Why Does My RO Water Smell?

Why Does My RO Water Smell?

Reverse Osmosis (RO) is one of the most widely used methods for purifying contaminated water. RO treated water is always pure, odorless, and tasteless. So, when your water starts smelling bad, there is something wrong.

This article will explore why your RO water smells and what you can do to prevent or treat this problem.

Reverse osmosis water can smell bad due to the presence of organic material or other contaminants like barium, chloramine, or sulfur in the water source. Improper sanitization of the RO filter can also result in a foul odor.

Reverse osmosis systems are designed to put your water through multiple stages of purification. The result is water free from 99.9% of contaminants. However, you may get foul-smelling water from your RO system now and then. This isn’t a problem that can’t be prevented or solved. We will explore the causes and solutions in this article.

Read my comprehensive article about reverse osmosis.

5 Reasons Why Your RO Water Smells

One day you’re enjoying tasty, crisp, and clean water. The next day, your RO water smells and tastes weird. It can get pretty frustrating looking for the cause. Here are some common reasons why this may be happening:

1.   Chloramine

Chloramine is a strong combination of ammonia and chlorine. It is used in public water sources to disinfect water and kill germs. Ammonia and chlorine have a distinct smell that merges and manifests into Chloramine, resulting in foul smelling water.

2. Organic materials

Sometimes, water can start smelling bad due to the presence of organic materials present in the water source. One such material is barium which is present in water sources and can easily transfer into pipes and filters.

Barium has a very fishy smell. Usually, Barium levels are managed in water sources by the EPA, but sometimes, these levels can exceed and cause a smell in your RO water.  Another organic material that may be present in your water is Cadmium.

3. Algae

One main reason you’ve noticed foul-smelling water can be due to the blooming of algae in warmer months when the water sources are exposed to direct sunlight and warm temperatures. Algae is usually treated and removed by water companies, but some traces can travel to your pipes and cause a smell. Drinking traces of algae is not harmful to health, but the odor can put you off the water.

If you suspect this is the issue, then you can reach out to your water company and ask them to investigate the issue.

4. Clogged filter

Your RO system’s filter needs to be cleaned out regularly. If you don’t sanitize the filter, it can get clogged up due to material build-up, and this can result in bad-tasting and smelling water.

5. Disturbed pH levels

RO systems manage two pH levels – acidic and alkaline. The pH levels should remain between 7 and 14 to ensure healthy levels, and if these levels get too high or low, you can start experiencing a bad taste and smell in your RO water.

Ways to Get Rid of Bad Smelling RO Water?

So by now, you have a good idea of what causes the smell in your RO water. Let’s look at some ways in which you can eliminate these causes and ensure you have water with a good smell and taste.

1.   Increase chlorine levels

If the water source has an abundance of organic materials, like barium and cadmium, you can add more chlorine to balance them out.

2.  Flush out pipes regularly

Your pipes can get clogged with the buildup of salts and minerals over time. You can start by flushing your pipes out regularly. However, you need to find a more permanent solution for this in the long run.

3. Install an aeration system

A good aeration system uses dissolved oxygen and catalytic carbon. This combination doesn’t get added to the water and filters out the bad odor. An oxidant can also be added to remove the smell.

4. Use a chemical feed system

A chlorine chemical feed system works by using a holding tank to kill any bacteria in the water. These bacteria can be the cause of the smell. These systems also help oxidize the iron in the water, which can aid the RO filtration water.

5. Install a filtration system

Good filtration systems have the ability to filter out barium and cadmium, and other organic materials from the water source before it is pushed through the RO filter. This removes the smell from the water and makes it safer for consumption.

6. Call your water company

If you have persistent issues with foul-smelling water, you can call your water company to inspect your water source to see what the problem is. They can help determine the root cause and the right solution.

 7. Change your RO filter

RO filters can get worn out over time due to the buildup of contaminants and minerals. Once you have replaced your filter, you will need to eliminate the smell. Firstly, you can start by turning off the system. Then you need to pour a mixture of cold water and a single solution of Chlorine onto your new filters and let them soak overnight. Finally, rinse and replace the filters the next day and turn the system on.

Read my article on the importance of reverse osmosis system maintenance.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is reverse osmosis water good for you?

Reverse Osmosis is one of the most effective ways to remove contaminants from water. RO water is good for hair, skin and overall health since it is free from harmful chemicals and sediments.

Can smelly RO water make you sick?

The smell in RO water can come from hydrogen sulfide. This gas is present in groundwater, and it can turn into sulfate when it reacts with bacteria. This can cause diarrhea and dehydration.

Can fungus grow in RO water?

If the RO system is left without cleaning for a long time, fungal and bacterial growths become common. It is important that RO filters and systems are cleaned regularly to get healthy water output.

Final Thoughts

Your RO system should produce good quality and odorless water every time. However, your RO water can smell due to several reasons, which are all easily treated. We hope our article helps you determine why your RO water is smelling bad and how you can treat this issue.

Chief Guru

Richard Boch is a chemical engineer responsible for designing water filtration systems for industrial and residential customers. He has more than 20 years of experience with ion exchange, activated carbon, and reverse osmosis. Richard's expertise has made him a go-to source for municipalities and businesses looking to improve their water quality. When he's not working, Richard enjoys spending time with his wife and two young children. You can also follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

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