The good news is that unlike tinted water after municipal repairs, the problem is usually minor and free of health risks. So what causes cloudy hot water, and how do you get rid of it?
Cloudy Hot Water from Faucet – The Why and How
Water is an interesting substance. Made from two gasses (hydrogen and oxygen), it expands when turned into either a solid or gaseous (steam) state. Not only do minerals become trapped in water, but a wide range of gasses can also be trapped.
These tiny air bubbles are the primary reason your water is white or cloudy as it comes out of the faucet. As your water heater runs, the molecules in the water expand and trap any other gasses due to pressure. Think of how a bottle of soda holds onto carbonation.
When hot tap water is drawn, it’s the same effect as opening that soda. The sudden reduction in pressure allows gas to separate itself and float to the top of your glass or pot, then escape into the air. You can watch this process in action in a clear glass – the water will clear from the bottom up.
Note that these tiny air bubbles in the water is different than having air in your hot water lines which is a completely different matter.
The Winter Quirk
As a side note, it should be pointed out that cold water can also become cloudy, although it’s less common. It happens because water also expands when frozen. This is why refrigerated water and ice are often cloudy, but it’s rare to see cloudy cold water coming from the faucet (see also ‘Why Won’t Cold Water Come Out Of My Faucet?‘).
When Cloudy Water is Cause for Concern
There are a few instances when cloudy water could be a sign of something more serious. Tinted or muddy water, for example, can be a sign that the local water authority has been doing work and can take a few hours to clear out.
Having this muddy water for more than a few hours (or getting it after heavy rains) is sometimes a sign of damage to the water pipes or that the water heater needs maintenance. Well-fed systems are especially prone to smelly or discolored water.
Milky hot water is almost always a matter of pressure, but if your water heater isn’t showing high pressure, this could indicate a problem in your pipes. An instance where water in some parts of the house are cloudier than others can be another sign of pipe issues causing increased water pressure.
How to Fix Cloudy Hot Water
You can perform some simple troubleshooting to reduce the occurrence of cloudy water. Checking the pressure of your hot water tank is a good start. You may also wish to flush your hot water tank or check the anode. These simple tasks can not only help minimize the instances of cloudy water, they will also extend the life of your water system.
One other thing you might not have thought to check is the aerator on your tap. This is the little screened cap that fits on the end of the faucet and is designed to reduce the amount of splash and soften the stream. Sometimes the aerator can become clogged and increase the tap pressure, which can lead to more cloudiness in your hot water.