Article Summary: Water may taste metallic and smell like metal due to the presence of dissolved minerals such as iron, manganese, and zinc. These minerals can come from various sources, including the surrounding soil and rocks, corroded pipes or plumbing fixtures, or the water treatment process itself.
The level of minerals in the water can vary depending on location and water source, as well as the age and condition of the plumbing infrastructure. While the minerals themselves are not typically harmful to human health, the metallic taste and odor can be unpleasant and, in some cases, may indicate a problem with the water supply or plumbing system that requires further investigation.
These contaminants can affect city water but are more common in well water.
Find out below the causes and if metallic water is safe to use.
What Causes Water to Taste Metallic?
There are differences in the causes of city water and well water tasting & smelling metallic.
City water may occasionally taste abnormal e.g., when the system is flooded with chlorine to eliminate algae and other contaminants.
Well water may have a range of contaminants from various sources (1) such as:
Contamination from these sources may not make the well water taste metallic, but it can affect your health.
The Impact of Different Water Sources on Metallic Taste: City Water vs. Well Water
Municipal or city water supplies are typically treated and regulated to ensure safety and quality standards. The treatment process involves adding chemicals, such as chlorine and chloramine, to disinfect the water. Additionally, city water often travels through an extensive network of pipes, which can be made of materials like iron, copper, and lead.
- Pipe Material: The metallic taste in city water can often be attributed to the corrosion of pipes, which releases trace amounts of metals into the water supply. Aging infrastructure and using certain pipe materials, such as galvanized iron or copper, can increase the likelihood of this taste.
- Disinfection Byproducts: The chemical disinfection process can sometimes cause a reaction with naturally occurring minerals in the water, creating disinfection byproducts (DBPs). Some DBPs, such as those containing copper or iron, can contribute to a metallic taste in the water.
Well water, sourced from underground aquifers, is generally untreated and relies on natural filtration processes. It is important to note that the quality and taste of well water can vary greatly depending on geology, depth, and proximity to pollution sources.
- Mineral Content: The natural filtration process that well water undergoes can lead to a higher concentration of minerals, such as iron and manganese, than city water. These minerals can cause a metallic taste, especially when present in high concentrations.
- Groundwater Contamination: Contaminating groundwater by nearby sources, such as agricultural runoff or industrial waste, can also produce a metallic taste in well water. Pollutants containing heavy metals, such as lead or arsenic, can infiltrate the aquifer and affect the taste of the water.
Do Rusty Pipes Affect the Taste of Water?
You will know if your pipes have sprung a leak or are polluted with rust when your water turns reddish-brown.
Rust in itself is not generally harmful to your health, unless you have a specific medical condition called hemochromatosis (2), where your body builds up an excess of iron. This can potentially damage organs such as the heart, liver and pancreas.
Rust is iron oxide — a chemical reaction between iron and oxygen — that occurs when refined iron corrodes.
Corroded pipes are common in many North American cities where cast iron water pipes can be over a century old.
There was an occurrence of Legionnaires; Disease in Flint, Michigan in 2014/2015, caused by high concentrations of iron (3)in a new water system.
Rust may be present in only some of your water pipes, indicating that the problem is localized to your home, and not the city water system.
Rusty well water can be treated with a water softener or a specialized iron filter.
Moisture can cause the rapid erosion of reinforced steel, which can have major consequences on the safety of a structure.
Seepage can result in water stained walls, black mold, or eventually flooding if the pipes burst.
If you notice a damp patch or leaky tap, take action before it results in serious consequences.
Also read: What Happens If I Drink Moldy Water
Traces of Metal
A variety of metals can be found in your water system. These may include:
Arsenic occurs naturally in rocks and soil and can dissolve into the groundwater when that drops to low levels.
Chromium is a metallic element found naturally in rocks and soil. It is an odorless and tasteless essential mineral that can be found in our food, including meat, fruit, vegetables, and grains in the form of chromium-3 (trivalent chromium).
Copper is a natural trace element essential for brain function and your connective tissues. It is found in foodstuffs, including offal and shellfish, nuts, grains, and dark chocolate.
Lead can contaminate drinking water when pipes and fixtures such as faucets corrode. It can enter a water source naturally from the soil or from domestic and industrial use.
Recommended Reading: Water Filter For Lead Removal
Manganese is a natural mineral found in groundwater, surface water, and soil.
Manganese can make your water taste metallic as well as cause black stains on your plumbing systems, including baths, showers, toilets, and other fixtures.
Low pH Levels
pH has a mean level of 7, meaning it is neither alkaline nor acidic.
Alkaline or hard water has a pH greater than 7, and acidic water less than 7.
Acidic, or soft water is more likely to taste metallic as it contains fewer minerals,
Reverse osmosis will result in acidic water, the process removes most of the natural salts and minerals from water.
Recommended Reading: How to Remineralize Reverse Osmosis Water
What Makes Tap Water Taste Metallic?
Tap water tastes metallic when it contains high levels of iron or other metals such as copper, lead, manganese, and others, as discussed above.
These metals which are found naturally in the earth, can filter into your water system, even through sophisticated water treatment works.
Older homes are more susceptible to metals leaching into your water through aging and deteriorating pipes and fixtures.
What Makes Well Water Taste Metallic?
Iron occurs naturally in water, particularly in well water than in city water.
Recommended Reading: How to Remove Iron From Well Water Naturally?
There are 3 types of iron found in well water:
- Ferric iron
- Ferrous iron
You will recognize that you have bacteria in your well by its slimy texture and reddish-brown color.
The presence of ferric iron will show up if the water turns a cloudy orange color.
Ferrous iron will not change the color of the water, but it will stain your ceramic fittings and your clothing and leave a metallic taste in the mouth after drinking the water.
Potential Health Risks of Metallic Taste Water
We have looked at various metals that occur naturally in water, but let’s look at the potential risks to our health:
Arsenic is used in many industries and can result in the pollution of water sources.
Arsenic is highly toxic and cannot be removed from the environment, but it can be washed out of the air by rain or snow and dissolved in water. However, trace elements will remain in lakes, rivers, and underground water sources.
In well water arsenic can come from industrial waste, agricultural fertilizers. Or herbicides(4).
Chromium-3 benefits us, but its other form, hexavalent chromium or chromium-6, is potentially carcinogenic.
It can cause dermatitis, pneumonia, and childbirth complications.
Chromium-6 was the subject of the investigation in the book Erin Brockovich by Susannah Grant. A movie of the same name was released in 2000, starring Julia Roberts and Albert Finney.
In 1991 the EPA set a standard(5) of 0.1 mg/l for total chromium in drinking water.
Copper is essential for forming healthy red blood cells, bones, blood vessels, and nerves. It can prevent the occurrence of heart disease and osteoporosis.
The US Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA)(6) is between 890-900mcg (micrograms) for older teens and adults and between 200-700mcg for children, depending on their age.
Over exposure to copper may result in nausea, diarrhea, and in severe cases, kidney failure.
Water that has stood in copper pipes for some time may be toxic as excess copper may have leached into the water.
Lead has no benefits to the human body, is highly toxic., and is not biodegradable.
The EPA recommended limit for lead in water is zero.
Older homes are more prone to being tainted by lead poisoning, but newer homes are also at risk with brass or chrome fittings being sealed with lead solder.
Lead can accumulate in the body, resulting in severe health effects and deformities.
Low amounts of lead in children can cause illnesses such as:
- Behavioral problems
- Reduced IQ
- Delayed growth
- Hearing loss
Toxic quantities of lead in adults can result in hypertension, reduced kidney function, and reproductive issues. It can lead to coma, seizures, and death in severe cases.
It is possible to remove manganese from your water by using:
Manganese is essential for the brain, nervous system and enzyme function, and other health benefits.
Excess manganese can result in anemia, delayed growth, and reproductive problems.
How Do You Get Rid of the Metallic Taste in Water?
This will filter all the water going into your system at the source, ensuring that all your drinking and cooking water is pure and free of the most harmful contaminants.
How Do You Improve the Quality of Drinking Water?
There are several ways to improve the quality of your drinking water which are easy to implement with a little common sense.
A few ideas to consider include:
Using a Water Filter
Water filters can remove toxic bacteria, viruses, chemicals, and metals from your water. One of my goto handled filters is the Brita Extra Large:
Harmful bacteria and viruses can include:
- Norwalk virus
Harmful chemicals can include:
- Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
A city water system will inject the water supply with chlorine to remove contaminants and toxins.
How do water filters work in removing metallic taste and odor?
Water filters work in removing metallic taste and odor by employing various filtration techniques, such as activated carbon, ion exchange, and reverse osmosis. Activated carbon filters utilize porous carbon material to adsorb contaminants and impurities, effectively removing tastes and odors. Ion exchange filters use resin beads to exchange undesirable ions, such as heavy metals, with less harmful ones, reducing metallic taste.
Reverse osmosis filters use a semipermeable membrane to separate contaminants, including metal ions, from water molecules, resulting in improved taste and odor. Combining these technologies in multi-stage filtration systems can further enhance water quality by targeting a wider range of contaminants.
A Clean Water Aerator
A water aerator is not specifically designed to filter water.
Its primary purpose is to direct a water flow more efficiently, but it can filter small amounts of silt and sediment.
Water aerators should be cleaned regularly to avoid the build-up of bacteria.
Disposal of Hazardous Waste
Disposing of hazardous waste ethically is vitally essential to maintain pristine water sources.
They should never be disposed of by dumping or burying, even on a landfill site.
Hazardous waste should not be poured down drains, gutters or into ditches as this can contaminate water sources like lakes, rivers, and wells.
Maintain Your Pipes and Plumbing
Pipes and plumbing in older houses may be more difficult and costlier to maintain. Still, allowing them to deteriorate may make your water unusable due to bacteria, mold, and rust forming in the pipes and fixtures.
Maintain Your Septic Tank
An overflowing septic tank is not something you want to deal with.
The waste may leach into your groundwater and contaminate it.
Your tank should be pumped every three years, depending on the amount of solids accumulated.
You could use organic bacteria to break down the solids or install an effluent filter.
Why Does Carbonated Water Taste Like Metal?
Carbonated water can taste like metal primarily due to its dissolved carbon dioxide content. When CO2 dissolves in water, it forms carbonic acid, which can interact with taste receptors on the tongue. This interaction can create a mildly acidic and metallic taste perception. Additionally, the metal taste can be influenced by the container or can material, such as aluminum or steel, used to store the carbonated water.
Is It Normal to Taste Metal in Water from a Copper Bottle?
Yes, it is normal to taste metal in water stored in a copper bottle. Copper can leach into the water, especially if the water is acidic, imparting a mild metallic taste. However, the amount of copper released is typically within safe consumption limits, and some people even believe that drinking water from a copper bottle can offer health benefits due to its antimicrobial properties and trace mineral content.
Why Does A Water Bottle Taste Metallic?
A water bottle may taste metallic due to the bottle’s material, such as metal or certain plastics, which can leach compounds into the water, especially when the bottle’s inner lining is absent or worn. Additionally, the metallic taste could result from the water source itself, with minerals like iron and manganese or pipe corrosion affecting the taste. Prolonged storage of water in the bottle may also lead to a reaction with the bottle material or a buildup of bacteria, further contributing to the metallic taste.
Can Dehydration Cause a Metallic Taste?
Yes, dehydration can cause a metallic taste in your mouth. Dehydration leads to a reduction in saliva production, which affects the mouth’s natural cleansing mechanisms. This can result in a buildup of bacteria and dead cells on the tongue and inside the mouth, causing a metallic taste. Additionally, dehydration can lead to dry mouth, which can further exacerbate this taste sensation.
Can metallic-tasting water be harmful to health?
In most cases, metallic-tasting water is not harmful to health, as it may simply result from minerals like iron and manganese or the presence of metal ions from plumbing materials. These trace minerals are usually within safe consumption limits. However, if the metallic taste is due to contamination with toxic heavy metals, such as lead or arsenic, it can pose health risks, especially with long-term exposure. If you suspect that your water source contains harmful contaminants, it is essential to have it tested and take appropriate measures to ensure water safety.
How can I determine if the metallic taste in water is caused by the plumbing or the water source?
To determine if the metallic taste in water is caused by plumbing or the water source, you can test different faucets, let the water run before sampling, check pipe materials, compare with another water source, and have the water professionally tested. Identifying whether the issue is localized to specific faucets or hot water only, or if it subsides after running the water, can help pinpoint the problem. Consulting with neighbors or testing an alternate source, such as bottled water, can provide further insight. Ultimately, professional water testing is the most definitive method to identify the root cause and take appropriate action to address the issue.
How often should pipes and plumbing fixtures be maintained to prevent metallic taste in water?
A general guideline is to inspect plumbing fixtures and visible pipes annually for signs of corrosion or damage. Additionally, consider flushing your water heater once a year to remove the sediment buildup, which can affect the water’s taste. In the case of older homes with galvanized iron or lead pipes, consult a professional plumber to assess the need for pipe replacement. Proactively addressing potential issues and following manufacturer recommendations for fixture, maintenance can help prevent a metallic taste in water.
Can the metallic taste in well water be naturally occurring or indicative of contamination?
The metallic taste in well water can be both naturally occurring or indicative of contamination. Naturally occurring minerals, such as iron and manganese, can cause a metallic taste when present in high concentrations. On the other hand, contamination from nearby sources like agricultural runoff, industrial waste, or improper waste disposal can introduce heavy metals, such as lead or arsenic, into the aquifer, leading to a metallic taste. It’s essential to have well water tested regularly to ensure its safety and identify potential issues that may require intervention, such as installing a filtration system or addressing contamination sources.
Water can taste like metal for several reasons.
The most common cause will probably be the leaching of metal into pipes or fittings in your home, or contamination of your well water.
However, exposure to pollutants and impurities in our water and air continues to be a cause of concern for our health and well-being