Home » Water Education & Testing » Why is My Tap Water Milky? Possible Causes and Solutions

Why is My Tap Water Milky? Possible Causes and Solutions

By: Stephanie Nielsen
Published on:

Accessing clean and safe water is essential to our everyday lives, whether for drinking, cooking, bathing, or cleaning. However, sometimes, you may notice a milky or cloudy appearance in your tap water, which can be a cause for alarm. 

In this article, we will explain why your tap water may occasionally look milky, the potential health implications, and what actions should be taken to address this issue. Let’s start!

Key Points

  • Milky tap water is often caused by two main factors: air entrainment and high mineral content. While neither is immediately harmful, ongoing issues may signal underlying problems.
  • Once the air bubbles dissolve, tap water that is milky should clear up. Regular events may suggest plumbing or water pressure concerns that can be fixed by examining or installing a pressure-reducing valve.
  • A high mineral content in the water, indicating hard water, can also cause milky water. If this is the case, you might need to consider getting your water tested, installing a water softener, or setting up a whole-house water filtration system.
  • Milky water may indicate microbiological, chemical, plumbing, or environmental contamination in extreme circumstances. 
  • Milky water is normally harmless, but persistently milky water or water with strange tastes, smells, or health complaints should be analyzed and treated. Normal maintenance, filtration, and professional advice.
illustration of collecting water in a glass from tap

Milky Water From Tap: What Is It and Is It Dangerous?

When you fill a glass from your tap, and it momentarily appears clouded or milky before settling into its expected clear state, you’ve encountered what many refer to as ‘milky water’. 

This common phenomenon can momentarily stir a sense of concern, but is this milky water dangerous? The answer is it depends on the cause.

While tiny air bubbles trapped in the water are typically to blame for this milky appearance, if the water doesn’t clear up after a few minutes or has visible particles suspended in it, this could be a sign of contaminants or plumbing problems that require attention.

Two Main Causes of Milky Water from Tap

Milky tap water can lead to a kitchen conundrum, surprising and perhaps unsettling homeowners. This cloudiness can primarily be attributed to two causes: air entrainment and mineral content.

Air Entrainment

  • Severity: Low

The most common reason behind milky water is the presence of tiny air bubbles. These can be introduced into the water supply due to changes in temperature or pressure, causing water to absorb more air. 

The air is then released in the lower-pressure environment of your home, leading to a milky appearance.

Generally, air bubbles in your water are not a cause for major concern. This condition is harmless and does not affect the water’s safety for consumption. The milky appearance should clear within a few minutes as the air bubbles disperse.

If Air Entrainment is the Culprit

  • Patience: Often, simply waiting a few seconds to a minute for the air to naturally dissipate is enough to clear the water.
  • Check Your Plumbing: Consistently milky water might indicate a deeper issue in your home’s plumbing system, such as a leak or pressure problem. A plumber can help identify and remedy these issues.
  • Regulate Water Pressure: Installing a pressure-reducing valve can help manage the pressure at which water enters your home, minimizing air entrainment.

Mineral Content

  • Severity: Medium

High levels of minerals such as calcium and magnesium, components of hard water, can also cause water to appear cloudy. This is less common but can be due to sediment stirring within your home’s hot water system or municipal supply changes.

While still not immediately dangerous, persistent cloudiness due to minerals can signal hard water issues. Over time, this might lead to damage to water pipes and appliances due to scale build-up. It can also affect the taste and quality of your water.

If Mineral Content is the Culprit

  • Water Testing: Get your water tested to confirm high mineral content. This will also provide detailed insights into what specific minerals are present.
  • Install a Water Softener: If hard water is to blame, a water softener can remove calcium, magnesium, and other minerals, preventing cloudiness and protecting your appliances.
  • Whole House Water Filtration: A full filtration system might be the best option if you are worried about the mineral content and possible contaminants in your water. These systems can deal with both hard water and possible health risks, making sure that the water is clear and safe to drink.
a kid is collecting water in a bottle

Severe Issues That Can Cause Milky Water from Tap

Milky water from air bubbles (called “air entrainment”) or high mineral content (called “hard water”) is usually not harmful to health and is only mild to moderate. 

But sometimes milky or cloudy water could mean there are bigger problems going on. Even so, these scenarios happen less often and usually come with other problems with the plumbing or water quality. 

Here’s a look at potential severe issues that might initially cause milky water:

Microbial Contamination

While milky water itself isn’t a sign of microbial contamination, if the cloudiness does not dissipate after setting or is accompanied by unusual taste, odor, or gastrointestinal distress after consumption, there could be a more significant issue. 

Waterborne pathogens might not necessarily make the water appear milky, but simultaneous issues in a compromised water supply could manifest multiple symptoms, including cloudiness due to other contaminants.

What You Can Do

  • Test Your Water: If you have any suspicion that your water is contaminated, you can conduct a water test using water test kits to ensure whether it’s actually contaminated or not.
  • Boil Water: Should tests confirm the presence of harmful microorganisms in your water, boiling water before use is an immediate, short-term solution. 
  • Water Purification System: For a long-term fix, installing an ultraviolet (UV) water purification system can effectively kill bacteria and viruses. Make sure to contact professionals who can help you install these systems.
  • Regular Maintenance: Water storage systems can stay clean in the future if they are regularly maintained and septic tanks are kept away from water sources.

Chemical Contamination

Certain chemical contaminants could cause a change in water clarity. While not common, industrial spills or improperly disposed chemicals can affect water supplies. 

Such scenarios are typically accompanied by a change in water odor or taste and would require immediate attention from water quality experts and local authorities.

What You Can Do

  • Stop Using the Water: If you suspect chemical contamination, immediately cease using the tap water for any consumption or cooking. 
  • Use Carbon Filters or Reverse Osmosis Systems: Depending on the contaminant, activated carbon filters or reverse osmosis systems might be recommended to filter out chemicals effectively. 
  • Stay Informed: Engaging with local environmental health agencies to address the broader issue at the source is also crucial for community safety.

Plumbing Deterioration

In some cases, milky water might be a symptom of deteriorating plumbing. For example, if galvanized pipes start corroding, they might release zinc and other sediments into the water, potentially causing cloudiness. 

Over time, this can lead to significant plumbing issues and may pose health risks due to the leaching of dangerous metals like lead, especially in older homes.

What You Can Do

  • Replace Old Pipes: To keep yourself safe, replace rusted lines with copper or PEX ones. Costly as it is, this is necessary for safety and health. 
  • Water Filters: Using water filters can also provide a temporary solution to mitigate the effects of sediments and metals in the water until plumbing updates are made.

Environmental Factors

Certain environmental factors, such as heavily disturbed sediments in a water supply after heavy rainfall or flooding, can increase particulates in water, causing it to appear milky or cloudy. 

While this might be temporary, it’s essential to have the water tested if such conditions persist to ensure it is free of harmful bacteria and contaminants that these events can stir up.

What Can You Do

  • Monitor Water Advisories: It is best to keep an eye on any water advisories issued by local authorities on cloudiness brought on by environmental disruptions such as flooding or heavy rain. 
  • Sediment Filters: Water sediment filters can remove particles. Comprehensive filtration systems, including activated carbon and UV treatment, can ease water safety concerns by removing a wide range of contaminants.
person collecting glass of water from silver tap


Having milky or cloudy tap water may not be as frightening as it initially seems. Air entrainment and high mineral content are typically the most common causes, which can often be resolved with simple solutions like waiting for the bubbles to disperse or installing a water softener. 

Nonetheless, persistent issues may hint at more severe problems such as microbial contamination, chemical interference, crumbling plumbing or environmental factors.

In these situations, you need to move right away by testing your water and maybe even installing a water filtration or purification system. 

Maintaining your water supply system on a regular basis and knowing about any changes in the environment in your area can also help a lot to avoid problems in the future.

Photo of author
Stephanie Nielsen
Stephanie worked as a department supervisor of kitchen, bath, and appliances at Home Depot, and water filters were part of the inventory she was responsible for assisting clients with so she learned the ins and outs of matching the right filtration device to homeowner’s needs. She also worked closely with Culligan water to educate customers about whole-home water treatment and softener systems.

Learn More About The Water Tech Editorial Team

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.