Some water problems, such as the presence of Radon and Arsenic in water, are impossible to detect without an appropriate laboratory water test. But many water problems can be detected simply by using your taste, smell and observation skills. Here’s what to specifically look for:


The presence of iron in water causes red/brown staining in the sink, tub, dishwasher and even on your laundry. If you notice a metallic taste coming from your water, it is probably filled with too much iron.  Two main forms of Iron in water are Ferrous which is dissolved and relatively clear in the water and Ferric (you can see as reddish color “IC”) At high levels, Iron bacteria can develop which requires a different type of treatment to remove.

Iron Stain

If you see stains like the one pictured above, it’s most likely Iron.


This naturally occurring mineral can cause brownish-black staining in the dishwasher and other plumbing fixtures.  When water is heated, this mineral likes to precipitate or come out of the water and onto fixtures, typically seen as staining.

Manganese nodule

A Manganese Nodule

Corrosion (Low pH)

A low pH is generally caused by excessive carbonic acid. Look for green/blue stains in fixtures and shortened life of hot water heater to spot corrosion.  This staining is actually from dissolved copper piping.


How is your hot water heater running?


If you notice white scale on pipes and other fixtures, difficulty making soapsuds, or shortened hot water heater life, your water may be suffering from excessive hardness. Hard water is typically removed with a water softener.  The so called, “Salt Free” systems do not remove hardness minerals.


See the white scale and build-up?

Hydrogen Sulfide

Does it smell like rotten eggs? Chances are it’s the presence of hydrogen sulfide. If you have any real silverware, you can also spot hydrogen sulfide if it’s rapidly tarnishing.

tarnished silver

Your silverware may not look like this, but if it tarnishes like this, it could be Hydrogen Sulfide



Look for cloudy water and clogged faucet screens to detect turbidity.


Is your water cloudy or murky?

Salt Water Intrusion

Typically, salt water intrusion occurs if you live near a marsh or coastal area. If that’s the case, you may be experiencing salt water intrusion if you notice a salty taste, build-up, or heavy corrosion. Even if you don’t live near a coast, it is possible to get salt water intrusion from road salt applied by municipalities.


Salt Water Intrusion can occur if you live near a coast or marsh and can even come from road salt.

Other tastes and odors to look for include a fishy taste, musty smell, or oily smell/taste. These could be the presence of organic substances that are sometimes, but not always, harmless. It’s important to be vigilant about detecting water problems with your senses and to frequently get your water tested for issues that can go unnoticed, but can still be very harmful. Call us: (800) 539-1100