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4 solutions to common water problems

Shannon Lee | Improvement Center Columnist | September 1, 2015

If you've ever poured a glass of water only to see a strange color in the glass or catch the whiff of an unpleasant odor, you know how annoying water problems can be. We take for granted that what flows out of the pipes of our home is clear, cool, and refreshing - so what happens when it's anything but?

Fortunately, some water problems are quite common, which means that their solutions are tried-and-true winners. Here are the most typical water issues homeowners might face, as well as how to fix them and get back to that clean, fresh water you crave.

You've got hard water

If you have hard water, it won't take long before the problem becomes crystal clear. You might notice that your laundry is dingy, despite all that bleach you use on the whites. Your glassware has spots straight out of the dishwasher, it is harder to wash away soap scum from the shower or bath, and you might even notice mineral build-up on your sinks. Your hair is becoming unmanageable and your skin is dry and itchy. You can thank all the minerals in the water for the problem.

  • Solutions: Water softeners or water conditioning systems were created to combat these issues. When water runs through the softener system, the minerals in it - most notably calcium and magnesium - go through a process known as ion exchange. This replaces the minerals with sodium, and leaves your water "soft." You will notice a difference almost immediately.

Your water smells awful

You pour a glass of tap water and before you take a sip, the smell hits you. What in the world creates that noxious odor? If you have a well, you might be looking at surface contamination, a problem with your septic system, or issues with your storage tank. If you have municipal water, the scent might be a serious concern for the entire area. If it's just one faucet causing the problem, the issue might be isolated to the plumbing in that section - perhaps an organic problem, such as a tree root growing through the pipe.

  • Solutions: If you are on the municipal water supply, get in touch with your neighbors to ask if they notice the same problem. Don't drink the water until you are given the "all clear" by the water company. If you have a well, get it checked out immediately to avoid more serious problems. Just one faucet making all that odorous fuss? Get a plumber out there, pronto.

There is some sort of sediment in the glass…

Though this is not often a problem with those on municipal systems, those with wells might experience the unsavory experience of some sort of minerals or sediment in their glass. Wells might be dug into areas where minerals get into the water naturally, and that sediment can build up in the tank. For instance, iron might leave rust stains, or manganese might result in a disgusting black buildup inside the lines to your ice-maker.

  • Solutions: The only way to deal with this is to begin with a water specialist. They can figure out exactly what that sediment is and give you options to resolve it. The best-case scenario is a water treatment system; in the worst-case, the problem might be so bad that you have to dig a new well.

It tastes like chemicals!

This happens more often for those who have municipal water, as it is usually conditioned and cleaned with chemicals, especially chlorine. If you have recently had plumbing work done, you might be tasting the water that flows through new pipes or the residual from solvents or glue. If you have a well and you are suddenly tasting chemicals in the water, it's time to put down that glass, because it could be serious contamination.

  • Solutions: If you have a well, get a professional out there immediately. If you have just had plumbing work done, you can try running the water until the taste dissipates; if you have municipal water, the taste might be there for good. Either way, a faucet filter can help eliminate the flavors that you hate, and return your water to the clean-tasting beverage you deserve.

Problems with water are not to be toyed with, as the more serious issues can actually make you and your family sick. If the issue doesn't have a quick resolution, it's time to call in a professional to test the water and figure out what is really going on.

Photo credit to Nam Phan

About the Author

Shannon Lee is a freelance writer and occasional novelist with a serious weakness for real estate. When she's not writing, she and her husband are taking road trips to explore covered bridges, little wineries and quaint bed-and-breakfast inns in their beloved Pennsylvania.

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