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5 Reasons Why Reverse Osmosis Water Tastes Funny

Scott Winfield
Last Updated on
by Scott Winfield

Reverse osmosis is a purification process for water that uses pressure to filter water through a synthetic lining called a semipermeable membrane, cleansing the water of unwanted particles such as sodium, chlorine, and dirt.

This water purification process is considered one of the most effective methods for purifying water because of its remarkable results. Water purified with this method is so pure that it hardly tastes like anything at all.

What Does Reverse Osmosis Water Taste Like?

What Does Reverse Osmosis Water Taste Like
What Does Reverse Osmosis Water Taste Like?

Water that has been purified through reverse osmosis has a uniquely clean taste because most of the particles that give water its taste (minerals, sodium, et cetera) have been filtered out. Many people who process their water through reverse osmosis say that there is hardly a taste to reverse osmosis water.

This pure taste makes it very easy to determine when there is something wrong with your filtration system. If you use reverse osmosis to purify your water and notice that your water doesn’t taste the way it should, you should look into it immediately.

For example, if your drinking water tastes salty, metallic, acidic, or like rotten eggs, these could all indicate that something is awry and needs attention or replacement.

The Anatomy of Reverse Osmosis

While the membrane is the main part of the reverse osmosis system, it is only one of the multiple filtration types. Reverse osmosis systems generally have 3-5 filtration stages.

The types of filters that each reverse osmosis water purifier includes are as follows:

  1. The sediment filter removes particles such as dirt, dust, and rust.
  2. The carbon filter removes chlorine and other contaminants that give water a bad taste.

Note that the sediment and carbon filters generally make up the prefiltration system in RO purifiers.

  1. After the prefiltration process, the semipermeable membrane is the component that filters out roughly 98% of all TDS (total dissolved solids).

Once the water has passed through the filtration system, it is kept in a storage tank until it is needed as water continues to be filtered until the storage tank is full then the reverse osmosis system shuts off automatically.

However, there are some instances in which the reverse osmosis process malfunctions and causes the water to taste strange. In this article, we will go over a few reasons why your reverse osmosis water tastes funny.

Factors That Can Cause RO Water to Taste Bad

Factors That Can Cause RO Water to Taste Bad
Factors That Can Cause RO Water to Taste Bad

Reverse osmosis systems are not fail-safe, and if they are not taken care of properly, this can lead to many problems. The main one being a bad taste in your drinking water.

It’s crucial to follow proper maintenance by cleaning and sanitizing regularly and replacing parts as necessary to keep your water pure.

Over time, the membrane and other parts of the reverse osmosis system will deteriorate or can get damaged. It’s important to regularly clean and replace the components of your purification system so that it can continue to run smoothly and efficiently.

It is imperative to check and replace your RO filters every 6-8 months and the membrane should be replaced every 2-3 years.  Failing to keep up with the cleanings and replacements can cause a system to run less than optimally until it eventually fails.

However, a malfunctioning system may not always cause foul-tasting water. The following describes five reasons why reverse osmosis water can taste funny and solutions to get your water back to the way it should be.

Salty Taste

Not only does salty water not taste good to drink, too much salt in your water can cause a host of health issues. Too much salinity in your water can lead to high blood pressure, which increases the risk of developing hypertension or prehypertension.

However, reverse osmosis should be removing salt solids from your water, leaving you with clean-tasting water. If your RO water tastes like salt, there may be too many sulfates in the water.

These sulfates can make their way into water due to external contamination. The ground in your area may have absorbed salt (this is especially common during droughts or dry spells), which then filtered into your area’s water table or reservoir.

Similarly, if you live near the ocean, salt water may have made it into your town’s drinking water. If you live near farmland, runoff fertilizer may leave your water tasting salty.

While RO systems are nominally meant to remove salt from water, if the levels are too high, your equipment may not be powerful enough to properly filter the water. The older your filter, the more likely you are to notice poor-tasting water.

Solution:

The best solution is to ensure your system is functioning properly and changing your filter. After a period of time, your filter will wear out and need to be replaced.

If your water suddenly rises in salinity, your filter may work harder and need to be changed more frequently.

Metallic Taste

One of the most common problems with the taste of reverse osmosis water is the metallic taste that many users have complained of after purifying their water. This process can be because even though reverse osmosis does get rid of most contaminants while purifying water, some metal particles can still slip through into your drinking water.

Solution:

One way to combat this is to buy a pre-water filter for your reverse osmosis system that catches metals and other impurities before going through the synthetic filter.

Tastes Like Regular Tap Water

If your reverse osmosis water tastes the same as unfiltered tap water, this probably means that the membrane isn’t working properly. There is likely some damage or deterioration, and you should replace it immediately.

Solution:

The general rule to follow is to change your semipermeable membrane every 2-3 years. However, you may find yourself replacing it sooner, like if the pre-water filter hasn’t been functioning as it should, which forces the synthetic filter of the reverse osmosis system to work harder than it usually does and deteriorate quicker.

Plastic Taste

You may not realize it, but if your drinking water tastes like plastic, it could be due to the storage container that you keep your water in. Water left in plastic containers for a long time tends to take on the taste of the container that it’s kept in.

Solution:

Luckily, there is a simple solution: Change the type of container that you store your water in. The best kind of containers to store your reverse osmosis water in are food-grade stainless steel containers – this will prevent your drinking water from tasting like plastic.

Rotten Egg Taste and Smell

The cause of a rotten egg taste and smell in your drinking water is a high sulfur level. Some rural areas whose water comes straight from the ground have this issue – this is why water purification systems like reverse osmosis are crucial; otherwise, your water could become harmful to you.

However, if your water tastes like sulfur after going through reverse osmosis filtration, your system may be malfunctioning. RO water should have a pure, clean taste.

Solution:

If the system has gone through a period of nonuse or has been sanitized improperly leading to the sulfuric taste, the best thing to do is wash the system thoroughly.

If you don’t live in a rural area and your reverse osmosis water tastes like sulfur, it could mean there was a drastic change in the incoming water quality. Taste the regular tap water to check for any changes, then contact your local municipal water provider for more information.

 

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Scott Winfield
Scott Winfield
My name is Scott Winfield and researching and writing about water filters and other strategies to purify water has become my full time passion in recent years. I'm glad that you found our site and you can look forward to authoritative and well researched content here to help you get the best in water.
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