If your water smells like rotten eggs, you probably have a sulfur problem. Let’s talk about the root cause of the problem—and the solution.
Where Does It Come From And How Does It Get Into My Water?
That gross, rotten egg smell floating from your faucet, fridge, or glass is a sign of sulfur in your water; specifically, hydrogen sulfide, a byproduct of sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB) or sulfur bacteria. Hydrogen sulfide is a smelly, colorless gas that affects water smell and taste. You know it the second you smell it.
Hydrogen sulfide gas is found naturally in air and groundwater (like wetlands, marshes, swamps, and even riverbeds), often after sulfate in soil and rock dissolves into these water sources. Plus, it's produced by sewage plants, manure handling operations, natural gas facilities and landfills, tanneries (where animal skin and hides are turned into leather), refineries, and other human processes. That’s why hydrogen sulfide is often associated with human and animal waste—and frankly, smells like such.
Why Is It In My Water?
If you live near a landfill, gas and oil drilling operations, or anywhere where manure is stored or spread (often as fertilizer), your local water supply or distribution system may be more susceptible to sulfur contamination than most. Private wells and well water collected in rural areas are common culprits, however contamination has been detected in public water supplies in multiple states, including Virginia, Ohio, and New Hampshire, all in recent years.
Is It Dangerous?
Obviously, sulfur stinks. And sulfate, another form of sulfur, can even make your water taste bitter. But sulfur can potentially have adverse health effects, even at low levels.
The most common effect associated with hydrogen sulfide and sulfate in water is diarrhea. In other words, sulfur can act like a laxative. And don’t forget: diarrhea can lead to dehydration and other complications.
Meanwhile, hydrogen sulfide, in air, is associated with irritation. Specifically, it’s known to irritate your eyes, nose, and throat. That’s why excessive exposure can lead to symptoms like nausea, dizziness, and wheezing.
But here’s the thing: Similar symptoms can potentially occur from heavy exposure to sulfur in water. The bottom line is, sulfur in your water can affect you—whether you drink it or not.
Sulfur Can Stain & Damage Your Sinks, Toilets, Plumbing, & More
Sulfur can be corrosive to metals throughout your whole house. Sulfur water build-up can tarnish silverware and discolor utensils, plumbing fixtures, and more. Brown, yellow, and sometimes even black stains on your showers, tubs, sinks, clothes, and other household items are often the result of high concentrations of sulfur in your tap water.
What Will (& Won’t) Help The Sulfur Smell
Wondering what to do? Let’s start with what not to do. A water softener will not help the situation because it does not remove nor neutralize hydrogen sulfide. And leaving a glass of water out before drinking, letting your sink run for a few minutes, and other aeration methods won’t always work either. Instead, we encourage you to self-test your water (see the simple directions below) to determine if you have a contamination issue or a hot water heater issue. Then, we can point you to the proper solution.
How To Get Rid Of Sulfur & That Rotten Egg Odor In 2 Simple Steps
Sulfur is unregulated by the U.S. EPA. Therefore, it can (and does) legally pollute public drinking water supplies because water treatment centers are not required to test for it, let alone remove it. Here’s what you need to do to solve your sulfur problem:
Step 1. “Test” your water.
Is the smell coming from your hot water, cold water, or both?
Complete this tap water test yourself. If the smell only comes from your hot water, it’s likely you’re dealing with a plumbing system issue rather than a water contamination issue.
Specifically, your hot water heater probably has a corroded anode rod. Which means you may need a new, aluminum anode rod to replace the standard, magnesium anode rod battling corrosion inside your water heater tank. Contact a plumber to confirm this is the case, then get professional help from an installer.
Step 2. Filter your water—with the right type of water filter.
If the smell is coming from your hot and cold water, or even just your cold water, then your water is likely contaminated.
Low-cost carbon filters may help with the smell and taste, but they are not powerful enough to remove all forms of sulfur (and hundreds of other dangerous, odorless, colorless, and even tasteless contaminants) at maximum levels.
When it comes to contaminants, one is often a sign of many. That’s why we suggest you filter your water with our advanced water filter pitcher. Our pitcher filter is tested and certified to remove more than 365 contaminants including common forms of sulfur (i.e. sulfate and sulfide) and guarantees the highest water quality.
Tap here to get your Clearly Filtered pitcher, say so long to sulfur, and never drink dirty (or smelly) water again. Cheers!