Bad tasting tap water can make your whole day unpleasant. Besides quite literally leaving a foul taste in your mouth, it can prevent you from drinking enough water to get properly hydrated. It can prove an embarrassment when it comes time to serve beverages to your guests. It is foul, disgusting, undesirable in every way. In extreme cases, it is even hazardous to your health.
Below we’ll take a look at five of the most common reasons your water doesn’t taste like it should. Not only that, we’ll also explain some simple solutions for what you can do about it.
Figuring Out The Funny Flavors In Your Water
When diagnosing concerns with water, the first and most important thing to consider is the source. A person who doesn’t like the taste of their tap water has a whole different problem from someone who buys water bottles in disposable bottles and finds them funky a few days down the line.
The second most important thing to consider is the storage. How, where, under what conditions, and for how long has the water been stored before you’ve gotten to drinking it?
As we delve into these top five reasons below, keep in mind the source and the storage methods for whatever water you happen to find doesn’t pass the taste test. It will make the advice much more applicable. Let’s dive in!
#1 – Water Quality
The main reason you might find your water not the most pleasing on the taste buds is poor water quality. There is a virtually limitless number of reasons and contaminants that can contribute to poor water quality. Every stage of collecting and delivering the water to your glass has the potential for contamination of different varieties. Where the water is sourced, how it is transported and stored, the plumbing it passes through – all of these things and more contribute to the possibility of contaminating your water.
Depending on where you live, the water which comes from your tap might range anywhere from delicious to actually unsafe to drink. Some places are blessed with incredibly delicious high-quality drinking water straight from the tap, while other areas are much less lucky, with water that might taste or smell a little off all the way to something that runs real risk of making you sick.
Poor water quality is a vast issue that can have dire consequences and can be difficult to address. If you want to get a good idea about the water quality in your home or office, read our article How To Test Water Quality At Home to learn about some simple methods you can use to get a real understanding of your water quality. Common water contaminants include dissolved solids which can often imparts a musty smell to water, hydrogen sulfide which can contribute to the “rotten egg smell,” or a metallic flavor resulting from metals leaching into the water supply, often from plumbing.
Check out this awesome page from Water Logic which can help you determine what sort of water quality issues you might be suffering from based on what your tap water tastes like.
Solution: Filtration and purification technologies have become remarkably affordable, available, and effective. Depending on your needs, you can address poor water quality with a variety of solutions taking into consideration the amount of water you use and how severe the water quality issues are. You can easily install affordable reverse osmosis solutions for at-home water quality problems. Or if your whole town has funny tasting tap water, you could get a water bottle with an activated carbon filter and improve the taste of tap water where ever you go. To have a steady supply of filtered water in your fridge at all times, you could opt for a water filter pitcher. If you’re looking to meet the needs of a whole household without breaking the bank or having to worry about installation, be sure to check out countertop gravity water filters. Read our Best Countertop Water Filter Reviews for more info.
Having your own personal filtration and purification system as a final stage for your drinking water is a smart and sensible investment to ensure you are always drinking the best quality water you can get access to. While these systems can only go so far to combat water quality issues, they offer a bit of independence and a last line of defense in case something goes wrong with your water management system. Whether you rely on public water supply or collect your own water for use, having a personal filtration system in your home is an invaluable asset.
#2 – “Stale Water”
Have you ever wondered why after sitting out for awhile your water tastes different? Maybe even a little bad? Although we don’t usually think of water as something that goes “bad” or “stale,” there is something I’ve come to refer to as the “Stale Water Effect” and it is a very real phenomenon. In this article from Wired, a chemist from the University of South Carolina weighed in on what sort of chemistry might be contributing to this change in flavor.
In the article, the main contributors to this effect are identified as temperature change, chlorine off-gassing, and gas exchanges. Temperature change definitely has some impact on why your water fresh from the tap might taste better (if your tap has a tendency to be refreshingly cool, anyway,) but certainly doesn’t tell the whole story. Chlorine off-gassing, which occurs naturally as chlorine added from water treatment plants leave the solution, may impact the taste. And as that chlorine is leaving your glass of water, other gases are making their way in, with carbon dioxide dissolving to form small amounts of carbonic acid as other gases such as aldehydes and acetone may also be depositing themselves into your water.
You probably never thought of a glass of water as being so complicated. But this chemistry is only a tiny part of the story, because your glass of water is alive. Literally. All tap water contains microorganisms, and while these don’t typically have too much impact on the taste of your water, after sitting out for extended periods (like several days) these little critters can multiply to the point where them and their byproducts can actually start to foul up the taste of your water. If you wait long enough, you might even end up with some nifty little algae cultures.
Solution: Drink up! Don’t let your water sit out. If you have to store water for an extended period, make sure you minimize its contact with the atmosphere by putting it into a water bottle or enclosed water-tight container. If you use a quality insulated water bottle and fill it straight from the tap, your water should taste almost just as fresh as when it was filled hours later.
#3 – Dirty Container
Remember when we said water is alive, and after a few days the microbes can actually get so numerous as to impact the taste of your water? Well, when we said “a few days,” we said it with the assumption that we were talking about a clean container. If your drinking glass or water bottle isn’t up to snuff on its hygiene standards, what took a couple days can instead take an evening or even just a few hours. Dirty containers are disgusting breeding grounds for microbes of all descriptions.
Aside from the risk of microbial contamination, dirty containers also risk contaminating your water with whatever kind of residue or gunk happens to be lurking inside of them. This can be a quick route to getting a mouthful of nasty water, and is why you should always drink from clean containers. Even if you only use your glass or bottle exclusively for water, it will get dirty just from your using it repeatedly. Every time you take a drink, you’ll deposit oils and residue from your mouth, which can build up into something pretty nasty.
Solution: Regularly wash all of your drinking vessels! Whether it is your favorite mug, your drinking glass, or your everyday carry water bottle. It needs to be cleaned – thoroughly and regularly! For some helpful cleaning tips, visit our article How To Clean Your Water Bottle.
#4 – Reusing Disposable Containers
If you’ve ever wondered “why can’t I reuse a disposable container? Why bother with reusable bottles at all?” then you have put yourself on the road to some pretty nasty tasting water. Not only will the taste suffer, but you might actually be putting your health at risk as well. Although the health risks from reusing disposable water bottles or other containers may have been overblown to some degree, using a disposable container as a long-term solution is still generally considered to be a bad idea.
While refilling your disposable bottle or container up a few times isn’t going to cause any harm, wear and tear over days, weeks, or months of use can cause these type of containers to begin to degrade. They are not intended for long term use and do not have the engineering tolerance to stand up to repeated use. As the structural stability of the bottle begins to fail, you may end up drinking little bits of your container before ending up with leaky or broken container altogether. Plastics have been known to degrade due to exposure to high heat, potentially leaching chemicals into the bottle’s contents.
This concern of leaching is present in any disposable container used for long term use and not refrigerated. For this reason, never wash a disposable bottle with warm water, or store hot liquids in a disposable container not intended for hot liquids. Washing poses some additional concerns for disposable containers and bottles, which may not be designed to be cleaned, leaving virtually impossible to reach areas where filth can build up beyond the reach of your cleaning efforts.
#5 – You’re A Picky Drinker
We all know someone who is especially choosy when it comes to what they eat, but the same predispositions of the palette that might make someone hard to cook for can also make certain folks hard to please when it comes to the taste of the tap water. This can vary in choosiness from not liking the tap water in a particular area or building, to not particularly caring for the taste of water at all.
Probably the best way to account for this is to get a simple filter water bottle with a carbon filter. This will do a good job of cleaning up the taste of tap water in most cases. If even after plenty of filtration and purification you still can’t handle the taste of tap water, it might be a good idea to try adding something to it.
Infused water is a fantastic way of making drinking water more enjoyable. Unlike sodas or juices which have huge sugar content and unhealthy ingredients, infused water can add almost nothing but flavor and minute traces of nutrients to your water. Infusing water with fruit, vegetables, or herbs is incredibly simple and can be a fantastic way to encourage you to stay properly hydrated. Read our article on the Benefits of Infused Water.
Solution: Either filter out or cover up the taste. Don’t resort to sugary beverages!
While many parts of the world still have a long way to go in terms of water quality, and although even some of the most developed areas on the planet still struggle with water quality issues, on the whole it can be said that worldwide water quality is amazingly high. This is largely thanks to the affordability of water treatment options around the globe, from the industrial scale all the way down to personal water filtration systems that can provide a final line of defense.
If you are suffering from poor water quality, it is essential for the health and well-being of you and your family to do all you can to improve your water quality. Begin by following the steps and links above in order to isolate the source of your water quality issue. If you can solve it yourself or with professional assistance, do so immediately. Typically all it takes is the correction of problems with your water source, your plumbing, or the installation or repair of a filtration and/or purification system. In extreme cases, water quality maybe suffering due to factors beyond your control. In such cases, you should immediately contact local water authorities who have the ability to correct the issue.
Clean water and proper hydration are essential ingredients in any healthy life. Nobody should suffer with foul tasting water day in and day out. Treat yourself right with every glass!
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We explore the most common reasons you might be drinking nasty tasting water, and what you can do to fix it.
Jacob Hatch is the author and founder of Hydration Anywhere. He has been actively writing about drinking water since 2013. These days Jacob spends most of his time investigating water related news, studying environmental issues, reading health studies, and reviewing products like water bottles and water filters.