My water jug has a funny taste.
May 30, 2009 6:04 AM   Subscribe

The water in my #7 plastic polycarbonate 5-gallon jug is starting to taste funny. Also a bonus BPA question.

I completely empty and refill my 5-gallon jug every 1-2 weeks. (When drinking or cooking, I don't have a dispenser or anything--I pour directly from the jug.) I wash the inside of the jug every 1-2 weeks. I do this by filling it partially full with hot water, adding a squirt of dish soap, shaking madly, emptying completely, partially refilling, shaking madly, and repeating until there seems to be no soap residue or suds left.

Why the funny taste that wasn't there before? Is there a better way to clean this thing? I've had it maybe six months, and the taste started a few weeks ago. The water source (Whole Foods reverse osmosis) has been the same. The taste isn't horrible, just noticeable. It's an "un-fresh" taste...

Bonus question: Is this thing leaching BPA into my body? Is there a better 5-gallon container out there? (Getting multiple smaller containers or any kind of home/tap/pitcher water filter are not options right now.)
posted by zeek321 to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I'd think your main concern would be stuff growing in there. The hot water and dish soap swishing method probably isn't enough to get rid of mold, and a constantly humid environment is a perfect way to grow mold. If there was a way for you to let it completely dry now and then it would help. So if you could have two containers and rotate them, that might help.
posted by advicepig at 7:31 AM on May 30, 2009

Best answer: Well, #7 polycarb is probably Lexan, which is the culprit for leaching BPA. Of course, the levels of estrogen mimics it leeches out aren't catastrophically high, but worth some concern. For one, definitely don't wash anything like that jug in hot water - the levels of BPA are reasonably very low unless you use the containers with hot liquids.

And you should probably stop using that jug because you've washed it in very hot water. You could probably find a large jug made out of harmless-and-fairly-recyclable PET?
posted by tmcw at 7:34 AM on May 30, 2009

Best answer: Very dilute bleach solution is great for cleaning water bottles. Of course, rinse well and don't mix with dish detergent. I'd guess that the big difference in the past couple weeks is the coming of spring = warm + airborne life + moisture.

The Nalgene site has some great ideas for cleaning. (Baking soda, lemon, charcoal for scent, and bleach for discoloration). The dilution they recommend for fixing discoloration is much stronger than is required to disinfect.
posted by degrees_of_freedom at 7:34 AM on May 30, 2009

Thanks for bringing this up. I had also noticed a funny taste from the water bottle I take to the gym. So I checked out the Rubbermaid site and, sure enough, my bottle has BPA. Buying a new water bottle for the gym is my first stop today!

The message from this, I guess, is to check the website of the company that produced your water jug. I would expect that Rubbermaid is not the only manufacturer having to address this issue for their customers.
posted by DrGail at 7:50 AM on May 30, 2009

seconding bleach. it doesnt take more than a teaspoon or two, will kill any buggies etc. skip the hot water, and be your own judge on the BPA. it doesn't scare me...
posted by chasles at 8:23 AM on May 30, 2009

oops, forgot to mention, run a couple of cups of the bleachy water through the dispenser as well, then run tap water through a lot to cleanse. then go get the jug filled.
posted by chasles at 8:24 AM on May 30, 2009

Response by poster: A search on the internet yields 5-gallon PET bottles. Any chemists out there want to give me a reason not to use bleach in these? Finally, even though the FDA says PET is safe, any particularly paranoid reason why I shouldn't drink out of the same PET bottle for months?
posted by zeek321 at 9:02 AM on May 30, 2009

Response by poster: A ha, an internet search even yields 5-gallon HDPE plastic jugs. In my limited knowledge, I think that's an even safer plastic. And if bleached?
posted by zeek321 at 9:05 AM on May 30, 2009

Best answer: Why don't you just go all the way and get a lead-free glass water bottle.
posted by zerokey at 9:39 AM on May 30, 2009

Response by poster: Why don't you just go all the way and get a lead-free glass water bottle.

Nice. I'm crazy enough to strongly consider it, now that I know they exist.
posted by zeek321 at 12:07 PM on May 30, 2009

REI seems to sell one made by coleman, not sure what the inside is lined with
posted by zentrification at 2:08 PM on May 30, 2009

I'd go with zerokey's glass suggestion, at least until the studies can finally agree on what plastics are actually safe, if any.

Either way, for cleaning you could pick up some sanitizer from a beer brewing shop. The brewing process requires things to be pretty clean.

Also, in what type of container does Whole Foods store the refill water source? I haven't really noticed when I've been there, but it strikes me that they probably store it in the same type of plastic as the portable jugs. Maybe they're even the source of the taste?
posted by orme at 7:06 PM on May 30, 2009

I've always heard RO water leaches more off plastic than mineral water because of the near nonexistence of impurities. Water being the "universal solvent" and all. I find equal venom and enthusiasm from googling on the subject. I love my RO filter and generally go straight from filter to mason jar, but my paranoia fills my life with desperately needed meaning anyway
posted by Redhush at 7:18 PM on May 30, 2009

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