We mainly use the kitchen faucet or drink bottled water in our home, but is it safe to drink water from the bathroom tap?
It’s likely not safe to drink water from the bathroom faucet, especially if your home has old pipes which can mean your water is contaminated with harmful lead, Legionella, asbestos, E.coli, and Giardia – which can all cause serious illness.
Let’s look closer at the subject of drinking bathroom tap water in more detail – and discover the hidden dangers that you perhaps didn’t even know where there…
Is Bathroom Water The Same As Kitchen Water?
Yes and no. Water comes into your house from a well or a municipal source via one pipe, your water supply line or house mainline.
That water is then distributed throughout the house via a network of water “service” lines. But while there is only one water source for your house, the route the water takes to those taps can be quite different.
If you live in a place with bad ground or municipal water, like in the states listed below, then all the water running through your house will be bad.
We should all be aware that some chemicals can get into a water supply and never leave. For example, prescription drugs should never be poured down a drain or flushed down the toilet. Pharmaceuticals can’t be cleaned in municipal sewage treatment plants – they re-enter everyone’s water.
But let’s say you live in a place with good water. In some houses, the pipes leading to the kitchen or bathroom may be composed of different materials. Or, the pipes are the same materials, but the water in a bathroom may have been stored temporarily in a tank.
Tanks and pipes can add unhealthy biological and mineralogical contaminants.
Lead is one of the most harmful water contaminants, especially for children. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) both agree – there is no known safe level of lead in a child’s blood.
The EPA says that houses built before 1986 may have used lead pipes for water service lines. There are several online forums to help you determine whether your house could have lead pipes, like this one.
You can’t see, taste or smell lead. The safest bet – get a plumber to come to your home and check out your pipes. If you have a well, get it tested every year.
Most modern houses run water service lines made from a composite material like PVC or PEX. But in some houses, the system of water pipes is composed of copper. While copper is a good material for water pipes, the copper pieces must be soldered together.
Unfortunately, old solder sometimes contained lead. Over time, and with elevated acidity and temperature, lead from solder can be absorbed in the water.
For houses with a hot water heater, the house mainline comes into the house and then divides before the hot water heater. Part of the water continues as the cold supply (or service) line and part is diverted into the tank. The tank heats up the water and then pushes it out into the hot water service line.
But let’s say that your hot water tank sat unused for six months before you bought your house. If a hot water tank temperature dips, it becomes a perfect breeding ground for bacteria, which flourish between the temperatures of 95° and 115°.
In general, kitchen faucet water use is much higher than bathroom faucet use. Because of the relatively lower usage, some older country houses have cold water storage tanks in an attic or loft. Tanks can be a major source of contamination.
Is There Sewage in Bathroom Tap Water?
Uh, no. Yuck! Your sewage goes through an entirely different system of pipes.
There are two systems of pipes in homes: water and sewage. Sewer pipes run from each drain in your house: from the kitchen sink, your shower, your bathroom faucet, and yes – from the toilets.
All that water (and other stuff) gets its own set of pipes that funnel the water back to your municipal sewer system or into your septic tank.
Water pipes are different. They generally have smaller diameters and are often made of a different material. They start at the main supply line that comes into your house and then feed throughout your house to kitchen faucets, bathroom faucets, refrigerators, washing machines, dishwashers, and shower heads.
These two systems are NEVER hooked together.
Here’s a cute infographic about where your water comes from and where it goes.
Of course, sewers can back up. But when that happens, the backup occurs in the drain, or sewer lines. For example, you may have stinky sewer water back up into a sink or into your toilet. But it will never flow through a tap.
Can You Get Sick From Drinking Bathroom Water? (How Bad is it for You?)
Yes, you can get sick drinking from bathroom taps if the water is contaminated. Take special care if you have older visitors or small children in your home.
Also, at an elevated risk level are those with immunocompromised systems. Some symptoms may take up to 48 hours to develop. In general, unless you develop a fever, most symptoms will go away within one or two days.
- Lead. Symptoms in children include behavioral changes, slower growth, learning problems and lower IQ.
- Asbestos. Some old houses were fitted with asbestos cement pipes. Asbestos can cause mesothelioma cancer.
- Giardia. Symptoms include diarrhea, gas, dehydration, stomach cramps and vomiting.
- Cryptosporidium (aka Crypto). A microscopic parasite. Symptoms include watery diarrhea, dehydration, vomiting, fever, and weight loss. Symptoms can last up to two weeks.
- Shigella. Bacteria causing diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps.
- E. coli O157:H7. Strain of E. coli that causes severe stomach cramps, bloody diarrhea, and vomiting.
- Legionella (aka Legionnaires disease). Common in hot water heaters, can cause pneumonia-like symptoms.
- Heavy metals (arsenic, iron, cadmium, mercury, copper, zinc). Traces of these metals, commonly found in “hard” water, won’t make you sick. But large amounts will cause metal poisoning. Symptoms include diarrhea, muscle cramps, nerve damage and even memory loss.
- Nitrates. Public water supplies test for this, but if you are on well water, nitrates from farm fertilizers can get into your well water. In babies, high nitrate levels can affect their bloods’ ability to carry oxygen. Also called “blue baby syndrome”.
Here’s a CNN video on our aging water infrastructure…
Can You Get Lead Poisoning From Bathroom Tap Water?
Yes, if you are drinking from your bathroom tap, and your water supply lines are lead, then you could get lead poisoning from them. Human skin does not absorb lead, so just showering or bathing will not give you lead poisoning.
You could also get lead poisoning from lead solder, if you drink water that has passed through a soldered pipe or has stayed in a tank with lead.
Can You Drink Bathroom Tap Water if it’s Boiled?
Boiling will kill biological contaminants like pathogenic bacteria (like Salmonella, cholera, shigellosis, and typhoid), viruses (hepatitis, rotavirus) and protozoa.
Be sure to bring the water to a rolling boil for at least one minute if you live at elevations up to 6,500 feet. If you live at a higher elevation, leave it on a rolling boil for 3 minutes.
Boiling will not get rid of lead or other heavy metals. It will not get rid of nitrates. Only filtering water, like with a reverse osmosis system, will do that.
Is Bathroom Tap Water The Same As Toilet Water?
Yes. Water from bathroom taps feed from the system of water lines in your house. Usually, toilets draw water from a cold-water line to fill the tanks, so we can flush.
Summary: Which States Have The Worst Tap Water?
So it looks like there’s a lot to look out for when it comes to potentially drinking tap water from the bathroom. I think we’ll just stick to water from the kitchen sink and bottled water.
And just so you depending on where you live, the following is a list of the 10 worst states for public tap water, listed alphabetically. These states have garnered the most Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) violations.
EPA violations include a range of issues from a lack of testing to public water supplies with elevated levels of lead:
- New Jersey
- Puerto Rico
If you live in one of those states then I’d definitely stick to bottled water and not even drink it from the kitchen tap either. 🙂
Homeowner and property investor Larry James started Castle of Mine to bring you the best articles on home improvement, based on his years of experience in homemaking projects. Read more >