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Why Does My Faucet Water Smell Like Eggs?

why does my faucet water smell like eggs

Have you ever turned on your faucet only to be greeted by an unpleasant smell reminiscent of rotten eggs?

This issue is more common than you might think and can be quite alarming.

As an established Calgary plumbing business, we’ve often encountered problems.

Understanding why your faucet water smells like eggs is crucial for addressing the problem effectively.

The odor typically indicates the presence of hydrogen sulfide gas, which can result from various sources.

Causes of Egg Smell in Faucet Water

Hydrogen Sulfide Gas

One of the primary culprits behind the rotten egg smell in water is hydrogen sulfide gas.

This gas is naturally occurring and can form in groundwater due to the decay of organic matter and the presence of sulfur-reducing bacteria (SRB).

When hydrogen sulfide gas is present in your water supply, even in small amounts, it can impart a strong, unpleasant odor.

Sulfur-Reducing Bacteria (SRB)

Sulfur-reducing bacteria are another common cause of the eggy smell in water.

These bacteria thrive in environments with little to no oxygen, such as deep wells and water heaters.

SRB feed on sulfur compounds in the water, producing hydrogen sulfide as a byproduct. Conditions that favor the growth of SRB include warm temperatures, stagnant water, and the presence of organic materials​.

Water Heater Issues

If the rotten egg smell is only noticeable in your hot water, the issue is likely related to your water heater.

Water heaters can provide an ideal environment for SRB to thrive, especially if the heater has a magnesium anode rod.

This rod, designed to prevent corrosion, can react with sulfur in the water, creating hydrogen sulfide gas. Over time, the anode rod can corrode, exacerbating the issue​.

Well Water Contamination

For those using well water, contamination can also lead to a sulfur smell.

Dirty water leaving a faucet

Groundwater naturally contains some sulfur compounds, but higher concentrations can result from pollution or excessive organic matter in the water. Factors like agricultural runoff, industrial waste, or septic system leaks can introduce additional sulfur into the water supply.

Diagnosing the Source

Identifying Hot vs. Cold Water Smell

Determining whether the smell is present in hot or cold water can help identify the source of the problem.

If the odor is only noticeable in hot water, the water heater is likely the source. If both hot and cold water have the smell, the issue might be with the water supply itself or the plumbing system​.

Testing for Hydrogen Sulfide

Testing your water for hydrogen sulfide can confirm the presence of the gas and help determine its concentration. You can use home testing kits or send a sample to a professional lab for analysis such as water testing in Calgary.

Regular testing is essential, especially if you notice changes in the water’s odor over time​.

Inspecting Water Heaters and Pipes

Visual and chemical inspections of your water heater and plumbing can reveal signs of corrosion and bacterial growth. Look for rust, sediment buildup, and discolored water. Checking the anode rod in your water heater for signs of corrosion can also help identify the problem.

Health Implications of Sulfur Smell

Safety of Drinking Water with Sulfur Odor

Generally, water that smells like sulfur is safe to drink, as hydrogen sulfide gas does not pose significant health risks at low concentrations.

However, the smell can be off-putting, and high levels of hydrogen sulfide can corrode plumbing and fixtures, potentially leading to other issues​.

Potential Health Risks

While hydrogen sulfide itself is not typically harmful at low levels, the presence of the smell can sometimes indicate other, more dangerous contaminants in the water.

For instance, if the odor is due to sewage contamination, there could be harmful bacteria and pathogens present. Therefore, it’s essential to address the issue promptly to ensure your water is safe for all uses.

By understanding the causes and implications of the rotten egg smell in your faucet water, you can take the necessary steps to diagnose and resolve the issue, ensuring your water is clean, safe, and pleasant to use.

Solutions and Preventative Measures for Sulfur Smell in Faucet Water

Flushing the System

One of the quickest ways to address the rotten egg smell in your water is to flush your system. This involves running water through your pipes to remove any stagnant water that might be harboring bacteria. To flush your system:

  1. Run the Water: Turn on all faucets and let the water run for several minutes. This can help clear out the stagnant water in the pipes.
  2. Flush the Water Heater: Drain your water heater to remove sediment and bacteria. Attach a hose to the drain valve, turn off the power, and let the water flow out until it runs clear. This process can help eliminate any hydrogen sulfide gas that has accumulated in the tank.​.

Replacing the Anode Rod

If the smell is coming from your hot water, the anode rod in your water heater might be the problem.

The anode rod is designed to prevent corrosion, but over time it can react with sulfur and produce hydrogen sulfide gas. Replacing the anode rod can help mitigate this issue:

  1. Turn Off the Water Heater: Ensure the power and water supply to the heater are off.
  2. Remove the Old Anode Rod: Use a wrench to unscrew the anode rod from the top of the heater.
  3. Install the New Anode Rod: Insert the new rod and tighten it securely. Use plumber’s tape to ensure a good seal.
  4. Restore Power and Water: Turn the water supply and power back on, and check for any leaks​​.

Long-term Solutions

Installing Water Filtration Systems

To prevent the sulfur smell in the long run, consider installing a water filtration system. Various filters can effectively remove hydrogen sulfide from your water:

  1. Activated Carbon Filters: These filters absorb hydrogen sulfide and other contaminants, improving water quality and taste.
  2. Reverse Osmosis Systems: This method forces water through a semi-permeable membrane, removing many impurities, including hydrogen sulfide.
  3. Oxidizing Filters: These filters convert hydrogen sulfide into sulfate, which is then removed from the water​ .

Water Softening Systems

Water softeners can also help reduce sulfur bacteria in your water.

These systems replace calcium and magnesium ions in the water with sodium or potassium ions, which can help inhibit the growth of sulfur-reducing bacteria:

  1. Install the Water Softener: Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to install the system, or hire a professional to ensure it’s done correctly.
  2. Regular Maintenance: Keep the system in good working order by adding salt and cleaning the brine tank as needed.

Professional Treatments

For persistent issues, professional treatments might be necessary. Professionals can provide more thorough solutions, including:

  1. Shock Chlorination: A more concentrated chlorine treatment applied to the entire water system.
  2. Aeration Systems: These systems expose water to air, which helps to oxidize and remove hydrogen sulfide gas.
  3. Advanced Filtration: Professional-grade filtration systems can be installed to provide long-term solutions to sulfur and other contaminants in your water​.

Preventative Measures

Regular Maintenance of Water Heaters and Wells

Regular maintenance is key to preventing the return of sulfur smells in your water. This includes:

  1. Annual Water Heater Inspection: Have your water heater inspected and serviced annually to check for any signs of corrosion or bacteria buildup.
  2. Well Maintenance: If you use well water, have your well inspected and tested regularly to ensure it’s free from contaminants​ 

Conclusion

Addressing the rotten egg smell in your faucet water involves understanding the cause, implementing immediate solutions, and taking long-term preventive measures.

Regular maintenance and professional inspections can help ensure your water remains clean, safe, and free from unpleasant odors.

George Pinel
George Pinel

Master Plumber

I have been involved in this family owned business for 33 years now.

It has always been and will continue to be the core focus of Instant Plumbing & Heating to provide a long lasting relationship with our customers based on trust and integrity of our service and products.

This achieved by using the best quality materials. I as a business owner continue to mentor and treat my staff with the highest regard and respect, this interns helps them deliver to the client great quality workmanship and service.

It is our professional goal to leave a situation better than when we arrived both in how we do our work and in how you feel for having chosen us to do your work, we are in the anxiety reduction business using plumbing and heating service work to do it.

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