Why is My Drinking Water Cloudy & How Do I Fix It?

Isn’t it strange? The once-crystal-clear water from your bathroom faucet suddenly appears cloudy for no apparent reason. At first, you may have thought the pipes were just settling, until hours later, you pour a glass from the kitchen tap, only to be greeted with that same cloudy water.

It’s something many of us can relate to—sudden and unexplained cloudiness in our tap water. We rely on a consistent supply of clean, crisp, clear water daily, but when that dependable stream looks more like milk than pure H2O, we’re left confused like a cat trying to do Math.

There are many reasons your tap water can appear cloudy. In most cases, cloudiness in water is just an aesthetic problem, but it’s always a good idea to identify the source and take measures to address the issue, just in case it’s due to something harmful. Before calling a plumber or replacing your faucets, this short guide explains why tap water may be cloudy and how to restore its pristine clarity and quality.

Why is My Tap Water Cloudy?

When tap water doesn’t look as clear as usual and instead appears a bit hazy or milky, it can leave you scratching your head and wondering what’s happening. Well, there are a few common reasons for this:

1. Air Trapped in Your Pipes

Water in pipes is usually pressurized, which helps transport it from the well or water tower to your home. Pressurized water can hold more air than non-pressurized water. When you turn on your tap, the water loses its pressure, and the dissolved air comes out as bubbles, much like when you open a carbonated soda, making the water look cloudy or even fizzy.

Cloudy tap water caused by air bubbles is usually harmless and safe to drink. But to be sure if air bubbles are the culprit, ask your neighbors if they are also experiencing the same issue. If the cloudy tap water issue only occurs in your household, you may need to contact a plumber or local water authority to rule out any home-based pipework issues and use bottled water.

Solution To Cloudy Tap Water Due To Air Bubbles

If your tap water is cloudy because of trapped air bubbles in your plumbing system, the cloudiness will clear naturally within a minute or two after sitting in a container. But to help release air from the pipes:

  • Find the cold water tap closest to where the water enters your house (usually near the internal stop tap).
  • Turn on this tap to allow a steady water flow.
  • While the tap is running, turn the inner stop tap on and off about four to six times. This will help release air from the pipes.

Please bear in mind, however, that air bubbles can sometimes indicate a problem with your pipes, like a leak or burst. Leaks can waste enormous amounts of water, increase utility bills, and become more expensive to fix over time. They may also introduce potentially harmful elements into your water supply, which, if ingested, can cause severe health issues.

Call a professional plumber to assess it and fix any damage to ensure your plumbing is in good shape. Otherwise, examine your pipes for signs of rust or corrosion. Also, inspect your ceilings, walls, and floors for water damage, as this can be a sign of hidden leaks that need immediate attention.

2. Your Tap Water is Hard

Do you often notice chalky, white deposits on your kitchen and bathroom fixtures? Perhaps your soaps and shampoos take forever to form a good lather, or your water heater has been making weird sounds recently. If so, you might have a hard water problem—which may be why your tap water is cloudy.

Hard water—which affects over 85% of American households—contains a high concentration of dissolved minerals, primarily calcium and magnesium. When hard water is heated or its pH changes, these minerals can react with other ions in the water to form tiny solid particles called “scale.” These particles remain suspended, causing the water to appear hazy or cloudy.

How to Fix Cloudy Tap Water Caused By Hard Water

Installing a water softener is your best defense against hard water and its impact on clarity. Water softeners are designed to remove/reduce calcium, magnesium, and other hardness minerals, thus making the water “soft” and preventing scale formation. You may also notice that your fixtures look cleaner, appliances last longer, and hair and skin look and feel healthier.

Related: 3 Easy Ways to Test for Hard Water | How Hard Water Damages Your Plumbing and Appliances | Hard Water: The Sneaky Culprit Behind Your Crunchy Hair and Dry Skin?

3. A Build-Up Of Suspended Sediments

When tiny particles like sand, silt, clay, and dirt accumulate in tap water, they can leave the water looking cloudy and unfit for drinking. This may occur when water crews have recently been working in your area, fire hydrants have been opened, or due to land disturbances such as construction, urban runoff, and storms.

Any visible particles you notice usually result from iron or minerals stirred up in the pipes and leaching into the water. Some sediments may also enter through leaks, cracks, and water main breaks along the municipal pipework, while others may hitch a ride as water flows through rocks and soil to underground wells.

How cloudy or hazy the water appears, or its turbidity (measured in NTU (nephelometric turbidity units)), depends on how many particles it contains. If your water measures below 1 NTU, it’s as clear as day. Between 1 and 5 NTU means it’s a little cloudy, and 5 to 10 NTU is moderately cloudy. And anything above 10 NTU? That’s the “turbid” zone, which means your water won’t look too inviting.

Unlike cloudiness caused by air bubbles, which often subsides in minutes or seconds, sediment will always make your water look cloudy. No matter how long you let the water sit in a glass or other container, it will maintain an unappealing, opaque look. So, how do you fix it?

How to Treat Cloudy Tap Water Caused By High Turbidity/Sediment Build-up

Regularly flushing your water heater will help reduce the concentration of sediments in your water. However, a more reliable and longer-lasting solution to prevent future cloudiness in your water would be to install a sediment filter or add one to your existing water filtration system. Also, regularly maintain and clean your plumbing and filtration components. If cloudy water persists or is due to issues beyond your control, such as external water source problems, contact your local water utility for guidance on any necessary actions.

Related: 7 Signs of Sediment Build-up in Your Water Heater

4. Increased Bacteria Growth

You may be familiar with bacteria causing various waterborne infections when ingested in drinking water, but did you ever think they could be the reason your tap water looks cloudy? Probably not, but this cloudiness can occur due to a “bacterial bloom.”

Bacteria can invade water sources, such as rivers, lakes, or groundwater, particularly if these sources are contaminated with organic or fecal matter. Even when water treatment plants do their best to rid the water of these and other bacteria-infested materials, some bacteria can still hang on. If there are any problems like leaks or broken pipes in the water pipes that deliver the water to your home, bacteria from the outside can slip in and end up in your drinking glass.

Once these bacteria enter your tap water, they multiply and make the water look cloudy when they get together in big groups.

Solution To Cloudy Tap Water Caused By Bacterial Bloom

Once a water test has determined bacteria to be the reason for your cloudy tap water, addressing the issue will involve a few crucial steps. If your water comes from a well, shock-chlorinate it to kill any bacteria that may have built up in the system. You may also need to flush out the pipes to remove stagnant water and fix any leaks or cracks to prevent more bacteria from sneaking in. However, the most reliable solution is installing a UV Water Purification System.

UV systems use special ultraviolet light to zap bacteria, viruses, and other microbes in the water. When the water passes through the UV light, it damages the DNA of these tiny creatures, making them unable to multiply or make you sick. It clears up the cloudiness and ensures the water is clean and safe to drink.

Related: How UV Systems Work and Why You Need One for Your Home | Purifying Your Well Water with Chlorine: Is it the Safest Option?

Testing Your Water to Determine Why It’s Cloudy

Having your water tested should be the first step after noticing that it’s cloudy. A water test will determine what’s causing the cloudiness and perhaps other contamination issues you didn’t know about.

If you are on city water, most municipalities test the water supply regularly in line with regulations. You can determine how often the water is tested by contacting your local municipality. However, you can still conduct a water test if something doesn’t seem quite right—like cloudiness in your water or the presence of contaminants not being monitored by the government.

For those with private wells, water testing is even more critical, as wells are usually more susceptible to contamination. Plus, the EPA doesn’t regulate private wells. That responsibility falls on the well owner.

Testing your water is the only way to know if it’s safe to drink. There are many ways to test your water, but the most reliable is laboratory testing. Generally, this type of testing requires you to purchase a water test kit, take a water sample from your tap, and send it to a laboratory for analysis. Depending on the laboratory, the test(s) you wish to perform, and various other factors, you should receive the results within a few business days to a week or two.

Related: 10 Common Problems a Water Test Can Detect in Tap Water | How to Read Your Water Quality Report: Helpful Tips and Expert Advice

Is Cloudy Tap Water Safe To Drink?

It’s usually okay to drink cloudy tap water, depending on why it’s cloudy. If it’s due to tiny air bubbles, minerals, or bits of stuff in the water, it’s generally safe to drink, as these are more of an aesthetic issue than a health hazard. Still, some can cause minor gastrointestinal symptoms, such as bloating and diarrhea, damage to pipes and appliances, or stain sinks and fixtures. But if the cloudiness is because of bacteria, that’s a different story.

As mentioned earlier, bacteria can make the water look cloudy, and some types can make you sick if you drink it. Plus, if your water is murky and discolored, it may indicate that it contains other potentially harmful contaminants.

If you’re unsure or worried about the cloudiness, we suggest reaching out to your local water authority or health department for advice or even having the water tested just to be sure you’re drinking clean and safe water. Similarly, if you suspect chemical contamination or other water quality issues, have the water tested to determine what’s in it and whether it’s harmful.

Depending on the test results, you might need to install a water filtration system (ideally, a whole-house water filter or an under-counter reverse osmosis filter), a water softener, or both to address any detected contamination issues. A UV Water Purification System will be an excellent solution if bacteria are detected.

Is It Safe To Shower In Cloudy Water?

Again, it depends on what’s causing the cloudiness. Showering in cloudy water shouldn’t be a problem if it’s air bubbles. But if it’s due to hard water, it can have some devastating effects on your skin and hair.

Effects of Hard Water on Skin

Hard water makes it harder for soaps and shampoos to lather and may leave residues on your skin, making it dry, itchy, and flaky. Also, your skin might feel like there’s a layer of scum on it, and it doesn’t feel as clean even after rinsing. This soap residue can disrupt your skin barrier, clog your pores, and make your skin susceptible to acne breakouts and other adverse skin conditions. This can be incredibly irritating for people with skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis, etc. While hard water doesn’t cause these conditions, it can irritate them or even initiate flare-ups.

Related: 6 Toxic Water Contaminants That May Irritate Your Skin

How Hard Water Affects Hair Quality

Hard water is also considered “The Enemy of Good Hair” for its role in many hair nightmares—from fading hair color and increased dandruff to flat, dull, and brassy hair. No matter how expensive or the brand of shampoos and conditioners you use, washing your hair with hard water can have many undesirable outcomes.

Like hardness minerals can clog skin pores, they can worsen dandruff on your scalp,  leaving nasty mineral build-up behind. This excess build-up of minerals can weigh your hair down, making it look dull, frizzy, brittle, and super-dry, ultimately damaging your hair. Hard water is also notorious for interfering with hair color, causing it to become faded, dull, and sometimes discolored. Long-term exposure to hard water may also cause your hair to become less manageable.

Related: Is Your Water Causing Orange Hair? Iron Could Be The Culprit!

Infection from Bacteria in Shower or Bathwater

Some of us enjoy a steaming-hot shower to perk us up in the morning or to leave us feeling refreshed last thing at night. But if the water contains disease-causing bacteria that’s making it cloudy, an innocent shower can quickly turn into a medical emergency.

Bacteria in water can enter the body through cuts or wounds, or you may accidentally inhale water droplets that contain these harmful microorganisms. While such infections are relatively rare, the outcome can be severe, depending on the type of bacteria. Therefore, it’s always best to remain cautious and address any bacterial contamination issues in the water to ensure it is safe for showers and baths.

Related: Deadly Bacteria Behind Melioidosis Now in the US: A Threat to Well Water Quality? | Best Water Filtration System to Remove Bacteria and Viruses from water

Final Thoughts

When tap water suddenly appears cloudy, it’s often because of trapped air causing a temporary opaque appearance. In most cases, a simple solution is to let it sit for a while so the air can naturally dissipate. But when your water test reveals that the cloudiness is due to sediment build-up, hard water, or bacteria, consider installing a water softener, water filter system, or a combination of both to address the issue.

If you have a question or need guidance finding the right solution tailored to your needs, please don’t hesitate to call our friendly expert team at (800) 589-5592. We’re here to provide you with all the information you require to make an informed decision and restore your water to turn your water from cloudy to clean, crisp, and crystal-clear.