I had a question relating to chemistry and biology, so please tell me if this is suited better for the Chemistry website.

My question was, if water dissolves salt by separating the two ions, the Na+ ion and the Cl - ion, then why do we still taste salt in the water? The ions in the salt are still separated, so wouldn't the water not taste like salt?

(Any help on fixing this question would be appreciated)

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    $\begingroup$ We taste things in solution, either in liquids, in saliva, or a combination of both. Salt also separates into ions in the saliva on our tongues, the water in our mashed potatoes, the juice on our steaks, etc. If our tongue was perfectly dry, salt would not taste salty (nor would it "dissolve" on our tongues, as it does). That's what we are tasting: salt in solution as water, Na+ and Cl-. Like seawater. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 1, 2015 at 6:13

1 Answer 1


Perception of saltiness is because of the sodium ion. At concentrations ≤ 100mM, sodium ions elicit a taste response pathway which is inhibited by a small molecule called amiloride. Other monovalent cations do not elicit this "amiloride-sensitive" response.

At higher concentrations sodium ions elicit a non-amiloride sensitive response; other ions like K+ also elicit this response.

The Epithelial sodium channel — ENaC, is responsible for sodium taste perception (amiloride sensitve) and there are distinct population of taste receptor cells that express this channel (Chandrashekar et al., 2010).

So other sodium salts like NaNO3 would also taste salty (the anions can surely have some role in the difference of taste)


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