Whether your water is from a municipal supply or a private well, there are some common reasons your water might taste salty, and effective solutions available to treat the problem.
What makes tap water taste salty?The typical reasons you might taste salt in your drinking water include high levels of chlorides, high levels of sulfates, or (rarely) a water softener malfunction.
It’s always a good idea to test your water to verify possible contaminants in your water to make sure you choose the proper treatment to address it.
• ChloridesThe most common reason for a salty taste in your drinking water is a high concentration of chlorides.
While most likely not a threat to your health, excess chloride in your water can corrode pipes and discolor stainless steel sinks.
If you are on a sodium restricted diet, you should test your water to verify if your water has high levels of sodium chloride, to treat it accordingly.
These chlorides may be from a natural source such as salt deposits in the soil near your groundwater, or from the pollution of industrial waste or irrigation drainage.
If you live in a cold weather state, the salt used to de-ice the roads may make its way into your water supply as the snow melts.
If you live near the ocean, it’s possible seawater could have entered your local water supply. If this is a possibility, contact your municipal water treatment or local health agency to inquire about your local water conditions and verify if there is a health risk.
Another reason for elevated chloride levels could be from sewage leaking into your water supply, which would be a severe health risk.
If you are on a private well, it’s recommended you test your water yearly for Total Coliform, which is an indicator of bacterial contamination. If you have had flood waters within 50 feet of your well, your well has been opened for servicing, or if you’ve noticed changes in your water’s taste, appearance, or odor, you should always test your well for bacterial contamination.
• SulfatesAnother reason for a salty taste in your water could be high sulfates, such as magnesium sulfate and sodium sulfate. Sulfates can occur naturally in soil and rocks, and end up in your groundwater.
Sulfates in your water may also be the result of industrial waste, shale, or the breakdown of sulfide ores.
Water containing sulfates can corrode pipes, and at levels above 500 parts per million (ppm) in your water can have a laxative effect.
• Water Softener malfunctionIf your home has a traditional water softener with a brine tank, you may suspect it’s the source of your salty tap water.
If you have recently had a power outage, it’s possible an interruption to your water softener’s regeneration cycle has leaked salty water into your water lines.
The salt/brine taste may also be the result of softener damage or malfunction.
How do you fix salty tap water?After you’ve tested your water to verify the type of contaminant in your water, you can customize the treatment solution for your needs.
If a filtration system is needed, your choice will be based on both the source of the issue, whether it’s a whole home filtration system, or an undersink system to treat the issue at the tap.
• Chlorides/Sulfates: Reverse OsmosisWhen your water test shows a high level of chlorides or sulfates, it’s most common to treat the issue at the tap, with the installation of a Reverse Osmosis (RO) System.
RO systems are capable of removing particles smaller than one micron in size. Water is passed through a membrane filter with very small pores under high pressure to remove minerals and contaminants,
An RO system will also reduce a long list of other contaminants in your water, including arsenic, fluoride, and lead.
Reverse Osmosis System
• Bacterial Contamination: UV, Ultrafiltration, RO, ChlorineIf your water test reveals bacterial contamination, the most effective treatment to protect your home from bacterial disinfection is a whole house Ultraviolet (UV) purification system. Installed at the point of entry of water into your home, a UV system purifies the water in every tap.
UV systems expose water to light at just the right wavelength for deactivating microbes, bacteria, viruses, protozoans and cysts that may be present in the water.
Shop UV Purification Systems
Another option to treat bacteria is an Ultrafiltration system. While UV systems deactivate the bugs, Ultrafiltration removes them along with a wide range of other contaminants in the water.
Installed as an under sink point of use filter, this system could be paired with a UV system for ultimate peace of mind about your water purity.
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Although capable of removing microorganisms, it is not recommended that you rely on Reverse Osmosis systems as the primary source for removing pathogens from your water.
Chlorine is used by public water treatment systems to disinfect water supplies, and can also be applied to private wells for periodic disinfection.
While effective, shock chlorination does not guarantee permanent bacterial elimination over time, and can damage other water filtration equipment.
Read more about removing bacteria from water
• Water softener inspectionIf a water softener malfunction has caused your salty water, it can usually be fixed. Most likely, there has been a regeneration cycle issue.
If you run your water for a few minutes, the salty taste may clear on its own. If not, you can check to see if there is an issue with a clogged injector or drain line.
If you’ve determined the issue is an interruption of the regeneration cycle, you may need to flush the salty water out of your system:
- Turn your softener to bypass so that water is no longer running through your softener during the day.
- Flush out the salty water from your pipes by running the bathtub cold water faucet for five minutes.
- If your hot water is also salty, open the drain on the bottom of your water heater to flush it out.
- Before you go to bed, turn the softener bypass back to put it in-service, and start a manual regeneration.
- After the softener has completed a full regeneration cycle your water should be back to normal.
You may be able to clear a clogged drain line or control valve injector on your own. You can refer to your owner’s manual for instructions, or contact your local plumbing professional for assistance.