Why does my water smell or taste weird

Last updated October 19, 2023
Reading time: 2 min

You may have noticed the smell of rotten eggs when you were about to drink a glass of water or found that your water tasted like chlorine or algae. Find out everything that you need to know.

Where does the smell of sulfur or rotten eggs come from?

The smell is not caused by the water coming out of your tap. It actually comes from your drain. Hair, dead skin cells and food residues build up on the walls of your piping. When the water flows, it releases the foul odour that emanates from this mixture.

Try this test! Let cold water run for a few seconds before using it to fill a clean, stainless steel pot. Once the pot is full, move a few meters away from the sink and smell the water. It should have either a mild chlorinated smell, or no smell at all.

How to get rid of the smell of rotten eggs

To get rid of this odour, you must clean the drain to remove the deposits stuck on the walls of your pipes.

Mix half a box of baking soda in one cup of warm water. Pour the mixture into the drain of your sink, shower or bathtub and leave for about 20 minutes. Put the plug in the sink or tub, fill it with cold water, and then remove the plug to empty it all at once. The movement of the water will wash away the residue and the odour will disappear.

Be careful about what you pour down the drain. Fats tend to stick to the cold walls of the drain along with organic residue from food waste.

The taste of chlorine

It is normal to notice a slight smell of chlorine in your tap water. When it leaves the filtration plant, the drinking water contains a low concentration of chlorine. The lifespan of this compound varies depending on the temperature of the water and the time it spends in the pipes. 

In addition, if there is a high level of water consumption in a certain area (such as water used to extinguish a fire), fresh water from the plant will be piped in to replenish the supply and its chlorine content will be higher. 

In areas of the city that are farther from drinking water plants, there are also superchlorination stations that ensure water quality throughout the system. In periods of the year when water is naturally warmer, from May to October, sometimes chlorine content is a little higher than normal. This situation is controlled and presents no danger to health.

An earthy taste

If you live in the west of the island of Montréal, you may have noticed an earthy taste in your water at times. This situation is due to the presence of algae in the river, mainly in the summertime, when the water temperature is higher.

A treatment is applied to remove algae from drinking water and the tastes and smells it causes, but an earthy taste can persist while replenishing water in circulation. This situation poses no threat to health.

To reduce off odours and tastes in your water, place jugs in the refrigerator.

Other tastes or smells

If your water has an unusual odour that does not smell like chlorine, rotten eggs, algae or soil, call 311 to report the situation. A staff member from the team that monitors the quality of drinking water will contact you.

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