Growing up in Arizona, I learned quickly that everything gets to be “too hot!” quite quickly. And now that my own kids are learning the joys of gardening, they’re learning a few of the lessons I had to learn as a child. One of the things they’re learning is the answer to this age-old question: can a garden hose handle hot water?
In general, garden hoses are designed to handle water up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius). Premium hoses can handle water up to 190°F (87-88°C). Garden hoses aren’t typically connected to a water heater, so the water is heated in the hose via direct sunlight to varying temperatures.
Now, given that most garden hoses don’t come with a temperature range on them, let’s talk more about how garden hoses can handle hot water – and where that hot water comes from.
Garden Hoses Can Handle Temperatures up to 140-190°F
Not all hoses are created equal. The standard garden hose can manage hot water temperatures up to 140° F (60 °C). There are also premium commercial hose brands that use the highest rubber quality. These reports are able to withstand hot water temperatures up to 190° F (87.778°C).
The reason for the rather large range has to do with the building quality and materials. Garden hoses consist of different materials; some are lightweight, some are durable and strong, some can last under the harshest conditions, and some are not. There are also different formulations, making it hard to know which hoses are the high-temperature ones unless they’re labeled as such. Maybe I just need to do more research, but I find that having the labels there has proven to be the best help so far.
Now, 140-degree water is quite hot. That’s a scalding shower.
Experts say that the ideal water temperature is around 70 to 112 °F (20 to 44°C), as this is the optimal temperature for safe human use. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the safest temperature for hot water is 120°F (49°C). If the water temperature is higher than that they say, it will cause damage and should be adjusted and checked by a plumber as soon as possible.
Now, most of us don’t hook our garden hoses up to the water heater. Or if we are, it’s a one-time thing while we’re draining it (usually due to sediment build-up and needing to replace the thing). Even so, it would be safer for you (and your garden hose) to let the water cool down before running it through a hose that’s only designed to handle water up to 140 degrees.
So if we don’t purposely use hot water with garden hoses, why then do they get built to withstand such crazy temperatures?
Garden Hoses Are Built to Withstand Hot Temperatures to Keep Us Safer
While hot water is amazing, too-hot water is dangerous to our health and well-being. That’s the nice way to say that “if you use water that’s too hot, you’ll get burned.”
Heat also has a significant impact on our garden hose. Extremely high temperatures can affect our hose’s internal and external temperature. Not knowing the dangers it can cause, some households will roll it up from where it’s mounted; some keep It lying around in their garden under the hot sun. Back in 2016, a USA Today news story reported about a 9-month-old baby who got a second-degree burn from water in a garden hose. The baby’s mom was filling up a kiddie pool with water, and she accidentally sprayed him with the water. It severely scalded his skin.
Now, that was an accident. But it’s a common one that I saw while working as an ER nurse. It’s one I experienced as a child growing up in Phoenix, Arizona. Hoses left laying out in the sun, get hot. And the water inside them reaches temperatures as hot as (or hotter than) inside of a water heater.
So, when buying a hose, one of the factors that we should consider is its durability to handle hot water.
Oh, and if the hose is too hot to pick up? It’s too hot to be used on human skin. Turn on the hose and let it empty out. The hose should be cool enough to touch with the back of your hand before you pick it up. You’ll save yourself a lot of burns that way.
Furthermore, don’t just buy the cheapest garden hose off the shelf. Find one that’s quality and can handle some heat. Not just to save yourself a burn (because you’ll still need to do the “run the water for a bit before you pick up the hose” trick). Instead, this will save you time and headaches from having to repair low-quality hoses over and over again.
What Outside Temperatures Can Garden Hoses Withstand?
Most hoses advertise themselves as “all-season” – and then they don’t bother to list a temperature range where they’re safe to use. Here’s what I’ve found that works as a good guideline for knowing safe outdoor temperatures for hoses.
- Below freezing, hoses should be used with caution. They should be disconnected and emptied after use to prevent them from being frozen and bursting.
- Hoses can be used above freezing temperatures safely.
- Above 80 degrees Fahrenheit, all hoses should be turned on to run for a few moments before being touched. This way, they won’t cause burns – from touching the hose or from the spray.
The ideal is to keep hoses inside of a container and out of the sun. Even then, however, it’s safest to run a hose according to the weather guidelines I’ve learned over a lifetime of gardening.
How Can We Tell if Our Garden Hose Needs Replacing?
Extremely high temperatures can affect our outdoor hose’s elastomeric and mechanical functions; it can cause problems to our hose like softening, discoloration, embrittlement, or hardening. One visible indication of degradation in our hose’s external cover is the thermal-stress cracking; this is the crazing of the thermoplastic resins in our hose due to overexposure to high temperatures. The polymers that make the cover and inner tube can be at risk.
To avoid this, some garden hose manufacturers designed their products to withstand external heat; they use heat stabilizers and thermally stable polymers for their products to be heat-resistant. Some manufacturers also use Chlorinated polyethylene (CPE) rubbers (widely used in cables and wires). CPEs can handle external heat up to 275°F (135 °C).
Nevertheless, this would not mean that you can leave a garden hose under the sun. According to U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) studies, “Chemical reactions generally increase at a higher temperature,” the heat increases the percentage of chemicals to run in our water supply. Most of us still use tap water for drinking purposes without knowing the dangers it can cause. Low levels of chemicals can still thrive in our water; drinking from it can have a significant risk to our health. Extra precautions are always necessary.
Translation: our garden hoses won’t last forever. Even the best-quality ones will only last a few years at best. That’s totally normal and expected. At least at this point.
Maybe at some future date, a hose will be invented that lasts forever, is always safe, and never has to be worried about in a freeze. But until then, here are some tips on keeping your hose at the right temperature and on how to take care of it.
6 Tips to Keep Garden Hoses the Right Temperature
Here are some more tips I’ve learned about keeping garden hoses safe, cool, and in their best working condition.
- Turn on the hose and let it run for a full minute (or until the hose is cool to the touch) before using the water on anything (or anyone). If you’ve got a pool handy, dunking your hose in the water may help cool it off, too.
- Check the water temperature before using it. If you don’t have a thermometer handy, use the back of your hand – that way you don’t burn your palms!
- Use tools to keep things cool. Tools can include things like utility or laundry faucets, anti-scald valves, and more.
- Disconnect the hose from the spigot after use and drain it. Put it away after each use. This is especially important during the wintertime, or any time there’s freezing weather.
- Be aware that temperature always swings. The water inside can be much hotter (or colder) than the outside air temperature.
- Store your hose inside of a container and/or away from sunlight. You may also want to put the cap on its ends. Then, you can place it on a shaded area like a shelf or a basement to help it last longer and avoid future damage.
Those are my best tips – if you’ve got some I’ve missed, I’d love to know them. Contact me and I’ll get this updated.
Final Thoughts on Garden Hoses
Garden hoses are amazing tools. They are absolutely essential to any garden – and to having livestock in a backyard homestead.
That being said, knowing these tips about garden hoses, temperatures, and water temperatures will help you (and your family) stay safer while staying cool. Especially during the summer.
It’s important to learn from your own experience, but it’s also smart to learn from others. These are the sources used in this article and in our personal research to be more informed as homesteaders.
- May A, “Photo of Blistered Baby Burned by Hot Hose Water Shared by Police Warns Others of Danger.” USA Today, 6 June 2018, www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2018/06/06/photo-baby-burned-hot-hose-water-shared-police-warns-danger/676251002.
- Elsevier B.V. “Garden Hose.” Garden Hose – an Overview | ScienceDirect Topics, www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/garden-hose.
- U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Temperature and Water, www.usgs.gov/special-topic/water-science-school/science/temperature-and-water?qt-science_center_objects=0#qt-science_center_objects.
- WSJ. “Burning Question: What Is the Best Water Temperature for Your Bath or Shower?” The Wall Street Journal, 4 Jan. 2016, www.wsj.com/articles/burning-question-what-is-the-best-water-temperature-for-your-bath-or-shower-1451931152.
- Rutledge K, Ramroop T, Boudreau D et al. “Season.” National Geographic Society, 9 Oct. 2012, www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/season/.
- American Burn Association “Still Too Hot: Examination of Water Temperature and Water Heater Characteristics 24 Years after Manufacturers Adopt Voluntary Temperature Setting.” Journal of Burn Care & Research: Official Publication of the American Burn Association, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3605550/.
- Gannon, Mary. “How Does Extreme Heat Affect Hydraulic Hose?” Hose Assembly Tips, 6 Dec. 2016, www.hoseassemblytips.com/extreme-heat-affect-hydraulic-hose/.
- “How Can I Get Warm Water from My Garden Hose?” Home Improvement Stack Exchange, 1 July 1963, diy.stackexchange.com/questions/49144/how-can-i-get-warm-water-from-my-garden-hose.
- American Burn Association. “SCALD INJURY PREVENTION Educator’s Guide.” United States Fire Administration Federal Emergency Management Agency, 2017, ameriburn.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/scaldinjuryeducatorsguide.pdf.
- “Gardening 101: Planning and Design Guide.” Planet Natural, 29 June 2019, www.planetnatural.com/garden-planning/.
- Quinn, M. “How to Extend the Life of a Garden Hose.” Gardener’s Path, 3 Mar. 2021, gardenerspath.com/gear/tools-and-supplies/extend-life-garden-hose/.
- “How to Store a Hose.” Gilmour, 2 Dec. 2020, gilmour.com/how-to-store-a-hose.