Does your tap water taste or smell different?

Occasionally, our customers report that their tap water suddenly has an unusual taste or odour. We've set out the most common causes of this below.

Chlorine

You can find in depth information about chlorine in your water here.

Below we've outlined some factors that could affect the taste and/or smell of your tap water.

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 your home, which can lead to musty or earthy tastes or odours.

If 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 comes into 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 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 0345 672 3723 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 tap water 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 call us on 0345 672 3723. 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 had any recent 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 our factsheet on taste and odour (PDF 167 KB opens in a new window).

We also have an easy-to-read guide which explains how you can keep your tap water in tip-top condition (PDF 2,765 KB opens in a new window) 

If you're at all worried about the quality of your water, please call us on 0345 672 3723. Dial 18001 first if you have hearing or speech difficulties.