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Cloudy Hot Water: Common Causes & Solutions

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

Hot water is an important part of our daily lives, helping us stay clean, heating our homes, and providing some of our favorite drinks. When your faucet suddenly releases milky white or cloudy water, you could be understandably concerned.

The good news is that under normal circumstances, the cloudy appearance fades within a few minutes, leaving your water as clear as it should be. However, sometimes the issue lingers and you might need to address it.

In this article, we will take a closer look at why hot water turns cloudy and what you can do about it.

Key Takeaways

  • Cloudy hot water is usually caused by air bubbles in the water, which occurs when cold water is heated by a water heater and then released through a faucet.
  • If the cloudiness does not disappear within a few minutes, there might be an issue with your plumbing or contamination in your water supply.
  • Cloudy hot water that clears up after a few minutes is safe to drink, but if it remains cloudy for more than 24 hours, contact your local water department.
  • To clear up cloudy water, let it sit for a few minutes or run the water for a while to release any trapped air bubbles.

What Causes Cloudy Hot Water?

Normally, cloudy hot water is the result of air in your water. Cold water can hold more dissolved air than warm water. When cold water moves from the pipes in your home through your water heater, it warms up. During this 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 a faucet, the pressure is suddenly reduced, which allows the air to be released in the form of tiny bubbles.

These bubbles in hot water form the cloudy or milky white substance that you can see (1). Use a clean glass or jug to collect some water, place it on a counter and watch it. If all is well, within a couple of minutes, the water then turns clear from the bottom up.

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

If you want to get rid of the cloudiness, let the water run for a while. Collect this water in a container and, in the spirit of water conservation, use it for something. Uses for this water might include watering your plants or cleaning your car.

Other Causes of Cloudy Water

There are other reasons that cloudy water might come from 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 discover whether or not they are also receiving cloudy water from their taps. If their water is clear, there might be a problem with your plumbing.

If only one faucet supplies cloudy hot water, look at the aerator in your tap. Clogged aerators can increase tap pressure, which can cause the water to appear cloudy (2).

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

When more than one faucet is releasing cloudy water, we recommend calling in a plumber. They will look at your faucets, pipes, and water heater in order to diagnose the problem. It might be a minor problem or you could need a new water heater.

3. Repairs by the Water Department

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

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

Is Cloudy Hot Water Safe to Drink?

Cloudy or milky hot water from only one faucet that clears up after a few minutes is safe to drink. As mentioned previously, it is caused by air bubbles.

If the water remains cloudy for more than 24 hours, please contact your local water department.

If you don’t hear back from them for a while, avoid drinking the suspicious water. Use bottled water instead, 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 does it mean when the opposite occurs? Water that clears at the top while the bottom remains cloudy is most likely contaminated.

There could be impurities such as sand, stones, rock, or dirt present in the water. If this happens, call your local water department to establish where the contamination is coming from. They will investigate how to fix the cloudy tap water.

Does Cold Water Become Cloudy?

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

What about the whitish or cloudy look that ice cubes get?

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

When frozen, these impurities gather near the middle, which is what gives ice cubes their cloudy appearance. You will notice that ice cubes made from distilled water are much clearer (3).


Why Is My Hot Water Cloudy?

Hot water that is white or cloudy is usually caused by air bubbles in the water. This occurs because cold water contains air that is forced out of it when it is heated by your water heater. The air can’t escape due to being trapped in your pipes with the water, so when you turn on a tap, the bubbles escape alongside the water.

These bubbles should disappear within a couple of minutes, leaving you with clear water. Sometimes cloudy water is due to contamination and you should check with your local water department if it doesn’t clear up.

Why Is My Cold Water Cloudy?

Whereas hot water is usually cloudy due to air bubbles created when it is heated, this process does not happen to water that comes from your cold taps. If your cold water supply is cloudy and stays that way for more than a few minutes, there might be something wrong with your plumbing. Check your other cold taps to see if the problem is widespread. If it is, check with your neighbor and consider contacting your local water department.

Is Cloudy Water Safe To Drink?

In the vast majority of cases, cloudy or milky white water is nothing to worry about, especially if your hot water is affected. This cloudiness is generally caused by bubbles, a side effect of the heating process. Fill a glass and see if the cloudiness disappears within a couple of minutes. If it does, you have nothing to worry about. If it doesn’t or the issue is affecting your cold water, you might need to consult your local water department.

Can You Shower In Cloudy Water?

You can shower in cloudy water because this mostly affects how much air is in the water. In the vast majority of cases, the effect of hazy water will disappear after a few minutes once the water has settled down.

If you observe that the water coming out of your home’s faucets is hazy, the most likely culprit is a pressured municipal system. If foggy water comes from only one particular fixture or faucet, this almost always indicates a problem with that particular fixture.

If you have murky hot water, your water heater may have a malfunction, which would explain why you have hot water, yet it’s hazy.

Can Cloudy Water Give You Diarrhea?

According to a recent study, cloudy water can give you diarrhea. Cloudy drinking water is linked to an increased risk of stomach upsets.

You’ll find this even in instances where the water’s turbidity levels are within the acceptable ranges that have been established by city water safety officials.

What Will Happen If You Boil Cloudy Water?

Boiling cloudy water will clear it. The most effective way to eliminate disease-causing microorganisms, such as parasites, bacteria, and viruses, is to boil the food or liquid in question.

How Do You Clear Up Cloudy Water?

To clear cloudy water from the faucet, just leave it there for a couple of minutes. After turning on each cold water faucet in your home for a few seconds, fill a clean glass with the water still running from the faucet.

If the water from all of your fixtures has a murky appearance, it’s probably caused by air in the municipal supply.

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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.