Chemical makeup of tapwater

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In summary, garlic is present in both water and ice cubes made from the home ice maker, but is less prominent in filtered water from work. The chemical makeup of garlic is similar to that of mercaptans, which may be present in the water. Further experimentation is needed to determine the source of the garlic smell.
  • #1

DaveC426913

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I am encountering a phenomenon that I am at a loss to explain. I am finding a distinct odour of garlic in ice cubes and drinking water in my home and at my work. I am wondering what the volatile chemicals in garlic are that might be similar to something in the water.

It happens in two different cities a hundred miles apart (work and home), which rules out many theories.

At home, it is occurs in ice cubes made from my ice maker. They have a very distinct garlic smell to them. This is not just me, others can smell it as well. It easily transfers. If I pick the ice up in my hands, even just tossing them into my glass, my hands will reek of garlic - enough for someone else to conclusively identify it as garlic by the smell on my hands alone.

At my work, I notice it in the filtered water (one of those charcoal filtering systems), though there it is less pronounced.



I can probably look for common causes or mundane connections myself. I'm curious about the chemical makeup of garlic, and if there might be something in the water that's similar.
 
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  • #2
Dave,

I'm going to give this thread a day or two here. If nothing much comes of that, I'll move it to Chemistry, where you'll probably get better inputs on your peculiar problem.
 
  • #3
Gokul43201 said:
Dave,

I'm going to give this thread a day or two here. If nothing much comes of that, I'll move it to Chemistry, where you'll probably get better inputs on your peculiar problem.
Thanks, yeah, that would have been better I suppose. Should have thought of it.
 
  • #4
The stinky stuff in garlic is allicin, which is a thiol (goggle it if you want the actual structure). Common chemicals that smell similar and may well be in your water are mercaptans (RSH). These chemicals make your natural gas stink (t-butyl mercaptan), make onions stink (allyl mercaptan), skunks stink (butyl mercaptan), and make asphalt stink (I believe that's a combination of mercaptans). Don't know what the sorse could be in your area, but when we lived in Pittsburg it was a coke plant down stream.
 
  • #5
DrMark said:
The stinky stuff in garlic is allicin, which is a thiol (goggle it if you want the actual structure). Common chemicals that smell similar and may well be in your water are mercaptans (RSH). These chemicals make your natural gas stink (t-butyl mercaptan), make onions stink (allyl mercaptan), skunks stink (butyl mercaptan), and make asphalt stink (I believe that's a combination of mercaptans). Don't know what the sorse could be in your area, but when we lived in Pittsburg it was a coke plant down stream.
Might it also be present in certain types of plastic or metals such as the tubing to the icemaker? It's newly installed.
 
  • #6
Metals could serve to concentrate sulfur containing compounds (e.g. as MSx) and say with heat release H2S (ever smell a bad catalytic converter). I don't know of any plastics that use mercaptans as platicizers. However sulfonamides are used in some plastics. I have never worked with such compounds so I have no clue as to if they stink. Also it is possible that in the production of the plastic various sulfur impurities could produce thiol compounds (ever smell a tire fire ). A simple experiment would be to eliminate the ice maker and use tap water and see if the ice still stinks.
 
  • #7
Could the garlic odor come from other foods in your refrigerator? Plastics absorb odor it seems.

Also, some well and groundwater may have natural sulfur and sulfur-eating bacteria. We have had to shock our well with chlorine bleach occasionally to get mitigate the bacteria. Are you on a private well (yours) or municipal water distribution system? If on a municipal system, they should be treating with chlorine or ozone, and perhaps fluoride if there is no natural source.

Otherwise, water is H2O with dissolved minerals and metal cations from the ground and any metal piping that is not properly passivated.
 
  • #8
Moving this to Chemistry...perhaps there may be more help out there.
 
  • #9
Well, some insecticides are garlic based, the smell of garlic repels the insects, perhaps some of it is getting into your water system through runoff in a nearby water source and is not being filtered out properly due to its distinctive chemical properties. Not quite sure though.
 
  • #10
Hm. Food for thought.

I'll do more experimenting, thanks.
 
  • #11
So, the ice cubes smell of garlic but fresh water does not? Sounds to me that the ice are laying in an environment together with other foods and take over the taste. Cooks use it to make truffle eggs: just put the egg necks to a piece of truffle and it will start tasting like it.
 
  • #12
Hmmmm...arsenic compunds often smell like garlic...
 
  • #13
pack_rat2 said:
Hmmmm...arsenic compunds often smell like garlic...

If your talking about arsine we wouldn't be seeing him post ;)
 

1. What is tap water made of?

Tap water is primarily composed of water molecules (H2O) along with various dissolved minerals and chemicals, such as calcium, magnesium, chlorine, and fluoride. The exact composition of tap water can vary depending on the source and treatment processes used by the water supplier.

2. How do chemicals get into tap water?

Chemicals can enter tap water through various means, such as agricultural or industrial runoff, sewage treatment plants, and water treatment processes. In some cases, small amounts of chemicals may also be intentionally added to tap water for disinfection or to improve its taste and appearance.

3. Are there any harmful chemicals in tap water?

The presence of potentially harmful chemicals in tap water depends on the source and treatment processes used. In general, tap water in developed countries is regulated and considered safe for consumption. However, some chemicals, such as lead and arsenic, may still be present in trace amounts and can be harmful if consumed in high concentrations over a long period of time.

4. How is tap water treated to remove chemicals?

Tap water goes through a series of treatment processes to remove impurities, including chemicals. These processes may include filtration, disinfection with chlorine or other chemicals, and sometimes advanced technologies like reverse osmosis. The specific treatment methods used can vary depending on the quality of the source water and the regulations set by the water supplier.

5. Can the chemical makeup of tap water affect its taste?

Yes, the presence of certain chemicals in tap water can affect its taste. For example, chlorine is often used as a disinfectant in tap water and can give it a distinct taste and odor. Other minerals and chemicals, such as calcium and magnesium, can also affect the taste of tap water, sometimes making it taste "hard" or "metallic".

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