What Causes Cloudy Hot Tap Water?

Find out what causes cloudy hot water, and when you should worry about it 

Do you have cloudy hot water running out of your tap? Water is one of those things we just can’t live without. So, when your faucet releases milky white or cloudy-looking water, it’s natural to be alarmed.

Well, we have some good news for you. Under normal circumstances, the cloudy look dissipates in a few minutes leaving your water as clear as it should be.

In this article, we’ll be looking at why hot water turns cloudy, its causes, and what you can do about it.

What Causes Cloudy Hot Water?

Normally, cloudiness is a result of air in the water. Cold water has a greater capacity to hold dissolved air than warm water. When cold water moves from the pipes in your home through the water heater, it warms up. In the process, the water loses its ability to keep the air in a dissolved state.

While the water is under pressure within the pipes, the air cannot escape. When you open the faucet, the pressure is suddenly reduced, which allows the air to be released in the form of tiny bubbles.

These bubbles are the cloudy or milky white substance that you see (1). Use a clean glass or jug to collect water, set it on the counter and monitor it. In a couple of minutes, the water should clear from the bottom up.

Think about a bottle of champagne. The moment someone pops the cork, the pressure is released from the bottle and the bubbles overflow. It’s the same principle.

If you need to get rid of the cloudiness, let the water run for a short while. Collect this running water in a container, and in the spirit of water conservation, use it elsewhere. Some ideas include watering your plants or cleaning the car.

Other Causes of Cloudy Water

There are other reasons for cloudy water coming out of your faucet including:

1. Use of Ozone Disinfection

Local water authorities may use ozone to disinfect water. Ozone gas is produced when oxygen molecules collide with oxygen atoms. Ozone is far more effective than chlorine and is used to destroy bacteria and viruses.

2. Plumbing Issues in Your Home

Check with your neighbors to find out if they’re also receiving cloudy water in their taps. If their water is clear, then you may have a problem with your plumbing.

If only one faucet gives out cloudy hot water, look at the aerator in your tap. Clogged aerators can increase tap pressure. In turn, this can cause the water to look cloudy (2).

A quick way to unclog the aerator is to clean it using a half white vinegar and half water solution. You then rinse the aerator thoroughly and reinstall it. Alternatively, replace it with a new one.

Where more than one faucet is releasing cloudy water, it’s advisable to call in a plumber. The technician will look at the faucets, pipes, and water heater in order to diagnose the problem.

3. Repairs by the Water Department

Occasionally, the water department may shut off the mains in order to carry out repairs. During this time, air can get into the water mains and dissolve in the water.

Once the water team switch on the mains, water pressure is restored. At this point, if you open the tap, the water may have a milky white appearance. This phenomenon can last a couple of hours, days or even weeks.

Is Cloudy Hot Water Safe to Drink?

Cloudy or milky white water that clears up in a few minutes is safe for drinking. As mentioned above, it’s caused by air bubbles.

Should the water remains cloudy for more than 24 hours, please get in touch with the water bureau in your area.

As you await a heads up from them, refrain from drinking this water. Rather, use bottled water or any other treated water.

What If the Water Does Not Clear?

Cloudy hot water resulting from air bubbles clears from the bottom up. What happens if the opposite happens? Collected water that clears at the top while the bottom remains cloudy is most likely contaminated.

There may be impurities such as sand, stones, rock or dirt present in the water. In this case, call the water bureau to establish where the contamination is coming from.

Does Cold Water Become Cloudy?

Cold water rarely gets cloudy but if it does you should monitor it in the same way as the cloudy hot water.

What about the whitish or cloudy look ice cubes get?

Well, water contains impurities, which are not necessarily harmful bacteria, viruses or germs. These impurities may include calcium, magnesium, nitrates, lime, and fluoride.

When frozen, all these impurities come together near the middle and this is what gives ice cubes that cloudy look. You’ll find ice cubes made from distilled water much clearer (3).

Crystal Clear Water

While our government places strict standards on water treatment, it still doesn’t hurt to pay attention to what comes out of your tap.

Cloudy hot water resulting from air bubbles clears in a few minutes and poses no risk. In case the water doesn’t become clear, call the water bureau for assistance.

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About the Author

Peter Gray

Peter has been a homeowner for 35+ years and has always done his own repair and improvement tasks. As a retired plumber, Peter now spends his time teaching others how they can fix leaks, replace faucets, and make home improvements on a budget.