We all hope that the water that comes out of our taps is clean. However, contaminants can sneak into your drinking water at any stage. While not all of them cause noticeable differences in smell, color or taste, here is a quick guide to what different smells and tastes might mean.
Related Blog: Getting Rid of That Rotten Egg Smell in Your Water
- The smell of rotten eggs or sewage: This can mean you have bacteria growing somewhere in your system. It can also mean you are getting hydrogen sulfide into your home. If the smell is only in the hot water, then the problem is probably your water heater. This is a particular problem for homes being used part time when the hot water system is not used. It can also be caused by setting your thermostat too low or by magnesium anode rods. If it's the water heater you may need to have a plumber check it. If it's in both hot and cold water, have a professional water treatment company look into the problem. Sometimes running the water into the drain will bring up a smell and you find that your drain needs cleaning. Check for this by filling a glass with water then stepping away from the drain to smell the water. Rotten egg smell in only one faucet in your house is definitely an indication that the problem is in that specific plumbing fixture. If you have a septic system, have it checked, as it might be leaking into your water supply or well. Do not drink water that smells of rotten eggs or, especially, of sewage until the problem has been diagnosed or dealt with.
- A musty odor: This is most often caused by deposits of organic material in your drain, and thus is more common in the kitchen sink, especially if it has a garbage disposal. You probably want to clean the drain. If there is a garbage disposal, then there are various ways to deal with a smelly garbage disposal. Musty odors are unpleasant, but seldom associated with health problems. If it is spring, it might be algal blooms in the source water. This is generally not anything to worry about as water treatment deals with any actual algae in the water.
- A heavy chlorine odor: This might be caused by your utility "shocking" the water system. Usually this is announced ahead of time and you can check on their website. Otherwise, unless you have been using bleach yourself, you should contact your utility as it may indicate a problem with the plant.
- A copper taste: In older homes this can come from copper plumbing. If you have blonde or white hair and it is tinting slightly green after you shower, this is a clear sign of copper in your water. You should test it to make sure that it is not at unsafe levels, and as a note if you can taste it, it is toxic to your fish. Some dissolved minerals can also cause a coppery taste.
- The smell of gasoline: If you smell gasoline in your water, stop drinking it immediately and notify the water supplier. This is often caused by contamination from fuel sources and can be very dangerous (but thankfully rare).
- Salty: If your water is normally a little salty, this is caused by the specific minerals in your local water. A sudden increase in salt, however, indicates a leak somewhere and should be reported, especially as it can indicate sewage in the water supply.
- Milky color: Milky or cloudy water is generally caused by air bubbles that have slipped into the system, either locally or otherwise. Generally, this is not a concern. Some water filtration systems are particularly prone to getting air in them.
- Yellow or brown water: Check to see if this is only in the hot water - if so it means your water tank is dirty and needs to be flushed. If it is in both, then it is probably sediment in your pipes. Often the discoloration will go away. If you see discoloration after construction or maintenance work, then simply run the water until it runs clear.
- Black particles in the water: This can come from the same source as above - sediment in your pipes or minor contamination from repairs. However, it can also be caused by the disintegration of rubber material in your system. This can come from toilet flappers, flexible hoses, etc. You need to track down the offending rubber and replace it.
- White particles: These are generally in the hot water and come from a calcium carbonate (limescale) build up or brass corrosion. Again, this is an indication that your hot water tank needs to be flushed.
If you aren't sure of the origin of a strange smell, taste, or color in your drinking water or sure how to fix it, you should contact professionals. They can properly test your water and help you determine and deal with the cause, or else tell you it is a natural factor of the water in your area and not a concern. If you are interested in getting your water tested, contact Certain Services, Inc today.