The possibility of being infected with tetanus from eating rusty flakes.

Tetanus spores can be present on rusty objects, although the majority of tetanus spores are located in soil and can also settle on rusty objects that are exposed to the environment.

Until they penetrate the body through a puncture wound, these spores are harmless and dormant.

It seems not likely that eating a dormant tetanus spore would damage a person right away. The hostile environment of the digestive system is nothing to tetanus spores, as they are extremely resistant to it. They can withstand the hard environment of the intestines and the acidic conditions of the stomach.

Though the spores themselves are unlikely to be damaged by digestion, they do need certain circumstances in order to germinate and turn into active bacteria. Tetanus-causing spores find it challenging to germinate and generate the poison when these conditions are not present from the digestive tract.

As a result, although eating tetanus spores could theoretically increase your risk of contracting tetanus, it is extremely rare. In order to cause harm, the spores would need to make it through the digestive system and then find a way to get into the bloodstream through a cut or other skin breach.

It’s crucial to remember that there are certain situations in which the risk may be a little bit larger. For instance, people who recently took antibiotics or have compromised immune systems may be more prone to infection.


Assessing the risk of rusty kettle.

It takes several methods to determine if boiling water from a rusty kettle is safe to drink.


Visual inspection:

Check for significant rust when inspecting the kettle, especially inside where it comes into touch with water. Extensive rust patches suggest a weakening kettle and maybe serious pollution.

Seek out bits of rust in the boiled water. It is not safe to drink the water that has boiled when there are visible rust flakes in the kettle. Flakes are a sign of serious interior corrosion and possible metal contamination.

Check the water’s color. If there is any brown or yellow discoloration, it may be contaminated with rust and should not be consumed.


Smell and taste test:

Check the water’s smell. If it has a metallic taste, it may be contaminated with rust and should not be consumed.

If the water tastes metallic, it is contaminated with rust and should not be consumed.


Severity of rust:

Minor rust: If the water is boiled, a few tiny rust spots on the outside might not be dangerous. Think about using a vinegar solution to clear the rust.

Extensive rust: The safety of the kettle is put at risk by deep rust within, particularly in the areas where the handle attaches to the kettle or toward the bottom.


Functional test:

Leaks: After boiling, check to make sure there are no leaks near the handle, base, or spout of the kettle. Leaks suggest possible pollution and weakened structural integrity.

Handle stability: Verify that an is securely fastened and not.


Age of the kettle:

Older kettles are more likely to develop interior corrosion as well as rust. If there are noticeable signs of severe corrosion, think about replacing them.


In the end, it’s preferable to err on the side of caution and throw away the kettle if you have any concerns about the safety of the boiled water or your rusty kettle. Your safety and well-being come first.


Precautions to Minimize Rust

Take these easy steps to reduce the chance of rust formation and increase the longevity of your kettle:

Frequent Cleaning: Give your kettle a thorough cleaning every so often to get rid of any buildup or rust. For tough rust stains, use a vinegar and water mixture.

Complete Drying: To stop rust from forming, completely dry your kettle after cleaning.

Stay clear of Hard Water: To lessen the amount of minerals in the water that might accelerate the production of rust, use bottled or filtered water.

Appropriate Storage: To reduce moisture exposure, keep your kettle in a dry, well-ventilated environment.



Even though little amounts of rust are usually not thought to be dangerous, it’s still important to keep an eye on your kettle’s condition and take the appropriate safety measures to reduce the possibility of rust formation. It is best to replace the kettle for your health and safety if the rust gets too bad or starts to compromise the quality of your water.


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