Why Does My Water Smell Like Chlorine?


If the smell of your tap water gives you flashbacks to summers spent by the pool, it’s likely that there are high levels of chlorine in your drinking water. Treatment plants throughout the U.S. use chlorine to neutralize bacteria, parasites, viruses, and assorted harmful microorganisms before drinking water is distributed to households. Even though chlorine is a common additive, it’s important to identify the reasons why your water is emitting a noticeable odor so that you can fix the issue and get back to enjoying crisp, scentless water again. This scent can sometimes also be recognized as a bleach smell.

Quick Facts

  • If your tap water has a chlorine smell, it’s likely due to the fact that municipal water plants use chlorine to eradicate waterborne germs like E. coli and the norovirus.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency requires treatment facilities to maintain chlorine levels that are no greater than 4 mg/l, as these are safe levels for human consumption.
  • The strength of this chlorine scent will usually depend on the distance of which your public water source from your household. However, the smell can also be affected by the temperature of the water, as colder water can hold on to chlorine for longer.
  • Over time, chlorinated water will naturally lose its smell, but if you prefer to get rid of the smell immediately, consider a water filtration system with advanced technology like reverse osmosis or carbon filtration.

What Causes the Smell?

The EPA mandates that a certain level of chlorine be present in public water supplies, which is known as a “residual.” If the residual exceeds 1mg/l, a discernible smell will be present.

There may be several reasons why a water supply source has a chlorine residual higher than 1mg/l. For instance, heavy chlorination is required for water supplies that are transported over extended distances to compensate for dissipation during the course of the journey. The effect the long distance has on transported water is even worse during warm weather, thus treatment facilities often raise chlorine levels accordingly throughout the year.

What Should You Do?

It is important to note that while a chlorine smell is certainly unpleasant, exposure to levels below 4mg/l do not pose a risk to human health. However, it’s relatively easy to eliminate the smell with 2 solutions: time or a carbon water filter.

Though the passage of time will cause chlorinated water to lose its smell, a more immediate resolution is to utilize a water cooler with carbon filtration built in. This can effectively reduce the levels of chlorine odor from water while preserving its quality.

Improving your Drinking Water

Although chlorine helps to keep our water free of bacteria, over 316 contaminants, have been detected in water reservoirs across the U.S. As such, it’s vital to get your water tested or find alternatives to tap water if you suspect that your water quality poses a threat to your health or has an off-putting taste or aroma.

Our mission at Quench is to deliver fresh, clean drinking water to all workplaces. Using reverse osmosis and UV sanitization, Quench water coolers filter out or deactivate harmful levels of bacteria found in tap water. Take a look at our product line or request your quote for a water cooler with built-in advanced filtration technology.