Preventing Tap Water Scalds

Many people think "fire" when they think about burns, but more burns are actually caused by hot liquids than fire. Scalds from hot tap water are the least common, but the most serious type of scald injury. The burns are extensive and deep because they result from a longer contact time with hot water.

Tap water scalds occur most commonly in children, but seniors and people who can not feel hot temperatures or can not react quickly to hot water temperature are also at risk. Most Canadian homes and apartments have their hot water tanks preset to a temperature of 60C (140F). This temperature can cause a second-degree burn in 3 seconds and a third-degree burn in five seconds.

Protection from the devastating effects of hot water scalds is simpler than you think. Turning down the temperature of household hot water to 49C (120F) significantly reduces the risk of scalds. If you have young children, seniors, or family members with disabilities in your home, follow these simple steps to make sure your water is in the safe zone:

  • Find, borrow or buy a meat thermometer to measure the temperature (don't use a fever thermometer).

  • Turn on the hot water tap in the bathroom for 2 minutes. If you have used a lot of water in the past hour, wait 2 hours before you do this test.

  • Fill a cup with hot water from this running tap.

  • Put the thermometer in the cup. If the temperature is higher than 49 Celsius or 120 Fahrenheit, you need to lower your water temperature.

  • Once you lower the temperature, wait 24 hours and test again.

  • If your water heater thermostat is not easy to adjust, you may need to call a serviceman for assistance or the manufacturer for information. Anti-scald devices are also available. Check with your hardware store or plumber.

Hope this article keeps you out of hot water!

There is also a Hot Water brochure available for download here

For more information about Hot Tap Water Scalds visit:

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