Why Does My Water Smell Like Bleach?

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Have you noticed a weird smell coming from your water? If it resembles bleach, it can be pretty alarming, but rest assured this is likely not caused by harmful contaminants. People often associate the smell of chlorine with that of bleach. In this case, however, chlorine is manually added to public water systems and functions as a disinfectant to eradicate waterborne diseases. There are a few ways to improve the state of your drinking water, but it is important to note that chlorine will almost always be a part of your tap water.

Quick Facts:

  • The smell of bleach in your tap water is likely caused by high levels of chlorine.
  • Small traces of chlorine in your water are not harmful. It is actually required by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) in order to disinfect water before it is distributed to homes and offices.
  • Boiling your tap water or chilling it in the refrigerator will remove the bleach smell from the water.
  • The EPA requires chlorine in public water systems but recommends levels below 4mg/L. Chlorine can be smelled at levels of 1mg/L.

What Causes the Smell?

Because public water sources are treated with chlorine, your drinking water can sometimes exude a smell like bleach. This usually occurs when your water is over-chlorinated. If you’ve ever gone swimming in a pool right after it’s been chlorinated, you’ve probably experienced this smell.

Chlorine is a crucial part of water treatment. Small amounts of chlorine are added to public water sources and treatment plants to eliminate traces of bacteria, viruses, and parasites as the water travels to its point of use. Even treatment plants that use non-chlorine disinfection agents are required by law to add small traces of chlorine before distribution.

The EPA requires that chlorine levels in public water systems be maintained at a range that is detectable but not above 4mg/L. Most people will detect a bleach smell if the chlorine level is around 1mg/L, so it is not an uncommon occurrence. If the bleach or chlorine smell is strong, it is possible that your local water source distributes water over a long distance and therefore adds extra chlorine to keep the water clean for longer lengths of time.

What Should You Do?

The smell of bleach in your water is the direct result of it being treated with too much chlorine. You have no control over the amount of chlorine in your water, but you can try contacting your local utility company if it is a serious problem.

To eliminate the bleach smell from your water, try filling a pitcher of tap water and then covering it and putting it in the refrigerator. You can then drink it after it has chilled for a while because the smell will have dissipated naturally while cooling. Don’t drink water that has sat for longer than 24 hours. Instead, fill the pitcher with fresh water. You can also try boiling your water for about 5 minutes to remove the odor and then store it in your fridge as well. There are even dechlorination tablets that can remove chlorine from up to 100 gallons of water with one tablet. This also works with vitamin C tablets.

Drinking Cleaner Water

Most filtered water coolers remove the presence of chlorine and the smell of bleach. A filtered water cooler from Quench, for instance, uses either carbon filtration, reverse osmosis filtration, or both to reduce impurities, which include chlorine. Quench offers a full line of carbon filtered and reverse osmosis-filtered water coolers that are perfect for workplaces. Take a look at our product line or request your quote for a water cooler.