We probably all have a general sense of what water should look,
smell, taste, and feel like, but sometimes it's not always obvious
when there's something wrong with your water.
Self-Diagnosing Problem Water
While some contaminants are better at hiding than others, there
are a few telltale signs that something is causing a problem with
- Odor: If something smells suspicious, it
probably is. Common pause-giving smells you might come across in
tap water include:
- The Pool Smell: Easily identifiable from our
associations with swimming pools, high chlorine levels in water are
usually to blame for this olfactory affront.
- Something's Fishy: This
you-know-it-when-you-smell-it water scent (also often
associated with rotten eggs) is perhaps the most unpleasant one,
and is typically the nose-wrinkling result of dissolved sulfur not
so subtly stowing away in your water supply.
- A Little Too Natural: We all want our water to
be fresh from the source, but sometimes there can be too much of a
good thing. If water smells earthy, grassy, musty, or moldy,
there's a good chance bacteria could be to blame.
- Anything but Nothing: A good rule of thumb is
that if water smells like anything - organic, chemical, or
otherwise - it's time to call in a Culligan Man to test it and ensure it's safe to
- Taste: Not unlike the smell situation, you
want water to taste like water. If it doesn't, it's likely you've
got a problem - how big or small can sometimes be determined by
what exactly you taste.
- The Metal Head: If you've ever come across the
singular tinge of iron in water, it's likely you'll remember it.
Other causes for metallic tastes can include dissolved mercury,
lead, copper, manganese, zinc, or arsenic.
- Essence of Ocean: There's a reason we react
negatively to consuming salt water, so if your water has that
beachy tang, it's a possibility there may be certain kinds of
bacteria and/or sulfates affecting the supply.
- Appearance: We also have certain expectations
of our water's visual quality. You should be able to see through
it, for instance.
- Cloudy with a Chance of Contamination: This
particular visual distraction also masquerades under the guise of
turbidity. Essentially, any time your water is cloudier than you
expect, and/or lingers after water is allowed to settle, that's a
sign of problem water.
- Off-Color: This may be a bit harder to tell,
but if water has any sort of hue to it, you'll want to get a water
test. You might also notice colors left behind by water in the form
of rust-colored stains around drains and fixtures.
The way water looks, tastes, and smells is often a product of
location and geography. To read more about the qualities of water
near where you live, explore our state-by-state problemwater resources.
They're common questions we hear:
- What's the difference between a water softener and a
- Which one is better for my home?
Maybe you've had the same questions. Let's start by looking
closely at what each of these solutions does, and how they can help
out around the house.
As you might guess from the name, water softeners generally only
refer to products that remove hardness-causing minerals and
contaminants from water, like magnesium and calcium. While this
still covers a variety of products, it's generally fewer than those
considered "water filters." Softeners also typically use salt as
the primary chemical agent in modifying the properties of water,
while filtration can encompass many more methods to alter water,
like reverse osmosis.
Filters generally refer to any methods or systems that remove
contaminants from water, including:
- Metals such as arsenic, iron, or copper
- Industrial and pharmaceutical byproducts like pesticides
- Sediment and other organic troublemakers
As such, the term "water filter" can refer almost equally to
systems that filter water throughout your home, smaller products
that filter at the point-of-use, reverse osmosis filtration
systems, and others in between.
How Can I Tell Which One To Use?
Since each of these solutions focuses on different water-related
issues, deciding on a softener or a filter should largely depend on
what's in your water. For example, if limescale buildup is a
constant headache for you, that's usually a sign that water is hard
and a softener will alleviate some of those frustrations. If your
water tastes or smells strange, a filter might be the more
effective choice to remove culprit contaminants from your
A good way to find out, if you don't already know or suspect
what's in your water, is to have a
Culligan Man test it for you. The results will help you
and your Culligan Man evaluate the best solutions, whether it's
softening, filtration, or a combination of both.
Whether you're on a municipal water supply, your own well, or
you're not quite sure where your water comes from, the best way to
find out what's in it is for a Culligan Man to evaluate it in
person. This is key because of the nature of infrastructure and
other factors, water quality within the same neighborhood can vary
widely, and even differ from house to house.
To make sure we're providing the best possible service and
support, it's important for us to know exactly what kind of water
we're dealing with before we make any kind of recommendations.
Before The Visit
There's really nothing you need to do in advance of a Culligan
Man visit. Schedule your appointment online, or call to set up a
time that works for you. Then, just plan on being at home during
that time to meet your local Culligan Man or Woman.
Expect your Culligan Man to show up promptly and be kind and
courteous, as we'd expect of any guest in any one of our homes. As
part of the standard water test, he'll take a sample of your tap
water - probably from the kitchen sink - and use the Culligan
testing kit to see how hard or soft your water is, as well as look
for any impurities, like iron or dissolved solids.
The whole process is free and usually takes less than 10
minutes. Once he's tested the water, he'll discuss the results with
you. If water is hard, for example, he may be able to tell you
what's causing it (minerals like dissolved calcium or magnesium)
and ways to fix it.
He'll also want to know if you have any concerns about your
water, and if there's anything in particular you're looking to get
out of the visit. Additionally, he'll be able to recommend more
advanced lab testing if the standard test comes back without
conclusive results, or if it looks like it will need further
What Happens After
Based on the outcome of your Culligan Man visit, he or she will
follow up with you to set a time to come back and install any of
the solutions discussed. If you're still in the process of deciding
how to deal with water concerns, he'll set up a time for a follow
up call or visit to answer any additional questions you have in
order to get all the information you need to make the most of your
It seems like there's always new wisdom (some of it not so wise)
popping up about the benefits or complications of soft water. We're
used to seeing people on both sides of the discussion getting it a
little wrong, so we thought it was time to clear up some of the
most common forms of flawed thinking we've encountered through the
Myth-Busting Common Water Softener
Myth No 1: You can filter or condition water
The Bust: While it's true that some water
treatment products don't require salt, these products don't provide
the same softening capability and quality you expect from a
traditional water softener. It is possible to filter water without
salt, but you won't get the signature soft water feel many people
expect when they think of softened water.
Myth No 2: Softened water prevents access
to important minerals your body needs and/or leaches essential
minerals from your body.
The Bust: Many variations of this one seem to
crop up all over, so let's start with why: water softeners do
remove hard minerals like calcium, magnesium, and iron from
Softened water doesn't change the way our bodies absorb these
nutrients. In general, these are also minerals that most of us have
plenty of regular access to in the foods we consume, which is why
this would only be something to be concerned about in very rare and
specific nutritional cases.
Myth No 3: Softened water leaves film
behind on skin.
The Bust: Most of us are used to feeling
scaly and dry after showering with hard water - thank dissolved
minerals for this effect. Hard water leaves an insoluble residue
behind that's responsible for skin feeling chapped or dry, and hair
feeling weighed down or lifeless. Because many of us are so used to
this, the switch to actually getting cleaner with soft water can
sometimes feel different or unexpected. It's also common for people
not to notice any difference at all depending on levels of
dissolved minerals present before the switch, or if they notice,
it's that skin and hair feel softer and less dried out.
Myth No 4: Softeners add too much salt to
The Bust: The most effective softeners use salt
as the chemical means to remove hard minerals and dissolved solids,
replacing magnesium and calcium ions with sodium ions. This process
leaves behind trace amounts of sodium and in varying forms (certain
softeners leave sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) traces in water,
while others, sodium chloride (table salt). The key here is
"trace." In general, the levels of either form of sodium in water
are so minimal that not only would you not be able to tell from a
taste perspective, there's no evidence that such minute amounts
could contribute to any kind of health risk (Mayo Clinic).
From keeping your clothes softer and helping them last longer,
to protecting pipes and fixtures, the benefits of soft water for
you and your home are more impressive than most myths. If you have
any questions about how water softening works, and whether or not
it might be useful in your house, contact your Culligan Man to clear things up today.
Is it time for better-tasting or harder-working water at home?
Start by learning the differences between two of the most common
types of household water filtration: point-of-use and
Point-of-Use vs. Point-of-Entry
- Point-of-Use - Commonly known as
drinking water systems, point-of-use treatment refers to any
under-sink filtration system installed at the tap level, or other
direct water-access point.
- Point-of-Entry - This refers to
filtration systems installed at the entry point of water lines to
the house. These are often referred to as whole-house systems, and
other variations on whole-home filtration terms.
Now that we know what we're dealing with, there are essentially
two questions to consider when evaluating what will work best for
you and your home.
Step 1 - What are you filtering?
Do you need to filter out fairly benign contaminants, like
chlorine, or mild dissolved solids or sediment? Is there something
more sinister, like arsenic, lurking in your water? Learning what's
in your water is the first and most important step in deciding what
kind of water filtration system is right for you, whether it's
whole-home filtration, point-of-use, or something altogether
Start by scheduling a
free water test from your local Culligan Man. He or she
will come by to sample your tap water and run tests for the most
common water contaminants, so you can find out whether you need to
address water issues right in the kitchen or throughout your home.
Your Culligan Man is also a great resource to ask for advice once
you do know what is, or isn't, in your water.
Step 2 - Why?
It's also important to isolate why you're thinking about
filtering your water. It's one thing if you have a contaminant
issue that's making water smell or taste bad, but if issues are
more subtle there can be additional factors to consider when it
comes to your drinking water quality, and its impact throughout
- Skin conditions or allergies in the family?
- Low (or zero) tolerance for house cleaning?
- Heavy coffee or tea drinkers in the household?
- Hate the way laundry feels?
- Avid gardener?
- Well or municipal water?
For example, if your household hates its scratchy laundry and
drinks a lot of coffee, you might want to consider whole-house
filtration for the added benefits it can bring to your home (softer
laundry, better-tasting coffee and tea, etc.). Similarly, families
with allergies find that treating or softening water all over the
house can help reduce some common allergy symptoms. On the other
hand, if you're strictly interested in improving the taste of your
tap water, under-sink filtration may make more sense. Talking about
these issues with your Culligan Man can help you decide what will
work best for you and your family.
When the word comes out that your area has been affected by a
boil order, it's time to take stock of affected water and manage
its reach in your home. Any place in your home that uses water is
affected, from the kitchen to the laundry room. Start by following
these guidelines to avoid contact with contaminated water.
Stay Safe from Contaminated Water
- Don't drink the water, prepare food, brush your teeth, or use
any materials that have been in contact with water.
- Throw out ice cubes, coffee, tea, and any stored
beverages made or used with your home's water.
- Turn off water or block access to refrigerator water dispensers
and faucets to provide a visual reminder and help curb normal
- Boil water for a minimum of three minutes and use that
water to clean containers to store sanitized water.
- Use boiled water to clean any dishes and utensils you
plan on using.
- Wash hands and prepare food with boiled water.
- Do not use your dishwasher.
- Have young children take sponge baths to prevent any
Culligan Man Tip:Place bottled water or
pre-boiled water containers in bathroom sinks as a visual reminder
to brush and wash hands with clean water.
Hydration Tip:A pinch of salt can help
improve the taste of "flat" boiled water for drinking.
After the Boil Order is Lifted
Keeping you and your family safe and healthy during a boil order
extends beyond the duration of the order. To make sure your home is
prepared to integrate safe, uncontaminated water back into your
routine, ensure any remnants of contamination are addressed before
you go back to business as usual.
- Run the dishwasher through an empty bleach cycle.
- Flush water lines.
- Boil faucet screens.
- Purge and sanitize water-using appliances, including the
refrigerator water line, icemaker, coffeemaker, and tea
- Change your refrigerator's water filter.
Optional but recommended:Run a bleach
cycle through your washing machine.
You'll also want to make sure you sanitize any water
filtration or water softening systems after a boil order has been
in effect. Contact your
Culligan Man to help you navigate this process, and ask
any more questions you may have about bringing your home back from
the boil order.
The single best way to know what's in your water is to be your
own best resource. We want to help you do just that by providing
tools and information to help you make smart choices about your
water. There are a lot of things you can do to find out if you have
water, the causes behind it, and what options you have for
Diagnose Problem Water
The signs that point to problems in your water are often the
most obvious, but key factors to be aware of are:
- Appearance: Water is cloudy or discolored.
Common in many states and municipalities, you can explore
water problems by state to see if the water where you live
is predisposed to run less than clear.
- Odor: Water has a sulfurous, chlorinated, or
other suspicious smell. Almost every water treatment plant in the
country uses some amount of chlorine to treat water, so you can use
guide to get a handle on whether your region has
particularly low or high levels in the water supply.
- Taste: Water can take on a variety of tastes
for a number of reasons, the most common across the country being
bitter or salty. Like the range of water itself,
total dissolved solids and minerals responsible for
unwelcome tastes depend largely on the geography and landscape of
your particular area.
- Side Effects: Often, the signal pointing to a
water problem can be what's left behind: film, soap scum,
limescale, and/or corrosion on pipes, fixtures, and appliances.
Read more about the problem
water in your city.
Do you need to address a water problem? This can be a matter of
personal preference, especially if symptoms are severe or are
causing real aggravation in the home. Consider these factors to
help determine whether it may be time to
call in a Culligan Man:
- Are symptoms getting worse?
- What is typical for water in my region? Learn
- Are common household fixes able to mitigate any effects?
Learn more about easy ways to
solve for problem water.
If water problems are getting worse, or you've determined your
home's water is atypical for the area and it's beyond simple fixes
like cleaning with vinegar, you can always
call your local Culligan Man for a complimentary water
test. He or she will be able to help you determine if a
whole-house water filter or a
water conditioner is right to fix appearance, taste, and
odor issues in your water.
Even if water is typical for your area, or some solutions are
helping, water problems can be a headache you don't have to deal
with. Your Culligan Man is the perfect resource to help you
determine what kind of solution is right for your water.