What is Causing My Water Smelly?

Woman Pinches Nose

Smelly water has a handful of common causes, depending on the smell. The usual odors are sulfur (aka “the rotten egg smell”), sewage, and chlorine bleach, which are caused by naturally occurring anaerobic bacteria and chemicals that accumulate in wells, water heaters, pipes, and sinks. Decaying organic matter (i.e. your hair, soaps, or food waste) can also cause your water to smell bad.

Why does my water smell like sulfur?

The common source of smelly water is water heaters. Anaerobic bacteria that naturally occur in water can react with the magnesium and aluminum anodes to produce hydrogen sulfide gas. If you notice the rotten egg smell when you run hot water but not cold, this is probably what’s going on.

It’s also common for water to smell like rotten eggs after the water heater has been idle. For example, you might turn your water heater off before going on vacation and discover a sulfur odor upon turning it back on once you’ve returned.

This is most common in our region. People can detect hydrogen sulfide gas at levels as low as 0.5 parts per million (ppm). At levels lower than 1 ppm, hydrogen sulfide produces a musty smell. Between 1 and 2 ppm, you’ll experience the rotten egg odor.

Why does my water smell like sewage?

If your smelly water reeks of sewage, it’s probably not coming from your water heater but rather from your sink and pipes.

Bacteria from soaps and decaying food, hair, or other organic matter can produce a heavy gas that sits in the pipes. When you turn on the faucet, the water pushes the gas out, making it appear is if the water smells. One way to check is to fill a glass with water, walk to another part of the room, and smell the water. If the water doesn’t smell, then the source is the drain. If the water does smell, the source is your water heater.

When the source is your drain, you can fix the problem by disinfecting your drains with soap and water. If the hot water heater is the source, you can try turning up the temperature for 24 hours and running hot water to kill and flush out the bacteria from the pipes. Just remember to use caution because you could accidentally scald yourself while the water is coming out hotter.

Why does my water smell like bleach?

The bleach smell is a result of too much chlorine in your water. If you’ve ever swum in a swimming pool shortly after it had been treated with chlorine, you already know the smell. The EPA actually requires chlorine to be in public water because it’s the best disinfectant in terms of safety and effectiveness. The chlorine is crucial to killing bacteria, viruses, and parasites as water travels to its point of use. The limit is 4 mg/L, but people can smell it as low as 1 mg/L.

In instances where water has to travel a considerable distance to reach its point of use, it might be necessary to add more chlorine to the water to keep it fresher for longer. This could be one cause of why your water smells like chlorine.

Why does my water smell fishy?

Fishy-smelling water can be due to the presence of barium, cadmium, chloramine, or even algal blooms.

Barium is a metal found in mineral ores. It can seep into wells and pipes, causing the odd fishy odor. Cadmium is also a metal that can seep into pipes from industrial waste or fertilizer contamination.

If your water has enough ammonia in it, the ammonia can react with the chlorine that the EPA adds to disinfect your water to form chloramine. The fishy smell of your water could be attributed to the presence of this compound.

In some cases, lakes and reservoirs can have algal blooms form during the summer. Depending on where you get your water, algae particles could seep into your drinking water causing a musty, mildew-y, or fishy smell. While this isn’t a direct threat to your health, it would be a good idea to alert your water company.

Get Rid of Your Smelly Water

One of the things you can do to get fresher water in your home is to install the correct water treatment system. You may currently have one installed in your home, but it may not be designed to address odors from your water. Clearwater Systems because is an independent dealer that can offer you several solutions to either compliment your current water treatment system or offer the whole house solution you need. Clearwater Systems offers Kinetico products – a leading brand in water treatment solutions. Contact us today to schedule a free water analysis and to talk to one of our knowledgeable sales representatives.