Reasons and Remedies for Bad-Tasting Tap Water

    Karen/flickr/cropSummer brings gloriously warm weather and lots of enjoyable outdoor activities. During this season, it's vital to drink plenty of water to remain hydrated and, according to Chinese medicine, to keep the qi (life force) in good shape. Bottled water has fallen out of favor, as the result of questions about its superiority to tap water and the environmental impact of all those plastic bottles. However, the liquid that flows out of your faucet might not always be the most appealing beverage, either. Sometimes tap water tastes bad, with a flavor that is musty, bitter, or otherwise "off." Find the causes and solutions for bad-tasting tap water.

    Check your health. Physical conditions -- such as pregnancy, illness (the onset of a sore throat perhaps), dental problems, or medications you are currently taking -- all may change your perception of taste. Water may seem bitter, metallic, salty, or sulfurous to you. If the unpleasant taste persists, consult your health practitioner.

    Drink more -- water, that is. If you've gotten into the bad habit of always quenching your thirst with juice, sports drinks, or colas, often plain old water tastes bad -- bland and unappealing -- in contrast. Try to reach for the water jug instead of sugary beverages, and you may eventually learn to appreciate it. If you crave a more pronounced flavor, add mint leaves or citrus slices, or sip warm or chilled unsweetened herbal tea.

    Boil your water. Chlorine is used by a number of municipalities to get rid of bacterial buildup in their water pipes. A swimming pool-like taste may be particularly strong right after your town performs its annual water supply maintenance. Boiling your tap water can be helpful in removing a chlorine taste. Store the boiled water in the refrigerator and use within 24 hours.

    Clean up. Unappetizing mustiness when you fill a glass with water may be caused by bacterial growth on your kitchen or bathroom faucet or inside the sink drain. Remove the faucet aerator and soak it for a few minutes in a mixture of 1 cup water to 1/3 cup white vinegar. Moisten a cloth with the same vinegar solution to wipe the inside of the faucet tip. Finally, pour the solution into your drain and let stand for a quarter of an hour to deodorize.

    Talk to your neighbors. You might find that you all are experiencing an earthy, decaying, or fishy taste in your water. Fairly common in summer, this problem may be due to algal content in the regional water source. While water treatment removes the harmful algae themselves from the local supply of H2O before it ever reaches your kitchen tap, the taste often lingers.

    Try a filter. To minimize off flavors and contaminants, a Brita-type pitcher is an inexpensive way to filter your tap water. However, you may prefer the convenience and performance of an under-counter or whole house water filtration system. (Be aware that your local health department could require a permit before you install a water-treatment device.)

    Contact your local water utility. A strong sulfurous taste may be a danger signal. Phone the water company to see whether a broken pipe might be leaking sewage into your area's water supply. A pronounced flavor of chemicals or rust also merits an emergency call, as does a change in the color or clarity of your water.

    Consult a plumber. Should you continue to notice an objectionable taste in your tap water, consult a licensed plumbing professional. The problem may stem from an issue with your home's plumbing system, septic tank, or private well.

    Laura Firszt writes for

    Updated January 23, 2018.

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