What Does Reverse Osmosis Water Taste Like?

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It is natural to wonder what reverse osmosis water tastes like, especially when hearing about this kind of water treatment process for the first time.

I definitely know I was curious!

Let’s look at the smells and tastes of RO water in more detail.

Key Takeaways

  • Reverse osmosis water should have almost no taste at all.
  • Does reverse osmosis water taste good? Well, some have described it as flat or bland. But it definitely tastes better than low-quality tap or well water.

What Does Reverse Osmosis Water Taste Like?

So, what does reverse osmosis water taste like?

Properly purified reverse osmosis water tastes like nothing really. Some people like to describe it as “flat”. This is because RO water is almost pure H2O, lacking mineral content. And it’s the minerals in water that gives it its round taste.

So, does reverse osmosis water taste good or not?

It certainly tastes better than low-quality tap or well water full of contaminants. But ultimately, the absence of impurities in RO water provides a blank canvas, but it can be remineralized if the taste is not to your liking.

Reverse Osmosis Waters Taste Different

The final composition of reverse osmosis water can vary depending on various factors, such as the source water and the specific filtration process. Source water, which refers to the original water used as input, can have different impurities that may influence its flavor. Excess contaminants such as salts may leave a salty taste in the RO water, or If your RO system does not have a carbon post-filter, the water may pick up some flavor from the storage tank.

young woman drinking water

Why Wouldn’t I Want My RO Water to Have Any Taste?

When we say “no taste”, it signifies that the reverse osmosis filtration process has been highly efficient, resulting in pure water free from undesirable flavors. This means that harmful contaminants, if any, have been effectively removed, ensuring the water’s quality and safety.

Will Cooking with RO Water Leach the Taste Out of My Food?

Yes, this may happen depending on the cooking method. For instance, the boiling process may lead to the leaching of minerals and other substances from the food into the liquid, potentially altering its taste. As a result, some of the original flavors in your food could be lost or diminished.

What If My Reverse Osmosis Water Tastes Bad?

There are a lot of reasons why your RO water may develop a bad taste, particularly if it is a plastic taste!

RO Water That Tastes Like Plastic

  • Storing RO water in plastic containers may cause a plastic taste due to leaching, especially if the container is over three months old. Switch to food-grade or stainless steel containers for better results.
  • Newly installed RO systems may have some residual fibers and manufacturing debris that can cause a plastic taste. It’s recommended to run 2-3 tank fills and discard that water before using it for drinking.
  • If your RO system uses a storage tank with a butyl bladder, the filtered water sitting there might pick up taste and odor, causing a plastic taste. Flushing out the storage tank after periods of non-use can help eliminate the plastic taste. You can also use a post-filter to remove any residual taste.
  • If your system has a post-filter and the water tastes strange, it might be a sign that you need to replace the filter. If the plastic taste persists after a recent filter replacement, the new filter might not be working correctly. Consider replacing it again or trying a different model.
  • Plastic pipes in your home’s plumbing system can cause a residual plastic taste. If the pipes are new, wait 14 days before use and ensure they are thoroughly flushed.

Salty RO Water

  • If you’ve missed the scheduled replacement of your RO membrane, salts may contaminate your purified water. It’s advisable to replace the membrane every two years or so, but this can vary based on the TDS levels of your source water.
  • An improperly set TDS controller could allow too much unfiltered water to mix with the RO water, resulting in an odd taste. Adjust the TDS controller setting to limit this mixing and improve the water taste.
  • A faulty water softener can increase sodium levels in your water. This could be due to incorrect settings, clogs in the drain line or tanks, or other issues that affect the softener’s function.
  • Elevated chloride levels in your feed water can cause a salty taste. This could occur if you live near the sea and seawater contaminates your drinking water source.
  • High sulfate levels in your feed water can also give it a salty taste. These minerals can leach into groundwater naturally or through industrial activities.
  • If your source water is naturally high in salts, such as in areas near the sea, your RO system might struggle to remove them thoroughly.

Metallic/Bitter Taste

  • Copper pipes in many water systems can leave a metallic taste due to corrosion. The high purity of reverse osmosis water makes it prone to extracting even more copper, leading to a bitter taste.
  • An old RO membrane can clog over time and needs regular replacement. Neglecting this can result in impure water, making it taste bitter.
  • High sulfur or salts in the source water can also cause a lingering unpleasant or salty taste. If the RO system is not effectively removing these, there may be an issue with the filters or membrane that require replacement.

Acidic Taste

  • After purification, RO water can absorb carbon dioxide from the air, which forms carbonic acid and lowers the pH, potentially making the water taste slightly acidic.
  • If the filters or membranes in your RO system are old or not functioning correctly, they may not fully remove certain contaminants that can cause an acidic taste.
  • If RO water is stored improperly or for too long, it can become stagnant and develop a more acidic taste.

pH scale

Regular Tap Water Taste

If the taste of your reverse osmosis water is indistinguishable from unfiltered tap water, it means your RO system’s filters are not working as they should and will need to be replaced.


Water odor is often caused by hydrogen sulfide, which smells like rotten eggs. Reverse osmosis systems with activated carbon filters can remove low levels of hydrogen sulfide, but high concentrations may remain.

Different chemical forms of sulfur have varying filtration capabilities. While sulfite and sulfate can be eliminated, reverse osmosis membranes cannot filter hydrogen sulfide due to its small size.

How Can I Make Reverse Osmosis Water Taste Better?

Luckily, you can improve the taste of your reverse osmosis water in various ways once you have identified the cause of the issue:

Sanitize Your RO System

The first and easiest thing to try is flushing and sanitizing the RO system itself. To flush your RO system, open the RO faucet and drain the storage tank, then let it refill and repeat the process. To sanitize the system, use a solution of household bleach or hydrogen peroxide.

Flush Your Pipes

Your home water pipes may need to be flushed due to the accumulation of various minerals or dirt. This will help eliminate any off-flavors or odors that may be causing the reverse osmosis water to taste bad.

Replace Filter Elements

Ensure that you are replacing your filter elements on schedule. Replacing the filter elements in your RO system should eliminate any bad tastes or smells due to a clogged RO membrane or malfunctioning pre or post-filter.

Add a Carbon Post-Filter

A carbon post filter will ‘polish’ your RO water once it exits the storage tank. This will eliminate any residual odors and tastes before consumption.

Additional Pre-Treatment

If your feed water has high levels of specific contaminants, you may want to consider additional pre-treatments.

If you have any thoughts about the question, how does reverse osmosis water taste, 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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