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My Water Tastes Bad! What is the Cause and How Can It be Corrected?

The taste of our drinking water is often the first place where we start to notice a potential problem.

When you notice a change, it’s time to look into it and see what can be done.

Whether you decide to install an under sink water filter or take more drastic steps, there are ways to improve the taste of your water.

There are many reasons why your tap water tastes off, and identifying the "flavor" can help you pin down the issue.


My Water Tastes Bad! What is the Cause, and How Can It Be Corrected?

The Causes

There are many reasons why your tap water tastes off, and identifying the “flavor” can help you pin down the issue. If you’re getting a metallic taste, you are likely dealing with rust in the pipes. You should investigate your plumbing, see if you can spot any corrosion, and do some pipe replacement where necessary. Rusted pipes can lead to leaks, so don’t just ignore them. A bleach taste (like pool water) results from a high amount of chlorine in the water, which is something you won’t have any control over as it is added at your local water treatment plant to purify the water. Though declared “safe,” many people dislike the taste and simply prefer not to drink chlorine. Are you getting a musty or swampy taste? That can mean some organic form of contamination, and you might want to contact your water utility about it. This isn’t something that would be introduced within your home and could indicate a problem somewhere else in the system. Not necessarily something dangerous, though.

It could just be a small algae bloom (spring can be bad for this), creating a harmless taste in the water that lingers after processing. It’s common to get this taste in municipal water and then have the chlorine flavor over the next few days as they adjust their purification process. A nasty smell or taste like rotten eggs is another unpleasant possibility. It comes from hydrogen sulfide, and it is another side-effect of organic contamination, like our last point. Considered harmless, it’s still a little undesirable.

There can be several reasons why your water tastes bad.

Here are some possible causes:

  1. Chlorine: Many municipal water treatment facilities add chlorine to disinfect the water supply. While chlorine is necessary to kill harmful bacteria and microorganisms, it can sometimes leave a strong taste or odor in the water.
  2. High mineral content: If your water has a high concentration of minerals like calcium, magnesium, or iron, it can affect the taste. This is commonly referred to as hard water. Hard water can taste metallic or have a slightly bitter or sour taste.
  3. Bacterial contamination: If your water supply is contaminated with bacteria, it can cause a foul taste. Bacteria can grow in pipes, water storage tanks, or wells that are not properly maintained or disinfected.
  4. Organic matter: If there is organic matter in your water, such as decaying vegetation or algae, it can impart an earthy or musty taste.
  5. Plumbing issues: Old or corroded plumbing pipes can introduce unwanted flavors into your water. If the pipes are made of materials like lead or copper, they may leach into the water and affect its taste.
  6. Chemical pollutants: Water sources can become contaminated with various chemicals, such as pesticides, industrial pollutants, or pharmaceutical residues. These contaminants can alter the taste of the water.
  7. Sulfur: If your water has a rotten egg smell or taste, it could be due to the presence of sulfur compounds, which can occur naturally or result from bacterial activity in the water supply.
  8. Cross-contamination: Sometimes, the taste of water can be affected by nearby sources. For example, if there is a sewage leak or industrial facility near your water source, it can contaminate the water and affect its taste.

If you’re concerned about the taste of your water, it’s recommended to contact your local water utility or have your water tested by a certified laboratory. They can provide specific information about the quality of your water and suggest appropriate solutions to improve its taste.

Though declared "safe," many people dislike the taste and simply would prefer not to drink chlorine.


What Can You Do?

As mentioned in a few cases above, there may be a way to fix the problem at the source (like replacing a rusted pipe), but if that is not an option, you’ll need to treat the water at the end-point before you use it. A filter is the best way to improve your water’s taste and quality.

If your water tastes bad, there are several steps you can take to address the issue:

  1. Contact your local water utility: If you receive your water from a municipal source, reach out to your local water utility or provider to report the problem. They can investigate and provide information about the water quality in your area. They may also be able to suggest solutions or offer a water quality report.
  2. Install a water filter: Consider installing a water filter system to improve the taste and quality of your water. There are various types of filters available, such as activated carbon filters, reverse osmosis systems, or water pitchers with built-in filters. Different filters target specific contaminants, so choose one that suits your needs. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installation and maintenance.
  3. Use a water pitcher with a built-in filter: If you prefer a simpler and more affordable option, you can use a water pitcher with a built-in filter. Fill the pitcher with tap water, and as you pour the water, it passes through the filter, removing impurities and improving taste.
  4. Boil the water: If you suspect that bacteria or organic matter is causing the bad taste, boiling the water can help kill some pathogens and reduce the unpleasant taste. However, boiling will not remove chemical contaminants or minerals. Allow the water to cool before consuming it.
  5. Clean or replace plumbing fixtures: If you suspect that your plumbing fixtures are contributing to the bad taste, you can try cleaning them. Lime or mineral deposits can build up in faucets, aerators, or showerheads, affecting the taste of the water. Disassemble the fixtures and soak them in a mixture of vinegar and water to dissolve the deposits. If cleaning doesn’t help, consider replacing the fixtures.
  6. Check your plumbing system: If you have an older plumbing system, corroded pipes may be the source of the bad taste. Consider having a professional plumber inspect your plumbing system to identify any issues and suggest appropriate solutions.
  7. Consider a water softener: If your water has a high mineral content and tastes metallic or bitter, a water softener can help remove the excess minerals, improving the taste. Water softeners use a process called ion exchange to replace calcium and magnesium ions with sodium or potassium ions.
  8. Consult a water treatment specialist: If you have persistent water quality issues or if you suspect more severe contamination, it’s advisable to consult a water treatment specialist. They can assess your specific situation and recommend customized solutions based on your water quality concerns.

Remember, the best course of action depends on the specific cause of the bad taste in your water. It’s always a good idea to contact professionals or experts in water treatment to ensure the appropriate steps are taken.

There are various types of filters to use:


Simple jug filters with a carbon cartridge will help reduce rust or chlorine, but other contaminants may require a better system. Jugs are great for those who keep their water in the fridge and for those who filter primarily only their drinking water. Look for a jug with a filter that uses carbon, which is incredibly porous. Carbon Filters clean the water as it passes through the filter. This type of filter is good for moving lead, some pesticides, trihalomethanes, and asbestos. This type of filter uses no chemicals.

Jug filters, also known as water filter pitchers or water filter jugs, are a popular and convenient way to improve the taste and quality of tap water. These filters consist of a plastic pitcher with a built-in filter cartridge that removes impurities from the water as you pour it into a glass or container.

Here are some key features and benefits of jug filters:

  1. Filtration process: Jug filters typically use activated carbon or carbon block filters to remove contaminants from the water. The carbon filters are effective in reducing chlorine, sediment, certain chemicals, and odors, resulting in improved taste and odor of the water.
  2. Ease of use: Jug filters are user-friendly and require minimal installation or plumbing modifications. Simply fill the pitcher with tap water, and as you pour the water, it flows through the filter, trapping impurities and providing cleaner water.
  3. Portability: The compact and lightweight design of jug filters makes them portable. You can easily place them in the refrigerator or carry them to different areas of your home or even outdoors. This makes them a convenient option for households or individuals on the go.
  4. Cost-effective: Compared to other water filtration systems, jug filters are generally more affordable. The pitchers themselves are relatively inexpensive, and the replacement filter cartridges are typically budget-friendly and readily available.
  5. Filter lifespan and replacement: The lifespan of the filter cartridge varies depending on the brand and usage. Manufacturers usually recommend replacing the filter every two to three months or after filtering a certain number of gallons of water. It’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure optimal performance and filtration efficiency.
  6. Capacity: Jug filters come in different sizes, with capacities ranging from a few cups to several liters. Choose a size that suits your water consumption needs and the available space in your refrigerator or countertop.
  7. Filter indicator: Some jug filters feature a filter replacement indicator. It can be a timer, a manual dial, or an electronic display that reminds you when it’s time to change the filter. This feature helps you maintain the filter’s effectiveness and ensures you’re always drinking filtered water.
  8. Limitations: While jug filters can improve the taste and reduce certain contaminants, they may not be as effective as more advanced filtration systems, such as reverse osmosis or whole-house filters. Jug filters are primarily designed for taste and odor improvement, and they may not remove all types of impurities or contaminants present in the water.

When choosing a jug filter, consider factors such as the filtration capabilities, filter lifespan and replacement cost, pitcher capacity, and overall convenience. It’s also a good idea to check customer reviews and ratings to ensure you select a reliable and trusted brand.

Sink or Whole House:

You can try an under-sink water filtration unit or a larger whole-house system to clean up your water. Typically these are for those who prefer ALL their water usage to be filtered. Many offer Carbon filters; however, some use a UV Light System. Organic or biological contaminants can be neutralized with a UV light system, or you can use a broader ionizer to remove particles from your water. According to Science, Reverse osmosis will improve your water no matter the problem, though these systems are also the most expensive.

Sink filters and whole house filters are two different types of water filtration systems that serve different purposes. Here’s a comparison of sink filters and whole house filters:

Sink Filters:

Sink filters, also known as faucet filters or point-of-use filters, are installed directly on individual faucets or under the sink to filter water at a specific point of use, such as the kitchen sink or bathroom faucet.

Here are some key features:

  1. Targeted filtration: Sink filters are designed to treat water at a specific faucet, providing filtered water for drinking, cooking, and other purposes at that particular location.
  2. Filtration capabilities: Sink filters typically use carbon filters or other specialized filter media to remove impurities such as chlorine, sediments, certain chemicals, and unpleasant tastes and odors. Some models may also target specific contaminants like lead or microbial cysts.
  3. Easy installation: Sink filters are relatively easy to install and usually require no major modifications to your plumbing system. They often come with adapters that allow them to fit various faucet types.
  4. Cost-effective: Sink filters are generally more affordable compared to whole house filters. The initial cost of the filter unit is lower, and replacement filter cartridges are typically less expensive.
  5. Filter lifespan and maintenance: The lifespan of sink filter cartridges can vary depending on the brand and water usage. Manufacturers usually provide guidelines on when to replace the filter. Maintenance involves periodically changing the filter cartridge, which is a straightforward process.
  6. Limitations: Sink filters only filter water at the specific faucet where they are installed. They do not provide filtered water to other faucets or appliances in the house. Sink filters are suitable for targeted filtration needs and for households that primarily want filtered water for drinking and cooking purposes.

Whole House Filters:

Whole house filters, also known as point-of-entry filters, are installed at the main water supply entry point of the house, ensuring that all the water entering the house is filtered.

Here are some key features:

  1. Comprehensive filtration: Whole house filters are designed to treat the entire water supply, providing filtered water to all faucets, showers, appliances, and plumbing fixtures throughout the house.
  2. Filtration capabilities: Whole house filters can effectively remove a wide range of impurities, including sediments, chlorine, heavy metals, chemicals, pesticides, and other contaminants, depending on the specific type of filter media used.
  3. Professional installation: Whole house filters generally require professional installation as they are connected to the main water supply line. They may involve additional components such as pre-filters, sediment filters, and post-filters to address specific water quality concerns.
  4. Maintenance and filter lifespan: The lifespan of whole house filters can vary depending on the brand, type of filter media, and water usage. Filter replacement frequency can range from a few months to several years. The larger capacity and higher flow rate of whole house filters often result in longer filter life.
  5. Enhanced water quality: Whole house filters provide filtered water for all purposes, including bathing, laundry, and cleaning. They not only improve the taste and odor of the water but also protect plumbing fixtures, appliances, and pipes from the potential damage caused by sediment and contaminants.
  6. Cost considerations: Whole house filters tend to have higher upfront costs due to the need for professional installation and larger capacity to treat the entire water supply. However, they provide comprehensive filtration benefits for the entire household.

When deciding between sink filters and whole house filters, consider your specific water quality concerns, filtration needs, and budget. Sink filters are suitable for targeted filtration at specific faucets, while whole house filters provide comprehensive filtration for the entire house.

The best way to improve the taste and quality of your water is with a filter.

Final Thoughts

One important point to remember is that not all toxins or contaminants have a taste. You can easily be drinking water that is high in lead or arsenic and get no indication whatsoever from the flavor. If you are worried about the quality of your water, have it tested periodically. That’s the best way to judge its contents.

In summary, if you’re experiencing bad-tasting water, there are various options to address the issue. Contacting your local water utility, installing a water filter (such as a jug filter or sink filter), and considering plumbing maintenance or professional water treatment are all viable approaches.

Jug filters, also known as water filter pitchers, offer a portable and affordable solution. They use activated carbon filters to improve taste by reducing chlorine, sediment, and certain chemicals. Jug filters are easy to use, have replaceable filter cartridges, and come in different sizes to suit your needs.

On the other hand, whole house filters provide comprehensive filtration for the entire water supply of your home. They offer enhanced water quality throughout all faucets and appliances. Whole house filters require professional installation, come with different filter media options, and often have longer-lasting filters.

The choice between sink filters and whole house filters depends on your specific needs, budget, and the extent to which you want to address water quality concerns. It’s always recommended to consult professionals, conduct water quality tests, and consider the specific contaminants or issues affecting your water to determine the best solution for your situation.

Remember, improving the taste of your water can enhance your overall drinking experience and contribute to your health and well-being.

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