Last updated - November 26th, 2021
While uncommon, some households experience salty-tasting tap water. There are a few things that can cause your water to taste salty, which we’ll discuss in this article. We will also talk about how to fix the issue if you do have salty water in your home.
Possible Causes of Salty Water
Let’s start by talking about the 3 main potential causes of salty water:
1. Specific Minerals
The first and the most obvious cause of salty water is that some specific minerals have been added to the water stream. For example, minerals such as chloride, magnesium, and sulfate are common in drinking water in small amounts. However, in large doses, these minerals can greatly affect the water taste.
Take sodium chloride as an example, also known as table salt. If found in higher concentrations in your water, sodium chloride will make the water taste salty. Often, an increase in sodium chloride can be attributed to salt deposits in the groundwater by your water source. Salty water can also be caused by a high concentration of TDS (total dissolved solids), but only if they contain minerals such as the ones that we mentioned.
To identify if your salty water is coming from an increase in these minerals, you should buy a water tester. You can find many models online, most of which are both affordable and easy to use.
2. Water Softeners and Regeneration
If you live in an area with hard water, you likely have a water softener. However, internal seals in the softening system can wear out over time, allowing the salt to reach the water. If you use a water softener, consider checking the internal seals to make sure none have worn out.
Another possible issue from a water softener could be regeneration. If you find your water to be salty in the middle of the night, in particular, it might be due to the process of “regeneration” of your water softener. During the regeneration process, a maximum of 30 milligrams of salt per liter of water needs to be added. Therefore, if you use the water right after regeneration and before the process has been completed, it may taste salty.
That being said, if you suspect your softener is adding too much salt, that means that the softener is not working properly. However, it’s usually quite simple and affordable to fix. The most common problem is a blocked drain, which prevents the unit from flushing out excess water. Check for blocked drains and other plumbing problems around the house when you’re troubleshooting issues with your softener.
3. Contaminants from Your Area
Sometimes contaminants from your area can reach your water source and affect its taste. For example, if you live near the bay or the sea, saltwater can enter the pipes and change the taste so that it becomes saltier.
Or, if you live in a cold climate, sometimes road salt deposits can dissolve into the surface water. In this scenario, although it can significantly affect water taste, it’s not hazardous to human health, and the salty water should pass after a few days.
How to Get Rid of Salty Water
To get rid of salty water, you can start by identifying the source and looking to resolve the underlying issue. However, in some of these scenarios, you may not be able to fix the root cause, such as issues of groundwater adding salt to your water supply. For these situations, you can install a system that removes salt from the water directly in your house instead.
Ion Exchange Process
Many households use a water softener with ion exchange to keep their tap water tasting clean and fresh. The ion exchange process basically removes mineral ions such as calcium and magnesium from water, using a resin tank and a brine tank.
As the water passes through the tank, its positively charged mineral ions react with negative ions in the resin. Then, they get replaced with sodium ions. However, over time, the resin beads will have a high amount of minerals attached to them. If the ions are not flushed from the system, the softener will stop working and the water will become a bit salty. One way to avoid saltiness is to ensure you’re cleaning your softener system and doing regular maintenance, although the ion exchange process alone won’t remove all sodium from your water.
Reverse Osmosis Filtration System
One of the best ways to remove salt from water is through the reverse osmosis filtration system, which is especially useful if you want to keep the benefits of soft water but do not want it to taste salty. To understand how this system works, let’s first talk about osmosis.
Imagine two different liquids that contain different quantities of dissolved substances. One liquid has a high amount of dissolved substances while the other has a very low amount.
The liquid with a low amount of dissolved substances will flow through a filter into the other liquid with a high amount. The flow will continue until both liquids have the same amount of dissolved substances, which is caused by a force called osmosis pressure.
By comparison, reverse osmosis is a completely opposite process that causes desalination instead. During reverse osmosis, water is pulled through the filter at high force, causing salt (the dissolved substance) to exit the system.
Benefits of Reverse Osmosis Salt Removal
Reverse osmosis systems are very successful at removing salt from soft water. Besides salt, they also remove minerals such as nitrates, bacteria, protozoa, viruses, and PFAS. Reverse osmosis systems usually also contain an activated carbon filter which improves water taste and smell.
For the best result, you can use both a water softener and a reverse osmosis filtration system together. To use both systems, install the water softener at the point of entry for your water supply and the reverse osmosis system at the point of use. Using both of these systems will allow you to have soft water with no added sodium taste.
Reverse Osmosis vs Other Filtration Systems
Reverse osmosis filtration systems work quite differently than other filtration systems. They force the water through a filter with tiny holes that keep harmful particles out of the water. This method is very effective in removing the most harmful particles that water can contain. By comparison, standard filtration systems use activated carbon, which has a large surface area and captures particles. While other filtration systems may be more affordable, reverse osmosis systems are more effective at clearing most unwanted particles. So while you’ll need to pay a bit more, buying a reverse osmosis filtration system is a better long-term investment.
As you can see, there are a few reasons why tap water may turn salty. However, regardless of the cause, all of these reasons include added levels of sodium in your water, so buying a reverse osmosis filtration system would be the best solution across the board. Even if your house also has hard water, you can still keep your water softener and have soft water with no bad taste or smell.
In general, sodium is commonly used in many applications, from making chemicals to food preparation, so some sodium in your water supply isn’t necessarily dangerous. However, high salt levels can lead to damage to your pipes over time and can make your water not taste great. We hope this article helps you identify the source and solution to fix your salty water problem today.