6 Reasons Why Your Tap Water Is Cloudy – And How To Fix It

Cloudy tap water is a frequent occurrence for many U.S. residents. However, the cloudiness can often leave you wondering whether your tap water is contaminated and safe to drink.

Cloudy tap water is typically the result of trapped air bubbles. However, high water pressure, cold temperatures, hard water, sediment accumulation or methane gas contamination can also cause cloudy tap water. Tap water that is cloudy as a result of trapped air bubbles, high water pressure or cold temperatures is safe to drink.

Some changes in tap water are impossible to notice with the naked eye, nose, or tongue, but others require simple tests to determine. This article will discuss the reasons why your tap water may be cloudy, guide you on how to fix this problem, and show you how to test if the cloudy water is safe to drink.

6 Reasons Why Your Tap Water Is Cloudy

1. Air Bubbles

Air bubbles are the most common cause of cloudy tap water. Air enters the water when you turn on your tap at home, or even when you pump water from a well. Faucets with high water pressure are particularly susceptible to cloudy water.

High water pressure makes the air more soluble, resulting in more air bubbles forming, thus making the water look cloudy. The amount of air trapped in your water can also be due to recent plumbing work. When a water pipe is cut open, the higher pressure from outside forces air into the pipe, mixing with the water to form air bubbles that cloud it.


  • Let the cloudy water stand in a glass for 5 minutes to confirm it is because of air bubbles (the water should clear from the bottom up).
  • Test each of the taps in your home to see if they all produce cloudy water – be sure to check both the hot and cold water taps.
  • If the cloudy water clears in a few minutes, then air bubbles are the culprit. This is harmless and does not affect the quality of your water. There is nothing to fix, and your water is safe to drink

2. Hard Water

More than 85% of American homes are supplied with hard water. Hard water contains high concentrations of minerals like calcium and magnesium, which can make the water appear cloudy or milky.

Greyish-white coatings on sinks and dishes and less foam in washing and soap use are strong indications that your water is hard water.


  • The first step is to conduct a water test to determine whether you actually have hard water.
  • A home test kit is the most convenient and accurate form of testing. Most home test kits call for dipping a paper strip into the water, waiting for the color to change, and then comparing the new color to the legend or reference material included with the item.
  • If you find out your water its hard water, you can opt to invest in a water softener. However, a cheaper option is to simply use the water as it is supplied. Unless your water is sourced from an untreated well it is safe to drink. Municipal and community tap water is treated and must meet the EPA’s stringent quality tests and contaminants must be under an appropriate level.
  • This means that while the magnesium and calcium may make your water cloudy, it is perfectly safe to drink.
  • While it can leave the water with an undesirable taste, a simple water filter pitcher capable of removing these minerals is an easy and affordable option.

3. Cold Weather

Cloudy water frequently happens when it is very cold outside. This is because the solubility of air in water increases as the temperature decreases.

So, cold water holds more air than warm water. In winter, water goes from an icy reservoir to your tap and warms up along the way. Some of the air is no longer soluble and gets released from the solution, making the water that comes out of your tap cloudy.


  • If your water is only cloudy because of extremely cold temperatures in the wintertime, there is no need to fix the problem. The water is perfectly safe to drink, and will remedy itself in the warmer months.

4. High Water Pressure

The fact that the water is cloudy could have something to do with the water pressure. When water moves through the pipes, it is always under tremendous pressure, which helps get move the water from the municipal reservoir to your home.

When water gets compressed, it forms tiny water bubbles, resulting in a carbonated effect that clouds the water. This is also why, after some time, the cloudy water that comes out of the tap can clear.


  • Cloudy tap water that is caused by high water pressure can be safely consumed.
  • However, if you would like to fix this problem, purchasing and installing an aerator on your faucet(s) can fix the problem. An aerator is essentially a small mesh screen that will reduce the both the water and energy coming out of your tap.

5. Methane Gas

Although this reason is not common, tap water can appear cloudy due to methane gas contamination. Methane contamination in the tap water supply mainly happens in areas where oil or gas mining is taking place.

Fortunately, methane, a highly flammable substance, quickly rises to the top and dissipates when the water is exposed to air. The cloudiness in tap water that is contaminated with methane is mainly due to the air bubbles that form as the gas escapes into the atmosphere.


  • If you suspect methane gas contamination is responsible for your cloudy water, then you must contact the local water authorities.
  • You can purchase a gas detector for methane and test the air immediately surrounding the water, such as the one below. However, it is always advisable to contact the authorities if you suspect this type of contamination in your water supply.

6. Sediment Build-up (hot water only)

Sediment and minerals can build up inside your water heater. If you are only experiencing cloudy water when you turn on your hot tap, this may be the cause.


  • If you suspect sediment build-up you can install a sediment filter. However, if the sediment or mineral build-up is within your water heater then you will need to address the problem directly.
  • Contact a technician to come and assess your water heater. They will advise 2 possible courses of action: 1) a complete service of the system or 2) a replacement water heater. Unfortunately, there is no cheap option to fix this problem.

Other courses of action:

  • If each tap in your home produces cloudy water, then check with your immediate neighbor to see if they experience the same problem as you.
  • Contact your water supplier and ask them to come to your house and inspect for any leaks. If there is a leak, your water should clear up once the leak is fixed.

Hot Or Cold Cloudy Tap Water

The water from a hot water tap is often cloudy.

When water is heated, the water molecules expand and trap other gases that appear as tiny air bubbles, causing the water to appear cloudy. The pressure lessens once the cloudy water comes from your tap, and the air bubbles swiftly rise and escape back into the air.

If your water clears at the top first, and then settles at the bottom of the glass, you will need to check your water heater for sediment or mineral build-up. If this is the case, depending on how severe the problem is you will need to either have a professional service your water heater, or replace the water heater entirely.

The most likely reason for cold cloudy tap water is the air in the municipal supply, which mixes with the water and enters into the pipes.

You can easily test for air bubbles in water by filling a glass with cold water and watching it for a few minutes to see whether the cloudy appearance subsides or not. The water should clear from the bottom up.

If the water remains cloudy after some time, it may be necessary to seek assistance from the local authorities. Inquire if there is any maintenance going on or if there is a suspected leak in their water supply system.

Can Cloudy Tap Water Make You Sick?

Tap water that is cloudy as a result of trapped air bubbles, high water pressure, cold temperatures or hard water is safe to drink. Water that contains high levels of sediment or is contaminated by methane gas should not be consumed as it can cause adverse health effects. Cloudy water that is also discolored (brown, yellow or green) can also be detrimental to your health.

It is normal for individuals and families to be concerned about the appearance of their drinking water. When water changes its color, we find ourselves in situations where we are hesitant to consume it.

4 Reasons Why Your Tap Water Is Discolored

Here are four potential reasons why your tap water might appear discolored.

Organic Material

At the bottom of water supply lines, dirt and other naturally occurring sediments settle. A water main break, heavy service demand, or even firefighting can cause the water running through the pipes to speed up. The rapid flow mixes up the sediment, turning your water yellow or brown.

New Source Of Water

One of the most typical causes of changes in water quality is the introduction of a new water source, such as a reservoir or river. The switch can change the properties of the water or impede its flow, affecting the color, taste and even the odor of your water.


Rainwater can wash toxins into the surface water or groundwater that feeds your tap water supply, such as pesticides in agricultural settlements, fracking waste, or motor oil on highways. All of these contaminants are capable of making your tap water appear discolored.

Pipe Material

Rust and other pipe materials flake off into the water, like cast iron and lead pipes to deteriorate over time.

Iron and manganese give the water an orange-to-brown coloration, while lead can darken the water and introduce small particles. In water, rubber plumbing materials like gaskets and O-rings can degrade into visible black particles, making the water appear a little dark.

Why Does My Water Look Cloudy Then Clear?

Air bubbles in the water and the differences in pressure can lead to cloudiness in the water. Because water pressure in the pipes is high, when it enters the glass, the air rises to the top of the water, like any bubble, and escapes into the air above, clearing the water.

All water contains some air, but highly pressurized water has more. When this air is drawn into the pipes and compressed, it forms tiny water bubbles, resulting in a carbonated effect that clouds the water.

How To Test If Cloudy Water Is Safe

Fill a glass with water and set it on the counter to run your test. All you need to do is observe what happens. If the cloudiness goes away within a few minutes, it is most likely due to microscopic air bubbles, and your tap water is safe to drink.

If air bubbles clear from the bottom, it implies air is trapped in your system and has to be flushed out.

Still, if air bubbles clear from the top and settles at the bottom of the glass, it means your pipes are contaminated with microscopic particles such as rock, stone, sand, or dirt and need to be washed out. It will be necessary to get a treatment consultation with a licensed plumber.

Is It Safe To Drink Cloudy Well Water?

Well water is not treated like municipal water, and requires regular maintenance. It is up to you to test your well at least once or twice a year. Even if your well water is cloudy, if you have tested it and had it rectified, there is little chance you will become sick from drinking it. Treating your well water is always the safest option, this ensures your water is safe to drink.

Whole house systems or even simple water filter pitchers are sufficient to treat your well water, and keep you safe.

The cloudy water could be because of air in the tank or pump lines. Trapped air can result from a problem with your pump or a sign of silt and sediment in your supply.

Suppose you have a private Well, test and fix it once or twice every year. If the cloudiness persists, take a sample to your local county extension office to find out what you are dealing with. They will submit it to a laboratory to assess the type and concentration of any potentially hazardous compounds and treatment alternatives.

Theresa Orr

Theresa Orr is an Earth Scientist who specializes in determining past climates from rocks using geochemistry. Her passion for clean water drives her to breakdown the science to provide easy to understand information that everyone can read.

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