Taste and smell

Occasionally our customers report unusual tastes or odours to their water supply. Some of the most common causes of taste and odours are described below.

Chlorine

Chlorine in drinking water is not harmful, but some people are more sensitive to the taste and smell of chlorine than others. Chlorine is essential to protect public health and it is therefore added to drinking water as the final stage of treatment in order to kill any harmful germs that may be present, and concentrations are monitored closely 24 hours a day.

We try and keep chlorine levels as low as possible whilst keeping our supplies safe. Chlorine concentrations can vary throughout the day and through the seasons, and may be higher if you live close to one of our treatment works.

The taste of chlorine can be reduced in water by filling a jug or glass container, covering it and allowing the water to stand in the fridge until needed. If you don’t use it within 24 hours, you should discard it – why not use it to water your plants rather than pouring it down the sink.

If you're really sensitive to the smell and can still detect it after storing it in the fridge try boiling the water for about five minutes. This removes most of the chlorine. After the water cools, store it in a closed container in the fridge. Again, if you haven’t used it all within 24 hours please discard it.

You might also consider using a home treatment device like as a water filter, generally these are not necessary, but some customers like to use them.

There are several types of water filters on the market ranging from jug type filters to permanently fitted devices. You will need a filter containing activated carbon which absorbs chlorine and other substances which can influence the taste of the water.

Any device which is ‘plumbed-in’ must comply with the Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations 1999. If not properly maintained, such devices may cause problems with water quality.  Further information and advice about water filters can be found from the Water Regulations Advisory service: www.wras.co.uk

Sometimes chlorine reacts with materials used for tap washers, anti-splash devices and seals in kettles causing an unpleasant ‘chemical’ taste.

A chlorinous or metallic taste in hot drinks, especially tea, will not be due to the presence of chlorine. Instead it is most likely to be associated with plumbing materials, such as rubber washers, or if you have appliances (such as vending machines, dishwashers, washing machines) plumbed in close to taps used for drinking water. If you call us on 0845 746 2200 we can give you a check valve which may help to resolve the problem.

Earthy or musty

Water that passes through peaty land can have an earthy or musty taste and/or odour. The water treatment works in such areas are designed to remove the organic material that causes these tastes.

Several types of bacteria and algae that are normally present in lakes, reservoirs and rivers naturally can produce substances which are not harmful to health, but which can give a musty or earthy taste or odour to water. Some of these organisms can also grow on washers and the inside of taps in customers homes which can lead to musty or earthy tastes or odours.

It you notice this smell or taste for the first time, try using a mild household disinfectant to wash outside and inside your drinking water tap. But don’t forget to let it run a little before you use it again to rinse out the disinfectant.

Rubber or plastic

Some plumbing materials that come into contact with the water supply in homes, offices and factories can give water unpleasant tastes and odours. When water stands in contact with plastic or rubber pipes or fittings small amounts of substances may dissolve into the water. Rubber and plastic hoses connected to washing machines and dishwashers can give rise to a rubbery, plastic or ‘TCP-type’ tastes. If you have a washing machine or dishwasher plumbed into pipework under the sink, try closing the valves and seeing whether the problem is still there. If you call us on 0845 746 2200 we can give you a check valve which may help to resolve the problem.

Bitter

A metallic or bitter taste can arise from copper, iron or galvanised pipes. If the water has been standing for several hours in the pipe fill a washing up bowl with water to draw fresh water through the pipe. The water in the bowl can be used for watering plants and need not be wasted.

Occasionally glasses or cups that have been through a dishwasher may retain traces of detergents. As a test, try rinsing the glass or cup with tapwater and see whether the taste is still there. If so, adjust the settings on your dishwasher and use no more than the recommended amount of detergent and rinse-aid.

Petrol or diesel

If there is a petrol or diesel taste and/or odour to the water from your kitchen tap please telephone our customer service centre. Please do not drink the water or use it for cooking purposes until one of our inspectors has visited your property.

Please check if you have had any work done at the property (for example on the heating system), if you have any oil fired heating/storage tanks on the premises or if you have recently had any oil leaks at the premises, i.e. a car or motorbike leaking oil. This is the most common cause for this type of issue.

For more information, please see the fact sheet on taste and odour.

If you are concerned about the quality of your water please call us on 0845 746 2200. Dial 18001 first if you have hearing or speech difficulties.

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