Why Does My Water Smell? 5 Common Smells & Their Causes
Water is as essential to everyday life as breathing and sleeping. When our body needs oxygen, we breathe without thinking about it. Sleeping happens naturally to reset our body for another day. When we’re dehydrated, we don’t go for another iced coffee, we turn on the faucet to receive water.
But how likely are you to replenish yourself if your home’s water smells like rotten eggs?
It’s a problem that can occur with no warning. Water that smells can have a negative impact on our drinking and personal hygiene habits. Here are a variety of different scents — like rotten eggs — you may be smelling out of the faucet:
So why does your water smell? Let’s investigate and dive into the causes and solutions to these smelly water issues.
1. My Water Smells Like Sewage
When the aroma of dirt, grime and waste strikes your water supply, the smell can be appalling and insufferable like a busy city street after heavy rainfall. But your water supply doesn’t need to be clogged like the city’s sewage system.
The sewage smell you’re experiencing can be caused by several factors. It could be the bacteria left by food and soap in your drain. The scent from the bacteria is actually a gas that originates in the drain and makes its way up to the faucet resulting in your water acquiring a dirty smell.
Another reason your water smells like sewage could be the hot water heater’s temperature is too low. Were you away from home for a long period of time and shut it off in fear of pipes bursting? The smell could be originating from the bacteria that harvested itself in the lower temperatures while the hot water heater was turned down. The bacteria isn’t harmful to you, but the smell can become quite pungent.
Another cause could be the result of hydrogen sulfide entering the water supply. This gas can actually hurt you by causing nausea, headaches, delirium and convulsions.
What you should do
First, grab a glass of water from the faucet while plugging your nose. Walk away with the water in hand, then take a whiff once you’re in another room. If the water smells normal, the odor is coming from bacteria build-up in your drain.
To remove the smell emanating from your drain, pour ¼ cup of baking soda down the drain followed by ¼ cup of white vinegar. It’s going to bubble, but let this continue for 10 minutes. While you wait, boil a pot of water on the stove and then pour it into the drain. This will disinfect your pipes and remove the foul odor.
If your water still smells after you’ve removed yourself from the sink area, try turning up the temperature in your water heater for 24 hours. Run hot water through your faucets frequently during this timeframe to flush your home’s water pipes.
If the smell persists, you need to contact your local water testing lab. They can test the water for contaminants and detect hydrogen sulfide.
Whirlpool also offers a solution to water that smells like it’s coming from a sewer. The Whirlpool Central Water Filtration System WHELJ1 Series is a proven water filtration system for treating water problems. It can chase away the sewage smell and keep your water smelling like nothing at all.
2. My Water Smells Musty
Your water should smell fresh, not damp and aged like it’s been sitting in your basement for a week. While your water certainly doesn’t smell like mold, a musty scent could faintly resemble just that.
If your water smells musty, it could be from erosion in your water pipes. The metal decaying from the pipes could affect the smell. Generally, the smell is the worst thing that can happen if your water is musty. But if it lingers and becomes stronger, a bigger problem may be on your hands.
What you should do if your water softener smells musty
If your water softener smells musty you need to perform some basic maintenance steps. The first thing you should do is pour a 16 oz bottle of cleanser down the brine well. It’s common practice to do this once every 4 months so your system can clean itself and remove any unpleasant smells.
If you can’t stand the musty scent any longer and it’s coming from your kitchen faucet, it’s time to invest in a quality water dispenser with a filtration system. A filter can catch the erosion coming from aging water pipes. This will leave your water free from additional sediments.
3. My Water Smells Like Rotten Eggs
If your water smells like rotten eggs or sulfur, not only will it be too pungent to enjoy, but we strongly recommend you don’t even think about drinking it.
Your water smells like sulfur because of the presence of sulfur bacteria or hydrogen sulfide. Sulfur bacteria thrives in oxygen deficient environments such as plumbing systems. The bacteria then feasts on decomposing organic matter. This leads to the creation of hydrogen sulfide, which becomes trapped in the plumbing system.
Sulfur bacteria alone is not a threat to your wellbeing. But it promotes the growth of other harmful materials such as iron bacteria that can clog wells, plumbing and irrigation systems. Elevated levels of hydrogen sulfide from sulfur bacteria can make you extremely sick and cause nausea and convulsions.
What you should do
If the smell is only coming from warm water out of the faucet, it’s most likely your water heater. If this is the case, contact a water system professional to replace your magnesium anode. This attachment is connected to a plug on top. Replacing the original anode rod may cut the production of hydrogen sulfide gas at the source. However, the rod’s removal will most likely decrease the life expectancy of your water heater.
You can also use a chlorine bleach solution to flush the water heater. Increasing the temperature in the water heater can also help remove the bacteria. Both of these solutions can be tricky, so always proceed with caution. We strongly recommend you consult with the manufacturer and get a professional to help you.
If the smell occurs when both warm or cold water is running, it could be coming from one of these three sources:
- Water Softener
- Distribution System
EcoPureHome offers a handful of solutions to fix these problems with an array of water softeners. Consider the amount of water you and your family use and check the amount of space you have available for these systems. You can kick the smell of rotten eggs with a new and more efficient water softener.
4. My Water Smells Like Metal
The reason your water smells like metal is because old metal piping has been slowly deteriorating into your water. Manganese, zinc, iron or copper could be rusting away over years of use. Generally, these traces of metal aren’t harmful, but they do present a less than ideal odor from your water.
There is always a possibility that lead is in the water. Most cities stopped using lead piping in the 1920s due to its toxicity. However, it took until 1986 for lead pipes to become banned in national plumbing codes. If you have a home that was built before 1986, you could be in danger.
What you should do
If you suspect lead is why your water smells like metal, you can request a water test from your city’s water treatment center. If the test doesn’t show there’s lead in the water but the smell endures, turn to a filtration system that can reduce the smell and taste from the water.
The metallic smell coming from your water could be a product of a low pH level. Low pH means your water is acidic, which can lead to a smell resembling metal. To balance the pH level, you may need a new water softener. The right water softener will balance your water back to a consistent pH level, leaving your water scentless.
5. My Water Smells Fishy
You would never drink water directly from a pond or lake. There are too many microscopic bacteria swimming around that could get you sick. If your home’s water smells fishy, the same bacteria could be infiltrating your water supply.
Naturally occurring organic compounds could be the culprit. The compounds we’re talking about here are barium and cadmium. Barium appears naturally when mineral ore seeps into groundwater. Cadmium, while organic, enters water supplies through industry runoff such as fertilizer.
You can also point your finger at excessive levels of chloramines. Chloramine has been used as a disinfectant to treat drinking water since the 1930s. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approves the use of chloramines. Excessive use of this compound, however, can lead to a fishy smell from the water.
It takes a lot for these compounds to actually affect you or make you sick, so the threat level is relatively low.
The worst case scenario is that the fishy smell is coming from harmful algae blooms in the water. When this happens, residents receiving water from the infected distribution center are told not to drink, cook or bathe with the water. There isn’t much you can do other than wait it out.
What you should do
It’s unlikely algae blooms are the reason your water smells fishy.
If the smell persists, you should contact your water provider. They are required by the EPA to maintain the levels of organic compounds in the water supply so it’s safe to use.
You can also go a step further and take action in your own home by installing a water filter. Whirlpool has several options to help filter your water and chase away pungent smells preventing you from using your home’s supply.
Whirlpool has your back for all smelly water issues. You can browse our home water supply solutions online and find what’s right for you.