Photograph of smelly dirty water running into a bathtub of a Poughkeepsie NY Home (C) Daniel Friedman How to Identify & Cure Odors in Drinking Water

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Water odors & smells:

This article discusses how to identify, diagnose, and cure common odors that may be present in drinking water. We explain how to get rid of or treat stinks, smells, rotten egg odor, sulphur odors in water.

Also described here: 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. Bacteria including iron-bacteria can produce diesel or fuel oil smells in the water, cucumber smells, and even sewage odors in the water supply.

We also discuss which of these odors may warn of unsanitary conditions.

We also provide a MASTER INDEX to this topic, or you can try the page top or bottom SEARCH BOX as a quick way to find information you need.

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"Honey - the Water Smells Funny!" - what are the causes of odors in drinking water?

Although water as a pure compound, H2O, is colorless and odorless, contact with the earth's minerals and our distribution pipes may impart some flavor and odor characteristics.

The Threshold Odor Test Method

A subjective analysis called the Threshold Odor Test, number 2150b. in Standard Methods for the Examination of Water and Wastewater, 19th ed., can give us an idea of the strength of the odor as compared to controls of varying degree of odor concentration.

But how do you interpret what the underlying problem is when your water has a peculiar odor? Just below is a list of articles giving greater detail about the most-common sources of odors in water. At the end of this article you'll find a complete list of water smell & odor diagnosis and correctiion articles.

Cucumber Odors in Water

Diesel Fuel Odors in Water

Methane Odors in Water

Methane from natural sources, from coal mining activities, and possibly from other mining or oil drillling activities can explain the presence of significant, even dangerous levels of methane in well water supplies.

Sewage Odors in Water

In addition to possible sewage contamination of a well from a nearby failed septic system,

Sulphur Odors in Water

Some odors are a little more insidious and require a bit of background knowledge to deal with them effectively. 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.

UV & Xenon Light Water Disinfection Equipment Odors

Question: petroleum smell in water after installing UV disinfection system

We installed a UV system in residential home. Water source is well water. The water now has a petroleum type odor - even after several days of running the water.

I did see 2 comments re : odor in the FAQ from Oct 2015 but there was no response as to possible cause. Those were from ships.
Can you advise? - Anonymous by private email, 2018/01/26

Reply: sources of petroleum smell in water do not include UV light itself

UV - ultraviolet light - disinfection would not itself be an odor source. It is simply a light bulb shining light on water to try to kill many species of bacteria that pass by.

If your well has a petroleum odor I suspect it's originating elsewhere - petroleum (heating oil, gasoline, motor oil) would not not be used in the operation nor installation of a UV light water treatment system.

A diagnostic step would be to collect a water sample upstream from the UV light system or right at the well. Have that tested for petroleum products/residues (as those are found in some well water sources).

Also see WATER STAINING CONTAMINANTS where you will see an explanation that iron-loving bacteria in the water supply are able to produce a fuel oil or diesel smell in water.

Note that a UV water disinfection system will not reduce the iron level in your water.

In contrast with U&V light disinfection, Xenon light disinfection has suffered from some ozone-odor complaints. But ozone would smell more like an "electrical" odor not petroleum. See XENON LAMP OZONE OUTPUT?

Other Odors in Water

Diagnostic Questions About Odors in Water

Question: My client complains of a "certain smell" in her water but she can't identify it

I've got a client whose weekend home I inspected in 2005. They now have two young children and she's complaining about a "certain" smell in her water. She can't identify the smell.

Rotten eggs? No. Oily? No. Chemical? No.

But she smells it on herself and on her children after a bath or shower and says her skin fees dry after a shower.

Another twist. They've got two wells. They switch from one to the other when one gets dry. This home is in Ancramdale, NY 12503, Columbia County. Pretty rural. Lots of farming and sheep farming, I think.

The client wants me to test both wells. But I'm not confident that any generic water tests will do the job in this case.

I've looked at both of your articles:



I've looked at these two pages and I've got Smith Lab's price sheet in front of me and I think I'm in over my head.

I mean, this could cost them over $1,000 in lab fees alone for the two wells.

Any suggestions? - Arlene Puentes, ASHI

(Mar 16, 2015) Zyiah said:

My water smells funny

Reply: Starting Point for Chasing Down Unidentified Odors in the Water Supply

Who smells the odors?

Watch out: methane odors in a building water supply can be explosive (METHANE GAS SOURCES)

Scott Bradley, Aquacheck Water Testing Laboratory contributed content to this article.


Continue reading at WATER ODOR DIAGNOSIS - SULPHUR or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.


Or see WATER ODOR FAQs - questions & answers about smells in water

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