What Causes Your Tap Water to Taste Weird?

Most people will notice when their tap water acquires an off taste or smell. Usually, the cause behind the weird smell or taste is some sort of a contamination issue, an aspect that may sound the alarm in some people’s minds.

While some contamination issues may indeed be dangerous like lead contamination issues or bacterial contamination issues, other contaminants may not pose an immediate danger to your health, but it may surprise your taste buds or nostrils, or put a frown on your face.

Under normal circumstances, tap water will have a fresh, crisp taste. Because tap water is chlorinated to prevent disease outbreaks caused by pathogenic bacteria, most people will associate the taste of chlorinated water with freshness.

Because weird tastes and odours in your tap water can be caused by many contaminants, here are the most common culprits that can make your tap water taste or smell weird.

Algal blooms

Algal blooms usually occur in the spring, and that’s when most people complain that their tap water tastes like dirt or smells like fish. Since municipal water is treated, there are no algae in it, however, the smell or taste of algae may still persist. And while this is completely harmless, it may be annoying to drink tap water that has a strong earthy or fishy taste.


Chlorine is necessary to get rid of pathogenic bacteria, viruses, cysts and other harmful bacteria. While some people are not bothered by the smell or taste of chlorine, other people will avoid drinking or bathing in chlorinated tap water either because of pre-existing conditions that chlorine may aggravate (e.g. skin irritations, psoriasis, asthma), or because the harmful effects of long-time exposure to chlorine (e.g. reproductive health issues or cancer).

Chlorine and its by-products are easy to remove from tap water, and the best filters that remove chlorine will also remove chlorine taste and odour.

Also Read: How To Remove Chlorine From Tap Water?


Copper may end up in your tap water as a result of corrosion of copper plumbing, and even though sometimes it can go unnoticed, other times your tap water may have a bitter taste or it may taste like medicine.

Since copper is a heavy metal its presence in tap water is a serious issue that should be addressed as soon as possible. Heavy metals like copper or lead can also be removed from water with the help of heavy metal removal filters.

The presence of magnesium sulphate or sodium sulphate can also confer tap water a bitter, medicinal taste.

Also Read: Best Filters For Heavy Metal Removal

Gas or fuel in water

Contamination from fuel sources can make your tap water smell like gasoline. If you notice that tap water at every faucet in your home smells like gasoline, you must immediately notify your water supplier and stop drinking or using contaminated water.

Manganese, zinc, iron

If you notice that your tap water tastes like metal, it’s likely due to elevated levels of of iron, zinc or manganese. While iron and manganese occur naturally in water sources, zinc may leech into the water due to corrosion of galvanised plumbing.

A multi-stage reverse osmosis system along with a plumbing change can easily get rid of these contaminants together with the metallic taste of your tap water.

Chlorides and sodium

Both chloride compounds and sodium can make your tap water taste salty. If your tap water suddenly acquires a salty taste, the culprit nay be high concentrations of chloride, which occur naturally in water. Unfortunately, elevated levels of chloride can cause corrosion of appliances and plumbing.

Leaks from saltwater systems may also be making your tap water taste like salt. This too, is a contamination issue that should be immediately reported to your water supplier.

Hydrogen sulphide

The decay of organic matter produces hydrogen sulphide, which can make your tap water smell like rotten eggs. This is not considered a health threat by water suppliers, but hydrogen sulphide can increase corrosion of plumbing.

The presence of various bacteria in your plumbing system may also cause tap water to smell like rotten eggs. Flushing your pipes with chlorinated water can help solve the issue.

There are many other things that can make your tap water acquire an off taste. A water filter system can help deal with many contamination issues and protect against potential diseases.

What to do if your tap water smells or tastes weird?

If you notice a change in your tap water’s taste or smell, you should first check if the problem is isolated to one faucet or all the faucets in your home. If the strange taste or odour is noticeable at only one tap, then it may be hydrogen sulphide forming in your kitchen sink drain due to the decay of organic matter. Flushing the drain with chlorinated water will take care of the problem.

If the strange smell or taste is noticeable at every faucet in your home, it could be caused by issues with old plumbing or a contamination issue. If you already own a water filter system, check whether the filter cartridges are due for replacing. Try changing the filter cartridges and see if you can still notice the strange taste or smell. If not, you may have forgotten to replace your cartridges on time.

If despite all these measures, the strange taste or smell does not disappear, you should notify your water supplier, and follow their instructions. Your water supplier may ask you to boil your tap water before drinking it, or stop drinking your tap water, or using it for any household activities until they can figure out what’s wrong with your water.


Complex water filters can help solve tap water taste and odour issues by removing the contaminants that may be causing them. You can install a whole house water filter system that will supply filtered tap water to every faucet in your home. Alternatively, if you live in a smaller household, you can use an under-sink water filter that will supply contaminant-free water to the tap at your kitchen sink.

Depending on what it’s designed to remove, a water filter can remove a wide range of contaminants. Usually, water filters that combine various filter media (carbon block filters, sediment filters, ceramic filters, reverse osmosis, etc.) are the best filters to provide a thorough filtration.


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