Water Smells Like Sulfur In One Faucet – How to Fix
What do you do when your water smells like rotten eggs? Sulfur is a pretty nasty smell – it makes me sick, and I know I’m not the only one! I know I’m the only one. If you have sulfur bacteria in your water supply, it will likely pass through all the pipes and faucets in your home, but sometimes it only comes out of one faucet.
How is this possible?
What Is The Source?
First, to help determine the general source of sulfur, you must figure out whether the odor occurs when you run hot or cold water. Test both temperatures by running them separately for a few minutes. Try each faucet in your home to be sure it is coming from only one faucet.
If the sulfur smell is only present when the water is hot, the source may be a chemical reaction inside your water heater. If the odor is present when the water is cold, it is likely due to high levels of sulfur bacteria and hydrogen sulfide gas in the water itself.
A sulfur smell in cold water can also be an indication of high levels of water hardness, which is not harmful. And if the odor is present even when running, it may signal a problem with your general water source: your well or public water supply.
If the odor goes away after running the water for a minute or two, the source is likely a case of sulfate-reducing bacteria. This type of bacteria actually consumes common sulfur, which then releases hydrogen sulfide. This gas is easily trapped in confined spaces such as narrow or curved pipes but is just as easily washed away by running water.
In rare cases, the smell of rotten eggs may indicate sewage in the main water system, which is a more serious problem. In this case, you need to contact your local water department immediately. Therefore, if your water smells, it’s best to err on the side of caution until you know the source.
How Does Sulfur Appear In A Hot Water Tank?
Sulfur can appear in a water heater in several different ways. One possibility is the degradation of the anode rods, especially those made of magnesium. Another cause is the number of sulfate bacteria in the tank, which forms when the water stagnates for too long.
This bacteria likes high temperatures and little oxygen, so it thrives inside the water heater.
What Does It Mean To Have Only One Faucet Running Foul Water?
Even with only one faucet, the problem is still often one of the previously mentioned problems – some kind of sulfur bacteria buildup from some source. The sulfur tries to find the path of least resistance out, which is sometimes through the pipe leading to a particular faucet. It’s possible that the pipe leading to the faucet is kinked, trapping the sulfur in nooks and crannies.
The smell could also be a problem with something rotting in the sewer.
An easy way to check if the sewer is the problem is to pour some water from the affected faucet and smell it, preferably in a different room. If the water doesn’t stink, the drain is likely the culprit. You can check for kinks in the pipes yourself by feeling and visually inspecting them. If neither of these is the problem, it’s time to deal with your water source.
How Can I Fix Smelly Tap Water?
The solution to remove the odor depends on the source of the sulfur. These are some possible solutions.
- Hot water flushing of water heaters
- Chlorine flushing of water heaters or wells
- Replace water heater or anode rod
- Water softener
- Home filtration system or faucet attachment
If it’s your hot water that smells like sulfur, the first and easiest thing to do is to try a hot water flush on your water heater.
Change its temperature to 160°F for 8 hours, which is hot enough to kill any bacteria. Then, once you’ve changed it back and the water has cooled, drain the entire tank. Note that you should only try this method if your tank has a pressure relief valve.
Chlorinating your water heater or well (if you have one) is a standard solution, but this is usually an ongoing need because bacteria repopulate very quickly. Fortunately, there are now automatic continuous chlorinators that can continuously kill any traces of sulfur in your water.
You can try chlorinating them yourself, or hire a professional.
If the system still smells like sulfur after flushing, replacing the tank completely may help, but not always. Replacing the anode rod with another material – aluminum or titanium – may also solve the problem.
Installing a water softener is a possible solution, but unlikely. It will only work if the cause of the odor is hard water. You may already know if your water is hard or soft, but you can still test it from that faucet.
Finally, home filtration systems can remove sulfur from your water, as well as other nasty and potentially harmful chemicals. Unfortunately, installing them can be expensive and is not a possible solution for everyone. A water filter that filters water directly at the faucet can be installed by almost anyone.
What If I Don’t Have Control Over My Water Source?
Unfortunately, if your water source comes directly from the city, there is no easy or inexpensive solution other than a filtration system. Unless the water contains large amounts of sulfur, enough to cause harm (you can test its levels at home with a kit), the city is not required to change anything.
No matter how disgusting the water looks, it is still considered safe to use when the sulfur level is below 250 mg/L.
The same is true for living in an apartment building. If the water supply is technically safe, your landlord doesn’t need to address the issue. It’s also much harder to correct this problem yourself in an apartment.
All you can really do is install a faucet filter – you can’t just modify your plumbing or take on a task that doesn’t belong to your flushing system.
Is It Safe To Bathe In Water That Smells Like Sulfur?
The good news is that smelly water, while unpleasant, is usually still usable and safe to wash and drink. However, you should not use it until you are sure of the source of the sulfur. You don’t want to find out that you’ve been drinking sewage, which is both disgusting and harmful.
The best course of action is to determine the cause of the odor and eliminate it immediately. Until you can find it, consider purchasing bottled water for drinking and cooking. Even if you don’t have sewage in your water, it will still have a bad taste.
This will ensure the safety and health of you and your family.