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Friday, September 27th by Mike Ohlinger
There are some things that you just take for granted when it comes to your kitchen, like the color of your favorite food and drinks. Coffee should be black, ketchup should be red, bananas should be yellow, and the water from your tap should be crystal clear. So, when you fill up a glass of water and it looks like a summer pitcher of your grandmother’s infamously unsweetened iced tea, you know there might be a problem somewhere in those pipes.
If you’re one of the 42 million Americans that gets their home’s water from a well, you may have encountered the unappealing effects that tannins can have on your water supply. Considered an aesthetic issue, tannins in well water aren’t discussed as much as hardness or iron content is, but they can leave your water discolored, smelling musty, and tasting terrible. And if left untreated, tannins can have a significant effect on how your household uses and consumes water.
If you’ve heard the word “tannin” before, it has likely been in the context of winemaking (and tasting). Tannins are organic compounds that exist in plants and are released during the breakdown of vegetation. In the context of winemaking, the grape’s skins, stems, and seeds contain tannins that are released when the grapes are pressed. The longer the grape skins and seeds are left to soak in the grape juice following pressing, the more tannins are released into the juice, giving red wine its distinctive, rich color. Tannins in wine influence how the final product tastes as well. The more tannins present in a glass of wine, the “drier” it feels in your mouth.
This principle works the same way when considering how tannins affect your home’s well. The water in the aquifer that supplies your well can pass through peaty soil or decaying vegetation as it makes its way downward. As it flows over and around these organic compounds towards your well, the water collects particles along the way similar to how the grape juice absorbs the tannins from the seeds and stems. If it gathers a high amount of tannins, the water supplied to your home may begin to take on a light yellow or brown color, a musty odor, and an astringent taste, depending on the amount of decaying material the water came in contact with.
Well water containing tannins does not pose a health or safety risk when used or consumed, but it can present some significant problems in your home. Besides its unappealing color, tannin-infused water has an astringent or tangy aftertaste and, if left untreated, can impact the way you consume water and even cook in your home.
Depending on the concentration of tannins in your home’s water, your laundry could also be at risk. The tea-like color works much like a dye, leaving your whites permanently yellow and grungy after a few washes. In especially bad concentrations, porcelain fixtures and dinnerware could also fall victim to permanent, dingy staining.
Is your home’s water supplied by a well? Does your tap water look like drainage-ditch runoff? If you suspect that your home’s water is affected by tannins but haven’t had it tested by a professional yet, you can try an easy, at-home experiment to narrow things down. Fill up a glass of water from your tap and let it sit overnight. In the morning, if the discoloration of the water is more concentrated at the bottom of the glass, the off-color is likely caused by iron or manganese. These heavier particles will settle to the bottom of the glass as the water sits.
If the discoloration is uniform and consistent in the morning, your water may be affected by tannins. A water test by a certified laboratory will be able to give you more accurate results and will identify any other component in your water that may be affecting its look, feel, and taste.
Like all water treatment, there is no one size fits all solution to treating tannins in water. Tannins can be especially difficult to treat simply because of how they contaminate water. The specific vegetation that released the tannins, the amount of time the water was exposed to the decaying material, and the concentration of material all factor into how a particular solution is prescribed.
One of the most effective ways to treat tannins is through filtration. A tannin filter is a unique unit because it works more like a water softener than a filter. Tannin filters are filled with tiny white beads that attract the particles that make up tannins. These particles stick to the beads, leaving clear, clean water behind. When all of the beads fill up with the tannin particles, they’re washed with a brine solution from the unit’s salt tank. The rinsed particles wash to the drain and the unit is ready to filter more water.
If you’re tired of the bitter taste, stained clothes, and musty smell that accompanies your well’s water, it’s time to have your water tested and treated. WaterCare’s advanced CareSoft Pro Tannin filters are the best in the business at clearing up your tannin problems while reducing, tastes, odors, and other discoloration issues that are commonly found in homes with a well water supply. Contact us today to schedule a water test and begin the process of fixing your well water for good!