Why does my tap water smell funny?

By Bob Fear

Why does my tap water smell funny?

Do you detect a funny smell when you run your taps? Does your tap water look or taste bad? Does it smell like sewage? Maybe it tastes bitter or metallic? Here are all the reasons why your tap water might smell funny and what you can do to fix it.

My tap water smells like rotten eggs, sulphur or sewage

There’s likely to be bacteria in your water system. The first thing to check is if the smell is coming from the water itself. So fill a glass with water. Step away from the sink and smell the glass. If it’s pongy, then you have a problem with your mains water supply. If you step back over to the sink and the smell is coming up from your pughole, then your drains are the culprit.

There may be rotting food or soap collecting in your sink pipes and drain and causing the nasty whiff. Bacteria will give off a gas that drifts upwards when you turn your tap on. A decent drain cleaner should sort this out, or you can go the DIY route and pour some baking soda down your plughole, followed by a dose of white vinegar in boiling hot water. This will foam up and unclog your pipes. A shot of bleach and boiling water should also do the job. Plug hole strainers can prevent a fair amount of waste from getting into your drains in the first place so they’re a good place to start.

If you notice a nasty niff when you run your hot water, then this might be hydrogen sulphide. This is a gas that’s released when your water heating element starts to break down. Time to call a plumber!

My tap water smells musty, mouldy, earthy or like rotting fish

If this happens during hot weather, then it’s likely to be your local water treatment plant not operating at optimum level. Water in rivers and reservoirs can develop an earthiness in the summer months and more algae may grow, so more treatment is needed to make the water drinkable as normal. Solid organic matter in your water will cause it to smell bad, but this can be removed by a decent home purification system.

Stagnant and warm water running through household pipes that haven’t been used in a while may also give off an earthy aroma, so your plumbing might need a good old flushing.

My tap water tastes metallic or rubbery

Old rusting pipes are the likeliest culprit of metallic tasting water, particularly if there’s also a red, orange or yellow tint to your tap water. Corroding iron, zinc or copper pipes will need to be sorted by a plumber. Copper corrosion will give your water a blue or green tint and is a definite sign that your pipework needs looking at.

If your tap water has a hint of rubber or plastic then it’s also likely to be your plastic pipes or anything plastic attached to taps or in your kettle. All of these invasive elements, including pesky microplastics that can sneak into your supply, can be removed from your tap water by a good quality water filtration system.

My tap water has a chemical, chlorine smell

Chlorine is used by the water treatment works to disinfect our drinking water. Some people aren’t put off by the faint whiff or the slightly bitter taste it can leave you with, but most of us would prefer to not be able to taste or smell chlorine when we want a nice refreshing glass of water. A home water purifier will remove the chlorine from your tap water, while simple UV light treatment keeps the bacteria at bay. The Virgin Pure home water system even leaves in all the healthy essential minerals we need, such as calcium and magnesium, so it’s like having great tasting mineral water on tap.   

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