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October 20, 2020

When water tastes disgusting

Parosmia can affect the smell and taste of water

We talk a lot about how parosmia can affect the way that food smells and tastes, and there are some great tips on how to compensate for this – but what can you do when even water tastes disgusting?

The panel in our webinar on 15 September touched upon techniques and ways to help if you’re experiencing this unpleasant symptom of parosmia. Dr Duika Burges Watson is founder of the Altered Eating Network and lecturer at Newcastle University, Professor Vincent Deary is a health psychologist at Northumberland University, and Sheri Taylor is a specialist in nutrition rehabilitation.

Our Chair Chrissi Kelly shared what it was like for her when experiencing a change in the taste of water, “I never found it disgusting, but I did find that I was suddenly sensitive to certain ‘notes’ in tap water.” 

For a lot of people, this sensitivity can be overwhelming – and not just when drinking water. Some people find that they can smell and detect these notes that cause disgust when using water in other ways – for example when washing hands or taking a shower. 

Some things to try

Filter tap water

Many people find relief from this symptom by filtering their tap water. They’re often sensitive to compounds in the water that cause odours – and filters can remove these. Sometimes leaving water to ‘sit’ in a container such as a jug for a while can also reduce these odours.

Filters aren’t just for your drinking water either; you can get them to attach to your shower or taps if you find the smell itself overpowering. You can even get whole filtration systems for your house, although these are considerably more expensive!

Bottled water

Bottled water may help some people, as it may not contain the particular compound that you’re sensitive to. It could be worth trying different types of bottled water to find the right one for you, as they have different minerals in them.


As with a lot of things with changes to your sense of smell, everyone is different and is affected in different ways. The best way to overcome changes and challenges is to experiment and see what works for you. In the case of water, working to understand what aspect of it causes disgust, and finding an alternative – either a type of drinking water without it, or a filter that removes it – can bring relief.