Bad Tasting, Smelly Drinking Water


There are many things that can give drinking water  bad taste and smelly odors.  It could be chemicals used to treat your drinking water, environmental contaminants or even concentrations of metal that have been cast off in old plumbing pipes.

Some of the culprits behind bad tasting, smelly drinking water could be:

  • Hydrogen Sulfide, which can produce a rotten egg smell;
  • Dissolved solids which cause a musty, earthy wood smell;
  • Chlorine used in the municipal water treatment process;
  • Metallic tastes and smells from mercury, lead, arsenic and iron seeping into the water supply.

How do I get rid of the rotten egg smell?

Water absorbs hydrogen sulfide as it passes through the ground. When you turn on your faucet, you actually vent the gas from your tap water, which emits that rotten egg smell.

Hydrogen sulfide can be treated with oxidation and filtration. Oxidation turns the gas into elemental sulfur which can then be removed via water filtration. Normally, an aeration system injects air into the water to oxidize the gas. The water then passes through a filter that removes the sulfur. The result is water free of the “rotten egg” smell.

What are Dissolved Solids in Drinking Water?

Dissolved solids, or Total Dissolved Solids (TDS), refer to any compounds left in the water after normal treatment and filtration.  TDS in drinking water originate from natural sources, sewage, urban run-off, industrial wastewater, chemicals used in the water treatment process, and plumbing pipes.

TDS can make your drinking water taste bitter, salty, or metallic and may have unpleasant odors.  It can interfere with the taste your food and beverages and make your water less thirst quenching.

We are all exposed to toxic minerals and chemicals found in the air and in our food on a daily basis. Water flushes these toxins out of our bodies.  The purer the water is, the better it is at collecting and cleansing these compounds from the body.

Many consumers want to purify their water for drinking, cooking and ice cubes. Kinetico  drinking water systems provide high quality, chemical-free water right at the faucet, treating only the water you use for drinking and food preparation.

I Smell and Taste Chlorine in my Drinking Water

Since the 1850s, chlorine has been used as a disinfectant to kill harmful bacteria in water or in the pipes that transport it, helping to eliminate a number of 19th century threats to public health. It is essential at the treatment plant and in the water distribution system, but it is no longer necessary once the water reaches your home.

Chlorine tastes and smells bad. It dries skin and hair, fades clothes (bleach is made of chlorine) and can dry out the rubber seals in appliances, shortening their lives.

Kinetico’s chlorine removal systems eliminate chlorine from your water. If you are concerned about chlorine, please contact us for a free in-home water analysis.

My Drinking Water has a Metallic Taste and Smell

Metals, like copper, iron, and lead found in tap water have their own unique smells and tastes. Usually copper and iron appear in low concentrations and are not harmful, although they can discolor your water. Rusty brown water is a result of high amounts of iron. Iron will stain and destroy everything from pipes to appliances and your favorite t-shirt; however, it is more of a taste concern than health concern.

Lead is a more serious concern, because it can be bad for your health.  Lead in drinking water usually comes from plumbing that has been connected with lead solder (outlawed in 1986) or from outdated water distribution lines. Many water pipelines in the U.S. were put in place before 1975, and aging plumbing pipes can contribute to drinking water contamination. New laws came into place to start 2014 that all but eliminate the use of lead in most water treatment solutions.

There are things you can do to reduce the risk of lead in your drinking water. Some sources suggest running your tap water for a couple of minutes before filling a glass to flush any accumulated lead from the water line (lead dissolves into standing water over time). This isn’t a foolproof solution, however, since there is no way of knowing whether all of the lead has been removed.  Also, lead can still dissolve into running water.

When preparing any drinks or meals, never use hot tap water. Hot water attracts more lead than cold water does. If you need hot water, heat cold tap water on the stove or in a microwave.

You can also invest in a carbon drinking water filter or reverse osmosis system that has been certified to protect your drinking water from lead. Kinetico advises you to check any manufacturer claims to see if they have been verified by the Water Quality Association or NSF International; because not all systems are certified for lead reduction.

The American Water Works Association has an informational brochure, called  “Living Lead Free,” that recommends having your water tested for lead to find out whether you should take action.  Our Kinetico water experts can have your water analyzed for free and help you decipher the results.


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24 thoughts on “Bad Tasting, Smelly Drinking Water

  • Pamela Wallace

    We have resided in our home for 17 years and here recently the water smells like rotten eggs.One of my biggest concerns is our laundry! Our clothes smell like rotten eggs after using all Gain product: detergent,scent boosters and fabric sheets! Our wash cloths and towels have now taken on a sewer scent. Please help us?

    • Chris Richter Post author

      Hi Pamela, I sent you an email with links to some of our fellow Kinetico dealers, please let me know if you had any trouble opening it.

      It’s almost always more efficient to deal with smells, odors, and staining before it happens. In addition to easier and more efficient, it’s also going to be less expensive.

      All the best,
      Chris

    • Chris Richter Post author

      Hi Irene, That’s a good question. It probably depends on the smell. Water should be tasteless, odorless and free of color. From there, everything else is now a matter of why it tastes bad, smells bad, or isn’t clear.

      Probably the most common smell that we have in water for municipal sources is chlorine and that absolutely is not healthy. Other smells, say iron or sulfur, aren’t necessarily unhealthy in low concentrations, but they’ll destroy dishwashers, washing machines, and hot water heaters.

      You can always free feel to call our office, 262.549.7733. We’re glad to test your water at no charge or, if you’re out of our service area, get you in good hands with the appropriate Kinetico experts in your area.

      All the best,
      Chris

    • Chris Richter Post author

      Hi John, thanks for your note. Feel free to give us a call or shoot me your zip code and I can get you connected with someone who address that. Chlorine, or its nasty cousin chloramine, is pretty aggressive. For your bathroom faucets, many of those have the aeration head which will at least help. Either way, there’s nothing good about chlorine after it’s in the home. Thanks, Chris

  • Saravana kumar

    The water coming out from the demineralization plane is quite odor and taste different. What would be the reason for that? Anyone give me some suggestion.

  • Saravana kumar

    The water coming out from the demineralization plant is quite odor and taste different. What would be the reason for that? Anyone give me some suggestion.
    TDS of the water is 310ppm before demineralize and 16ppm after going through the plant.

    • Chris Richter Post author

      That’s odd. You’re getting a ~95% rejection of total dissolved solids so issues like complete membrane failure are unlikely.

      For the plant/system in question, is there any sort of a post-filter on the system? For flavor/odor concerns, is it possible that you’re picking up anything from the post-filter or storage tank?

    • Chris Richter Post author

      Hi Kathy,

      Smells can be goofy as the explanation might vary from person to person. Earthy, musty, moldy, or foul can all be similar enough

      Do you have any treatment or is this purely from the raw/untreated well water?

      Is this same smell occurring on hot, cold, or both?

      In your toilet tank, like the water closet side, do you have an oily or viscous film? Maybe better, if you wipe your finger against the back of water closet, does any discoloration/film wipe right down to the porcelain?

      If you do have proper treatment, likely an iron filter + softener + reverse osmosis, are you still seeing color in the treated water?

      Those few questions start to point us towards some answers. Feel free to reply here or call our shop 262.549.7733 between 8-5 Central. I’d be glad to help as much as I can. Depending on where you live, I can also get you into contact with someone near you who is qualified to help.

      Thank you,
      Chris

  • Jan

    My tap water smells and tastes moldy, i did not see anything in your article that explains or even mentions this taste. All of my faucets and shower have the smell/taste.

    • Chris Richter Post author

      Hi Jan, thanks for your note.

      Moldy/musty/earthy smells can have a few different sources. For your water, are you on municipal or well water? Are there any other things you’re noticing, color, cloudiness, etc?

      Feel free to reply here or call the shop, we’re in from 8-5 Central @ 262.549.7733.

      Thank you,
      Chris

  • Gloria Palmer

    The water is terrible. I reported it to the CDC several months ago. They told me to call the water department that service our area.I called and someone came out,however, they did not give us a report. They dig a lot and often across the street from where we live. My husband is an cancer patient and the water make my head swim. It’s not good right now, I pray that you can help? by coming out and testing the water in our house.

    • Chris Richter Post author

      Hi Gloria, Thank you for your note.

      Hopefully I can save you some time and headache. There are very few government agencies you can call, but you have ample opportunity to take control of your own water supply.

      The water is already heavily regulated to some standards by the EPA by the rules in the Safe Water Drinking Act. This gets into this notion of “healthy water” v. “legal water.” The authoritative tests are those run by the water utility via 3rd party labs. If you look up whomever you pay your water bill to, that utility will have a Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) listed on their site. The #1 goal of public water is really to minimize the likelihood of bacteria getting through. It’s really a lesser-of-two-evils decision. Chlorine creates its own unhealthy byproducts, but the primary goal is not to have acute illness.

      If you want to really control the quality of your water, that’s up to you. It’s certainly what we do personally and what we recommend. For that, it’s high-quality reverse osmosis that is the go-to solution. Especially if your husband is undergoing treatment like chemo that is compromising his immune system, you may want to pair that with a UV system to help disinfect the water.

      If you’re in Wisconsin, give us a call and we can help. If you are elsewhere, track down a deal from Kinetico via this link: http://www.kinetico.com/

    • Chris Richter Post author

      Hi Glenn, thanks for your note. A lab that is local to you can do a pretty exhaustive set of tests. At least by us, you can get about 20 characteristics tested for about $150. Candidly, I rarely recommend that.

      Just in terms of carcinogens, we’re talking about tens of thousands of compounds. There’s no way to test for everything so it usually makes sense to invest in a high quality drinking system and eliminate the guesswork.

      If you’ve noticed major changes, lab work might make sense or contact a Kinetico representative near you. If you’re in or around southeastern Wisconsin, give us a call. If elsewhere, visit Kinetico.com and punch in your zip code at the top of the page under the dealer locator form at the top of the page.

      All the best,
      Chris

    • Chris Richter Post author

      If you are looking at chlorinating your well, in many communities a homeowner is able to chlorinate their well by removing the cap at the well head and introducing bleach to the column from there.

      I’d double check that you have no restrictions in your locale and that you have information on the well depth as that will influence the quantity of chlorine introduced to the well.

      Hope that helps.

    • Chris Richter Post author

      If you are on city water, it is more or less bleach. There is absolutely nothing healthy about not just drinking chlorine, but it’s a health hazard even in the shower due to the vapor.

      If you’re near us in Wisconsin, give us a call. If you’re elsewhere in the country, visit this link and punch in your ZIP code to find a Kinetico resource near you: http://www.kinetico.com/

      A whole home dechlorinator is a large, high-capacity bed of carbon that will filter every drop rolling through the home. Paired with a reverse osmosis system, you’ll have taken what amounts to the same water the city uses to fight fires and converted it to a supply much more suitable for consumption.

      Most of this answer assumes you are on city water. If you are on a well, stop drinking it immediately and get a professional opinion on what’s going on.

  • Joan L.

    Hello, We just bought a house and had the water tested for the typical stuff and it passed the lead test and also had a good pH of 7.5 but once we moved in we now notice the water smells like metal or pennies and the smell even lingers on our hands and skin after showering. The water had tested positive for cloriform bacteria and 2+ e.coli but the sellers installed a uv filter system and that resulted in no more bacteria when it was retested. Do you know what we should do to figure out what is causing the metal smell and what could treat it?
    Thanks
    -Joan

    • Chris Richter Post author

      Hi Joan,
      Thanks for your note. Smells are always a little weird just because we don’t have the technology to email those over quite yet.

      Just to put the worst of concerns aside, it’s almost certainly not lead and almost definitely not related to the prior bacteria issues, etc.

      Where in the country are you? If you want to shoot me a town or ZIP I can send over a referral closer to you. A couple of quick tests should yield a recommendation that will get your problem eliminated.

      Thank you,
      Chris