You’re here because your water smells like rotten eggs. It’s a common problem. In fact, depending on where you find yourself in the country, it may be something of a standard. But why does your well water smell like rotten eggs? The most likely reason is the presence of sulfur somewhere in your pipes. This can be caused by a range of factors, including the decomposition of plant material.

Not as alarming as it could be, right? But also not something that you should have to live with. In this article, we answer every conceivable question relating to sulfur smell in water.

Causes Behind Water Smells Like Rotten Eggs or Sulfur

We talked a little bit about the cause of why water smells like eggs. While we came to the conclusion that a rotten egg smell in the water is likely caused by carbon, we didn’t quite get into how the carbon got there in the first place.

So, how is carbon causing a rotten egg smell in water? Let’s take a closer look at a few potential sources to the problem.

  • Hydrogen Sulfide: Hydrogen sulfide or sulfur bacteria is a potential cause for why your water smells like sulfur. When well water smells like eggs because of Hydrogen sulfide, there is little to concern yourself with. Hydrogen sulfide develops in oxygen-poor environments. While you will want to investigate the cause, the actual threat level is low.
  • Carbon: When organic matter comes into contact with water, it eventually decays into a state of carbon. While carbon that is a by-product of plant decay smells very unpleasant, it is not extremely risky.
  • Sewage: Naturally, of all the potential culprits discussed thus far, sewage infiltration is by far the most serious. Though rare, sewage lines can cross with your tap or well water. When this happens, the potential health risks are enormous. If you have reason to believe that this might be happening at your house, contact a professional for mitigation right away!

What is the Hydrogen Sulfide and Sulfur Bacteria, Anyway!

 As briefly mentioned above, hydrogen sulfide or sulfur bacteria is a byproduct of oxygen-poor aquatic locations. Consequentially, it is a commonly occurring phenomenon that you can encounter in a wide variety of different locations.

This includes everything from lakes to wells, hot springs, and even rivers. Smell is a dependable way to detect hydrogen sulfur in your water, but there are a number of reasons you will want to investigate a little bit further. The main reason is that, as explained above, there is a wide range of other causes that can contribute to a sulfur smell in the water.

You certainly don’t want to go around thinking you have hydrogen sulfide in the water when really you have a sewage problem! While there are a number of ways to detect hydrogen sulfide in the water, the most accurate and straightforward way is to invest in a hydrogen sulfide detector. These are, as their name suggests, specifically designed for detecting sulfur bacteria in the water.

Not only are they highly accurate, but they are also widely available. You can find these detectors at hardware stores, or online. The best part? Once you do finally invest, you will have the detector forever! This will make it much easier to keep your water healthy in the long term.

Is Sulfur Water Dangerous?

Some level of sulfur in your water is pretty typical. Indeed, you’ve probably ingested a significant amount of sulfur over time and never known the difference. In very small quantities, sulfur in your water is not only harmless but also unlikely to be detected.

That said, if you can smell the sulfur in your water, it’s reasonable to assume that your levels are higher than average. Depending on how high they are, sulfur in your water can be a little bit dangerous. The risks will vary based both on how much sulfur is on the water, and on the state of your personal health.

Healthy people can generally drink sulfur water without encountering any serious symptoms. However, infants, the elderly, and people with underlining health conditions are all at risk for adverse reactions to drinking high quantities of sulfur water.

Additionally, even healthy people may experience stomach cramps or diarrhea from drinking excessive sulfur in their water. Bottom line? Your level of personal risk may be relatively low, but it’s still something you are going to want to avoid.

Anyway, even if there was no physical risk, no one wants a sulfur smell in well water.

Expert Advice:

We’ve taken a pretty in-depth look at what it means to notice that your well water smells. When your well water smells like sulfur it’s never a good thing, but it’s also possible to nip the problem in the bud before you ever notice the unpleasant symptoms.

Today, we have two pro tips that may help you to not just reduce the hazards of when your tap water smells like rotten eggs, but also to avoid water problems altogether.

Pro Tip 1:

Get your water tested regularly. That’s right. Water testing is a valuable way to gain important insights about the quality of your water. Those that want to figure out how to get rid of rotten egg smell in water should first learn everything they can about what’s in there in the first place.

Water that has been thoroughly tested will teach you a lot about what is happening in your pipes. You can get water testing devices at any hardware store. People who use well water will be particularly interested in getting their water tested regularly.

Pro Tip 2:

Water Filter: Water filters can’t completely eliminate a problem like sulfur in the water but it can definitely go a long way towards eliminating some of your most serious problems. For example, a good water filter will improve the taste of your water while also reducing the reasons why your well water smells like eggs.

These pro tips are definitely going to go a long way towards helping you with your water problems. However, if you still need a little bit of extra help, read on to find out how to get rid of rotten egg smell in water.

How to Get Rid of Rotten Egg Smell in Water

Alright, so we have explained why your water smells bad. We’ve even discussed a few ways you can help to improve the overall health of your tap water. But how can we get rid of the rotten egg smell that is already there?

That question doesn’t have such a quick answer. Read on below for a detailed explanation of exactly what it will take to get rid of rotten egg smells in water.

First-thing-1st: Determining (Troubleshoot) the Source:

Diagnosing the problem is going to be your first and most important step. To perform a self-diagnosis, pay attention to several factors.

  • Smell: Is it more of a sulfur smell, or a rotten egg odor? A sulfur smell probably suggests that you are dealing with sulfur bacteria while a strictly rotten egg smell is more indicative of carbon rot. Different problems require different solutions so it is important to be precise.
  • Potency: How bad is the smell? The extent of the odor will likely give you a hint as to how bad the problem is.
  • Water quality: What did a water test suggest? Science won’t lie!

If the problem is in Plumbing System: How to Fix?

How it gets there:

If the problem is in your plumbing, it likely means that some form of organic rot has somehow crept into your pipes.

How to fix it:

There are many ways to get rid of bad smells that come from your plumbing. For an organic solution, consider using a large pot of boiling water and baking soda. This will serve to not only purify the pipes, but also to eliminate the smell.

If the problem is in Water Softener: How to Fix?

How it gets there:

Water softener tanks can easily become infected with sulfur bacteria over time. Indeed, if your tank isn’t being regularly cleaned and maintained (no judgement!) this is an inevitability.

How to fix it:

As with any other sulfur bacteria-related issue, the problem can be solved with maintenance. A good scrub of the tank will go a long way towards mitigating the condition. Flushing the system with a chlorine bleach combo will eliminate bacteria and get the tank working as good as new again.

If the problem is in the Water Heater: How to Fix?

How it gets there:

If the smell is being caused by your water heater, it’s likely an issue caused by an unfortunate combination of chemicals. Namely? High magnesium. Fortunately, the fix isn’t very difficult.

How to fix it:

You can fix the overall problem by heating your water heater up to 165 degrees, then flushing it with a chlorine bleach combination. You can further improve the situation by using a water heater odor killer kit.

Well Water Smells like Rotten Eggs or Sulfur: How to Fix

Unfortunately, people who use well water are the most at risk to experience an egg or sulfur stench. However, understanding the problem can do much to help you fight back against it.

How it gets there:

A number of factors can cause well water to start smelling like rotten eggs. Wells can easily be infiltrated by decay, making this one potential source of the problem. Like all of the other sources discussed above, they may also just develop sulfur bacteria over time through lack of maintenance.

How to rid of:

Chlorine is probably your best bet for getting rid of a rotten egg or sulfur smell from your well. You can dose the well on a one-time basis to experience temporary relief lasting for several months. For longer-term results, consider installing a chlorine injector that will regularly dose you well.

Improve Your Drinking Water by Water Filtration Gear

A healthy collection of water filtration gear can also go a long way towards helping you successfully eliminate any unpleasant odors you might be encountering in your home. Here are some water filtration/supplemental resources you can use to fight back against a rotten stench from your pipes.

Here is some water filtration gear you may wish to invest in to get rid of a rotten egg smell in your water.

  • Excellent water filter
  • Water tester
  • Purification chemicals

FAQs

Q. Does boiling water removes rotten egg or sulfur smell ?

Depending on the nature of your problem, boiling water may be enough to at least help with the issue. Boiling water mixed with baking soda is an organic, chemical-free way to kill bacteria or carbon buildup in your pipes. For mild problems, it may be the perfect solution. Unfortunately, more severe problems will require chemical intervention.

Q. Is it safe to shower in water that smells like sulfur or rotten egg?

Water with a high level of carbon or sulfur is safe to bathe in. However, if you are worried that the problem may be sewage-related—rare but possible—you should avoid using the water until you can get professional intervention.

Q. Why does water smells like sulfur after vacation?

Bacteria has an easier time accumulating when your water hasn’t been active. It’s likely that you already had a bacteria issue before you left for vacation, which increased while you were away.

Q. Why does water smells like sulfur in one faucet?

While it is unusual for only one faucet to smell like sulfur, it is possible. The culprit is likely just the way your plumbing is arranged. It may be that bacteria has accumulated nearest the plumbing that feeds that faucet.

Q. Only my hot water smells like sulfur. Why?

It may seem odd that only your hot water comes out smelling like sulfur, but it’s actually a very helpful indicator of what sort of problem you are up against. Generally speaking, hot water that smells like sulfur is an indication that you have some sulfur bacteria in your water.

This issue may make your showers a little less pleasant than you prefer, but it isn’t dangerous. You can still use your hot water while the issue is being solved. However, to remove the unpleasant smell, you will want to flush the tank with chlorine right away.

Marc Edwards
Marc EdwardsView all Posts

Marc Edwards is an accomplished plumber and author. He has managed to combine his interests in building and plumbing with a writing hobby. Marc writes articles on plumbing insights that are useful to both homeowners and expert plumbers. He also trains young apprentices in his plumbing agency.

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