Common Water Smells and Their Causes

Since water is an essential commodity, your home should have a constant, clean water supply for drinking, cooking, and cleaning. Though pure water should not have a smell, your household sometimes has odors, rendering the water unsafe for consumption and other uses, like cooking and bathing.


Water odors could be from the source or the faucets. For example, if your well is contaminated, water from all the taps will have a similar odor. On the other hand, if a faucet causes the problem, only water from that faucet will have an odor. Read on to learn about some common water smells and their causes.


Rotten Egg Smell

A rotten egg smell in water mainly comes from bacterial activity. The source of the smell could be your drain, water heater, or water source.




If the smell is from your drains, the culprit is food waste, hair, or grease that finds its way into your drains. All this organic matter provides food for bacteria, which produce the rotten eggs smell.


To determine if the smell is coming from the drains, put some water in a glass and smell it when away from the taps and sinks. If the water in the glass is odorless, the problem is in your drains. Flush and disinfect your drain to solve this problem.


Water Heater


If the rotten eggs smell is from your water heater, you should only smell the odor from hot water. The smell from your water heater could result from corroded aluminum or magnesium anode rod or a high concentration of sulfur-reducing bacteria count in your water heater. The rotten egg odor is the smell of hydrogen sulfide produced when the sulfur-reducing bacteria feed on the sulfur in the water.


To eliminate the smell, hire a plumber to flush and disinfect your water tank and replace the corroded magnesium rod with better alternatives, like aluminum.


Water Source


If water from all your faucets has a rotten egg smell, the problem is most likely your water source. If you have a personal well, the smell could be coming from natural decay and chemical reactions in the well or from sulfur bacteria in the water.


The best way to eliminate the rotten egg odor from your well water is to add chlorine to kill the sulfur bacteria.


Bleach Smell

Water smells like bleach when it has too much chlorine. Your water supplier adds chlorine to water to kill harmful bacteria, viruses, and parasites. This smell should go away after running the water for some minutes. However, if the smell persists, call a plumber to flush the water systems.


Dirty or Earthy Smell

A dirty or earthy smell is common in well water with iron bacteria. Iron bacteria thrive in wells with high levels of iron and form when iron mix with oxygen. If your water has iron bacteria, you will notice slime in your plumbing fixtures, as the bacteria produce the slime after feeding on iron. To eliminate the odor, chlorinate your well to kill the iron bacteria.


Fishy Smell

Your water will smell fishy if it has decaying organic matter or high levels of metals like cadmium and barium. These metals from industrial waste and fertilizers seep into water systems through old and damaged pipes.


While smelly water is not always a health concern, the smell discourages the intake and use of the water. Most of the above cases are minor, but others, like seepage of sewage and heavy metals, may require more precaution for the safety of users. No matter the cause of the smell, you should contact a professional to advise you and solve the problem.


At Quality Plumbing, we have the skills and equipment required to provide various plumbing services, from repairs to installing band new systems. Contact us today, and we’ll answer all your questions.