No one enjoys smelling foul odors coming from their tap water. If your water has an odd smell resembling sewage, rotten eggs, or sulfur, it’s probably due to raised levels of hydrogen sulfide gas and bacteria in your home or building’s water supply. Odd smelling water can be caused by a number of factors such as high amounts of minerals, chemicals, or decaying organic material. Regardless of the cause, foul smells coming from faucets should not be ignored as it can also be harmful to your health or harmful to the plumbing system and fixtures of your home or office.

Surprisingly, foul smelling tap water is a common problem across the US, where over 316 different chemicals have been found in the water of homes throughout the country. Most of the time, gross smelling water is still safe to drink, but certain smells can often be a sign of hazardous water contamination. Thankfully there are several ways to find the source of the problem and get rid of that nasty smell.

Water Smells Like Sewage

Tap water that smells like sewage is typically caused by bacteria growing in drains or in your water heater, particularly if it runs at low temperatures or is turned off for a long period. The bacteria can fill your pipes with a heavy gas smell that is then released into your house when you turn on the faucet. If the smell is only present when you run hot water it is most likely coming from the water heater and not the water supply system.

Water Smells Like Rotten Eggs

If tap water smells like rotten eggs, it is probably caused by hydrogen sulfide (H2S) gas. This gas can be toxic at high levels of concentration, but because of its strong odor and taste, it is usually detected long before reaching levels high enough to be harmful. H2S gas can be caused by chemical reactions from sulfur bacteria or decay of organic materials with sulfur-containing minerals.

Water Smells Like Fish

Water with a fishy smell indicates elevated levels of organic material in your water supply, including chloramines, barium, or cadmium. Chloramines are used for disinfecting public drinking water but when high amounts are present, a strong fishy odor can result. Barium and cadmium are found in natural metals and can make their way into water through the deterioration of pipes or contamination from fertilizer.

Water Smells Like Chlorine

Tap water that smells like bleach or like a swimming pool contains high levels of chlorine. Chlorine is added to water in municipal water treatment facilities in order to disinfect natural water supplies but can be harmful in excess.

Determining The Cause Of Odd-Smelling Water

It is important to determine if the foul smell of your tap water is coming from your water heater, pipes, or from the water supply itself. Locating the source of the water will help you to determine the best course of action. Take these initial steps to help determine the origin of the smell:

  • Fill a glass of water and walk away from the sink with it. If the glass of water still smells after you’re away from the sink, then the water supply is the culprit. Try this from multiple faucets; if the same outcome results from different faucets, the water supply is the source of the problem.
  • If after walking away from the sink the glass no longer smells, it means that the pipes or sink drain are the problem. Give them a good scrubbing with a small brush and a little bit of soap just inside the mouth of the drain; this will help disinfect bacteria that are causing the problem.
  • If the smell is only present when you turn on your hot water, the water heater is likely the source. Try turning the heat up for 24 hours and running the extra-hot water through the hot water taps to flush them out. Make sure to be careful not to turn the temperature up too high on the water heater. A dangerous amount of pressure can build up inside of it if you’re not careful. Consult your manufacturer for the temperature safety threshold of your model water heater before proceeding.
  • Let water run for a few minutes. If the smell goes away after this, the problem is probably in your plumbing system. If the smell does not go away, the problem is either in the water source or could even be a combination of water supply and plumbing issues.

Is Odd Smelling Water Safe To Drink Or Use?

Foul smelling water can be harmful, depending on the levels of contaminants found. The best way to determine if your tap water is safe for use or consumption is to have your water tested. A water test will identify the causes of odd smelling water along with the quantity present, allowing you to better decide how to treat the problem.

Home Water Solutions based in Loveland offers Water Treatment Systems that provide safe solutions for odd-smelling water. Contact us today for a free water test to determine what is causing your smelly water and to learn more about our state-of-the art whole house water treatment systems.