Why does my tap water taste bad and how can I fix it?

Plumbing Heating

Let’s face it, not everyone has a professional Elkay fountain installed at home. So what can you do to improve the unpleasant taste of your tap water?

There are many reasons why your tap water may taste off. The presence of chemicals, algae, bacteria, metals and minerals are all part of the mixture and you can taste the difference when one of these components gets out of control. Some forms of contamination are harmful but don’t always assume that your water is dangerous simply because of the taste.

Here are some of the more common taste problems, and what you can do about them.

Chlorine

The most common taste concern with tap water is that it tastes or smells like bleach, kind of like what pool water smells like. This is the chlorine that has been added to municipal systems as a disinfectant. At standard levels, you usually get used to it and don’t even notice. Some people who are used to well water will almost certainly notice a chlorine taste when they drink water that has been treated this way. If your local treatment plant is heavy-handed with the chlorine, it may be noticeable all the time. Whether or not chlorine content is harmful is a bit of a contentious issue.

Eliminating the taste is fairly simple. Chlorine can be removed from drinking water by using any standard carbon filter, even the basic jug type that sit in the fridge.

Algae

You may have a problem with some algae growth if your water has a “swampy” taste to it. Again, not harmful unless it’s extremely fouled (which shouldn’t happen in a municipal water system). Bacteria build-up can also have the same sort of earthy taste to it. Both of these can start up at the source, or they could be a more local problem in your homes own plumbing.

It’s usually temporary, but you can’t clean up the taste with a carbon based jug filter this time. You’ll need an actual filtration system that blocks out the algae or bacteria. You can go with a fairly small under-sink kind of model if you just need to clean up the drinking water in one place.

Dissolved Minerals

This situation can lead to a variety of unique flavors, like metallic, salty or generically just bitter. Besides the usual calcium or magnesium that are dissolved in “hard water”, mineral contaminants can be a whole range of things such as zinc, copper, iron, different sodium compounds. At high concentrations, these may pose a health risk so you might want to consider taking a sample to testing facility to be sure it’s OK.

To remove the tastes you get from these materials, you will need to step up your filtering game. Only a good reverse osmosis treatment system will removed minerals (the molecules are too small for a conventional filtration system to block out). It may sound very technical, but there are a number of household models of RO systems that are easy enough to find to treat your home’s water.

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