/ Food & Drink, Home & Energy

Why kettle water tastes funny: mystery (nearly) solved

Steaming red kettle

Earlier this year we asked you to help solve the mystery of smelly, foul-tasting kettle water – a problem that for many of you has been spoiling your daily cuppa. And now we’ve discovered a common cause.

The problem bubbled up when Which? members complained that the water heated in their kettle had a ‘plastic flavour that made it undrinkable’. We carried out testing in our lab, which confirmed there was a problem with how the water in one of the kettles tasted and smelled.

But it soon turned out to be far from an isolated problem. In fact, we’ve so far had more than 130 comments complaining about the taste and smell of the boiling water your kettle produced.

But what’s the cause? It soon turned out that it wasn’t a single brand that was to blame. Was it the water supply? Even some of you who used filtered water had the same problem.

The cause of smelly kettle water

We contacted scientists Luke Montgomery of Yorkshire Water and Dr Robin Price of Anglian Water. They told us that the chlorine in tap water reacts with phenol-based compounds sometimes found in plastic and rubber parts of the kettle.

There aren’t any associated health risks. And not everyone will have this problem – chlorine levels vary, and people have different sensitivities to taste and smell, Dr Price told us.

It’s recommended you compare the kettle water with water boiled in a saucepan to see whether it’s the kettle’s causing the problem. If it is, you can get rid of the chlorine by storing tap water in a covered jug in the fridge for a few hours.

We’re looking into whether in the future we can test every kettle we review for this problem, so you can avoid buying models likely to produce smelly water.

However, the mystery still isn’t fully solved. We had problems with the Russell Hobbs’ Ebony 15076 kettle even with filtered water that didn’t contain any chlorine.

Comments
Mountain Man says:
12 April 2017

My new Russell Hobbs ‘Cambridge 20071’ kettle boils up smelly water. Smells and tastes a bit like chlorine or bromine.
Before first use, I removed 2 plastic components: the red water-level indicator tab from inside the kettle; and also the plastic spout-screen.
That just leaves 2 plastic components: the black plastic lid; and the inside top anchor for the black plastic handle.
The rest of the kettle is all stainless-steel (no water level window on that model).
My cold water supply does not smell, and does not cause furring. Water is a municipal supply from a surface catchment area).
This new kettle replaces a 15-year-old white all-plastic kettle, that had no smell nor taste.
I have tried to get rid of the smell by boiling fresh water, and then discarding the smelly water; done this perhaps 20-times. And I’ve washed the black plastic lid in the dishwasher several times.
I see (on the internet) that this problem has been publicised since 2013. How come Russell Hobbs hasn’t been able to fix this in the intervening 4-years?

I purchased same kettle – same problems – tried washing, re boiling etc – nothing helped. I used it for about 3 weeks and also developed a pain in kidneys ( I have no health issues) – I purchased a BPA free kettle – all fine and after a couple of weeks kidney pain gone …is there a connection – very strange but happy with new non smelly kettle

Hi Fi – I remember you saying in another Conversation that you bought an all-stainless steel kettle and giving us the details. What you say here suggests that your previous kettle contained BPA. Is there evidence of this? Normally BPA is associated with polycarbonate and I don’t think the black plastic used in many kettles is polycarbonate.

Tony says:
24 May 2021

I’ve noticed a foul taste in tea at my friend’s house just down the road. We have the same water supply so it just had to be something either in her plumbing or the kettle. I found a reference to kettles on the water company website and looked inside the Russel Hobbs 20415 kettle, and I spotted a red plastic gadget inside, near the base attached to a tube. I pulled this off, rinsed out the kettle and the problem is gone. I have no idea what the purpose of this plastic gadget is and wonder what horrible chemicals have been leached into the beverages for many months.

Tony – The plastic gadget could possibly be a volume indicator to show how much water you need to boil for one, two or three cups of tea. Unless the gadget has inside knowledge of the size of the cups or the capacity of the teapot it is useless.

An alternative possibility is that your friend was using a particularly pungent type of tea but has now changed to a blander blend.

That is what they are for, as John says. I have three in my kettle, visible when I remove the lid. However, I never use them, partly because I fill my kettle through the spout so cannot see them, and partly because I can judge quite well how much water to put in. There are additional markings on a transparent window that, prompted by this post, I have examined and found an accumulation of limescale on the inside that obscured them, now cleaned.
The kettle makes a nice cup of tea, with my help.

Tony wrote: “… wonder what horrible chemicals have been leached into the beverages for many months.” Hopefully the plastics used will be safe, both at the time of manufacture and years later. Discarding water that has been standing overnight would get rid of chemicals that have migrated into the water. I prefer having a stainless steel kettle.

We purchased a new digital kettle from Aldi 2 weeks ago,a Ambiano premium digital kettle,The cup of tea/coffee tastes of chemical from the time we first used it,we boil water for tea/coffee in a saucepan and it tastes fine.What should we do?

Take it back as unfit for purpose?

As Alfa says, take it back. It’s sometimes suggested that sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) might help get rid of smells and tastes.

I wonder if my kettle is digital. The switch is marked 0 and 1.

I have just bought a new stainless steel Bosch kettle that is exclusive to John Lewis and am pleased to report there is no unpleasant taste.

Apart from the filter and maybe a very small seal, there is no other plastic on the inside.

Bosch kettles seem to be a good bet for anyone who is frustrated by the problem of strange smells and tastes.

A small seal, you say? Not a dolphin? 🙂

Sorry….

Sorry? You said that on porpoise. 🐬

Oh, you’re having a whale of a time…

Mind you, it might just have been a fluke…

Life’s a drag, isn’t it Alfa? You buy a brand new kettle and there isn’t a Which? Connect survey on hand to ask you why you bought it, whether you had tried to repair the old one, what it smelt like, what it tasted of, and whether you would recommend your mother-in-law to get one.

🙂
We’ve made several trips to look for a new kettle since the last one caught fire, using the previous one with a broken lid kept as a spare.

Most of them as so darned ugly which is why it has taken a while. The one we have bought wasn’t even on show and we had given up again but espied the box on the lower shelf. At last a kettle that (to us anyway) looks normal and pleasing to the eye. As others have reviewed, it is a bit on the noisy side, but hey it’s only on for a couple of minutes so not much to put up with.

Paul m says:
11 December 2017

Hi Alfa; can you tell me what the model is please? I am havg to return my third kettle in a row on account of the smell!

This one Paul, only available in JL.
https://www.johnlewis.com/bosch-town-twk78a01gb-stainless-steel-kettle-silver/p2963731

I don’t have a problem with the level indicator maybe because the kettle is in a well-lit position.

I still like it and don’t regret buying it.

I have noticed very few complaints about strange smell or taste for Bosch kettles.

I had assumed it was all stainless steel but from one of the reviews, the lid seems to be plastic: “Had this kettle for about a year now and for the last couple of months I have found that after it’s boiled I cannot open the lid to refill it again until it has cooled down as the plastic lid expands with the heat! “

Rukaya Vawda says:
17 July 2018

Bought a bosch stainless steel kettle today . Water Is undrinkable due to strong chemical smell and taste

I’m beginning to regret saying that I had not heard of many problems with Bosch kettles. :-(. Maybe they have changed their materials. I suggest you take it back for a refund and also inform Bosch about the problem.

We bought a Riussell Hobbs “Dome” polished kettle to replace our old R/Hobbs that recently developed an unreliable switch. A Which? best buy, £30 from ao delivered free. No taint, quiet, fairly quick to boil, pours well, easy to fill……:-)

Phil T says:
3 January 2018

I have the same Russell Hobbs kettle you describe. Steel lid but does have a water level window. Had a filter which I of course pulled out. Its an electric kettle that I do not fill from streams or outside water tubs.

When limescale inevitably begins to build up half fill your kettle with water and a chopped up whole lemon. Boil it a few times or boil it and put something on the on/off switch to make it stay on and let it boil for a few minutes.
Discard contents when it cools and give it a rinse the inside will look something like it did whan it was new.

I do this with new kettles anyway. I might be a good idea and its not a bad one.

Annie R says:
12 January 2020

We’ve bought one of those too, on the strength of the Which? recommendation, and there’s a terrible chlorine taste, which is why I looked up this thread.

Alan Roberts says:
3 January 2018

Have experienced this problem for years.. It definitely occurs when you add fresh water to previously boiled. Recently bought a filter kettle, same happened. I’ve just done an experiment using a saucepan. I boiled water, let it partially cool, added fresh water, boiled it again, the awful taste was there. Water company chemists – tell us what is happening ?? You can’t fob us off with it being the fault of the kettle anymore !! It’s such a waste of water and energy to have to empty the kettle and fill it again before re- boiling.

That might indeed be so, Alan, but it has always been the best advice. Obviously, it helps reduce waste if only the required amount [plus a little bit more] is put in the kettle in the first place.

It’s incredible that, so far as I can recall, no one else has mentioned mixing pre-boiled and fresh water as the source of the problem. That could be why we have never experienced the problem despite a wide variety of kettles having been used over the years as we always empty the kettle and refill it rather than top it up. As you say, it would be nice to have a scientific explanation.

All the things added to water to make it”safe” to drink could be the reason ?

In the introduction to this Convo, Paul Ryan explains that reaction of chlorine with plastics is a problem, so if you get rid of plastics that should solve the problem. There would still be the odd kettle that produces hot water with a metallic taste, but this seems relatively uncommon.

It might help to create a demand for kettles without any plastic parts in contact with the water.

Chlorine may be an answer; this would be easy to prove. Simply use chlorinated “test water” when Which? (and manufacturers) evaluate kettles to see if the water becomes tainted. Then use the “right” plastics in their construction if one type proves a cause. I’d like to see demonstrable cause(s) rather than conjecture. That would help develop better products on a sound basis.

Alan’s saucepan experiment above seems to shows that sometimes this problem is down to the mains water, and not the use of plastic parts in the kettle (or saucepan used).

Also, long standing good practice for tea making includes the advice “always use freshly drawn water”.

The well known plastics generally contain a variety of additives such as plasticisers, fillers and stabilisers and no-one other than the manufacturer will know what a particular batch of plastic contains. Age may be a factor too. When a plastic kettle is new, plasticisers and other volatile chemicals are more likely to be transferred to the water. I dug out an old travel kettle that had been stored unused in a clean, dry place for over 12 years. In storage the plastic had yellowed and each time I boiled water it had a musty smell.

All tap water is chlorinated by law and I expect that Which? testing does use tap water. I’m not sure how much help we can expect from manufacturers. Here’s an old article that suggests that RH would be looking at the concerns of Which? http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-3080577/As-mystery-whiff-spoils-nations-cuppas-thats-making-kettle-pong.html The advice on the website remains to put kettles through the descale procedure if you have a problem.

We still have not established some simple facts, such as whether some people detect a strange taste and others don’t. Different ability to detect certain smells/tastes can have a genetic basis, and some cases are well documented.

It would be interesting to know if any users of all-stainless steel kettles have a problem.

We have very different tastes – some cannot stand Brussels sprouts for example, and our sensitivity to taste varies considerable. Chlorine concentration differs across the country. NJo one seems to have analysed chemically what is in tainted kettle water. If it were a problem of sufficient magnitude this is where I would start – controlled water and proper tests. Until then we’ll just carry on boiling.

Given Alan’s results from a saucepan, I’d expect that he would get the same outcome from an all stainless steel kettle.

Then again, unexpected outcomes are part of the fun of doing science experiments.

Malcolm – The taste of sprouts is one of the examples I had in mind: http://www.nature.com/news/2006/060918/full/news060918-1.html The ability to smell cyanide is even more clear cut.

The first thing you do is to question and test one-off observations.

I had this problem with 3 kettles in a row, all of which I returned. I now have a hot water tap with a filter. Delicious hot water at the press of a button. My favourite kitchen addition 🙂

My parents have one of those boiling water taps. Ive never had a bad cup of tea or coffee from it. may be thats the answer to bad tasting water ?? Not cheap alternative, but worth considering if your upgrading kitchen ??

Joining this conversation a little late. I have a problem same as above but no answer. I have owned a Russell Hobbs kettle (Model 18941BLKAU) for many years, reboiling water and topping up and reboiling many times without any problems or taste issues. The kettle was noisy when boiling and seemed to be getting noisier. After some research, I found that in Choice Magazines kettle test that a Russell Hobbs kettle (RHK62WHI) was the quietest they tested. Before I used it, I cleaned out the kettle, lemon etc and boiled for the first time with no problems. Topped up the kettle for the next coffee and when boiled, water smelt awful and coffee was terrible. This pattern continued, with freshwater OK, but if topped up and boiled it was dreadful. Cleaned several times with no improvement. Now using old noisy kettle again with no water or taste issues. i

Bob, I don’t know about coffee, but I was brought up to understand that tea should only be made with freshly drawn water:

telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/03/23/never-boil-water-twice-making-cuppa-tea-guru-warns/

Louise Evans says:
10 February 2019

We bought the Russell Hobbs Buckingham 20460 kettle in October 2018 and we use filtered water and not all the time just occasionally we get funny tasting and smelly water.

Mac says:
13 April 2019

This is an older thread but like many people I am having the problem of a horrible taste when boiling water in a new kettle.
Having had several kettles over the past 40 odd years I have never had a problem until the last 2 kettles both bought 2014/15 [always keep one spare] first one to be used was fine after being boiled a few times the 2nd was boiled many times and then put in a cupboard.
Looking for answers at the time I read a lot of comments and found the stainless steel stove top kettles /electric glass/plastic /stainless steel kettles all had the horrible taste.
Only thing in common with all these kettles is “stainless steel” either made of or in the base.
I went onto ebay and bought a “Pyrex” stove top coffee pot and oddly enough the tea/coffee tastes much better by having the water boiled in all glass, these are “vintage” but I would rather have vintage than be poisoned.
Or one could use a pan to boil water

hi we are on our second Breville Lustre kettle within last couple of weeks and still get that horrible taste at least couple of times a week fed up wasting water anyone else having same problem

Paul says:
18 January 2020

Just bought a Russell Hobbs kettle and yes it has a chemical smell. Having bought kettles for over 40 years this is the first time I have encountered a problem so looks like something has changed. Tried bicarbonate with limited success.

Amanda Wilson says:
9 October 2020

Had the same problem with a Russell Hobbs stainless steel kettle – a sort of chemical type smell after boiling , and tainted water smell, even in the filtered water from a very good quality filter system, and even with any plastic elements removed. Simple answer – use emery cloth or paper to sand down the inside of the kettle thoroughly all over. Wash it out thoroughly with soapy water and scouring pad, and plenty of water to flush out. Boil up again – bad dour and taste completely gone.

That’s interesting Amanda. I wish Which? would do some taste tests as part of their kettle evaluation. This topic has gone on for years with no attempt to resolve it.

I’m in a hard water area (like most people). have a Russel Hobbs stainless steel “Dome” kettle, have left the pointless red plastic bits in place and never had a taste problem. But clearly others have. Is it a difference in water, a difference in our sensitivity to contaminants?

This can happen due to the manufacturer’s chemicals coating at the surface of the kettle reacting with the water, or it could be BPA in the plastic which reacts with water.

When kettles are manufactured, the inner and outer surface is coated with chemicals or lubricants from the manufacturing plant. These chemicals are used to protect the kettle at certain parts of the production line during the manufacturing process.
A few days a go i recently read this type of article about List of Top 9 Best Coffee Maker For Hard Water it contain huge information and it helps me alot it is very useful for anyone
They are also used to protect the kettle from rusting while it lies idle in warehouses and shops. So if you buy a new kettle and don’t properly wash it before using it to boil water, you might experience this awkward taste.

I have a new twist on the kettle theories.

Back in 2015 I posted:
https://conversation.which.co.uk/home-energy/why-kettle-water-smells-tastes-funny/#comment-1415856

I was convinced the kettle bought from Amazon was not the same as the identical model bought elsewhere as the filter was the wrong one from that model.

In December we bought another kettle from Amazon. It was noisy, slow to boil and steam leaked from the handle if you boiled it twice in succession. The lid parted company with rest of the kettle so we got a full refund from Amazon. The lid looked like it was just held on with glue.

After looking for another kettle, I bought exactly the same model elsewhere as they were out of stock on Amazon. I know the previous one had problems but I just could find another one I wanted at a reasonable price. There are many high-priced kettles I could happily choose, but as we are in a hard water area, it is not worth spending a lot on kettles so sometimes, it is better the devil you know what you are buying as living with the problems was not really an issue and if the lid falls off I will request a refund.

The new kettle is exactly the same model as the previous one, but without any of the issues. It is quiet, faster to boil and the handle fits properly. I boiled it 3 times in row before use and no steam leakage.

So, have we now bought 2 fake kettles from Amazon? I’m not sure about the first one, but the second one was supplied by Amazon and not a market-place vendor.

Thanks alfa that certainly sounds plausible.

Where I work, I have seen quality assurance bulletins warning of the dangers from fake products, including potentially spare parts for safety critical items.

In general, I guess any high priced products can be tempting targets for fakers.

I also suspect that the outsourcing of batches of branded goods to general manufacturering companies leads to risks of fake products being consigned into the likes of Amazon’s supply chain.

If possible it would be useful to contact the (claimed) manufacturer with photos. They often show discrepancies between a genuine and a copy.
The only way to stop this practice, if it were such, is to prosecute the vendor, Amazon in this case. Preferably publicise the transgression.
As with 2-pin plugs and other failures to comply with regulations and the law, I believe the way to make careless/irresponsible vendors sell in a legal way is to penalise them.

Poor quality control seems the most likely problem, Alfa, unless of course there is evidence of counterfeiting.

When I was living between two homes a friend bought me a second RH kettle, the same as the one I had been using for a couple of years. It was from Waitrose and I don’t know why the price was about £6.40. This one did not make it to three years old before the lid mechanism started to fail. I switched to using the older one and that is still working fine.

I’m surprised how many people do not bother to return faulty goods.

I’ve noticed that manufacturers often make design changes without changing the model number, but that is nothing new.

Unfortunately, I didn’t take any photos. I usually do, but the lid broke while another Amazon item (brand new and faulty) was sitting on the doorstep waiting to be collected. I contacted Amazon who issued a full refund as there were no more of the same kettles in stock and the kettle was dried and packed up in a hurry in time to catch the collection.

It didn’t occur to me it might be a fake until I used the new one that had not be chosen until later.

There were not many reviews and only 2 negatives (one since I purchased). One says it leaked like a sieve and sent back, the other said it sounded like a rocket, takes far longer to boil than their previous kettle and you can scald yourself with steam escaping presumably from the handle.

Sometimes returning faulty goods and finding another is so much hassle, that if not too much money is involved and you can live with the faults, then so be it.

It was the hinge of the pop-up lid that failed on one of my RH Canterbury kettles. It’s the most convenient electric kettle I have used but I don’t think the build quality is good, and there are reviews that seem to confirm this. I’ve seen reference to strange tasting water but never had a problem.

It would be interesting to know where all the strange tasting kettles have been purchased. Fake ones could contain unsafe plastics that could account for the taste.

I did a search for fake products and found these:
https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/jun/06/dangerous-fake-electrical-goods-sold-amazon-ebay-investigation
https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/apr/27/amazon-site-awash-with-counterfeit-goods-despite-crackdown

Those articles are a couple of years old now, but I doubt the problem has gone away.

While it is possible the assembly was sub-standard, I would not associate being slow to boil with quality control problems. More likely a smaller element.

“While it is possible the assembly was sub-standard, I would not associate being slow to boil with quality control problems. More likely a smaller element.”
If it is a fake and the element is buried in the plastic base, for the water contact area to be at 100°C, the element will get very hot (to overcome the thermal resistance between the element depth and the top of the base (water line), possibly overheating the plastic base (for the strange taste) and with much of the heat conducting to the base wasting the energy (accounting for the slow boil).

That might explain why the first fake kettle caught fire !!!

I thought your photos showed a problem with the switch, Alfa.

If a switch is set in the fake kettle’s plastic base running too hot, that too may have overheated, increased its contact resistance by lack of spring pressure… thermal runaway.

Yes, but do we know it is a fake kettle or one that’s not very well made?

Counterfeit goods are usually cheap copies of more expensive products.

The kettle in question:

I actually still have the other same model kettle but can’t get the bottom off. I tried to unscrew it so a comparison could be made but the thread went.

Thanks Alfa. How long had the kettle been in use when it failed?

It’s difficult to tell but I assume that the switch contacts are under the bimetal disk at the left and the heat generated has burned what looks like flame-retardant plastics. Although there is discolouration of the contacts that take power from the kettle base there is no sign of severe overheating there.

It’s not nice when electrical products produce flames and smoke and the latter can be quite toxic. I have vivid memories of when my Energizer battery charger went bang and shot ‘flames’ (actually vaporised copper) out of both sides, albeit after years of use.

I’d say that’s a fake. Reason being a last ditch solder blob temperature fuse would be in place to get UK approval (two independent means..). I think I can see sufficient of it to pronounce the absence of that device.

Can’t remember how old it was. We do seem to get through rather a lot of kettles. The previous Bosch was replaced in December when it boiled dry a couple of times, the lid came off the last one . . .

Old kettles get used to boil water to use instead of weed killer.

Wow, thanks Roger.

When one of my RH kettles suffered lid failure I inspected the working parts and found two safety devices, interestingly one in the L and the other in the N supply to the element. They were held in contact with the metal base of the kettle with thermal paste used to aid conduction of heat.

annaruby says:
26 August 2021

If a switch is set in the fake kettle’s plastic base running too hot, that too may have overheated, tastes funnyincreased its contact resistance by lack of spring pressure… thermal runaway.

Hi all,

Many thanks for your continued updates and interest in this topic. It’s one we’ve been looking into more over recent months as we really wanted to be able to provide you with some kind of update.

We’ve just published a new news story on this topic (https://www.which.co.uk/news/2021/08/smelly-kettle-what-to-do-if-your-kettle-makes-water-taste-bad/) with some information on what could potentially be causing your kettle to smell, along with some tips on how to try and solve the problem.

We also reached out to a handful of members that reported problems with a smelly kettle during one of our recent product experience surveys, but sadly there was no common thread that allowed us to really pin down the issue.

Hopefully you find the new article helpful, and please continue to update us with your experiences to help us better understand this problem.

@rebeccaduff, thanks for the update, Rebecca. I looked at the Which? News article that essentially puts forward conjecture as to likely causes, much of which have been contributed in Convos over the years. But no indication that Which? has sought expert help to carry out a “scientific” investigation into the cause of smells – testing kettles with different materials and water types – nor of inviting those who complain to submit their “defective” kettles for scrutiny. But is it really worth doing when you suggest it affected only a “handful” of respondents?

@rebeccaduff Thanks for letting us know about this article, Rebecca. Please could you add it to the introduction, or it will be lost among the other comments.

Problems with strange tastes seem to be apparent when kettles are new and I have not heard of any cases where customers have been refused a refund.

Just added it at the top 🙂

I think the problem lies with varying fluctuations in the level of chlorine added to the water supply.

About 3 weeks ago, my usual morning cuppa made with the same kettle I have used for a long time was undrinkable due to a strong disinfectant chemical taste. Fortunately I had some bottled water in store which I was able to use instead, and the problem had gone. I have since bought a filter jug and again no problem.

A varying chlorine fluctuation would be very hard to prove, as the water supplied at source may have only temporarily failed to pass the required health and safety standards, when an increase in chlorine would have been necessary to ensure it is safe for human consumption.

Water companies are required to add chlorine to drinking water for the safety of their customers. As it travels through the pipes this ‘free chlorine’ is gradually removed by reaction with organic matter. The amount of chlorine added is chosen to ensure that sufficient remains when the water arrives at the most distant taps. For various reasons, the amount of free chlorine in the water that comes out of our taps will vary from day to day but the water will be safe to drink.

The free chlorine in water can easily be measured in a lab and there are different ways of doing this. Approximate measurements can be made by anyone using test strips that change in colour, with reference to a chart. It’s similar to the tests that private swimming pool owners use to check the water in their pool.

Water chlorinated to the extent that is renders a cup of tea undrinkable maybe safe, but not entirely welcome first thing on the morning. Maybe it’s not so for coffee drinkers. The medication I am prescribed necessitates the need to drink a lot of water during the day, but on its own straight from the tap I find quite unpleasant and a tad nauseating. I don’t think anyone would relish carrying out a litmus test each time they filled the kettle or the coffee machine to make their chosen brew.

The answer is to filter the water before use, Beryl. You can complain to the water company but if they decreased the amount of chlorine, those most distant from the treatment works might not receive safe water.

My conscience wouldn’t allow me to do that Wavechange.

Can you comment on whether cold water or sparkling bottled water drunk straight from the fridge can cause tummy troubles?

This is a bit off topic so maybe it should go over to The Lobby.

My immediate thoughts: If water is boiled, I’d expect most if not all chlorine gas to be driven off. It is therefore on balance likely that something in the rogue kettle reacts with the chlorine to impart something back into the water that smells and/or tastes …wrong.

I’d lay odds that a stainless kettle would boil the chlorine off without such incident. Give me all metal (or metal and inert ceramics) every time – plastic has no place in a kettle – IMHO.

Boiling water does remove indeed chlorine and it’s easy to smell it as the water is heated. When the water has cooled you will not smell chlorine. I agree that plastic has no place in a kettle.

Beryl – I don’t know if cold drinks could cause problems. As a child I disliked fizzy drinks, and still do. The leave me feeling bloated.

The medication I am prescribed necessitates the need to drink a lot of water during the day, but on its own straight from the tap I find quite unpleasant and a tad nauseating.
If this is the case, whilst a few bob outlay, I’d recommend a water softener (if you don’t already have one) and then a reverse osmosis unit from soft cold to a drinking tap which basically filters and adds a tiny bit of hardness back. That makes for a mineral water drink on tap – without any of the bacterial risk you might get from bottled water. Would pay for itself compared with drinking bottled water after probably three years – although RO filters aren’t that cheap!

I rather thought the water softener was in the part of the system that did not affect the (mains) drinking water.

You need to boil water for about 15 mins to remove all the chlorine in an open receptacle. It only takes 3 mins to reach boiling point in my kettle with a lid, when it is immediately poured over a tea bag inside a mug. There had been no problem before this one particular morning when the taste was so bad it was undrinkable, and as there was nothing in the kettle that had interacted with the chlorine before then, I deduced there must have been a surge in the level of chlorine in the water supply at the treatment works.

To avoid a recurrence of the same problem I made the decision to buy a water filter jug so that I can now look forward to a decent brew each morning before breakfast, without causing any inconvenience to anyone else in the water supply chain.

As far as I am concerned that is the solution to a problem
that seems never to end despite intensive investigation by Which? and various water companies. Most new kettles will produce a smell or funny taste until they have been used a few times, they just need their new owner to literally boil the hell out of them until it eventually goes away and everyone is happy, or are they?

I recently bought a new microwave oven that came with instructions to remove all accessories inside and set the microwave heat on high for 5 minutes to remove any surplus oil residue before use. This discharged a very unpleasant odour during the process, which thankfully, has now gone away.

Water hardness is caused by calcium and magnesium salts. In a traditional water softener (or a dishwasher), zeolites (in the old Permutit system) or ion exchange resins replace calcium and magnesium ions with sodium ions, which are soluble. Water for drinking would bypass this system, as you say.

Roger mentions reverse osmosis (RO) which is quite different and uses boosted pressure to force water across a controlled pore size membrane while retaining most of the salts and organic molecules, which pass to waste. RO can be used in conjunction with ion exchange and filtration and is suitable for production of potable water. As far as I know, activated carbon filters rather than RO itself removes chlorine. RO systems are increasingly used for desalination, in countries where ground and river water is insufficient to meet needs. My family have a small RO system on a seagoing yacht.

You think right Malcolm.

Beryl – As explained in the introduction, the taste problem is caused by reaction of chlorine with plastics and rubbers used in the kettle. Almost all of the chlorine will have been expelled by the time a kettle switches off. Do you experience a strange taste if you boil water in a pan? If not, I strongly recommend buying a stainless steel kettle.

I rather thought the water softener was in the part of the system that did not affect the (mains) drinking water.

Soft water from a typical salt-based domestic system is sodium-rich and typically slightly acidic compared to normal municipal water. A drinking bypass tap with unsoftened (“hard”) water is typically provided over the kitchen sink when a softener is installed and recommended for babies’ and infants’ consumption rather than soft. This can also be filtered by an in-line cartridge which takes out chlorine and heavy metals – but not typically hardness. In hard water areas, if this is used to fill the kettle, furring up occurs at the same pace as the pre softener system! The alternative to a hard drinking tap is a reverse-osmosis supply. A RO unit takes soft water, filters it and re-infuses a very small amount of permanent hardness (so it won’t boil off and fur up the kettle), exchanging the sodium by osmosis, restoring the alkalinity and adding mineral content.

I recently bought a new microwave oven that came with instructions to remove all accessories inside and set the microwave heat on high for 5 minutes to remove any surplus oil residue before use. This discharged a very unpleasant odour during the process, which thankfully, has now gone away.

My word – that goes against everything I know about microwave ovens. I am amazed at such an instruction. If it is a combo oven, I could understand and applaud removing everything and setting it to high temperature fan assist convection while empty to do this burning off – but emphatically not microwave!

A microwave oven produces RF energy from a magnetron, and this is “funneled” to the oven cavity via a waveguide where it is released and dispersed around the cooking cavity, often via a stirrer arrangement to distribute the microwaves (a bit like whirring a hosepipe around your head to disperse water). The microwaves bounce off the microwave-reflective walls, floor and ceiling (through the transparent-to-microwaves turntable or glass shelf if one is fitted) until the waves encounter absorbent surfaces – food or drink typically. If a microwave oven is empty, the microwaves bounce and bounce and bounce… until eventually they go back up the waveguide – and hit the magnetron that produced them – overheating the magnetron, usually causing it damage if done for any length of time. I wouldn’t mind betting that it was the insultor around the microwave anode getting extremely hot that produced the nasty smells.

What breed of appliance is this, Beryl?

As far as I know, activated carbon filters rather than RO itself removes chlorine.

Correct – such a filter is present in the RO system I have installed – and I believe in most systems for permanent installation in domestic kitchens.

It is worth noting the RO unit is quite space hungry – the filter box and a pressurised unit with the membrane in it. It is also worth noting that the maximum flow rate is significantly down on a full bore tap – but not too bad for filling a glass or kettle. Finally – drawing off more than about 2
to 3 pints will cause a significant slowing/stop while the system recharges for 5-10 mins.

Of course the other way of getting rid of chlorine from water is simply allowing a jug of water to stand – at room temperature – overnight, covered over with a clean tea towel to prevent flies or dirt ingress. Not in a fridge – will take days to do it when chilled.

Not to be too pedantic, but I thought Chlorine was a gas.

Not to be too pedantic, but I thought Chlorine was a gas.

It is – but that doesn’t mean it cannot be mixed with water. CO2 is a gas too – but pump that in water under pressure – hey presto – soda water.

Oxygen is a gas – that is naturally mixed in water – it is what fish breathe. They don’t take the O out of H2O – but the infused oxygen from the aerated water – which is why aquariums need regular aeration (to replenish O2) and water changes (to eliminate nitrites etc that form from the nitrogen-rich dissolved mixed-in gasses.

Edited to add – as Malcolm has linked below – that Chlorine truly does dissolve unlike the examples I give – to make small concentrations of acids. This is why it needs activated charcoal in the filter to shift it by filtration. Boiling or letting it stand reverses the dissolving process.

Apologies for the delay in replying, but at midnight my aged brain is crying out for sleep.

Roger, to appease any concerns about my new Panasonic microwave oven the instructions emphasised the point this procedure should never be repeated.

“Before using grill, convection or combination function for the first time operate the oven without food and accessories (including glass turntable and roller ring) on Convection 220*C for 5 mins. This will allow the oil that is used for rust protection to be burned off. This is the only time that the oven is operated empty (except when preheating).”

Wavechange, I fully understand the connection between chlorine and plastics, so I bought a stainless steel kettle but found it too heavy to lift, and even more so when filled with water. It now enjoys ornamental status in the kitchen ready to welcome visitors when it is safe to do so. I had a small plastic travel kettle stored in a cupboard that makes just one cup which was duly rescued and continues to serve on a daily basis with no unpleasant taste – until a couple of weeks ago.

I don’t remember drinking water from a pan, so can’t comment on its taste. I recall a while ago you saying that you live in a hard water area, as I do, and you had a problem with scum in the cup when you made tea, so you switched to coffee??? I had the same problem until I bought a filter. There was no scum in my morning cuppa this morning and no unpleasant taste either.

“Before using grill, convection or combination function for the first time operate the oven without food and accessories (including glass turntable and roller ring) on Convection 220*C for 5 mins. This will allow the oil that is used for rust protection to be burned off.

on convection – which is NOT using microwave. Convection is the radiated and fan-assisted heat from the circular rear element or possibly bottom and top elements reliant on natural internal convection.. It heats the air and appliance walls. Microwaves woudn’t do that – they’d bounce around.

Thought for today
Apologies if I misled you Roger

Q. When is a microwave not an oven?

A. When it’s not a combination, convection or grill???

Beryl – The reason I suggested boiling water in a pan is simply because pans don’t contain plastic. It’s a simple experiment that anyone can try to establish that the water is not the problem. If you have no problem with a plastic travel kettle but the larger plastic kettle produces water with a strange taste then it is clear that there is a problem with the kettle.

I take your point about the weight of stainless steel kettles and recall that my mother switched to using a travel kettle most of the time.

I used to have very hard water, and as you recall me saying, it produced a horrible scum in tea. The water company started blending the hard ground water with soft river water about ten years after I moved to the area. Moving home helped and I could probably offer you a passible cup of tea.

The mislead was in your original statement…

instructions to remove all accessories inside and set the microwave heat on high for 5 minutes

Your combo settings would allow convection (which I hope you would have done for this initiation) – and temperature set to 220°. However, you also will have a microwave setting – with several power settings, probably labelled Max, High, Med and Defrost. Microwave and High…. on an empty oven – knackered magnetron.

‘Chlorination’ of drinking water varies from country to country. Here is an article that is relevant to the UK, unlike the one posted above: https://thewaterprofessor.com/blogs/articles/chlorine-in-tap-water It is commercial article and not dated but it does make the point that chloramine rather than chlorine is now used for water treatment by water companies in much of the UK.

I’m not in a position to review the article, but from memory, chloramine is a balanced mixture of chlorine and ammonia – does the sterilisation without the acidification – in fact it wouldn’t surprise me if it sends pH up if you then boil off the chlorine.

Wavechange – The original point I attempted to convey was, in my case, there was no problem with my little well used travel kettle, so the problem had to be with the water, albeit a one off event, but I certainly learned a lot in the process.

Having browsed through the links, I think I will continue to use the filter as the safest option. Your offer of a “passible cup” was much appreciated, as long as it is caffeine free as too much caffeine tends to give me palpitations and tremors 🙁

Roger Pittock says: Today 10:42

Not to be too pedantic, but I thought Chlorine was a gas.

It is – but that doesn’t mean it cannot be mixed with water. Chlorine truly does dissolve unlike the examples I give – to make small concentrations of acids.

Indeed. But once dissolved it’s no longer Chlorine, I believe. As you point out, it is something else – hypochlorous acid, for example.

Yes, although chlorine gas appears very soluble in water it reacts with water to produce hypochlorous acid and hydrochloric acid.

Beryl – I will have to work on ‘caffeine-free’ coffee. A strange concept for me. 🙂

Wavechange – ongoing research suggests caffeine has a bronchodilatory effect in asthma, proof that one mans meat could be another mans poison?

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7053252

That is a reliable source of information, Beryl, but the bronchodilatory effect of caffeine has been recognised for years. The common inhalers are very much more effective.

Many CNS stimulants – caffeine is well known – also stimulate the beta cells which does dilate bronchial tubes. In the olden days, many beta stimulants given for asthma had much more alpha stimulation too – sent the heart racing around. Isoprenaline was common in asthma mixtures. Decades ago my “go to” relief tablet when inhalers were maxed out/not effective was alupent. I forget the actual constituents of that, but I knew it was starting to work when my heart began to beat like a drum!

I’m sure they are Wavechange, the point being caffeine, evidently, is still beneficial to you inasmuch as it helps your ailment whereas it impedes mine, although it is well recognised too much caffeine causes hypertension in most, and especially the elderly.