Although a sweet taste can often be pleasant, it’s not what you expect when you grab a glass of drinking water. Sweet-tasting water can have a few potential causes, including:
- Calcium and iron
- Plumbing issues
- Unusual odors
- Certain algae blooms
- Some medical conditions
- Possible contamination
Want to find out where that odd sweetness is coming from? Read on to learn more about water quality, taste perception and more.
7 Potential Reasons Your Water Tastes Sweet
There are quite a few possible explanations for tap water that just doesn’t taste right. When it comes to sweetness, however, the causes might surprise you.
Here are just a few examples:
Calcium and Iron
Calcium and iron are minerals that can be found just about everywhere, including your own body. Although iron alone could cause a bitter taste and contributes more to water hardness than sweetness, the combination can create an odd water taste.
The good news is that neither substance poses a significant health hazard. However, they can cause other issues. For example, iron in water may stain your laundry or sinks, support the growth of harmful organisms and clog water-using appliances over time. Calcium can contribute to hard water, which causes stiff laundry, dry skin and hair, mineral buildup on faucets and more — all issues that can be addressed with a water softener.
It’s possible your plumbing is impacting the taste of your water. This happens most often if your pipes are corroded because they could leach contaminants into your water, such as iron, that may impact overall flavor. What causes this corrosion in the first place? That depends on the type of pipes you have, the source of your water, potential contaminants and more.* For example, water that has low pH levels is considered acidic and can corrode pipes.
Unfortunately, the impact of plumbing problems can go beyond a sweet aftertaste. You might notice water pressure problems, unpleasant odors, discoloration and more. Any of these issues could indicate that your pipes may be adding contaminants to your water supply, so keep your eyes out.
When you’re sick, flavors sometimes seem less intense; when kids don’t want to taste medicine, they may plug their noses. This is all because the “flavor” experience is actually a combination of what we taste and smell. The human body has up to 10,000 taste buds and 400 types of smell receptors, so it makes sense that these senses work together to help us perceive the world.
When it comes to water, however, those senses can get confused. An unpleasant or unfamiliar odor could trick your taste buds into thinking you’re taking a sip of sweet-tasting water. Both problems are generally considered aesthetic — that is, they impact your enjoyment but don’t necessarily pose health risks. Still, an unusual odor in your tap water could be a sign of bigger issues. Here are just a few examples:
- Rotten egg smell: Hydrogen sulfide and sulfur bacteria can create an unpleasant odor that may even remind you of sewage. It’s a common problem in some well water.
- Swimming pool smell: Cities and municipalities often treat the water supply with chlorine for disinfection. While this isn’t typically a health problem, it can make your water’s taste and odor seem “off,” particularly if you’re sensitive to chlorine.
- Metallic smell: If your water smells like pennies, too much iron or copper could be to blame. This can be the result of plumbing corrosion or other issues.
- Fish smell: Depending on the source of your water, a fishy odor can be caused by anything from certain bacteria to issues with your water system.
- Musty smell: This issue can be caused by a variety of things. For example, Toronto gets most of its tap water from Lake Ontario, which sometimes experiences high temperatures and biological growth that can make water smell musty or earthy. The same thing can happen in water systems across North America (and around the world).
You likely know that city water is treated with chlorine to help kill germs responsible for Salmonella, norovirus and more. Although experts and officials monitor the water supply to ensure safe levels of chlorine, you might be sensitive to the taste or odor of this disinfectant. The most common issue is a swimming pool smell, but some people may notice sweetness, too.
Fortunately, chlorine treatment is generally considered safe, which means problems are usually based on preference. Unlike other odor and taste issues, chlorine problems aren’t directly linked to any other contaminant or problem — in fact, the opposite is true. Noticing the effects of chlorine in your drinking water just means the disinfectant is doing its job.
Just keep in mind that chlorinated water may not be safe for every member of your household. Aquatic animals — including fish, reptiles and amphibians — absorb water directly into their bloodstream and can be harmed by chlorine. The good news is that your human family members and other household pets absorb water differently.
Certain Medical Conditions
Sometimes, your water isn’t to blame for that sweet taste in your mouth. Medical conditions such as diabetes and acid reflux could actually be responsible.
In the case of diabetes, your body could be struggling to balance your blood sugar level, which sometimes results in that sweet taste. Other times, the issue may be diabetic ketoacidosis — a potentially serious condition related to the body’s inability to produce sufficient insulin.
If you have acid reflux, sometimes known as heartburn, stomach acid can sometimes mix with the enzymes in your saliva. The result can be a sweet taste in your mouth.
There are certain other, somewhat rarer contaminants in water that could be responsible for taste issues. For example, ethanol can have a sweet taste to some people — and if it ends up in the water supply through industrial or agricultural activities, you could notice something slightly “off.”
If you suspect that an ethanol spill or other contamination issue has impacted your water, the best thing to do is to have a professional water test performed as soon as possible. Depending on the nature of the issue, you may get certain warnings from the city and might consider temporarily switching to bottled water if possible.
Why Do Aesthetic Water Issues Matter?
Most causes of unusual water sweetness are not correlated to significant health issues. For this reason, some people may wonder if that sweet flavor is really a problem. So are there any downsides?
While taste may be a primarily aesthetic issue, it can indicate other problems that could be more serious. For example, say that your sweet-tasting water is caused by iron. Your body needs iron anyway, and maybe you’re not bothered by the flavor — but this could mean that your pipes are corroded or your water supply is otherwise contaminated. This, in turn, might lead to additional issues with your water quality, plumbing system and more.
That’s why it’s smart to pay attention to any change in your water — even if a different color, taste or odor doesn’t bother you.
Best Solutions for Your Water’s Taste
If you want to solve taste issues, the first thing you need to do is find out what’s causing them. That’s where a professional water test comes in. Your local water expert can identify potential causes for any taste, odor and discoloration problems — and they can tell you about hardness and pH levels, too.
Once you know what you’re dealing with, it’s time to choose the right water filtration system. You have two main options:
- Reverse osmosis drinking water filtration: Sometimes called RO solutions, these systems use reverse osmosis to address a comprehensive range of potential contaminants and water problems.
- Whole home water filtration: While ROs treat your water for a broad array of potential issues impacting your drinking water, these systems are designed to target individual water problems that impact your experience throughout your home. They can target issues such as sulfur, iron, low pH, chlorine, arsenic and nitrate.
Remember that some mineral content, such as calcium, can occasionally cause sweet tastes and water hardness issues at the same time. That’s when your local water expert would recommend a water softening system to complement your filtration solution.
So, while you’re having your water test performed and getting your filtration and/or softening system installed, what can you do to fix your water’s taste? Here are a few temporary solutions:
Let Your Water Sit
Some issues, like too much chlorine, can be addressed by letting your water sit for a while — sometimes 24 hours or more. Just make sure to cover the container or pitcher so nothing else gets in during this time.
Pay Attention to Temperature
Is the sweetness stronger in ice water or hot water? Does the flavor go away when the water is boiled? Depending on the cause of your taste problems, temperature can have a big impact and might be an easy, temporary solution.
Flush Your Pipes
In some cases, it can be helpful to run water through your pipes and taps to flush things out. This may not permanently solve the problem, but it can help address some level of sweetness while you look for other solutions.
Get The Water You Want
You shouldn’t have to worry about your water’s taste or quality. For fresh, filtered water straight from the tap, start by getting a professional water test. Your local water expert can provide detailed explanations and personalized recommendations for filtration and softening systems — with your test results in about 30 minutes.
Ready to get started? Schedule your free, in-home water test today.
*Contaminants may not be present in your water.
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