If the water in your home has a metallic taste, it’s usually due to metal in some form being present — iron, copper, lead, manganese, or zinc.
These contaminants can affect city water but are common in well water.
Find out here what the causes are 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 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 they can affect your health.
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 localised to your home, and not the city water system.
Rusty well water can be treated by adding a water softener or using a specialized iron filter.
Moisture can cause the rapid erosion of reinforced steel, which can have major consequences to 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.
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 ground water when that drops to low levels.
Chromium is a metallic element found naturally in rocks and soil. It is 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 2021 – (Expert Reviews)
Manganese is a natural mineral found in groundwater, surface water, and in the soil.
Manganese can make your water taste metallic as well as causing 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? (4 Ways that Works)
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: more so in well water than 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 water sources like lakes, rivers and underground.
In well water arsenic can come from industrial waste, agricultural fertilizers. Or herbicides(4).
Chromium-3 is beneficial to 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 Brokovich 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 a period of time may be toxic as excess quantities of the 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, and can result 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 hypertension, reduced kidney function, and reproductive issues. In severe cases it can lead to coma, seizures, and death.
It is possible to remove manganese from your water by using:
Manganese is an essential element for 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?
The most effective way to get rid of a metallic taste in your water is to install a whole house filtration system.
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 most harmful contaminants.
How Do You Improve the Quality of Drinking Water?
There are a number of 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.
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.
A Clean Water Aerator
A water aerator is not specifically designed to filter water.
Its main 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 important 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, but the effects of allowing them to deteriorate may result in your water becoming 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 about 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.
Water Tastes like Metal – FAQ
Why Does Carbonated Water Taste Like Metal?
Carbon dioxide which is released when air passes through receptors in the nose as you breathe.
The taste of a carbonated drink reacts to the carbonic acid and you think you can taste metal.
Soda water contains sodium and potassium which affect the pH level.
You will thus not taste metal in soda water as the taste of these minerals is stronger than the decarbonated water.
Is It Normal to Taste Metal in Water from a Copper Bottle?
A copper container that is used to store water will make the water taste of copper.
It has been suggested that drinking copper water has beneficial health effects. This is water that has been stored in a copper container for up to 48 hours, allowing the cooper to leach into the water.
Copper cooking utensils are generally lined with tin to prevent the transfer of copper to food.
Why Does Your Water Bottle Taste Metallic?
If you are using a metal water bottle, the metal itself may be contaminating the water.
Another reason may be that the pH level of your water is out of kilter.
To remove the metallic taste, wash it with equal quantities of water and baking soda.
Can Dehydration Cause a Metallic Taste?
Dehydration is the deprivation of adequate water to the body, which can affect muscle function, including the heart.
Severe health complications or even death can follow dehydration.
A symptom of dehydration is an odd taste and dry mouth, making the saliva taste metallic or salty.
Water can taste like metal for a number of reasons.
The most common cause will probably be 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 continue to be causes of concern for our health and well-being