You expect your water to come out of the tap blissfully clear, clean, and fresh. It’s a rude awakening when the water starts to taste more and more like silt or potting soil. When you have funny-tasting water, the problem always has a cause. Sometime the problem has a quick fix, and other times it requires more extensive water conditioning.
Here are the main reasons why water can start to taste like dirt and what you can do to clear things up.
The most likely cause of water’s tasting like dirt is a naturally occurring chemical compound called geosmin. It’s produced by bacteria commonly found in soil. Geosmin is also produced by algae in local water sources.
Geosmin is harmless, but you will always be able to taste it. Humans have very sensitive receptors for the flavor of geosmin. You need only the tiniest amount in your glass for the “dirt” flavor to be overpowering.
If geosmin is the cause of your water tasting badly, the geosmin is probably not a localized problem. Contact your local water treatment center about the flavor issue. You are more likely to have this problem in summer when algal blooms form in local water sources. If your local water is sourced from a lake, dam, or river, the chances of geosmin contamination are higher.
The flavor of geosmin is easily offset by acid, like lemon juice or vinegar, which is why some earthy fish pair well with acidic sauce. However, you can’t pour vinegar into your drinking water, or else you’ll just have another flavor problem on your hands. If the problem continues, you can offset the dirty taste by:
- Using a carbon filter. While the filter may not eliminate the taste entirely, using one can improve the flavor and make water more drinkable.
- Investing in a reverse-osmosis water-treatment system. This is the most effective system for removing all geosmin from the water.
- Cooling your water in the fridge. The colder water will make your taste buds less receptive to the flavor of geosmin. This is a temporary solution, but it is better than nothing.
Don’t forget that geosmin is only one explanation for the earthy taste in your water. It’s best to check and treat for other causes as well.
Bacteria in Plumbing
Bacteria growth in your plumbing is also a common cause of dirt flavor. The most common areas for this growth are close to the exit point, meaning your faucet or tap.
You can check whether or not your issue is a simple bacteria problem by testing the water from the different taps in your house, including an outdoor hose. If the problem is only the kitchen sink or the bathroom, you’ll know the flavor is a localized problem instead of a water-supply contamination issue.
You can clean your faucets by removing the aerators and soaking them in vinegar. Use a microfiber cloth to clean the inside of the faucet pipe as far back as you can reach.
Bacteria growth can also occur in your well-water systems. A dirty taste means it’s time to shock the well with chlorine in order to get a start fresh. Shocking your well is simply part of well maintenance, but if you notice the taste coming back after only a few weeks or months, contact a water professional for a more in-depth analysis of where the taste is coming from.
If what’s in your water tastes like dirt and smells like dirt, it might actually be dirt. If you notice particulates in your glass and a dirty taste, you may be tasting actual soil and organic matter from your water source. This is more common if you have well water or live in a very old home with clay or galvanized pipes.
You might be totally grossed out by the idea that you’ve been drinking actual dirt, but the solution is simple. Most clip-on tap filters can easily remove particulates. If you are looking for a long-term solution, a whole-house filter to remove sediment is the ultimate answer.
The final culprit may not be dirt at all—it may be deposits of heavy metals from the soil or from old plumbing. Some metals have a distinct metallic flavor, but others simply cause the water to taste earthy. After all, rich soil has plenty of minerals, including metal deposits. The most likely culprits are iron, copper, zinc, and manganese.
With local water supplies, trace amounts of these metals will usually be only a taste problem; they aren’t concentrated enough to harm your health. However, you should always get your water tested for dangerous contaminants if you notice a dirty taste with metallic undertones, especially if you get water from a well.
Some heavy metals, like cadmium and lead, are hazardous to your health. These are tested for and filtered out of municipal water sources, but well-water contamination can go unnoticed.
For more information on why your water tastes earthy, contact us at Johnson Water Conditioning. We can help you get to the root of the problem and provide the right treatment system to keep you water clean and fresh, no matter what.