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Why is My Hot Water Cloudy?

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. This means that at no cost to you, we may receive a small commission for made purchases.

 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.

Q&A With Plumbers ASS.

Interviewer (US Plumbing Association Rep): Welcome, Water Heater and Hub. It’s great to have you here to discuss why hot water can sometimes look cloudy. 

Water Heater: Thank you for having us. 

Interviewer: Let’s dive right in. Can you explain why hot water might appear cloudy when coming from the tap?

Water Heater: Certainly. It’s usually due to tiny bubbles in the water. When water is heated in the water heater, air dissolves into it and forms these bubbles. The pressurized lines then carry this hot water with air bubbles to your tap. 

Hub: That’s correct. These looking air bubbles rise to the top when the water comes out of the tap onto a flat surface. It’s essentially air being released from the hot water.

Interviewer: And is the cloudy or milky appearance a health risk?

Water Heater: Not typically. It’s mostly an aesthetic issue. However, it’s essential to know the root cause. 

Hub: Yes, if the water remains cloudy after it settles, it could be due to sediment buildup in your water heater or a clogged aerator. Municipal water suppliers also add certain substances for water filtration that can cause cloudiness.

Interviewer: If the issue is sediment buildup, how can a homeowner address it?

Water Heater: A trained professional can help by draining off the water to remove the sediment. Alternatively, homeowners can also soak the aerator in white vinegar to remove settlement.

Hub: And if it’s due to issues with the municipal water supply, contacting your local water bureau would be the best course of action.

Interviewer: Can moving to a new area with a different water supply affect the water’s cloudiness?

Hub: Absolutely. Water characteristics can change depending on the supplier. For instance, if the new area has hard water or high water pressure from the mains, it could increase the chance of cloudiness.

Water Heater: The presence of minerals like calcium and magnesium in hard water can precipitate out during heating, which can give a cloudy look to the water. 

Interviewer: Does the cloudiness affect the water’s taste? For example, does it taste like cinnamon?

Water Heater: Cloudy water from air bubbles doesn’t typically change the water’s taste. However, if there is a sediment buildup or a filtration issue, there might be a slight change in taste, but it wouldn’t taste like cinnamon. 

Hub: It’s always advisable to drink clear water. So, let the water stand and rinse your glass if the water is cloudy. But, remember, it’s essential to find out why the water is cloudy to ensure it’s safe.

Interviewer: Thanks for the detailed discussion, Water Heater and Hub. That wraps up our conversation today about cloudy hot water and the factors affecting it.

Interviewer: I appreciate the detailed discussion so far. Water Heater, can you tell us more about how a hot water heater works in relation to this issue?

Water Heater: Of course. Water heaters function by heating up water supplied by the water mains. This process makes the water pressurized and may also lead to the dissolution of air, forming tiny looking air bubbles in the hot water.

Interviewer: And when the hot water is tapped…

Water Heater: Yes, these bubbles are then carried through the lines to the tap. The pressurized hot water comes out of the tap, and as it hits a flat surface, the bubbles rise and burst. This can make the tapwater look cloudy temporarily.

Interviewer: How about the filtration system in this process?

Hub: Well, filtration systems, whether installed on the supply line or the tap, help remove particles from the water. They, however, do not typically affect the formation of bubbles in hot water.

Interviewer: And if a new aerator is installed, would that solve the cloudiness issue?

Hub: It might. If the aerator is clogged, replacing it could indeed solve the issue. But it won’t prevent air bubbles from forming in the hot water. That’s more related to the nature of heating water.

Interviewer: Does the cloudiness signify a safety issue?

Water Heater: The cloudiness due to air bubbles is not typically a safety issue. However, if the water remains cloudy after it settles, it could indicate a problem like sediment buildup in the water heater.

Hub: In such a case, a trained professional can help to drain the water heater via the drain valve to remove sediment. It’s essential to ensure that your tapwater is safe to use and drink.

Interviewer: Thank you for that information. What about when someone moves to a new location, could the water supplier influence the water’s cloudiness?

Hub: Absolutely, different water suppliers might have different mineral content in their water, which could potentially affect how the hot water looks when it comes out of the tap.

Interviewer: It’s clear that the issue of cloudy water can be complex, but understanding these factors can help homeowners address it effectively. Thank you, Water Heater and Hub, for this insightful discussion.

Interviewer: I appreciate the detailed discussion so far. Water Heater, can you tell us more about how a hot water heater works in relation to this issue?

Water Heater: Of course. Water heaters function by heating up water supplied by the water mains. This process makes the water pressurized and may also lead to the dissolution of air, forming tiny looking air bubbles in the hot water.

Interviewer: And when the hot water is tapped…

Water Heater: Yes, these bubbles are then carried through the lines to the tap. The pressurized hot water comes out of the tap, and as it hits a flat surface, the bubbles rise and burst. This can make the tapwater look cloudy temporarily.

Interviewer: How about the filtration system in this process?

Hub: Well, filtration systems, whether installed on the supply line or the tap, help remove particles from the water. They, however, do not typically affect the formation of bubbles in hot water.

Interviewer: And if a new aerator is installed, would that solve the cloudiness issue?

Hub: It might. If the aerator is clogged, replacing it could indeed solve the issue. But it won’t prevent air bubbles from forming in the hot water. That’s more related to the nature of heating water.

Interviewer: Does the cloudiness signify a safety issue?

Water Heater: The cloudiness due to air bubbles is not typically a safety issue. However, if the water remains cloudy after it settles, it could indicate a problem like sediment buildup in the water heater.

Hub: In such a case, a trained professional can help to drain the water heater via the drain valve to remove sediment. It’s essential to ensure that your tapwater is safe to use and drink.

Interviewer: Thank you for that information. What about when someone moves to a new location, could the water supplier influence the water’s cloudiness?

Hub: Absolutely, different water suppliers might have different mineral content in their water, which could potentially affect how the hot water looks when it comes out of the tap.

Interviewer: It’s clear that the issue of cloudy water can be complex, but understanding these factors can help homeowners address it effectively. Thank you, Water Heater and Hub, for this insightful discussion.

author avatar
Anthony Barnes
Anthony Barnes is the founder of Water Heater Hub and a second-generation plumber by profession. Before developing Water Heater Hub, Anthony Barnes was a full-time plumber, and he has undertaken a wide variety of projects over the decades. As a second-generation plumber, it was easy for Anthony to get used to the technicalities of all from a tender age

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