British tap water is mostly safe but some contaminants in your tap water are not visible. Millions of water-quality tests are carried out each year. These ensure that UK mains water is up to standards from the World Health Organisation. Sometimes disinfectant from water companies can create a different taste to your drinking water. However, other tastes or smells of chlorine or bad strong smells can make water unpalatable and dangerous. Use our details below or contact your water company immediately if you experience any of these.
Is Tap Water Safe to Drink in the UK?
UK tap water varies in taste, because most areas are very hard and high in minerals. This occurs in southern areas such as London, Oxford or Bath. London’s tap water is very good quality but doesn’t always taste great. Chilling tap water can improve its taste. However, hard tap water is irritant to our skin and hair and causes kitchen limescale. However, investing in a water filter tap or an under-sink water filter greatly improves taste and quality.
1. Water Hardness
To control water hardness, we recommend using water softeners to prevent limescale build-up and filter out minerals. Hard water is characterised by the build-up of substances that leave deposits. This could be why your hands feel slimy after washing. Check if your hands are slimy after washing with soap and water. One of the best ways to check your tap water is safe is a water test. Contact a water purification company or test the water yourself for residential, commercial or retail purposes.
2. Chlorine or Bleach Smell
Chlorine changes taste and smell and is used to disinfect water systems and kill harmful germs. It can provide a salty taste to water; in high concentrations, it provides a briny taste. Sometimes the level of Chlorine can be harmful and change the smells and taste of water. A bleach smell could signal excess chlorine, linked to cancer risks and skin irritation. It is irritant to skin and to contact with eye, noses and lungs. Ingestion can also cause stomach discomfort. If you are sensitive to the smell and taste, store in the fridge or boil the water to remove Chlorine. The best solution is to invest in a water filter that contains substances to absorb Chlorine and improves taste. You could also invest in a reverse osmosis system that traps contaminated water and removes the bad taste from chlorination.
3. Bitter or Metallic
A metallic or bitter taste could be caused by internal pipework, from copper, iron or galvanised pipes. These pipes are exposed to standing water that is left too long. You can resolve this by running your tap for a few minutes to bring fresh water into your house.
4. Stagnant or Sewage Taste or Smell
This taste or smell can come from a sink or plug hole, suggesting a blockage or build-up of waste materials. Fill a glass of water and smell it in a different room. This will allow you to determine whether the odour is coming from the water. You should contact your water supplier immediately as there could be a problem with your service pipes. Bad smelling water that smells like sewage could also signal hydrogen sulphide, sulphate causes diarrhoea or dehydration. A bad odour could be a sign of barium or cadmium, this chemical gets into water supplies through manufacturing processes. Raw sewage also contains E.coli or coliform bacteria, causing many gastrointestinal problems, sickness, diarrhoea, cramping and vomiting.
5. Rubber, Plastic, Antiseptic, TCP Taste or Smell
The cause of chemical, antiseptic/TCP, rubber or plastic tastes or smells could be rubber or plastic materials from domestic appliances. Plumbing materials come into contact with water supplies and small amounts dissolve into water, resulting in unpleasant tastes and odours. Chemical tastes and smells can be due to changes in water pressure. Chemicals are used in manufacturing for plastic hoses and cold water for dishwashers and washing machines. These interact with chlorine and create an antiseptic and TCP taste.
This could be a result from accumulation of deposits over time. These deposits are naturally occurring metals and minerals from water pipes or speed of water flow in local networks. Discolouration ranges from light yellow to darker, more brown colours. Internal plumbing would be the cause if your neighbours drinking water is not affected or from corrosive pipes.
7. Cloudy Water
This might be a sign of contaminants, such as pathogens, chemicals, bacteria or lead, posing a serious health risk. Cloudy or milky water is caused by the excess air. These air bubbles that usually disappear when the glass of water is left to stand for a few minutes. White water also occurs from burst or damaged water mains or maintenance activities, with frothy water coming from your taps. To stop water becoming cloudy, make sure your internal is almost fully open. This tap is usually located underneath your kitchen sink.
8. Yellow, Orange or Brown Water
This could be caused by chromium-6 in your water, a chemical that can result in cancer. It is very hard to detect and can be harmful. Yellow water signifies the presence of chromium-6, leading to symptoms of nausea, vomiting and cramping. It could also be the presence of copper, manganese, iron or lead. Orange and brown water is normally due to excess iron, lead and manganese. However, it could also signal rust from pipes that creates a risk of bacteria.
9. Blue, Pink or Green Coloured Water
If your water is an unusually bright colour do not drink it or use it for cooking. Blue or green colour indicates high levels of copper, usually due to copper pipes and plumbing or corrosion. High levels of exposure could cause health problems, such as liver, kidney damage and anaemia. You should contact your housing company or a plumber for help. Sometimes coloured disinfectant from toilet cisterns can flow back into internal plumbing, disrupting your water supply.
10. Bits in your Water
Sometimes you might see tiny particles or bits in your tap water. These can cause discolouration, but can be non-harmful and short-lived. Small dark grey or black particles can be caused by lead pipework, especially if your home was built before 1970. Bits of water could also be due to biofilms, mould and slime build-up. These bits can also be caused by limescale or microbial growth.
11. Earth or Musty Smell
Earthy or musty smells could be algae, bacteria or organic matter run-off from rivers or reservoirs near your house. Some bacteria and algae can be harmless and naturally occur in lakes, rivers and reservoirs. However, it could also be caused but the water that is left in pipes for a long amount of time. Taps are also a common area for bacteria build up and change the taste and smell of water.
12. Petrol or Diesel Smell
This means your water smells or tastes like oil, aromatic, rubber, tar, white spirit or oil. These issues are normally one-off can be caused by spillages of fuel or oil near supply pipes. As a result, substances pass through pipes and affect the taste and smell of your drinking water.
Drinking water quality varies by different regions in the UK, in the North-West it is very high-quality. Use your senses to look for contaminants in drinking water. Water should be clear with no odour or different taste. If it tastes metallic, smells fishy or is cloudy, this could be a sign of danger. Impurities can enter your pipes can affect the drinking water in your home. By investing in a water filter system, your tap water will be safer and better-tasting. It will also prove a better investment than bottled water. If you want safer, better-tasting water see our water filter products here. You can also see check out our Facebook Page for more updates, sales and information.
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