A month ago, I was walking my dog and wandered to the park where I totally lost track of time. Before I knew it, I was out of water and thirstier than Tantalus. Luckily, there was a public toilet in the park where I refilled my bottle and gulped the water like life depended on it.
But when the moment had passed, I couldn’t stop wondering whether I had been stupid. Was the water in the public bathroom safe for drinking? Would be sick in a matter of days? It bugged me so much that I decided to research more on the topic. Here are my findings.
It is not safe to refill your water bottle in a public bathroom because the faucet and other surfaces are more likely to be covered in dangerous bacteria and the reservoirs and pipes are more likely to be contaminated by debris, dirt, lead, and other contaminants. New, modern public restrooms that are professionally maintained are a relatively safe choice.
Read on to learn more about where the water comes from at your local public restroom, potential issues with drinking the water from a public restroom, and other interesting facts.
Is bathroom water safe to drink?
For the most part, it is not advisable to drink bathroom water, especially if there are alternative sources available.
However, it depends on several factors. Let’s have a look at some of these factors in greater detail:
- Reservoir or tank status
- Faucets and fixtures
Reservoir or tank status
If you have ever kept tap water in a bucket for more than a week, you can attest to what you found at the bottom. A slippery substance will form at the bottom if you have never tried it.
Now, imagine drinking water from a tank like that. You can never be sure of how often the reservoirs are cleaned.
The tanks are usually well away from sight. If you manage to locate one, be sure to check the following;
- Is the tank located near potential contaminants?
- Is the tank properly sealed?
- What type of pipes have been used?
The local government does a great job of supplying clean and safe water. One method of keeping the water safe is Chlorination. The chlorine in the water kills the bacteria as the water is in transit, but the volatile chorine will escape when exposed to air.
When water is kept in reservoirs for too long, the chlorine will also disappear, exposing the water to bacteria contamination.
The faucets at the public toilet are arguably the dirtiest faucets. People use them to clean after relieving themselves and when they just want to clean up after a day at the park. Plus, there is little guarantee that there will even be soap available at these sinks or that the people using them are doing their part to promote good hygiene.
Because of this constant exposure to germs, the faucets can easily make you sick, so you should avoid drinking from them.
Most old buildings may have used lead pipes since they are hard to corrode and easy to bend. However, lead is a dangerous water contaminant.
A glass of water wouldn’t hurt, but continued use of such water over a long period may lead to Lead poisoning. This is why you should refrain from drinking tap water at the park, in hotels, or in any other public place.
Is toilet water the same as sink water?
Except for rare situations (e.g., where there is an onsite wastewater management system), the toilet water is usually the same as the sink water. But even if they have the same source, the toilet water usually stays in the tank for a long time, where it is exposed to contamination and is therefore unsafe for human consumption.
Why does bathroom sink water taste different?
Algae found in the water sources may cause water to smell or develop a taste. Unlike the faucets in your kitchen, bathroom water may have been in storage tanks for days instead of the fresh water in your kitchen taps flowing from the mains.
Other possible explanations for the different tastes include:
- The presence or absence of chlorine
- Seasonal changes
- A different water source
Can I Get Lead Poisoning from Drinking Tap Water?
Lead poisoning is not likely to happen unless your water has traces of lead.
Additionally, you must have been drinking the water for a long period. New buildings do not use lead pipes for their plumbing system. For older buildings, always use kitchen tap water since most of them may have to change the pipes in the kitchen but not in the bathrooms.
Also, ensure you regularly test the water in your home. Lab tests can show the amount of lead in your water if you are using lead pipes. They can also point out if your water has other contaminants.
Is it Safe to Drink from a Shower Head?
While taking a shower, you may be tempted to drink from your shower head. But it is not advisable since you may expose yourself to lead and other contaminants. Think about the dirt in the showerhead or the buildup from the pipes.
The same goes for hot water showers. Take caution if you are in an old building where the plumbing has been used for a long time.
Countries with the Safest Tap Water
If you travel a lot and you are concerned about tap water in your host country, here is a list of countries with the safest tap water.
Bathroom water is meant for brushing and cleaning. So the next time you run out of water, do not think of refilling your bottle at the public restroom.
The same applies to your home – even if you have installed a whole house filtration system, your bathroom might have old plumbing, or the water might go through a reservoir. Just stick to filtered water from your kitchen, and you will be fine.