Gardening tools Watering

Is It Safe to Drink Water From a Garden Hose?

Refreshing, yes, but is it safe? Photo:

Well, who hasn’t done it? It’s a hot day, you’re thirsty, but you’re at the far end of the garden and the hose is right there, so you turn it on and take a bit of a sip. Harmless, right? 

Not quite!

Garden hoses were not designed to supply potable (drinking quality) water. The hose and its brass fittings can release lead, antimony, bromine and other toxic minerals. Also, phthalates are used to make the hose more flexible and these too are toxic. BPA is also found in many hoses. The most common plastic used in making garden hose is polyvinyl chloride, which may give off toxic vinyl chloride. Of course, what the hose is made from and what leaches into the water it produces can be very different, but even so…

A study published in 2016 by the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan that tested 32 commercially available garden hoses found lead levels exceeding safe levels in water in half the garden hoses tested while the water produced by some hoses had very high levels of phthalates and BPA.

Look for drinking water safe garden hose. Photo:

There is good, news, though. The same study found the levels of toxic materials are decreasing compared to a previous study, as hose producers have started switching to safer garden hoses. Less lead is being used in fittings (some are now labeled “lead-free”) and you can now find hoses labeled “drinking water safe” that are free of significant lead, bromine, antimony, and tin, although a few do give off phthalates. The best choice for safety concerned consumers is PVC-free hose, such as one made of polyurethane or natural rubber.

Sometimes you have to go to the camping department to find a drinking water safe hose. Photo:

Oddly, you may have trouble finding a drinking water safe garden hose in the garden hose section of your hardware store. If so, look into the camping supplies or boat supplies departments. They’re bound to have safe hoses.

If You Must Drink…

Yes, it’s certainly cute, but you shouldn’t let a child drink from a garden hose that isn’t “drinking water safe”. Photo: CrazyFunnyStuffCFS
  • Let the hose run for 5 seconds before drinking. It’s water that’s been sitting in the hose that will have the highest levels of chemicals.
  • Store your hose in the shade. The heat from the sun causes chemicals to leach into the water. If it was stored in the sun, let it run cool before drinking.
  • Don’t let children drink from garden hoses. They’re more sensitive to harmful chemicals than adults. Before you even fill a child’s wading pool, let the water run for a while.
  • Apply the same rules before letting your pet drink from garden hoses, that is, let it run for a while first. 

And What About Your Vegetables?

So much for drinking from the hose, but how safe are vegetables watered with a garden hose? 

Toxic levels of lead do occur in produce, but are inevitably due to contaminated soils, not to watering. High levels of phthalates are occasionally found in organically grown vegetables as well, but phthalates are so common in our environment that it’s hard to prove they are due to the use of garden hose.

So, there is no real proof that watering with a garden hose renders vegetables unsafe.

Even so, if you garden organically, you might want to consider switching to a drinking water safe hose.

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

1 comment on “Is It Safe to Drink Water From a Garden Hose?

  1. Interesting ‘food’ for thought here.

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