Why does tap water have a bad taste or smell? What can you do if your tap water tastes bad?
It is important to learn the answer to these questions, because it will help improve your quality of life. There are many different reasons why tap water tastes and smells bad. Whether it’s sulfur in the ground, chlorine added for disinfection, or bacteria that found its way into your plumbing system, there are some strategies you can use to get rid of this problem.
In this article we will discuss possible problems that can make your water taste strange and go over some solutions for treating it!
Table of Contents
Why Does My Tap Water Taste Bad?
Here are the five most common causes of bad taste or small in tap water:
- Chlorine added for disinfection: Chlorine is often added to tap water in order to kill bacteria and other organisms. This can cause a strong, chemical taste or smell.
- Sulfur in the ground: Some areas of the United States have high levels of sulfur in the ground. This can cause water to taste and smell like rotten eggs. This problem is most common in rural areas.
- Bacteria: Bacteria can sometimes find its way into tap water, causing it to have a bad taste or smell.
- Mineral content: Water that comes from wells often contains dissolved minerals like calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, and carbonates. People often describe the taste as salty or bitter.
- Poorly maintained filters and treatment equipment: If you treat your water at home and use a filter, it is important to regularly maintain this equipment. If you do not properly clean your filters or treat your water, it can cause bacteria growth and lead to bad tasting tap water.
1. Tap water tastes like chemicals or chlorine
Many people complain that their city-provided drinking water has a chemical taste or odor. This is often due to a chlorine-based disinfectant added to kill bacteria and other organisms.
Solutions: To reduce the taste of chlorine, let your tap run for about five minutes before filling up your cup. This will remove some of the chemicals in the pipes that may be causing the taste.
Alternatively, many people use a filter at home to remove chlorine and other chemicals from their drinking water so it does not have an unpleasant taste or smell. There are several types of filters available on the market that can help with this issue, depending on your needs. Some examples include: point-of-use (POU) filters, whole house (point-of-entry or POE) filters, and pitcher filtration systems.
2. Drinking water tastes metallic
When water comes from a well, it often contains dissolved minerals like calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, and carbonates. These minerals can cause the water to taste metallic or salty.
The most common source of metallic tasting tap water is zinc, iron, or manganese. A simple water test can tell you if this is the problem.
Solutions: If you find that your tap water has a metallic taste, try using a filter that specifically targets dissolved minerals. There are several types of filters available on the market that can help with this issue, depending on your needs. Some include: POU filters, whole house filters, and pitcher filtration systems.
Even if it’s been filtered through reverse osmosis or another filtration method, your water may still have a metallic flavor.
3. Tap water tastes bitter
Bitter tasting water can be caused by several issues. Copper, from corroding copper piping, can cause water to have a metallic taste and also give it a bitter flavor. The source of bitterness could be chemicals used to treat your drinking water.
If you let a pitcher of water sit out long enough, carbon dioxide will dissolve in the water making it slightly acidic. Acidic water has a bitter taste.
Solutions: If you think that your tap water tastes bitter, try running the cold water for a few minutes before filling up your glass. This will purge the water that’s been in contact with your pipes and reduce the copper concentration.
If your water is slightly acidic, you can avoid leaving it out for extended periods or aerate it by pouring it back and forth between the pitcher and glass to remove the dissolved CO2.
If you are still experiencing a bad taste, consider using a filter that specifically targets dissolved minerals. There are several types of filters available on the market that can help with this issue, depending on your needs. Some include: POU filters, whole house filters, and pitcher filtration systems.
4. Tap water tastes salty
Chlorides are naturally occurring compounds found in water, and at high concentrations they can cause a salty taste. They also increase corrosion of plumbing fixtures like kitchen sink drains.
Sodium is another ion that could make your tap water taste bad. In some areas, salt water infiltration occurs which contributes to the salty flavor many people notice.
Solutions: You can remove minerals from your water using a reverse osmosis system. There are units that can treat your entire house or just the water from your sink.
5. Tap water tastes earth, fishy, or dirty
The most likely cause of earthy or fishy tasting water is algal blooms. Some people describe the water as tasting “dirty”. You may find this happens in spring or other times when these types of blooms typically occur.
If you’re experiencing an earthy flavor with your tap water then odds are there’s some kind algae growing within its source. Municipalities treat the water to remove algae and bacteria, but the residual taste can persist. These off tastes are harmless, but still annoying.
Solutions: Most often, a particulate filter or activated carbon filter can be used to remove earthy or fishy tastes from your water. Depending on how bad the problem is, you can elect to treat the water at the point of use (like your sink or refrigerator) or your whole house (POE).
6. Tap water tastes like sulfur or rotten eggs
Water that tastes or smells like rotten eggs or sulfur likely contains hydrogen sulfide. The source of this hydrogen sulfide is from the decay of organic matter in the water system. It isn’t a health hazard, but hydrogen sulfide can corrode your plumbing and cause black stains in your fixtures. rotten eggs or sulfur likely contains hydrogen sulfide
Solutions: To get rid of the sulfur and rotten egg smell, you’ll need to disinfect your water system. Adding a small amount of bleach (chlorine) will take care of most problems. Another effective solution is to raise the temperature in your hot water heater to 160F for several hours. The high temperature will kill the bacteria and eliminate the sulfur odors.
7. Tap water tastes like pencil shavings
City water that tastes like pencil shavings is not common, but it does exist. This unique flavor comes from anti-oxidants found in plastic pipes and the only way to get rid of it would be replacing your plumbing!
Is It Safe to Drink Water That Tastes and Smells Bad
If your water has a bad test or odor, you’re probably wondering if it’s safe to drink. In most cases, the answer is yes, but let’s review each issue and whether you should worry about your health.
When it comes to the quality of our drinking water, we can feel confident that certain safety standards have been met. These are set by federal law and enforced through regulations from EPA – so if your tap is sourced from a public system then you know these high expectations will be met without fail!
Here are the most common taste and odor complaints people have with their tap water.
- Chemical or chlorine taste: This issue is caused by residual chlorine or byproducts from disinfection. The small amounts of these compounds present in your water are considered safe by the EPA.
- Metallic taste: Many aging plumbing systems allow high levels of metals, such as copper and iron to leach into drinking water. This can give it a metallic or medicinal aftertaste depending on what else is in your household’s pipes with these two favorites being known for doing just that!
- Bitter taste: Water that tastes bitter is usually slightly acidic (think lemon juice). This is not a health concern.
- Salty taste: All drinking water has various minerals in it, and some of these compounds create a salty taste. These compounds are safe to drink.
- Earthy or fishy taste: The cause of earthy or fishy tasting water is usually algae in the source water. Public utilities remove algae and the remaining residuals are safe to drink – although they don’t taste good.
- Sulfur or rotten eggs: Hydrogen sulfide is the cause of the rotten egg taste that many people complain about. Despite the foul odor, this type of water is safe to drink.
How Can I Remove Bad Tastes and Smells from My Tap Water
Once you have identified what is causing the issue with your water supply, you can take steps to treat it.
If the water coming out of your taps tastes or smells bad, there are several ways to resolve the issue:
POE water systems treat all of the water that comes into your home. This approach removes all of the taste and odor problem completely. A POE system is also more expensive to install and maintain.
A POU system treats your water where it is used, such as the sink, water faucet, or shower. This strategy removes the bad taste or smell in areas where it is a concern and is a great solution for many people. It is less expensive than a POE system and can often be done as a DIY project.
Refrigerator water filtration
Many refrigerators have filters that are designed to remove taste and odor from water before it is dispensed for drinking or to make ice. These are often a good water solution if you don’t want to spend a lot of money or hire a professional. You’ll still have to address the problem from your kitchen sink or in the bathroom.
Many people find that using a pitcher-style filter is all they need. Many manufacturers have pitcher filters that remove bad taste and foul odors from drinking water.
Does Your Water Tastes Bad or Smell Strange?
While it is important to drink water, not everyone enjoys the taste of tap water. If that’s you, then don’t worry! There are many ways to address bad tasting or smelly drinking water and they can all be done quickly and cost effectively at home by following some simple steps listed above.