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How to Remove the Rotten Egg Smell in Water

Written by:
George Simms
​Plumber & Contractor

If you smell a putrid odor whenever you turn on your kitchen, bathroom, or shower faucets, this indicates there’s some kind of problem with an aspect of your water supply or plumbing system. 

In instances like these, it’s useful to know how to locate the rotten egg smell source. Is it coming from your pipes, water heater, your household’s groundwater supply, or the new water softener you installed last year? 

"Once you understand this odor’s origin, you can follow a few simple steps to help solve the problem and eliminate the smell."

What’s Causing the Rotten Egg Smell in Your Water?

If there’s a rotten egg smell in your water, it probably means there is hydrogen sulfide gas in your household’s supply. 

This gas is produced when organic material decomposes in and around groundwater reserves. It can also exist in sandstone wells, coal deposits, and in areas with lots of sedimentary rocks. Sometimes, you’ll find a small amount of hydrogen sulfide in your water heater or water softener system.

In addition to emitting a putrid odor, this gas can also have harmful effects on your physical health. If you breathe in too much hydrogen sulfide, you can damage your respiratory system and trigger feelings of nausea. 

Look for signs of corrosion in your plumbing system and dark marks around your faucets or on your dishes. These are telltale signs that there are sulfur molecules in your water.

How to Find the Source of the Smell 

You must be systematic when you’re searching for the source of the rotten egg smell. Here are some useful steps to take. 

Step 1: Check each of your faucets

Go around your house and turn on each faucet, in each case smelling the running water. Try to determine whether the smell is coming from the hot or cold faucet or both. If you can only smell the aroma when you turn on the hot tap, you can deduce that the hydrogen sulfide gas is coming from your water heater. If the distinctive odor comes from the cold faucet, move onto the next step in this process.

Step 2: Check faucets that don’t link up to your water softener

This step only applies to households that have water softener operating units. If you don’t have one of these, but the smell is coming from your cold taps, move on to the last step.

There should be several faucets in your household that aren’t connected to your water softener system. Go to these, turn them on, and smell the running water. If this water doesn’t carry an unpleasant odor, you can assume the sulfur bacteria source in your household supply is your water softener. If you can still smell the stench of rotten eggs, move on to the last step. 

Step 3: Keep the water running and see if the smell changes 

Keep the water running and monitor the smell closely. If it becomes less powerful for 2-3 minutes, this is a sign that there are sulfates or sulfur microbes in your household’s plumbing network or well supply. 

"If the smell remains the same for several minutes, there’s likely an excess amount of hydrogen sulfide in your groundwater supply. "

How to Remove the Smell From Your Water Supply

Once you’ve zoned in on the source of the rotten egg smell in your water, you can address the problem effectively and efficiently. You’ll need to modify your approach, depending on where the hydrogen sulfide is coming from.

1. By Using Water heater 

If you think the smell is due to a problem with your water heater, call a licensed plumber to sort out the issue. They’ll probably take out the magnesium anode that sits at the top of the heater and replace it with a new one

The magnesium anode works as a sacrificial rod, reacting with the oxygen in the tank’s water to prevent this oxygen from rusting the tank’s inner lining. This process is useful, but it means that the rod corrodes quickly. When it breaks down, the magnesium reacts with any sulfate molecules in the water supply, creating hydrogen sulfide gas.

Your plumber may also use chlorine-based solutions like bleach to sanitize and disinfect the water in your heater. If you do this yourself, wear rubber household gloves to protect your skin against irritation.  

If you don’t want to use bleach, try turning the heater’s internal temperature up to between 160-170°F for a few hours. After three hours, drain or flush out your water heater to eliminate sulfur microbes.

2. Buy a Water softener 

If you think the rotten eggs smell is coming from your water softener unit, get in touch with the manufacturer or installer’s customer service department. They should send over an expert who can install a form of activated carbon or implement a chlorine-based shock treatment to get rid of any harmful bacteria.

You can also call your state health department if you’re having trouble communicating with the machine’s manufacturer.

3. Repair Your Well or Plumbing 

Contact your local council or hire a professional water well contractor who can effectively treat and destroy the sulfur microbes in your well or plumbing system.

4. Check Groundwater supply 

If you’re sure the problem is due to the presence of hydrogen sulfide or sulfur molecules in your household’s groundwater supply, contact local authorities to see if there’s a possibility of creating a new, man-made well in a safer area. 

You might also want to install a premium-quality water softener system if you don’t already have one. Make sure you’re getting a unit with integrated carbon and oxidizing media. These filters are designed to remove gases like hydrogen sulfide from your water supply.

The Takeaway

When you smell a rotten egg odor coming from your running water, this is a sign that there is hydrogen sulfide gas in your household supply. If that’s the case, find the source of these sulfur microbes systematically. Once you’ve figured out the origin of this problem, you can put measures in place that remove this potentially harmful gas from your water supply.

About the Author

George Simms is a Salt Lake City based plumber and contractor, with a focus on aiding homes and businesses (particularly farm) solve problems with hard and contaminated water. Walter is here to share his wealth of job experience and a knowledge of both modern and antique plumbing.

Last Updated on December 9, 2021