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December 8, 2011 7:02 PM   Subscribe

Why does my fridge's filtered water taste ABSOLUTELY HORRIBLE but only at certain times of day?

I have a Whirlpool refrigerator with a built-in water filter for the door. In the morning, and in the evening, the water from the filter has this absolutely foul aftertaste and smell. It's hard to describe, it's rather mildewy and bitter, and it seems like a lot of the taste actually comes from the smell; I mostly taste it in the back of my throat after I swallow. It's different from that potting soil taste that tap water can have. My husband can't taste it, but I can.

Here's the weird thing: the tap water does not taste foul. It tastes sorta meh like LA tap water does to me (better than a lot of places), but it does not have this nasty taste. Nothing else tastes foul. It's not like I have a weird taste in my mouth morning or evening either, because I will try water from the fridge, it's gross, then I try bottled or tap water and it's fine, and I'll taste the fridge water again and it's gross.

We just got the fridge in September so I thought maybe the filter it came with was messed up somehow; it's supposed to last six months, but who knows, right? So I got a new, even better version of the filter that filters out more stuff. At first I was excited because the water tasted fine early yesterday evening! Then the morning rolls around and it's gross again.

I tried the water this afternoon and it was fine again. WHAT THE HELL.

It's so gross I can't even drink the water, and I'm not that prissy about water tastes because like I said, I will drink the tap water and it's not awful. I can't believe my husband can't taste it because it's VERY strong to me, but he can't taste a lot of stuff I can. I don't think I'm just crazy either because I don't have to be told where the water came from to know it's from the fridge; I never mistake any other water for fridge water.

All I can figure is it has something to do with the cold: when it gets cold, the water starts tasting gross. When it warms up in the afternoon, it's fine again. The water itself is pretty much the same temperature -- relatively cool -- whenever I get it from the fridge, though; I'm pretty sure it chills the warmer water itself in the afternoon.

- Could there be something in the pipes that is released/dissolved/something when it's cold, and that causes the nasty taste, which then somehow doesn't get filtered out by the fridge filter? If so, what, and is there anything I can do about it? We live near LA so when it gets dark right now it can get down to 45F, and during the day it's been 60 to 70F.

- Could there be something between the filter and the water spout on the door that's causing the nasty taste? If so, why does it only do it certain times of day?

- Something else?

PLEASE HOPE ME. The main reason we bought the fridge was so we wouldn't have to buy bottled water or keep refilling a Pur pitcher, so this has been pretty disappointing and honestly weird.
posted by Nattie to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My first thought was that the water is sitting in your fridge all night, and maybe it's picking stuff up from the pipes in the fridge. What happens if you just let it run for a while in the morning? Do glasses after the standing water is gone taste better?

As for the "warmer is better" part, what happens when you take water from the fridge's water filter when it tastes good, cover it up, and chill it in the fridge again? Does it get that same awful taste? Also, I would take a pitcher of water from the tap, store it in the fridge, and taste it over the day. Does it also pick up the bad taste from the fridge?

This is an interesting comment on a "these waterfilters are awful" review that says it's possible to have thrown out a piece of the filter, as you need to switch it between the old and the new ones. Not knowing the exact fridge or filter, I'm not sure it applies to yours, but it might!

Good luck! Stinky water is awful!
posted by cathoo at 7:31 PM on December 8, 2011

- Could there be something between the filter and the water spout on the door that's causing the nasty taste? If so, why does it only do it certain times of day?

It's this, I think.

Your fridge filters water into a reservoir, and this reservoir has something nasty in the bottom of it.

You taste it in the morning because the water coming into the reservoir then is colder than the water already in there, and therefore denser, and that makes the water in there rise to the top and come out the spout.

In the afternoon, the water coming into the reservoir is warmer than what's already there, that cleaner water sits on top, and comes out the spout, and you don't taste the foulness.
posted by jamjam at 7:35 PM on December 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

Is it that the water has been sitting for long time [in some mystery spot inside the fridge whose mechanics I do not understand] at those times of day, i.e. after a long night untouched, and at the end of the work day when it has gone untouched all day? Can you fill and pitch a few glasses worth and then get yummy water? Maybe there's some kind of gross new filter bad taste situation that will improve with age?

Whatever it is, I'd call Whirlpool and tell them. Maybe it happens all the time.
posted by looli at 7:56 PM on December 8, 2011

Bacteria in a water system can cause some pretty significant taste/odor issues.

When I purchased my current house, there was a distinct issue with a rotten egg smell in the water. The problem was bacteria in the system (water heater, pipes, etc). The solution was to add a few cups of bleach to the water heater (you may need a plumber to do this), and eventually flush the system, including the lines to the fridge.
posted by tomswift at 8:06 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm betting on a stinky supply pipe. Especially those plastic pipes, they seem like they could easily get funked up.
posted by gjc at 9:01 PM on December 8, 2011

Response by poster: These are all good ideas, my husband and I are looking into them. Thanks so much! If we find a resolution I'll post it. jamjam's answer is especially intriguing, and tomswift's as well.

To answer cathoo:

"Do glasses after the standing water is gone taste better?" I've tried this, but on a small scale with only a couple of glasses, and it still tasted gross. In retrospect I may not have emptied enough water, so I'll try tomorrow morning!

"what happens when you take water from the fridge's water filter when it tastes good, cover it up, and chill it in the fridge again?" If it tastes good, it always tastes good. If it tastes bad, it always tastes bad. Or to put it another way, the temperature of the water itself does not seem to make the difference, because it always comes out of the fridge at the same temperature; rather, it's the temperature outside that seems to make a difference. Oh, also, since I think you're also asking about this, the fridge doesn't have any weird smells or impart any weird tastes to anything else, and the water dispenser is actually over the freezer door (it's a side-by-side), but the freezer doesn't impart any weird tastes to stuff either.

To answer looli:

"Maybe there's some kind of gross new filter bad taste situation that will improve with age?" That's the weird thing, because our filter worked great in September and October. It started getting cold in November, and the morning after the first really cold night is when the water tasted weird. So that got worse with time, if anything. When we installed the new filter yesterday, after doing the four-minute continuous flush you have to do with new filters, the water tasted great. Then this morning it tasted bad again, heh.

My experience with PUR filters is that everything tastes great until they get too old, and even then this is a different taste than that (although my fridge might just be different that way); usually when it gets old the water has a sort of saline taste that's not really gross, just weird and off-putting in a psychological way. This is like the water tastes pretty normal for a second, then I swallow, and get this nasty taste. It's possible we've had two filters go bad in some way really fast, and we have one more left on reserve to try, but they're pretty expensive so I don't want to pop the third one in just yet, and the water tastes good in the afternoon, so that's why I'm thinking it isn't the filter. I'll tinker around with some of the other ideas and try calling Whirlpool, and if none of that works, I may as well try the third filter...

Thanks again!
posted by Nattie at 10:19 PM on December 8, 2011

I am left wondering an oddball notion: that something about you is different in the mornings and evenings which heightens your sensitivity to a chemical element that us always present in the water.

A question: does the ice-maker ice taste bad to you?
posted by bz at 10:50 PM on December 8, 2011

I don't know the answer, but I've had water from these fridges at friends' houses that tasted absolutely foul, even though the tap water was fine. Other friends maintained it tasted fine. So - not a lot of help, I'm afraid, but you're not mad! This happens!
posted by twirlypen at 2:14 AM on December 9, 2011

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