Straight from the Tap

What to Do if You Have Lead Plumbing


 If you find that your water service line, plumbing, or fixtures may contain lead, there are several actions you can take to reduce the risk of exposure. These will ensure that safe, quality drinking water comes out of your tap.

CLEAN Faucet Aerators

An aerator is a fine mesh screen made of metal or plastic that is attached to the end of most faucets. They mix air into the water to reduce the volume while enhancing pressure. Aerators collect tiny pieces of material that have corroded from inside your home’s plumbing and water heater.

Aerators should be cleaned at least twice a year and after any work on your plumbing system or disruptions in water service. Work on plumbing or water mains can dislodge small particles of solder or other materials from pipes. In cases where homes have lead service lines or plumbing, these particles may contain lead.

To clean your aerator, remove it from the end of the faucet, separate the components, and rinse each piece under cold water. For deposits that are difficult to remove, you can soak the parts in white vinegar for several minutes, scrub with a toothbrush, then rinse thoroughly with cold water. Reassemble the aerator and attach it back onto the faucet. If any parts are missing or broken, replace them.

FLUSH Your Plumbing

Flush your cold water lines before consuming water when water has not been used for 6 or more hours. To flush plumbing, run the water until you feel a temperature change. Then keep running the water for an additional 30 seconds to 3 minutes. You can also flush the toilet, take a shower, or start a load of laundry to flush plumbing. The goal is to remove any water left sitting in your pipes and have fresh water from the main in the street come out of your tap before using any for drinking or cooking.

Like with cleaning aerators, you should also flush your water lines after any work on your plumbing system or disruptions in water service. Remove faucet aerators then run cold water from all the faucets in your home at the same time for 30 minutes. 


Always use cold water for cooking, drinking, and preparing baby formula. Hot water corrodes pipes faster and is more likely to contain lead. If you need hot water for food or drinks, get water from the cold water tap then heat the water.

Additional actions you may also want to consider include:

  • If your home has a lead service line and/or lead plumbing or copper plumbing with high lead solder, it can be added to the list of homes in our Lead & Copper Compliance Monitoring program. Learn more and see if your home meets the criteria.
  • Have a certified laboratory test your water for lead. The Ohio EPA maintains a list of laboratories that are certified to test for lead on their website.
  • Replace lead service lines, plumbing installed prior to 1986, and faucets manufactured prior to 2014. Cleveland Water will replace the city-owned portion of a lead service line whenever a customer replaces theirs. 
  • Install a point-of-use filtering device. The device should be certified to remove lead by the National Sanitation Foundation International (NSF), Underwriters Laboratory (UL), or Water Quality Association (WQA). Filters must be changed regularly to ensure efficacy.