How to Identify & Cure Sulphur Smells or Odors in Drinking Water
- WATER ODOR DIAGNOSIS - SULPHUR - CONTENTS: How to get rid of or treat stinks, smells, rotten egg odor, sulphur odors in water. How to diagnose the cause of rotten egg sulphur odors in drinking water. What are other common odors in drinking water and what causes them? Health risks associated with some water odors? How to get rid of other odors in drinking water
- POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about the causes & cures of odors or smells in water supplies
InspectAPedia tolerates no conflicts of interest. We have no relationship with advertisers, products, or services discussed at this website.
Water odor diagnosis & cure:
This article discusses how to identify, diagnose, and cure rotten egg or sulphur odors in drinking water.
discuss which of these odors may warn of unsanitary conditions. Edits, content addition, & web page design
Green links show where you are. © Copyright 2015 InspectApedia.com, All Rights Reserved.
Diagnosing and Correcting Sulphur Odors in Water
If your source water runs through an area where naturally occurring sulfur is
present, some sulfur may dissolve into the water. We provide a diagnostic procedure to track down the source of sulphur smells in water just below.
Some of this dissolved sulfur turns to the gas, hydrogen sulfide, and this can
give the water a rotten egg type smelly odor.
Sulphur odors can also be caused by a failing hot water heater component, or by certain bacteria in the building plumbing system, conditions we also discuss below.
Sulphur smells in water can also occur in rivers, lakes, streams, ponds, and can be caused by anoxia and algae which in turn may be caused by high nitrogen from agricultural runoff - a condition we discuss
at WELL WATER CONTAMINANT SOURCES.
- Sulphur or "rotten egg" odors in water throughout a home: if your water source is picking up sulphur,
either seasonally (such as when water tables drop) or all year, you have a persistent sulphur source and the odor will
be present at all plumbing fixtures in the home, possibly appearing stronger when water has not been run for some time - but
see other versions of that clue which we discus below.
Our photograph at above left, courtesy of Arlene Puentes, shows black sulphur bacteria and debris in a toilet tank in a home served by a well which was very high in sulphur.
Since the toilet is supplied with cold water we knew this was a sulfur problem in the water supply, not simply a water heater anode problem.
We provide a detailed list of sewer and sulphur gas odor sources
at ODORS, SULPHUR SMELL SOURCES.
Also CHINESE DRYWALL HAZARDS discusses Chinese drywall odors, sulphur smells, and corrosive outgassing hazards in buildings. Major costs to remove this product, repair or replace electrical wiring, plumbing, and HVAC components may be involved, and there may be immediate safety hazards due to damaged smoke detectors or carbon monoxide detectors in buildings where Chinese drywall outgassing has caused damage.
- Sulphur odors only at certain fixtures:
In certain instances, someone in the household may complain of a sulfur odor in one part of
the home, but not any other. This is usually explained because of the presence of sulfur reducing bacteria in a "dead leg" in the
plumbing system. These bacteria are not typically pathogenic, or disease-causing, and one common type would be Desulfovibriole.
If there is a portion of plumbing that has been cut and then capped off, creating a small area of non-circulating water, or a
"dead-leg", then these bacteria can get a foothold and metabolize the available sulfur in your water - creating a strong odor from
one particular sink or tap.
- Sulphur odors from water heaters: A frequent source of a sulphur-like odor in home water systems, regardless of whether your water is from a private well or from a
municipal supply source, is a deteriorated sacrificial anode on the water heater tank.
This anode, usually inserted into the water
tank from its top, is intended to reduce water tank corrosion. Sacrificial anodes on water tanks can be replaced. If the odor is
present only in your hot water, ask your plumber to try replacing the anode.
We discuss the hot water tank sacrificial anode and dip tube in more detail at
ANODES & DIP TUBES on WATER HEATERS
Watch out: as we explain
at HYDROGEN SULFIDE GAS, hydrogen sulfide gas is dangerous and can explode or catch fire. Sewer gases also probably contain hydrogen sulfide gas (H2S) In addition some writers opine that there are possible
health hazards from sewer gas exposure, such as a bacterial infection of the sinuses (which can occur due to any sinus irritation). Hydrogen is extremely flammable (easily set fire or explodes).
- Hydrogen sulfide release from hot water:
Another source of sulphur odors in water the energy which water heaters add to water in the form of heat.
Increasing the temperature of water will also facilitate the release of hydrogen sulfide.
In addition, the simple act of running water at a shower or faucet will cause a release of this
sulfurous odor because of the agitation of the water being released from the tap.
- Manganese or Iron, and Gallianella bacteria as a water odor source:
If your source water is high in iron and or manganese, then you may have odors that emanate from bacteria like Gallianella.
These naturally occurring bacteria can feed from the available stream of iron and manganese in a water supply,
creating foul odors and sometimes plugging, or bio fouling water filters and well.
Odors from iron or manganese-loving bacteria may resemble diesel fuel, heating oil, cucumbers, or sewage.
A BART, or Biological Activity Reaction Test can determine if this type of bacteria is present in your water supply.
You probably can't get rid of them because they are normal flora, (naturally occurring bacteria), but annual chlorination
of your well will help keep them in check.
See WATER STAINING CONTAMINANTS for more about manganese or iron in water.
An ultraviolet disinfection system can disinfect the water as it comes into distribution
to remove bacteria within the system.
Chlorination may also be used, but is not a great choice if there is a lot of iron and manganese,
as the chlorine will precipitate the metals out of solution and discolor the water.
- Water Softeners as a source of rotten egg smells in water: if your source water from an outside spigot of un-treated water at your building does not smell, but if all of the water in your building, both hot and cold, smells like rotten eggs or sulphur, and if you have a water softener installed, it may be that you need to sanitize your water softener equipment. This problem is more likely to occur if the water softener has been shut down for a week or more, such as when you are restoring a winterized building to service.
See SOFTENER ADJUSTMENT & CONTROLS for the procedure to follow for sanitizing a water softener.
- Other sources of sulphur odors: Does your water smell when you return from vacation?
Non-use of a regular water line can also create the same condition of sulphur odors.
- We provide a detailed list of sewer and sulphur gas odor sources
at Sources of Sulphur Odors in Buildings.
Watch out: methane odors in a building water supply can be explosive -
see METHANE GAS SOURCES
Watch out: Sulphur smells, rotten egg smells, or sewer gas smells can be caused by a variety of problems that we describe here. The sulphurous odor may be due to sulphur in the building water supply, bacteria in water, deteriorating water heater electrodes, dangerous sewer gas leaks, hydrogen sulfide gas forming in the water heater itself, even contaminated drywall or perhaps human or animal flatulence. Some of these gases and the implications of their source can be very dangerous, as we describe here and in related articles.
What if the Sulphur Odor is Not Traced to the Water Supply?
If the source of rotten egg smells or sulphur in your building is not traced to a water supply problem, see these related articles
Continue reading at WATER ODOR TREATMENTS, CURES - SULPHUR or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.
Or see WATER SMELLS or ODORS, OTHER
Or see SULPHUR & SEWER GAS SMELL SOURCES
Or see WATER STAINING CONTAMINANTS for discussion of water contaminants that result in stains on fabrics, fixtures, etc. and that may also help diagnose some water odors.
Suggested citation for this web page
WATER ODOR DIAGNOSIS - SULPHUR at InspectApedia.com - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.
Green link shows where you are in this article series.
- ANODES & DIP TUBES on WATER HEATERS
- CHEMICAL ODOR SOURCES
- CHLORINATION WELL SHOCKING PROCEDURE
- GAS DETECTION INSTRUMENTS
- HYDROGEN SULFIDE GAS
- METHANE GAS SOURCES
- ODORS GASES SMELLS, DIAGNOSIS & CURE - home
- ODOR DIAGNOSIS CHECKLIST, PROCEDURE
- ODORS, SEPTIC or SEWER
- OZONE MOLD / ODOR TREATMENT WARNINGS
- PLUMBING SYSTEM ODORS - home
- SEPTIC SYSTEM ODORS - home
- SEWER GAS ODORS - home
- SOFTENER ADJUSTMENT & CONTROLS
- SULPHUR & SEWER GAS SMELL SOURCES
- UV LIGHT BLACK LIGHT USES
- WATER ODORS, CAUSE CURE - home
- WATER POLLUTANT SOURCES
- WATER PUMPS, TANKS, TESTS, WELLS, REPAIRS - home
- WATER STAINING CONTAMINANTS
- WATER TESTS, CONTAMINANTS, TREATMENT
- WATER TREATMENT EQUIPMENT CHOICES - home
- WELL ABANDONMENT PROCEDURE
- WELL CASING LEAK REPAIRS
- WELL CHLORINATION SHOCKING PROCEDURE
- WELL WATER CONTAMINATION: CAUSES, CURES - home
- FAQs below discusses field reports of problems & solutions for this topic
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Click to Show or Hide FAQs
No FAQs have been posted for this page. Try the search box below or CONTACT US by email if you cannot find the answer you need at InspectApedia.
Ask a Question or Search InspectApedia
Use the "Click to Show or Hide FAQs" link just above to see recently-posted questions, comments, replies, try the search box just below, or if you prefer, post a question or comment in the Comments box below and we will respond promptly.
Search the InspectApedia website
Technical Reviewers & References
Publisher's Google+ Page by Daniel Friedman
Click to Show or Hide Citations & References
- Carson, Dunlop & Associates Ltd., 120 Carlton Street Suite 407, Toronto ON M5A 4K2. (416) 964-9415 1-800-268-7070 firstname.lastname@example.org. The firm provides professional home inspection services & home inspection education & publications. Alan Carson is a past president of ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors. Thanks to Alan Carson and Bob Dunlop, for permission for InspectAPedia to use text excerpts from The Home Reference Book & illustrations from The Illustrated Home. Carson Dunlop Associates' provides:
- Commercial Building Inspection Courses - protocol ASTM Standard E 2018-08 for Property Condition Assessments
- Home Inspection Education Courses including home study & live classes at eleven colleges & universities.
- Home Inspection Education Home Study Courses - ASHI@Home Training 10-course program.
Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a 5% discount on these courses: Enter INSPECTAHITP in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
- The Home Reference Book, a reference & inspection report product for building owners & inspectors.
Special Offer: For a 10% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference Book purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
- The Home Reference eBook, an electronic version for PCs, the iPad, iPhone, & Android smart phones.
Special Offer: For a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference eBook purchased as a single order. Enter inspectaehrb in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
- The Illustrated Home illustrates construction details and building components, a reference for owners & inspectors.
Special Offer: For a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Illustrated Home purchased as a single order Enter INSPECTAILL in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
- The Horizon Software System manages business operations,scheduling, & inspection report writing using Carson Dunlop's knowledge base & color images. The Horizon system runs on always-available cloud-based software for office computers, laptops, tablets, iPad, Android, & other smartphones.
- Eric Galow, Galow Homes, Lagrangeville, NY. Mr. Galow can be reached by email: email@example.com or by telephone: 914-474-6613. Mr. Galow specializes in residential construction including both new homes and repairs, renovations, and additions.
- Mark Cramer Inspection Services Mark Cramer, Tampa Florida, Mr. Cramer is a past president of ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors and is a Florida home inspector and home inspection educator. Contact Mark Cramer at: 727-595-4211 mark@BestTampaInspector.com 11/06
- Roger Hankey is principal of Hankey and Brown home inspectors, Eden Prairie, MN. Mr. Hankey is a past chairman of the ASHI Standards Committee. Mr. Hankey has served in other ASHI professional and leadership roles. Contact Roger Hankey at: 952 829-0044 - firstname.lastname@example.org. Mr. Hankey is a frequent contributor to InspectAPedia.com.
- Arlene Puentes, an ASHI member and a licensed home inspector in Kingston, NY, and has served on ASHI national committees as well as HVASHI Chapter President. Ms. Puentes can be contacted at email@example.com
- Wikipedia provided background information about some topics discussed at this website provided this citation is also found in the same article along with a " retrieved on" date. NOTE: because Wikipedia entries are fluid and can be amended in real time, we cite the retrieval date of Wikipedia citations and we do not assert that the information found there is necessarily authoritative.
Books & Articles on Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, & Repair
- The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume. Special Offer: For a 10% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference Book purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
Or choose the The Home Reference eBook for PCs, Macs, Kindle, iPad, iPhone, or Android Smart Phones. Special Offer: For a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference eBook purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAEHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.