Water is an essential part of everyday life. From drinking to watering your plants or cleaning up your home. For this very reason, the water you are using must be clean and odorless. Otherwise, there might be something wrong with your water supply.
If you start asking yourself, why does my water smell like sulfur or egg, you might be one of the many households that complain about common water supply problems. Although the problem does not lie on the water supply itself most of the time, there are several reasons behind the foul odor. Some of the most common reasons are the chemical reactions in the water.
While many reasons can cause the rotten egg smell in your water supply, it is not impossible to fix it. Below are some of the probable reasons why your water supply smells bad and possible solutions to this problem.
Possible Causes for the Rotten Smell
If you notice a sulfur smell in water that you are using, it might be because of the high concentration of Hydrogen Sulfide or sulfur bacteria in your water supply. It would be better to check with your neighbours if they are experiencing the same problem with their water. If so, then the problem lies within the water supply of the building. There have been cases of foul odor in the water, even with minimal traces of hydrogen sulfide in the water.
If your hot water smells like a rotten egg, it might be because of the chemical reaction in your water heater. Not using your water heater regularly can cause the hydrogen sulfide to build up, causing the sulfur smell in water.
Sulfur Found in Water
Now that you know that sulfur is generally the cause of the rotten smell in your water, it would be better if you can understand the types of sulfur you can find in your water. Although sulfur is generally present in tap water, it might bring problems if the sulfur reacts with the heat of other chemicals.
Sulfate is sulfur and oxygen combined. It is a mineral naturally found in rock formations and soils that has groundwater. The sulfate in the rocks slowly dissolves in time and mix with the underground water, which is the primary source of most tap water systems.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there are two categories when it comes to the safety of drinking water standards. The first one deals with the consideration that is designed to protect you from toxic components and pollutants found in water. The second one will be based on the staining properties, foaming, corrosivity, odor, color, and taste of water. Checking the amount of sulfate in water will fall under the second category. The maximum amount of sulfate that your water can contain to be considered safe is 250 ppm. However, you do not have to worry, as only 3% of the total water supply exceed this percentage.
2. Hydrogen Sulfide
Hydrogen Sulfide, on the other hand, is a gaseous matter that is produced by sulfur-reducing bacteria as they try to decompose organic matter underground. Sulfur-reducing bacteria can produce hydrogen sulfide by changing the natural sulfate in the water while they use sulfur as sources of energy. These bacteria love environments that lack oxygen, making water technologies like water heaters an ideal place for them to thrive.
Unlike sulfate, the levels of hydrogen sulfide is not regulated by the EPA’s standard. This is because, upon high concentrations, hydrogen sulfide-containing water is already unpalatable. Most concentrations in tap water do not exceed ten ppm. However, there have previously been reported cases when the level went as high as 75 ppm.
Small concentrations of hydrogen sulfide, sulfate, and sulfur are typically only brushed off as a nuisance rather than a problem. Their unpleasant taste and odor already prevent people from consuming it before it reaches high levels of concentration.
On the other hand, you should still keep a keen eye once you notice a foul smell on your water, as sulfur can be corrosive to metals. It can tarnish silver and other metals or discolor brass and copper. Sulfur can also black or yellow stains in your bathroom or kitchen if left alone. The taste and appearance of your meals can also appear different if you accidentally use water with traces of sulfur.
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Ways to Detect Sulfur in Your Water
There are a few ways to determine whether the levels of sulfate and hydrogen sulfide in your water. You can try checking the taste and smell of the water. Another method is by checking is there are stains in your bathroom or kitchen.
Once the sulfate builds up in your water pipes, you may notice a bitter taste in your water. On the other hand, high concentrations can affect how your food and beverage look and taste.
While it produces a bitter taste, it will be hard for you to detect the presence of sulfate in your water since it does not create a foul odor. Unlike sulfate, hydrogen sulfide will give off rotten egg taste and odor. Most people can smell the rotten egg even at a low concentration of 0.5 ppm. It becomes more noticeable at 1-2 ppm concentration. The foul smell can be noticed once you open the faucet or turn on the hot water. Hydrogen Sulfide is volatile once it comes across high temperatures so you might notice the smell when you take a bath with high water temperature.
The presence of sulfur-oxidizing bacteria will cause your water to become darker. It can also leave dark slime in your toilet. Hydrogen sulfide can also affect metals, causing them to corrode and discolor upon long exposure. Your water fixtures might also be stained with black or yellow marks in the presence of hydrogen sulfide.
What You Can Do at Home
Once you are already sure that there is a sulfur present in your water, there are a few ways to get rid of the rotten smell in your water:
1. Clearing Your Pipes
For a fast and effective remedy, you can try cleaning your pipes first by yourself before calling a professional. You can do this by turning on the faucets at home and letting them run for about ten minutes. After this, you can turn them off. This is an effective way to clear your pipes and make the smell cease even by a little.
2. Clearing Your Water Heater
If your water heater smells like rotten eggs, you might want to try flushing it. Drain the valve of your heater by connecting it to a hose and letting the excess water inside runoff. You can do this for about ten minutes before rechecking the quality of the water. Get some water samples by filling a cup and checking if there are sediments of small particles left. If you notice small particles, you can drain your heater until there are no particles left.
3. Disinfecting Your Heater
Another easy fix for your water heater is by purifying it. Turn on your water heater and put the temperature to 160 degrees. Leave the device running for a couple of hours. The heat will kill the bacteria living in your water heater.
4. Adding Water Filter
To take extra precautionary measures, you can also install water filters at home. You will need to replace the filters regularly to make sure that there will be no bacteria build up inside the machine. If you opt to buy a water filter for your home, make sure to replace it once you start smelling something foul.
Removing Foul Odor in Different Water Types at Home
Aside from the steps above that, you can easily follow, removing the smell of rotten egg can also depend on the different types of water where it manifested. Below are the various water types and how you can remove the foul smell from them:
1. Hot Water
Once I noticed that my hot water smells like rotten eggs but not the other tap water at home, I realized that the water heater might be at fault. You can try to clear it or disinfect yourself. However, if this does not solve the problem, you might need to contact repair services and plumbers to prevent further damage to the plumbing system in your home.
2. Treated Water
You should also check whether the rotten smell is limited to the hot water you are using. If not, you can check if the water is being treated. Try to compare the treated water to an untreated sample. If the untreated water does not smell, the problem may be the water softener you are using. Contact a plumber to fix it.
3. All Water
After checking the cold, hot, untreated, and treated water in your home and finding out that all of them are affected, the problem may be due to the underground water supply. You can have your water checked by professionals so you can have an idea about the number of iron bacteria, sulfate, sulfur, and hydrogen sulfide in your water. If you are going to contact a plumber to help you out, pick one that specializes in determining these levels so they can fix it with ease.
Other Ways to Get the Sulfur Out
Since the reason behind this problem is mainly because of chemicals reacting, you can also use chemistry to solve it. You can try other methods such as chlorine injection, aeration, and carbon filters to clean your water source.
Chlorine can help remove the taste, odor, and particles in your water by neutralizing the hydrogen sulfide. It will aggregate the particles for easier removal. Oxygen, through aeration, will also react with the hydrogen sulfide the same way chlorine did. Although it is not as effective as oxygen and chlorine, activated carbon can also help in the removal of sulfur in your water.
Once you realize that your water supply is smelling like rotten eggs, there is no need to panic immediately. You can lessen the effects by doing the steps listed above. For better service and removal, contact plumbers that specialize in the removal of sulfur and other harmful chemicals that may affect your home. You can ask them questions like why does my water smell like egg, and they will surely have the solution you are looking for.