Why Does My Reverse Osmosis Water Taste Salty?

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Have you ever been swimming in salt water and accidentally swallowed a mouthful of it? YUCK.

Saltwater is lovely to swim in but not so much fun to drink. So the last thing you want when you have pure, filtered reverse osmosis water is for it to taste like a mouthful of seawater.

However, salty tasting reverse osmosis water can happen. Let’s look at the how and the why.

Key Takeaways

  • Reverse osmosis water may taste salty if your RO membrane needs replacement, if your TDS controller is not functioning, if there are issues with your water softener, or if there are overly high salt, chloride, or sulfate levels in the water.
  • Most issues can be addressed by replacing old filter elements, adjusting TDS controller/water softener settings, or investing in additional prefiltration steps.

Why Does My Reverse Osmosis Water Taste Salty?

“Why does my reverse osmosis water taste salty?”

There are several reasons why RO water can taste salty. It is important to identify which one might be the cause so that you can fix it effectively.

Your Reverse Osmosis Membrane Needs Replacement

If your RO membrane replacement date has been missed, salts may get into your purified water. It is generally advised to replace the RO membrane every couple of years, although the frequency may differ based on the TDS (total dissolved solids) level of the source water.

If the TDS is low, the membrane’s lifespan may exceed a few years, whereas if the TDS is high, it might need replacement sooner.

Generally speaking, a reverse osmosis membrane should be replaced every 2-5 years.

Problems with the TDS Controller

If you are using a TDS controller and it enables excessive mixing of unfiltered water with the RO water, it can result in salty taste.

To check if this is the cause, simply reduce the amount of unfiltered water the TDS controller allows through. This will boost the amount of water from the RO membrane, reducing the overall TDS value.

You could also taste your pure RO water. It shouldn’t taste salty at all.

Problems with Your Water Softener

If your water softener is not working correctly, it could result in excessive sodium in the soft water.

Fixing this might be as simple as adjusting incorrect programming, which causes the system to use less salt.

Clogging could also be a problem in the drain line or tanks, requiring cleaning or part replacement. Sometimes, programming a regeneration cycle or cleaning the blocked area can resolve the issue.

salt-based water softener

High Chloride Levels

Overly high levels of chloride in your feed water may be responsible for your RO water tasting salty. If these ions are not filtered out properly, they can contribute to an undesirable salty flavor.

If you reside near the sea, there is a possibility of seawater infiltrating your drinking water source, thereby increasing its chloride concentration.

Of course, you would expect your reverse osmosis system to handle any salt, but there’s a limit.

High Sulfate Levels

The presence of sulfates in feed water can lead to noticeable saltiness. These minerals occur naturally in the Earth and also via industrial activities. When groundwater permeates through soil containing sulfates, they dissolve into the water.

As with high chloride levels, a reverse osmosis membrane has its limits when it comes to sulfate.

Generally High Salt Levels in Source Water

The source water from which your RO system is drawing may be generally high in salts.

For example, those living near the sea may have some salty water entering their RO systems. Domestic RO systems are usually not designed for use with seawater. Or, if there are higher-than-normal salt levels in the ground, it may reach the groundwater sources supplying wells.

So How Do I Improve the Taste of My RO Water?

To eliminate the salty taste in your reverse osmosis water, you will need to replace all the filter elements.

Plus, if you have a TDS controller or a water softener, then the settings on those should be adjusted.

It is also a good idea to test the salt levels of your source water and decide if you need additional pre-treatment.

Will Drinking Salty RO Water Affect My Health?

It depends on two factors: the salt level in the water and your personal health. If it is a small amount of a non-harmful kind of salt, it is likely to be safe to drink for a healthy individual. However, any excess may be harmful if you are on a low-sodium diet.

What Should Reverse Osmosis Water Taste Like?

Different kinds of water contain different amounts and types of dissolved molecules. Depending on the type and concentration of these molecules, your water will have different flavors.

Reverse osmosis water has a pure and clean taste as it removes all these molecules that affect taste. This leaves RO water with a flavor that some describe as flat or bland.

If you have any questions about RO water tasting salty please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!

About the Author Gene Fitzgerald

Gene Fitzgerald is one of the founders of BOS and currently head of content creation. She has 8+ years of experience as a water treatment specialist under her belt making her our senior scientist. Outside of BOS, Gene loves reading books on philosophy & social issues, making music, and hiking.
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