Is My Hose Bib Lead Free? How to Find Out

There’s a lot of information on drinking water safe garden hoses, but none of that matters if your outdoor spigot contains lead. Why connect a drinking water safe hose to a hose bib that’s feeding it unsafe water?

The history of lead in water pipes goes back to ancient times. The latin lame for lead is plumbum which is where lead derives its periodic symbol (Pb). That’s right. The ancient Romans’ preferred material for plumbing pipes was lead. And that conventionality continued until fairly recently when lead was found to have adverse health effects. In fact, it was still being used to manufacture home water pipes as late as 1986, when it was made illegal to use pipes carrying water for human consumption that are not lead free for new construction. Pipes in the ground containing lead, however, were allowed to remain.

So to answer the question as to whether your garden hose tap is lead free or not, you should determine when your house was built before 1986. If it was built before 1986, there’s a chance you could have water pipes in your home that contain lead. If your pipes contain lead, then your garden hose bib likely also contains lead.

A Useful Video About Lead in the Water Supply

Outdoor Spigots are Often Replaced

The good news is that garden hose bibs are more exposed to the elements than the majority of home plumbing because the tap is usually outside. That means that they have to be replaced more often to do deterioration. So if your home was built prior to 1986 but your garden hose bib doesn’t look like its from 1986 or before, there’s a good chance your exterior tap doesn’t contain lead.

The problem is that a hose bib is just the end of a large network of plumbing that is likely much older than the bib itself. So really the question is more about whether your homes pipes contain lead than just your hose bib.

So how do you know if your home’s water contains lead? The only way to know for certain is to have it tested.

Contact your municipality’s water service

Ask them about their testing procedures. Ruling out that lead is in the water supply at the source it a good first step. While you’re at it you can ask them about the city’s water pipes and when was the last time they were replaced & tested. Learning the history of the pipes that carry water from the facility to your home is useful.

Do an at home water test for lead

Most at home tests are reliable to an extent and can be purchased on Amazon. But a 2021 study suggests that most of them have limits, failing to detect lead below 5mg/L of water. They will, however, detect dangerous levels of lead so it’s a good place to start.

Have a professional water testing company visit your home

This method is a step up from the at home testing kits as more sophisticated equipment is used. However the EPA recommends that professionals testing your water are certified technicians. In order to reduce costs, many of these companies hire uncertified technicians, which can result in inaccurate testing.

Have your water tested in a lab for lead

Having your water tested in a certified lab is the best way to get an accurate idea of how much lead is in it. Find the best lab in your area by calling your municipality’s water district and ask for their recommendation. You might be able to find their recommendation on their website too.

Testing The Hose Bib for Lead

So back to the outdoor spigot itself. Like we said earlier, generally speaking hose bibs don’t contain lead because most of them were manufactured after 1986 when it became illegal to use lead to manufacture water pipes intended for human consumption.

However, if you really want to learn about whether your hose bib specifically contains lead, you should perform a test in a laboratory on both your tap water and your hose bib water. If your tap water comes back negative, but your hose bib water is positive, then your hose bib is likely the culprit.

If your tap water and bib water come back positive, then it’s likely a result of your water pipe network, either in your home or in the service line.