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Tannins: What's That in My Water?

tannins in water

Have you recently turned on your kitchen sink and thought, why does my water look so disgusting? Yellowish-brown water is not something you hope to see in your water supply. While several factors could contribute to this issue, one of the main culprits behind discoloration in water is tannins.

Tannins are an especially tricky problem to tackle. It is essential first to understand how tannins made their way into the water supply, how you can test for tannins, and, most importantly, how to remove them so you and your family can enjoy clean water in your home.

What are Tannins and How Did They Get in My Water?

Tannins in water are organic or natural materials that are the byproduct of a natural fermentation process. This breakdown of vegetation can often affect your home’s water supply when your groundwater source travels through decaying vegetation and soil, collecting these organic materials as it makes their way toward your well. If water passes through much of this material, it can pick up enough particles to turn your water a yellowish “tea color.” An excellent way to understand how tannins in water can affect your water quality is to look at a nearby stream or river, especially one that makes its way through a forest. Rainfall will pass through nearby swamps, and the decaying matter will carry some of these particles and ultimately run into the river. If you were to dip a cup into that river, you could see all the tannins in that small glass of water.

Are Tannins in Water Harmful to Me?

It is widely believed that no health concerns are associated with tannins in the water. There are many tannins we have learned to harness to our benefit. The coffee you likely brewed this morning is adding tannins to your water. The same goes for all of the variety of teas out there. Your water leaches organic material from the tea leaves or coffee beans.

While tannins do not pose any safety threat, this does not mean they should be ignored if present in your water. Tannins can adversely affect the water you use throughout your house. Some common water problems associated with tannins are:

  • Yellow or brown-colored water
  • Unpleasant-tasting water
  • Stained or discolored laundry
  • Musty or earth-like odors in your water

Testing for Tannins in Water

The first step in identifying whether your water supply is affected by tannins is to understand where your water comes from. Tannins typically affect homes that receive their water from a well. You can run a simple tannin test at home with an empty cup. Fill a water glass from your sink and let the water settle overnight. If you notice discoloration immediately, that does not necessarily indicate that tannins are the issue. Let the water sit overnight, and if you see that the coloring settles to the bottom of the glass, your issue is more than likely iron or manganese and not tannins. However, if you check the water glass the next day and see that the discoloration remains suspended throughout the glass, this is most likely caused by tannins.

While this can be a fun experiment to try on your own, you can never be 100% sure unless a certified water testing facility tests your water. Your local WaterCare dealer will happily offer you a free water consultation to ensure your water problem is diagnosed correctly.

Removal Process

Once you have established that tannins are the root cause of your water problems, it is time to find a solution. Like most water treatment solutions, there is no “cure-all” for every application. Tannins can be incredibly complicated to treat, stemming from how exactly the water came to be affected in the first place. One treatment method could be effective in a specific area and be ineffective 15 miles down the road. The amount of time the water passed through the decayed vegetation, what precisely the water came in contact with, and how much of the material is currently in the water can all be factored into deciding the best solution.

Anion exchange filtration is one of the most effective solutions for removing tannins in water. The CareSoft Pro Tannin Filtration system is designed to treat tannins commonly found in well water effectively. Operating similarly to a water softener, this unit uses a process known as anion exchange where specialized resin beads collect tannins in the water like a magnet. Much like how the tannin particles will not settle to the bottom of the glass overnight, they also cannot be filtered through traditional means. The organic material has a positive electrical charge that allows the negatively charged tannin resin to pull it out of your water and hang on to it, so all of your faucets can use water that has had the tannins removed. Inside your filter, salt from the brine tank is used to regenerate the anion resin after it cannot collect any more tannins. This system regenerates efficiently to ensure all well components stay protected and keeps your system running for years without ever having to replace the resin media inside.

If your well water has a strange odor and appears colored, tannins may be the main culprit. Find your local authorized WaterCare dealer today and speak to a professional about whether the CareSoft Pro Tannin Filtration system is the right solution for you!