Freshwater Worries

Maintenance Q & A — September 2004
By Capt. Ken Kreisler

Freshwater Worries
Problems with an aluminum water tank, keeping Sunbrella canvas clean and waterproof, and more.
 More of this Feature
• Problems with water tank
• Keeping Sunbrella canvas clean and waterproof, and more
• PMY Tries... The FilterGlove

 Related Resources
• Maintenance Q&A Index

I’d like to install a water filter on my boat that will remove the bad taste from my aluminum tank. What are my options, and what do you recommend? D.N., via e-mail
I’m assuming yours is an older boat, as polyethylene or stainless steel are now the preferred materials for water tanks. The first problem is that your aluminum tank is prone to pitting and corrosion. And unless it’s lined with a potable epoxy coating (unlikely), corrosion will build up on the inside. (Lined aluminum tanks have problems as well, as any interior crack can also lead to corrosion.) Such deposits can take the form of anything from sand-like grains to pebbles. If either get into your water pump, the result can be a pump failure.

Another problem is that standing water in the tank naturally develops an unpleasant odor and taste. You can remove much of the taste and odor by adding bleach to the tank, but use no more than a capful or two, and completely flush the tank with fresh water after letting it sit for a few minutes. (Make sure to fill your tanks with a hose made for potable water. It should be white, not green, and the package should state that it is designed to carry drinking water.) If you put too much bleach in or let the mixture sit too long, the bleach can form aluminum oxide on the inside of the tank. Once it is clean, you may want to think about draining your water tank when it’s not in use.

An in-line filter will also help, but keep in mind that while it may remove sediment, dirt, odor, and some chemicals, it won’t remove germs and bacteria. The only way to do that is with either a water treatment system that includes an ultraviolet sterilizer or a reverse-osmosis watermaker that contains one.

As far as how to go about picking an in-line filter, West Marine offers a helpful chart in its catalog that explains the different kinds of filters and the types of impurities that each filter removes. The free catalog is available online at

Next page > Keeping Sunbrella canvas clean, and more > Page 1, 2, 3

This article originally appeared in the August 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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