Can I Use a Leaking Water Heater? What the Pros Say

When it comes to doing large projects around the home, we don’t want to do them more often than we have to. If your water heater is leaking, how long can you wait before you need to replace it?

Generally speaking, once your water heater starts leaking out of the tank, it has already failed. You should shut off the water valve to the heater and turn off the breaker until you can replace it. A small leak in a water heater can become a catastrophic leak in no time at all.

If you plan on replacing the water heater in your home on your own, you need to take the proper precautions. Always turn off the breaker to the water heater before working on it.

Considering the danger of not installing your new water heater the right way, it is generally recommended that you get a repairman who is qualified to do the job.

Can I Use a Leaking Water Heater?

A leaking hot water heater should be replaced

If your water heater is leaking from the tank, you should replace it right away. If it is leaking from a valve, you may be able to replace it.

In either case, it is up to you if you want to take a chance and use your water heater while it is leaking. If you choose to do so, keep a close eye on the leak.

You may also want to turn the water off to the water heater when it is not in use. This will limit the water damage should the leak gets worse to the amount of water in the tank.

If you shut off the water to your water heater at the valve and it is leaking, make sure you turn off the power to the water heater. You don’t want the heater running when the water heater has run dry.

The good news is, you don’t have to run your water heater continually to get hot water. If you heat the water that is in the tank and then turn off the water and power, it will stay hot for a long time. Insulating the tank will help the water stay hot longer.

Can I Wash Clothes if My Water Heater Is Leaking?

Many homes that have a leaking water heater end up with laundry piling up quickly. Do you really have to wait to wash your clothes?

It is not necessary to have hot water to wash clothes. If your hot water is leaking, turn off the power to the water heater and close the valve to keep it from filling. You can wash your clothes in cold water and get the same results.

The only time your washing machine uses hot water is if you are using the hot or warm cycle to wash your clothes. If you wash them using the cold setting, the machine will work the same as always.

The warm setting will also work on the washing machine but you will still be washing with cold water. If you don’t have hot water from the water heater (because you shut off the water supply) then it will only fill the washer with cold water.

If you are taking your chances and running your hot water heater even though it is leaking (not recommended) then the warm and hot settings will work just fine.

There is no added danger from washing your clothes with a leaking hot water heater. You are still running a risk of the leak becoming worse but not any more so than not using the hot water from the water heater.

To sum it up: If your hot water heater is leaking, it is at the end of its life and needs replaced. Delaying replacing the water heater is taking a risk that the leak will get much worse.

Can I Still Do Laundry without Hot water Heater?

If you don’t have a hot water heater, either because it is broken or you just decided not to have one, you might be concerned about doing laundry. Don’t worry, do laundry.

You do not need a hot water heater to do laundry. The cold and warm settings on the machine will work just fine, but you will be washing in cold water. It is thought that washing clothes in cold water is just as effective if, not more effective than using hot water.

There are two lines coming into the back of your washing machine, one for hot water and one for cold water. The only reason you would hook up hot water is if you wanted to use the hot or warm wash settings.

The cold wash setting will work just fine for almost all laundry and <a href=”” rel=”noopener” target=”_blank”>may even be more effective</a> than using warm or hot water.

The only reason you need hot water for washing clothes is if you need to sanitize them. This could include if someone was sick in your home and could be contagious. Take those clothes to the laundry mat and run them through a hot cycle.

Can I Run My Dishwasher if My Water Heater Is Broken?

A dishwasher is a convenience most of us would not live without. If your hot water heater is broken, can you still wash dishes in it?

Dishwashers do not connect to the hot water supply. You can run your dishwasher without a working hot water heater because they never use your water heater. Dishwashers have heating elements that heat the water to very hot temperatures for the wash and rinse cycle.

Washing your dishes using a dishwasher is like using a self-contained unit. A relatively small amount of water goes into the dishwasher. Typically just enough to reach the heating element.

Once the water reaches the heating element, it is heated to a temperature that may be 150 degrees or hotter. Most of us would never think about hand-washing our dishes in water that hot. It would scald us.

Can I still use water if my water heater is leaking?

You need to take a shower or wash some dishes but your water heater has sprung a leak. Does your life need to come to a stop?

There is no danger with using water if your water heater is leaking. If you still have hot water in the tank, you can use either hot or cold water. Once you turn off the heater to avoid issues with a bigger leak, you can continue to use water in your home but it will be cold.

A leaking water heater is a sign that it needs to be replaced, and the sooner the better. Waiting to replace the water heater could result in a much bigger leak and some water damage.

Even if you decide to ignore the warning and leave your water heater on, you can continue to use water in your home. That is also true after the water heater has been turned off.

To put it plainly, you do not need a functioning hot water heater to use the water in your home. Once the water heater stops working or is turned off, the water you use will be cold.

A leaking water heater can continue to be used for any purpose. As long as it is making hot water, you will have hot water available. Once it stops making hot water, you can still use cold water in the home. Replace a leaking water heater right away because it has already failed.


I love doing things around the house. I'm taking my years of experience as a homeowner and a full-time handyman and putting them here for your benefit. When I'm not writing, you can find me on the beach watching the waves come in. Call me Tom or Tommy, it's all the same to me.

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