Is That Chlorine Smell In My Tap Water OK?

Why does city water have a strong chlorine smell? Do water filters, like the PUR, effectively filter city water and, if so, what gets taken out?

—J.P. Miller, Hudson, WI

chlorine smell
Credit: Ricky Romero, FlickrCC

As a highly efficient disinfectant, chlorine is added to city water to kill any bacteria that the water may contain. After this required chlorination, small amounts of chlorine remain in the water. This residual chlorine kills pathogenic microorganisms. According to Brian Cohen at the Environmental Working Group, trace chlorine is necessary because bacteria can grow in pipes and be picked up on the way from the water plant to the user’s home. If it’s the smell that bothers you, expose water in a clear, uncovered bottle to the sun’s rays for an hour, or leave water in the refrigerator for 24 hours to volatilize out the chlorine.

Over the course of a lifetime, the health effects of drinking small amounts of chlorine, a poison as well as a disinfectant, are unknown. As a concerned consumer, there are many filters to chose from which will remove residual chlorine and other contaminants that may remain in tap water after treatment. PUR water filters seem to be a reputable choice. The PUR Plus model removes 98 percent of chlorine and lead, and 97 percent of lindane (a herbicide) and atrazine (a pesticide). Other contaminants that may be removed are mercury, asbestos, and sediment like rust that can be picked up in old pipes.


Environmental Working Group
1718 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 600
Washington, DC 20009
Tel: (202) 667-6982

9300 North 75th Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55428
Tel: (800) 787-5463.