Have you ever noticed your hot water is cloudy or has a "milky" look? Cloudy water, besides looking unappealing, can leave you worried about health risks, as well as what it may be doing to your plumbing and other water-use appliances.
This article will answer the question of why your hot water is cloudy, and if there are any health or safety concerns you should to be concerned about. We'll also give you a few suggestions on how to fix the problem.
What Causes Hot Water to Be Cloudy
There are two main reasons why your water is cloudy. Let's take a close look at each:
Reason #1: Tiny Air Bubbles
The most common reason your tap water is cloudy is due to tiny air bubbles, which is a result of either a temperature change or an increase in water pressure.
If your cloudy water was caused by air bubbles, then your water is perfectly safe to drink. In fact, within a few minutes the cloudy effect from the bubbles should dissipate and your water will be clear again.
If you notice your hot water is cloudy, the problem is probably due to the temperature fluctuation from heating the water.
When water is heated it expands and can trap gases in tiny bubbles and give a cloudy appearance.
However, once you draw a glass of water, the pressure is reduced and the bubbles rise to the top and dissipate. Leaving you with a clear glass of hot water.
An increase in water pressure can be another cause of cloudy water.
The cloudy or milky look to your water could be the result of tiny air bubbles that come from either a pressurized municipal water system or a partially blocked faucet or aerator.
If the problem is coming from the municipal water system, your water should be cloudy at each tap throughout your house. However, if only a single fixture dispenses cloudy water, then the odds are in your favor that it's a faucet or aerator issue. Which is much easier to fix.
Reason #2: Sediment
If it's been awhile since you've flushed your water heater you probably have a build-up of sediment that's not only lowering the efficiency of your heater, but also causing your hot water to look cloudy.
All water contains minerals, and the heavier the mineral count in your water, the harder the water. Some areas are particularly prone to hard water and need to take steps to treat the incoming water before it enters the house.
As the water heats within your water heater the minerals separate and attach to the inside of your water heater. This is called lime scale, and you've likely noticed a white scaly film on your dishes or chrome water fixture.
Lime Scale is simply a build-up of minerals. It's not dangerous, but it can cause your hot water to be cloudy since it'll eventually flake off and collect at the bottom of your water heater tank.
This collection of flaked-off lime scale is called sediment, and it can travel through your plumbing and clog showers and sink aerator, making it more difficult for water to pass.
Sediment can also find its way into your glass leaving the water with a cloudy look.
If it's been awhile since you've flushed your water heater, then there's a good chance your cloudy hot water is caused sediment.
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Is Cloudy Water Safe to Drink?
When your cloudy water was caused by tiny bubbles and clears after sitting a few minutes, then your tap water is absolutely safe to drink. Safe drinking water should be clear and without a funny taste or smell.
When your water is cloudy due to sediment, and remains cloudy after flushing your water heater, it's a good idea to contact a professional plumber to troubleshoot the problem just to play it safe.
In most cases, the minerals, calcium and/or magnesium, which causes water to be hard, are not a health risk. But there may be something else going on that should be addressed.
It's important to note that cloudy water isn't typically a health concern, although it could be an indication of unsafe chemicals or pathogens.
If your water is orange, yellow, or brown, call a professional to find out what's going on. You should absolutely not drink the water as it may contain harmful chemicals.
How to Fix Cloudy Hot Water
After diagnosing what caused the cloudy water, you'll want to take action to fix the problem.
If the issue was due to a clogged aerator you can try to clear the blockage by removing the aerator and soaking it overnight in a 50/50 solution of vinegar and water.
This might buy you some time, but unfortunately, once an aerator becomes clogged they tend to clog again. So it's typically best to purchase a new one through Amazon or your local hardware store.
One thing to consider is that the aerator may be clogged because of sediment from the water heater. If this is the case, it'll only clog again. In order to fix the problem, you'll need to address the root cause and flush your water heater.
Water Heater Sediment
Water heaters should be flushed periodically to remove the sediment at the bottom of the tank. Not only does sediment have the potential to cause your water to become cloudy, but it also shortens the water heater's service life and reduces their energy efficiency.
Flushing your water heater isn't a difficult task, but if it's been awhile since it's been done, the sediment could clog the drain valve. This article will give you several solutions if you run into that problem.
Of course, some homeowners prefer to hire a professional, who will be able to both flush your water heater and ensure your water is no longer cloudy.
Adding a sediment filter that filters the incoming water is also a good idea. Read our article on sediment filters.
If you live in an area that has hard water, then your water-using appliances, (such as dishwashers, water heaters, and washing machines) are exposed to the harmful damage of lime scale.
We highly recommend installing a water softener or other device to help decrease the lime scale build-up that will develop on all surfaces water comes in contact with. This article goes into detail on the causes and affects of hard water and lime scale. It also provides you with a number of preventative options.
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