Can You Water Houseplants With Tap Water?

Can You Water Houseplants With Tap Water

Collecting houseplants is a hobby that many of us have, and for a good reason. Plants can bring a sense of life and comfort to our homes. Every plant is different, though, and caring for houseplants can sometimes be more complex than expected. One common question that many people find themselves asking is whether they can water their plants with tap water.

You can sometimes water your plants with tap water, but it depends on a variety of factors, including the salinity of the water in your area as well as its mineral content. If you live in a place with hard water or heavily chlorinated water, water your houseplants with distilled water or rainwater.

There are many other tap water considerations to make to ensure that your green roommates stay in the best shape possible. Read on to learn more about how tap water will affect your plants and overcome the hurdles that it creates.

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Not All Tap Water Is Equal

Watering Purple Flowers

While it is easy to say that tap water isn’t always the best choice for your houseplants’ health, it’s important to recognize that there are many reasons why this may be the case. The tap water in your home will undoubtedly differ from those around the country, and you need to identify what kind of tap water you have before you can make it suitable for your houseplants.

Mineral Content

Tap With Water Flowing

One of the most common ways tap water will differ from home to home and city to city is its mineral content. This distinction is separated by the term hard water, which describes water with high mineral content, and soft water, which is the opposite and defined by its low mineral content.

Hard water is widespread in many parts of the world due to the way that natural groundwater filters through substances like limestone, chalk, and gypsum. This filtration causes the water to develop a high mineral content through the addition of magnesium and calcium sulfites, carbonates and bicarbonates primarily. However, it may also take on a reddish rusty appearance if there is a high amount of iron oxides or iron carbonates. 

If you live in an area with hard water, you will likely know already from the way that taps, kettles, water heaters, and pipes develop limescale. In some homes where hard water is an issue, people can combat the mineral content through the use of water softeners. 

Hard water can affect your plants by creating deposits of magnesium and calcium salts in your soil, which will affect the pH balance and overall nutritional content of the earth over time. This buildup will not negatively affect your houseplants in small doses. Still, it may require you to periodically water your plants with distilled water or rainwater to flush the excess salt away

Water Salinity

Sodium on Periodic Table of Elements

Different parts of the world differ enormously in terms of the sodium content of the groundwater, but of all the aspects of your tap water that will affect your plant’s health, this is one of the most important ones. Most tap water contains acceptable sodium levels for human consumption, which will also ensure your plants’ safety. However, using water softener to combat the problem of hard water, you should avoid watering your plants using that system. 

Water softeners work by using sodium or potassium ions to replace the magnesium and calcium ions that are prevalent in hard water. The problem with this is that your water salinity goes up enormously with the use of water softeners, and most plants are incapable of handling high levels of salt. So, avoid watering your house plants with tap water if you use a water softener or live in an area with a naturally high water salinity.

Chemical Content

Watering Plant in Coffee Cup

There are many different chemical compounds that you may find impacting your water supply depending on where in the world you live. Some of these chemicals are intentionally put there by local and federal governments, and some are accidental and the result of imbalanced groundwater or other contaminants.

Many countries worldwide add fluoride to their people’s water, which can be beneficial to humans because of the dental benefits associated with fluoride. Unfortunately, even small amounts of fluoride can impact your plant’s abilities to photosynthesize and receive nutrients, and high amounts of this chemical will essentially poison your houseplant. 

Another possibility is the presence of heavy metals in your groundwater. Most water sources that are managed by some degree of quality control will have acceptably low levels of heavy metals. However, if you live in a rural area and get the majority of your water from a well or other localized source, this can be a possibility.

Regardless of the source of the chemicals, minerals, and other potential contaminants in your tap water, you can request a water quality report from your local water management company to determine what compounds are regularly added to your supply. If you would like a more detailed analysis, you can pay for a water testing service that will give you an exact readout of the various compounds present in your water supply.

How To Best Water My Houseplants

Watering Can Outside

Since there is a considerable degree of variance in water quality worldwide, the best way to determine how to water your plants effectively is through trial and error. Start by watering your plants with tap water and monitor their behavior. There are telltale signs that correspond with many of the different possibilities listed above. 

If you water your plants and discover over time that there is a buildup of salt on the soil’s surface that prevents water from soaking into the soil properly, you likely are dealing with hard water. You may be able to overcome this problem by using a filtration system at either the tap or through your main water line, depending on the services available in your area. Remember that hard water is not a significant problem in small amounts, as the mineral content will actually benefit your plants as long as they regularly receive distilled water or rainwater to flush the unnecessary salts.

If you find that your plants are exhibiting other signs of problems, like scorched tips, necrosis of the plant tissues, or chlorosis, it may be a sign of an imbalance in the chemical nature of your water. Similar to the hard water issue, you may be able to overcome this problem through secondary water filtration. Still, it is recommended to get a water test to determine what the issue is to find out the best solution for dealing with it.

What Should I Do If I Have Bad Water For Houseplants?

Rain Barrel

If you have taken all the steps possible to ensure that your water is as suitable as possible for your houseplants but they are still showing signs of irritation, then collecting rainwater is the cheapest and easiest solution for most. Rainwater is naturally very oxygenated and will benefit your plants enormously, so if you live in a climate with decent rainfall, you should consider collecting the rainwater in whatever containers you have available and use it exclusively for watering your plants.


Growing happy and healthy houseplants is not as difficult as some people make it seem. Whether it is due to tap water or other variables, you will receive the best information by simply watching your plants and observing their behavior as you try new things. Just keep moderation in mind, and your houseplants will be happy to drink as much tap water as you can supply!

Kate Inskeep

Kate Inskeep is a mom of three from Illinois who loves growing things. She fell in love with houseplants after a friend gifted her some succulents. Before long, her windowsills were full of plants, and she was hooked.

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