Is it okay to drink from your bathroom tap?

Have you ever wondered how your water system works? Plumbing can vary, so read on to find out how, and what effect this can have on the water you are using at home.

Updated 1 July 2019

Bathroom plug hole

Key steps

  1. Check which type of water system your house operates under. The direct system makes it safe to drink water from every tap in the house. 
  2. Check to see if your plumbing includes a water storage tank. If so,  it's probably best not to drink from the bathroom tap.
  3. If in doubt, always fill your glass from the kitchen tap.
If you are not sure what kind of plumbing you have, drink water from the kitchen tap as this water will be the freshest.

Water facts

  1. Older plumbing may mean a storage tank is part of the system.
  2. Stored water is more likely to be stale or contain bacteria.
  3. Some boilers use storage tanks, so hot water for drinks should be taken from the mains and boiled.

Running water is one of the great conveniences of modern life. But not all water in your home may be the same. Is it a good idea to drink from the bathroom tap when you’re in the bedroom, you develop a raging thirst and the kitchen is so far away? Let’s find out. 

To understand where water comes from and where it goes requires a few basic plumbing facts. There are two main types of water systems in most homes:

  • Indirect

  • Direct

 

The indirect system

Very common in the UK, water enters the home via the mains tap – usually beneath the kitchen sink. The kitchen tap dispenses water straight from the mains. Water from the mains flows into a storage tank that supplies water to the rest of the home.

 

The direct system

This is found in many modern homes throughout Europe. With this type of system, fresh water from the mains flows to every tap in the home. So you can drink from the bathroom tap! 

If your plumbing system includes a water storage tank, it’s probably best not to drink from the bathroom tap.

This is why:

  • Not so fresh: Depending on the plumbing, water supply to the bathroom may be from a storage tank. This water may have been in the tank for a while. 

  • Lead pipes: Older homes may have lead pipes in the bathroom, or lead joins in a tank, which means it’s best not to drink water stored there. It’s generally considered fine for brushing teeth, however, as long as the water is not swallowed.

  • Dead creatures: There have been reports of mice and rats and birds drowning in storage tanks. This obviously doesn’t improve the water quality and can be a source of dangerous bacteria. If you think there is a dead rodent in your water tank, call a plumber. The tank and pipework will need to be cleaned properly, and wherever the animal entered needs to be blocked. 

  • Hot water: If you have a system boiler – with a storage tank – it’s best not to drink from the hot water tap. A regular boiler is also fed from a tank. A combi boiler heats water when needed from the mains supply. 

Water jargon

Impress your friends by knowing these terms:

  • Float valve: Also known as a flat valve, this floats at the top of a tank to close a lever when the tank is full.
  • Cold feed: This pipe supplies cold water to the hot water system.
  • Stopcock: This is the mains tap where water enters your property. It’s also called the stop valve, or stop tap. 
  • Storage cistern:  This is where water is stored when a home has an indirect system, and can also be stored in one of these to supply a regular or system boiler. 

You also want to consider that hard and soft water taste differently and have different properties (for example, you'll want to adjust your laundry detergent dosage to the hardness of your water).

Fresh, clean water is fundamental to health. If in doubt, fill your glass from the kitchen tap.

Originally published 12 December 2018