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Why does my water taste sweet?

Why does my water taste sweet? - article image
21 Mar 2017 Océane Bidault

A sweet taste in your tap water typically results from high concentrations of naturally occurring minerals, or due to an imbalance in the pH level. Despite the fact neither is undue cause for concern, it is important you quickly identify the cause of the sweet taste in the unlikely event of water contamination, which could present a health risk.

What causes my water to taste sweet?

Depending on where you live in the United Kingdom, your tap water will contain varying levels of trace minerals such as iron, calcium, potassium and others. If certain minerals are present in higher quantities. If an individual with a particularly sensitive palate consumes them, they can result in a variety of flavours.

If you have the right balance of potassium and sodium, for example, your water will take on a sweet taste. If you live in an area with very hard water, however, excessive mineral content can create a less pleasant, or saltier, flavour.

Where naturally-occurring, trace minerals aren’t the source of sweetness, then the cause may be your plumbing. No matter the age of your pipes, the metalwork can leach materials into your water and alter its taste. If this is the case, merely running your taps for an extended period should cleanse the system and effectively ‘refresh’ the taste of your water supply.

The perceived sweet-tasting water can even result from something you’ve eaten that day. If you consume bitter or sour foods, a sip of water revives your sweet taste-receptor cells and elicits a sensation of sweetness. Alternatively, it may be that you’re simply confusing a sweet taste with a sweet smell. This is a pleasant aroma in the air can trick your senses into believing the water is sweet.

What should I do if my water tastes sweet?

Some people enjoy the sweet taste coming from the tap water. However, it’s always recommended you identify the source of the flavour to rule out possible contamination. First, run your water supply for a length of time to clean the plumbing network and remove possible trace mineral build-ups.

If flushing your system has no effect, then consider purchasing an aeration or carbon filter. These grab most of the organic material suspended in the water to remove the elements causing the strange taste. Finally, consider passing your tap water through a further process before drinking, including:

If your problem persists, the Drinking Water Inspectorate advises you contact your mains water supplier and explain your concern. Your supplier should request a water sample in response to your complaint and provide a recommended solution based on the result.

Alternatively, your supplier must run daily checks on the quality of your water supply, and you can check the test results via their website.

In summary, if your water tastes sweet, here’s what to do:

  • Run your supply for an extended period and taste again;
  • Purchase a carbon filter to remove impurities and enhance the fresh flavour;
  • Introduce more advanced filtration techniques to improve your supply;
  • Contact your water supplier and request they carry out a detailed analysis.

If you contact your supplier and feel they fail to take the necessary steps to address your problem, you can liaise with the Consumer Council for Water. This independent body for the water industry offers a comprehensive ‘watchdog’ support service, advising consumers throughout both England and Wales.

Quick Facts

  • Water that tastes or smells like dirt can be common, although the cause is not always easy to detect. You may have to perform tests at home in order to discover the root of the problem.
  • An isolated faucet with dirty-tasting water can usually be fixed by unscrewing the cylinder at the end of the tap and cleaning it thoroughly before replacing it.
  • If all water sources in your house have the same unpleasant taste, then the problem may stem from your public supplier. Contact your local water company to alert them of the issue and have them fix it as soon as possible.
  • Environmental factors can cause poor tasting water. Geosmin, also called “algae bloom,” is prevalent in the summer months and grows on the surface of bodies of water, including lakes and reservoirs. Although not toxic, geosmin can cause an earthy taste if it makes its way into your drinking water.
  • Although likely harmless, water that tastes like dirt is not appealing. Try using a filtered water cooler to improve the taste of your water.

What causes my water to taste like dirt?

If your water tastes like dirt, it’s more than likely harmless, albeit annoying. Drinking water can sometimes have a dirt-like taste or grainy texture as a result of a geosmin invasion: a compound made up of soil and plant bacteria, or algae blooms. Geosmin is so potent that it only takes ten nanograms per litre for the human palate to detect a dirt-like taste. As for algae blooms, if you notice a soil-like taste around summertime, then you may have found the source of what has been affecting the taste of your water. When warm weather sets in, algae begin to multiply at the bottom of lakes, ponds, and other water sources.

Although harmless, both of these “all-too-natural” culprits make for foul-tasting water, so do yourself — and your taste buds — a favour. Get a filtered water dispenser to clean up your dirt problem and improve the overall quality of your office H20.

What should I do if my water tastes like dirt?

If you suspect bacteria in your pipes may be the cause of the problem, start by testing to see if every faucet in your house has the same dirt-like taste; or if it’s an isolated tap. Doing so may help you detect whether the fault lies with your entire plumbing system or a lone faucet.

If it’s a single source, chances are your aerator — the tiny cylinder screwed to the end of your faucet — may be dirty. To check for dirt in the aerator, unscrew it from the tap and try tasting the water again. If it still has a strange taste, you may have an accumulation of bacteria. To eliminate bacterial build-up from an aerator, unscrew it from the faucet and clean it thoroughly. Or, simply replace it with a new one. If any of the components of the aerator are stuck, try soaking them in vinegar.

If you’ve checked your taps and have found all of them are running dirty-tasting water, the cause is likely coming from the main supply of your water source. Contact your provider to request the root cause of the dirty water be identified. Enquiry numbers can be found on your water bill. If you are dissatisfied with an adequate explanation or dirty-tasting water runs after actions have taken place, you can contact the Consumer Council for Water. This is an independent body for the water industry in England and Wales.

However, if you use a private well, you will have to ask a specialist to inspect your well as it’s not unheard of for sediment to make its way into private water supplies.

Improving your drinking water quality

Although chlorine helps to keep our water free of bacteria, there are over 330 human-made contaminants in the UK water supply. As such, it’s vital to get your water tested, or find alternatives to tap water, if you suspect that your water quality poses a threat to your health — or if it has an off-putting taste or aroma.

You can use a filtered water cooler in the workplace to remove the majority of contaminants, including heavy metals, pesticides, and other toxins, in order to keep your workforce healthy. While Waterlogic’s range of coolers means they are just as effective when used in warehouses, healthcare facilities, universities and hospitality venues. If you’re looking to deliver fresh, clean water to your workplace, take a look at our product line or request a quote for a water cooler.

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