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What you can do if your water tastes or smells funny

If your tap water tastes or smells funny, it’s usually nothing to worry about. In fact there are a few reasons your water might have a unfamiliar taste or smell, most are totally harmless and completely fixable.

The main tastes or smells most people report from their taps are:

  • Chlorine type smell
  • TCP type taste
  • Earthy, or ‘musty’
  • Like fuel, or solvent
  • Metallic taste
  • Woody

OK, let’s try and understand what all these could mean about your plumbing or taps. And remember, the best test is to fill a glass of water and smell it away from the sink so you can be sure it’s an issue with your tap water.

Chlorine type smell

If your tap water smells or tastes like chlorine it’s usually temporary and if you pop some water in the fridge you’ll notice the smell completely disappear. The reason it can sometimes smell this way is because we do actually add very small amounts of chlorine to your tap water in the treatment processes. This is an essential ingredient and keeps the water fresh and clean.

TCP type taste

If you notice your water smells or tastes like TCP, it’s likely that the hose connecting your washing machine to your water supply is to blame. If you find this is a recurring problem you can buy and install a single check valve that will make sure that water only goes in to the machine, and nothing can come back out and mess with your fresh water supply.

Earthy or ‘musty’ smells or tastes?

If your water smells or tastes earthy or ‘musty’, this is usually totally harmless and just means water has been sitting in your pipes for too long (usually happens in the summertime more). To resolve this, just run your taps for a few minutes.

Metallic taste?

If you notice your tap water tastes metallic or bitter it’s usually because of increased concentrations of metals commonly found in domestic plumbing systems like copper, or zinc. Running your cold kitchen tap for a couple of minutes should get rid of this taste, but if the problem persists please call us on 0345 702 3797.

‘Woody’ taste or smell?

If your water has a ‘woody’ taste or smell (a bit like a pencil) it’s usually got something to do with black plastic pipework. These pipes were installed in some homes in 1960s and 70s so really the only permanent solution is to get your pipes reinstalled. A good short term fix is to run the cold kitchen tap for a few minutes just to run out that water that’s been in contact.

Fuel or solvent smells or tastes

If your tap water smells or tastes like fuel or solvent please call us on 0345 702 3797. This can be caused by a spillage in your area which can sometimes penetrate your pipes and can take weeks or months to detect.

If you’d like to know a little more, take a look at our webpage on funny tastes and smells, and remember if you want to find out more about what’s in your water, take a look at our hand water quality tool here.

If you’re looking to get some internal work done, don’t forget that WaterSafe have a free list of approved plumbers in your area.