Funky, tangy, even a bit sour? While that could describe an interesting craft beer, these aren’t the flavors anyone is hoping for in their drinking water. If you’re tasting something slightly foul, as well as noticing yellow tinting to your H20, you’re likely dealing with a particular variation of water contamination.
To put it simply, it’s likely that you have tannins in your home’s water.
Don’t fret, tannin contamination is a common and solvable problem. In this article, we will establish what tannins are, how to test for them, and what kind of filtration options are available to assure your water is clean, clear, and crisp. If you’re looking for a solution for your tannin problem, read on.
What Are Tannins?
Before we can seek a solution to your home’s water contamination issues, it’s important to understand what tannins are and where they come from.
Musty, earthy, and organic, tannins are naturally occurring decomposing materials—think peaty soils and decaying plant matter—that have been dissolved into water.
To get a little more technical, tannins are derived from phenolic (AKA tannic) acids. These acids are found in trees, flowers, and fruits and wind up in the soil, then seep into groundwater through the decomposition process.
You’ve probably encountered tannins outside of your tap water when:
- Eating unripe fruit – If you’ve bitten into an apple or pear too early, you may have noticed a tangy, sour taste. You’re tasting the tannins that have been released to protect the fruit from being eaten before its seeds are ready to be spread. Nature uses tannins to make sure plants can reproduce efficiently.
- At the bar – If you enjoy a glass of red wine, then you enjoy tannins. The oak barrels where wine is aged contain key tannins that influence the flavor of the wine. As well, beer, coffee, and tea all contain tannins. Some of your favorite beverages are chock full of this unique compound
- Admiring flowers – Tannins are responsible for the seasonal changes we witness in flowers and trees. The chemical process that causes leaves to change from green, to orange and red, is the direct result of tannins. You can thank tannins for the fall colors.
As much as you might admire tannins in their natural habitat or in a different sort of beverage, tannins in water are typically bad news for anyone looking to enjoy the simple pleasure of clear glass.
What Tannins Do To Water
After getting familiar with tannins, you may be unsure what this kind of contamination is actually doing to your drinking water. You can think of tannins in your water the way you might think about a steeping teabag. As the tea steeps in the hot water, it becomes stronger and more flavorful. It works just the same for tannins.
Tannin contamination works on a sliding scale, from highly contaminated to barely noticeable levels of tannins in your water supply. Chances are, if you’re tasting tannins, you’re dealing with at least a moderate level of contamination.
Besides the aforementioned taste, the earliest signs of tannin contamination include:
- The tint – Is your water looking a little more yellow than you recall? Pure water should be completely clear and transparent, so if you’re dealing with yellow water or brown water, that’s a sign you may have a tannin issue. Test your water supply from multiple sources to assure that it isn’t a plumbing issue before proceeding—your water should look the same when coming out of any faucet, whether that’s from your upstairs bathroom sink or the hose outside.
- Stains on fixtures – If you’re noticing a yellowish stain in your tub, sink, or toilet, you’re almost certainly dealing with tannin contamination. Even after a recent cleaning, fixtures can become stained quickly from the organic compound.
- Laundry problems – Noticing a yellow discoloration on your recently washed clothing? The washer might not be to blame. Tannins can cause stains on clothes put through the wash cycle.
While tannins may put a damper on your drinking water, they can cause a host of other problems throughout your household. Tannins can make everyday household chores more difficult than they should be.
Natural and organic is good, right? Not all of nature is great for humans—poison ivy, volcanos, mosquitos—but while tannins aren’t inherently harmful to your health, there are possible risks associated with them.
- Surface contamination – If you have tannins in your water, that means your water source is being tainted by the soil around it. Frequently an issue with shallow wells or marshy areas, tannin contamination could also indicate the potential for bacteria in your drinking water, which can pose a serious health risk. Bacteria from surface contamination could lead to e.coli, gastroenteritis, and, in the long term, kidney and liver damage.1
- Potential for dehydration – When your water is uncharacteristically bitter and earthy, your desire to drink it is most likely going to wane. Nutrition experts recommend men drink 15.5 cups of water per day, and women drink 11.5.2 It’s going to be difficult to hit these numbers and maintain good health when every sip of water is unpleasant.
There has been scientific research conducted relating to the possible negative health side-effects of tannins, including possible carcinogenic properties, but as of now, there’s no conclusive evidence.3
Ultimately, the risks associated with tannin-contaminated water, as well as other factors make filtration solutions even more appealing. Finally, what’s best for your health is also the best-tasting solution.
Testing for Tannins
Most frequently, you can assume that your water is contaminated by tannins by the yellow water tint and peculiar taste. Few other water issues produce these effects, though it is possible to confuse tannin contamination with another type of contamination—whether from a different organic compound, heavy metals, or bacteria.
To be certain that you’re dealing with tannins in your water, follow these guidelines:
- Buy an at-home testing kit – Several reputable companies offer a simple water test for tannins in your home. These kits vary in price and accuracy—some may range into the many hundreds of dollars and still run the possibility of incorrect results.
- Contact a professional tester – When an at-home water test won’t do, or when you want a more reliable reading on the levels of tannins in your water, there are several options for professional testers. Whether they are private certified testers or government employees, a professional tester can bring peace of mind to the treated water process—after all, they do this every day.
It may be superfluous to run subsequent tests after recognizing you have a contamination problem. Often the first step is to dive directly into tannin filter solutions. Though, as we’ve mentioned, tannin contamination can also mean bacterial contamination, so it is recommended that you test for this more serious form of contamination before proceeding to filtration.
It helps to know the exact problem you’re dealing with in order to find the best solution for better water.
Tannin Filtration Options
After establishing the precise contamination problems—whether strictly from tannins or a combination of water adulterants—the path to clean, delicious water leads directly to water filtration.
You’re most likely already familiar with filtration to some degree, perhaps from a pitcher-based water filter, or an attachable filter on your sink. These are considered point-of-use filtration systems, and while efficient for minor filtration needs, if you’re dealing with tannins in your drinking water, you’ll need a point-of-entry filtration option.
Point-of-entry filtration means the filter is attached to the source of the surface water supply, effectively filtering all the water within your home, as opposed to a single faucet. Point-of-entry filtration can vary in size and style but the most common options for a tannin filter system include:
- Carbon filtering – The most widely known variation of water treatment . Water passes through activated carbon filters which catch a variety of contaminants as the water flows through. While it may work to lessen the contaminant of your water, this method is one of the least effective in removing organic material from drinking water, therefore it is not our top recommendation.
- Water softening systems – A water softener processes water through a chemical process known as “ion exchange.” The minerals and tannins present in contaminated water are extracted and replaced with sodium ions resulting in clean, clear drinking water. Take note that while highly effective at removing tannins, water softening systems are less useful for filtering bacteria.
- Reverse osmosis systems – Reverse osmosis (RO) uses a serious amount of pressure to force water through a semi-porous membrane. This membrane traps tannins and other contaminants while letting water molecules through. RO can remove an assortment of contaminants including tannins, making it a great all-around filtration option.
While the circumstances and requirements of filtration are based on your specific needs, rest assured that there are several methods to guarantee clean water in your home. There’s no reason to let tannins spoil the experience of a seriously refreshing glass of water.
Experience Tannin-Free Water With Rayne Water
With all this information about tannins, you might feel excited at the prospect of finally enjoying your drinking water the way it’s supposed to be enjoyed. If you’re ready to start finding the filtration solutions for your future, look no further than Rayne Water.
At Rayne Water, we’ve worked for years to provide unparalleled filtration options for residential and commercial use. Whether you’re dealing with tannin contamination in your home or office or sulfur smell in water, we have the technical expertise, dedicated staff, and filtration systems to fit all your needs.
Visit Rayne Water today and find out about the benefits of truly pure water.
- Springer. Bacterial contamination and health risks of drinking water from the municipal non-government managed water treatment plants. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10661-018-7054-z
- Mayo Clinic. Water: how much should you drink every day. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/water/art-20044256#:~:text=The%20U.S.%20National%20Academies%20of,fluids%20a%20day%20for%20women
- Nation Library of Medicine. Tannins and human health: a review. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9759559/
- Water System Council. Tannins and groundwater. https://www.watersystemscouncil.org/download/wellcare_information_sheets/potential_groundwater_contaminant_information_sheets/96111501_Tannins.pdf