Why Does My Water Smells Like Rotten Eggs? [Answered]

by Jay | Last Updated:  Last updated on December 4th, 2022,

Have you ever experienced gulping some water only to realize it tastes like some nasty rotten eggs?


That must, and organic compounds from plants produce odor taste decays typically in reservoirs and lakes.

Depending on your area, water with the rotten egg smell most likely has the chemical hydrogen sulfide gas. This taste puts many people off, but it’s a good thing that this isn’t harmful to the health. But, this is worth reporting to your local Health Department.

If you want to ensure that your water is safe for your family’s consumption, you may opt to have it tested by state-certified laboratories. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency State Certification Program provides a list of credible labs.

Important things to note

  • Although a rotten egg smell does not typically mean that your water is not safe for drinking, this may still be a sign of harmful water contamination in rare cases.
  • There are different ways to solve this problem.
  • Across the USA, over 316 chemicals were detected in drinking water. Yikes!

Identifying the cause

One of the first things you should do upon smelling rotten eggs in your water is to locate the source. Then, follow these steps to determine what is causing the smell.

  1. Does the smell come from the cold water faucet? If NO, it’s a water heater problem
  2. Check the water softener
  3. After running your water for a few minutes
  4. If the smell continues, the hydrogen sulfide gas will likely be in the groundwater.
  5. If the smell goes away, it’s likely that the sulfur bacteria in the well or plumbing system.

Hydrogen sulfide hazards

The problem with hydrogen sulfide is that it can corrode metals and induce black stains on silverware and plumbing systems. In the long run, the pipes can be damaged. So while drinking water with a nasty rotten egg smell is almost always safe, remember that in rare events, this may also mean that this odor is from the sewage or other contaminants in your water supply.

How sulfur is created

The smell of sulfur is produced when sulfur bacteria break down organic waste and release hydrogen sulfide gas, which frequently has a rotten egg aroma. Because sulfur bacteria are naturally prevalent in groundwater, the odor is most likely the result of reactions in your hot water and is not harmful to your health.

It’s not uncommon to notice an unusual odor emanating from your water, especially if you get your water from a well or another source. Water that smells strongly of sulfur or rotten eggs is most often caused by the presence of “sulfur bacteria” or hydrogen sulfide.

While the smell of sulfur in your water is not always dangerous, it may indicate high amounts of pollution or chemicals. Over 316 pollutants have been discovered in water reservoirs across the United States, and it is critical to determine the source of the odor to maintain safe, clean drinking water.

What causes sulfur in water?

If your water smells strongly of sulfur or rotten eggs, the presence of “sulfur bacteria” or hydrogen sulfide is most likely to blame. Sulfur bacteria thrive in oxygen-depleted habitats such as deep wells or plumbing systems, feeding on decaying organic matter and hydrogen sulfide gas trapped in water sources.

If you only smell sulfur when you turn on the hot water, the source could be your water heater. When you utilize hot water, reactions between the magnesium rod and aluminum in your water heater produce hydrogen sulfide gas, which gives off a stronger sulfur odor.

Things you can do

Here are some tricks you may try in events when you detect some unusual odor in your water supply.

  • Contact a boiler inspector if your hot water smells like rotten eggs. This may be a water heater issue.
  • Suppose the water treated with a water softener smells like rotten eggs rather than the untreated water. In that case, this may indicate sulfur bacteria in the water softener. If this is so, the water softener may need to be replaced.
  • If hot and cold faucet water smells strong the first few seconds after turning it on and diminishes as the water runs, it may be due to sulfur bacteria in the distribution system or the well. Another possible reason is that there may be hydrogen sulfide in the groundwater. These are more dangerous problems and may need immediate attention.

How to get the rotten egg smell out of your drinking water?

Carbon filters

Activated carbon filters can help remove hydrogen sulfide from water as carbon absorbs this chemical. But, ensure that the carbon filter is frequently replaced, especially if your water contains moderate to high hydrogen sulfide levels.

Chlorination

Chlorine can turn water with hydrogen sulfide into a tasteless and odorless supply. However, little chlorine, such as your laundry bleach, can effectively eradicate hydrogen sulfide.

Aeration

Oxygen forms odorless and dissolved sulfur upon contact with hydrogen sulfide. Aeration may also form yellow sulfur particles. To do so, compressed air is injected into the system and then removed afterward.

Rotten egg odor and health risks

Sulfur levels of 100 PPM and up may cause some hazardous risks. Thankfully, those found in home water supplies and well water are only in the 1-5 PPM range. But here are some of the health risks rotten egg odor may cause:

Immediate/short-term exposure to low concentration

  • Irritation of eyes, nose, and throat
  • Irritation of the respiratory system, especially in asthma patients

Repeated/prolonged exposure to low concentration

  • Headache
  • Eye inflammation
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Digestive disturbances
  • Weight loss

Moderate concentration

  • Severe eye irritation
  • Severe respiratory irritation
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Staggering
  • Excitability

High concentration

  • Coma
  • Death
  • Shock
  • Convulsions
  • Extreme rapid unconsciousness
  • Inability to breathe

As per OSHA, 250 PPM levels of sulfate or higher in water induce a laxative effect. This can easily be tested with a test kit or a laboratory analysis. On the other hand, hydrogen sulfide is a gas and must therefore be examined on-site.

Jay

Self assessed Germaphobe, specializing in everything water, water filters, health and nutrition. Diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, I've acquired immense amount of knowledge when it comes to natural, biology, and everything about human anatomy.