What Are Sulfates And Hydrogen Sulfide
Sulfates naturally occur in rocks and soil. Over time, sulfates eventually dissolve and get into the groundwater the source of well water. Sulfate does not produce gas and is therefore odorless.
Hydrogen sulfide gas also occurs naturally and can come from many different sources under the ground, such as rotting plant material or bacteria. You might imagine tiny bacteria eating sulfur and then producing hydrogen sulfide gas as waste. Its not very comforting knowing that smelly water is the product of bacteria waste.
Hydrogen sulfide may also result from wells drilled in shale or water heaters that contain magnesium rods. Regardless of the cause, you may notice the odor more when you use hot water, because heated water releases the trapped gas faster than cold water.
Smell Occurs Any Time Water Runs
If your water has a constant rotten egg smell or taste, this means that hydrogen sulfide is occurring naturally in your well, and chlorination will only provide a temporary solution.
The best option for removing the smells and odors from your water while protecting your pipes and plumbing fixtures is to choose well water filtration. You can choose to filter singular faucets, such as your kitchen tap to enjoy healthier drinking water, or you can look at whole home filtration options.
Whats Causing The Rotten Egg Smell In Your Water
If theres a rotten egg smell in your water, it probably means there is hydrogen sulfide gas in your households supply.
organic material decomposes
In addition to emitting a putrid odor, this gas can also have harmful effects on your physical health. If you breathe in too much hydrogen sulfide, you can damage your respiratory system and trigger feelings of nausea.
How to Find the Source of the Smell
You must be systematic when youre searching for the source of the rotten egg smell. Here are some useful steps to take.
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Why Does My Water Smells Like Rotten Eggs
If your water smells like rotten eggs, first of all, dont panic. The rotten egg odor is caused by levels of sulfur bacteria and hydrogen sulfide gas. It can occur when water comes in contact with organic matter or certain minerals, such as pyrite. If you use city water, most of this bacteria is killed with chlorine, but if youre on well water, more of these naturally occurring organisms are in your water.
While sulfur bacteria is not a threat to your health, it promotes the growth of other harmful materials such as iron that can clog wells and plumbing systems. Its best to tackle the rotten egg smell head-on to see where the issue lies.
If The Problem Is Your Water Source Well Or Municipal
If the contamination is located at the actual source of your drinking water, get a water analysis. This test should include a pH analysis, iron, manganese, hardness and TDS .
A Culligan Softener-Cleer Plus, Sulfur-Cleer Plus, or Iron-Cleer filter, chlorine or hydrogen oxide chemical feed and carbon filtration are all options, depending on the results of testing.
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How To Get Rid Of Sulfur When Well Water Smells
Sulfur is one of the most common well water contaminants, and is associated with an unpleasant rotten egg smell and taste.
If you can smell or taste sulfur in your water, its a sign that you have particularly high levels of hydrogen sulfide in your water.
I dont blame you if youd rather not bathe in water that smells like rotten eggs and I certainly wouldnt want to drink it.
You shouldnt have to put up with hydrogen sulfide in water, either, and there are plenty of ways to treat sulfur water.
In this guide, Ill be sharing how to test for hydrogen sulfide in your water, and, most importantly, how to remove it.
Rotten Egg Smell In Cold Water Taps
Rotten egg smell in cold water hints that sulfur bacteria is present in your well, plumbing system, pressure tank, or faucets.
Check this by drawing water in a large bucket from your pressure tank and smell it. A rotten egg smell will confirm that bacteria are present in your well. If water doesnt smell, check water in the same way from every water treatment unit. This will help you identify the smell source.
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Top 6 Ways To Get Rid Of Water Smells Like Rotten Eggs
1. Shock your well with chlorine bleach or hydrogen peroxide to get temporary relief from sulfur odors. Often keeps odors away for 1 2 months.
2. Chlorinator: Install a chlorine injector system on your wellhead for continuous injection of chlorine when the water is running. Chlorination eliminates the sulfur bacteria that cause the odor, and combined with an Air Charger self-cleaning backwash carbon filter can eliminate odors continuously and take out chlorine residual before the home.
3. Peroxide: Install the same system as a chlorinator but use hydrogen peroxide in place of chlorine bleach, followed by backwashing catalytic carbon filter. Unlike chlorine, no residual salts or residues are left in the water after water flows through the carbon system.
4. Air Charger Carbon Filter: Install an Air Charger Catalytic Carbon Filter. No chemicals are needed, however, the system also can inject peroxide to make the catalytic carbon last longer. No filter cartridges to change, carbon lasts for several years and is easy to change out.
5. Air Compressor Tank Aeration System: This injects a lot of air under pressure and can eliminate odors under certain conditions.
6. Ozone Gas: Expensive but can be very effective. Inject ozone gas under pressure to quickly eliminate sulfur odors
If The Problem Is In Groundwater
Installing home water treatment or drilling a new well in a different formation are both options. Below are types of home water treatment effective at removing hydrogen sulfide gas. Learn more at the Home Water Treatment webpage.
- Activated carbon filters are effective for hydrogen sulfide levels less than 1 milligram per liter . The gas is trapped by the carbon until the filter is saturated. Since the carbon filter can remove substances in addition to hydrogen sulfide gas, it is difficult to predict its service life. Some large carbon filters have been known to last for years, while some small filters may last for only weeks or even days.
- The following are options are effective for levels both below and above 1 mg/L.
- Oxidizing media filtration are effective for hydrogen sulfide levels up to about 6 mg/L. This type of treatment is often used to treat iron problems in water. The device consists of manganese greensand media, which is sand coated with manganese dioxide. The hydrogen sulfide gas in the water is changed to tiny particles of sulfur as it passes through the filter. The filter must be periodically regenerated, using potassium permanganate, before the capacity of the greensand is exhausted.
- Aeration and filtration.
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How Often Should I Be Testing For Sulfates In Wells
Dont rely on the distinct sulfur odor to know its present in your well. Low concentrations of sulfur may not give off odors at all, which is why its important to carry out testing on private wells once a year, according to the EPA. Aside from sulfur, you should also test for other contaminants that commonly occur in well water, including bacteria, iron and arsenic.
Use A Stepwise Approach To Find The Problem
To identify the source of your odor issue, start with a good plan. You should collect enough data, with a logical approach, to help you narrow your investigation to the root cause of the problem.
Step 1: In the morning, turn on the cold water and check for sulfur or rotten egg odors. Let it run for 5 minutes while constantly checking the smell. Note whether or not there is an odor. Also pay attention to whether it increases, decreases, or stays the same as the water runs. Write down the result.
Step 2: After completing the cold-water test, turn on just the hot water. Pay attention to any smells just as you did before. Does the smell increase as the temperature increases ? Does it decrease after a few minutes or stay the same?
Step 3: If you have a water softener, check the odor of both treated and untreated water. Depending on how your softener is plumbed into your home, you may have to use a drain valve upstream of the softener to test untreated water. Follow the same procedure you did in step 1.
Step 4: This is a visual test. Go to every sink and faucet in your home and look for black stains. These black stains are a sign of corrosion caused by hydrogen sulfide. Open you water softener and look for slime. Sulfate reducing bacteria produce a slimy substance that looks like gelatin. If this is present, your problem is caused by bacteria.
Take your notes and compare your results with the information presented below.
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If The Problem Is In Plumbing System: How To Fix
How it gets there:
If the problem is in your plumbing, it likely means that some form of organic rot has somehow crept into your pipes.
How to fix it:
There are many ways to get rid of bad smells that come from your plumbing. For an organic solution, consider using a large pot of boiling water and baking soda. This will serve to not only purify the pipes, but also to eliminate the smell.
What Causes Rotten Egg Smell
If your water smells like rotten eggs, it is most likely due to an excessive amount of hydrogen sulfide gas that is trapped in the water. If there is enough hydrogen sulfide in your water to produce a rotten egg smell, it could end up damaging your pipes since many different types of metals are susceptible to hydrogen sulfide corrosion. This problematic contaminant can also cause stains to appear on silverware and plumbing fixtures.
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Is Sulfur Water Dangerous
Many people ask, Can sulfur water make you sick? The answer to this question depends on the amount of sulfur in the water. While most household water supplies do not have dangerous levels of sulfur, if the level is too high, it can cause stomach pain and nausea. Similarly, high levels of sulfates in the drinking water can be problematic, particularly for infants.
In many cases, the biggest problem with sulfur water is the way it tastes or smells. Most people can detect hydrogen sulfide in water in a small concentration of 0.5 parts per million . Water with sulfur concentrations ranging from 0.5 to 1 ppm smells musty, while levels higher than 1 ppm produce a rotten egg smell and corrode metal pipes.
Are The Sulfur Bacteria Harmful
Sulfate reducing bacteria do not cause disease like e. coli and other bacteria do. They do, however, produce a slime that can clog well screens, plumbing, and your irrigation system. Their slime also helps other bacteria grow, such as iron bacteria, which creates other problems in your water system.
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My Well Water Smells Like Rotten Eggs How Can I Fix It
Do you smell something fishy in your well water? Maybe a rotten egg odor? If so, dont fret. Well water smells for many reasonsthe most common being the presence of sulfur bacteria.
With just a little look-see, you can easily identify the root cause of sulfur in your well. Ill walk you through the steps and explain the solutions to get rid of the odor quickly.
Now, lets take care of that sulfur smell.
What Causes The Smell
If your water smells like rotten eggs, the odor is usually caused by the levels of sulfur bacteria and Hydrogen Sulfide that can be found in a buildings water supply. If you only experience the smell when using your hot tap, it may be a chemical reaction occurring inside your hot water heater, and not a problem with your water supply.
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Standards And Water Testing
Hydrogen sulfide does not have a drinking water standard because it makes the water aesthetically undrinkable long before it reaches harmful concentrations. Testing the water to determine the concentration of hydrogen sulfide may be helpful when choosing between water treatment devices. Testing for hydrogen sulfide must be done in the home or the sample must be chemically stabilized before being sent to a commercial testing lab. Consult with local state-accredited commercial water testing laboratories to determine if they can test for hydrogen sulfide in water. You can find local state-accredited water testing labs by contacting the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
Check The Water Softener
An unmaintained water softener can harbor bacteria. If nothing works above, the bacteria may be present in your water softener. Get it service to resolve the problem.
Health Problems because of Hydrogen Sulfide Gas
- Eye, nose, and throat irritation if concentration is low.
- Respiratory tract problems that can get severe for asthma patients.
- Prolonged exposure can lead to inflammation and the severity of the symptoms.
- The situation can be worse if someone is exposed to a high concentration of this gas for an extended duration, and it can result in shock, convulsion, coma, and unconsciousness.
What is the chlorine bleach water ratio for disinfection?
For a well containing 100 feet of water and an 8-inch diameter, 1 gallon of household bleach with 5.25% chlorine is suggested. Do not use scented bleach or bleach with cleaners other than chlorine. If you have a larger well, expect to use more chlorine.
Which is the best carbon filter to get rid of the chlorine smell after disinfection?
AO Smiths whole house water filter system is an excellent choice for removing chlorine smell from water. It can filter 600,000 gallons of water and will last for 5-6 years for an average American family.
We have listed several possible solutions to get rid of the rotten egg smell from your well water. The best solution is to use chlorine and a carbon filter. If you cannot afford a chlorine injector, you can add some chlorine bleach in your well.
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How Do I Get Rid Of Hydrogen Sulfide In Water What Water Treatment Solutions Are Available To Private Well Owners
There are various methods. They should be chosen based on the level of hydrogen sulfide, the amount of water being treated, the levels of iron and manganese, and the water pH, among other factors. Methods to reduce or remove hydrogen sulfide include activated carbon filtration, shock chlorination, ion exchange, manganese greensand filtration, oxidation, oxidizing filtration, ozone treatment, and water heater modification.
Water treatment for hydrogen sulfide tends to be customized, specific to the purpose and relatively high maintenance, and should be specified and maintained carefully.
Detecting And Testing For Hydrogen Sulfide
Testing for hydrogen sulfide is quite straightforward. First, if you smell rotten egg in water or near it, you can assume hydrogen sulfide is present. At that point, be sure that there is proper ventilation. Because it oxidizes quickly during transport, onsite analysis of sulfide is often preferable to shipping a sample to the lab for analysis. Several reliable colorimetric methods are available for this purpose. To test for hydrogen sulfide for official purposes, contact a certified drinking water laboratory. Visit for state-specific information on certified drinking water testing labs. The certification officer in your state can provide a list of certified labs in your area.
Hydrogen sulfide escapes from water easily, so samples should be tested on-site as mentioned or if shipping, immediately stabilized for laboratory analysis. Laboratory instructions should be followed very carefully.
If you do have a hydrogen sulfide level in your water that is higher than you would like, there are water treatment technologies available to address the problem.
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What Causes A Sulfur Smell In Water
Even small amounts of hydrogen sulfide can lead to the smell or taste of sulfur in drinking water. Texas A& M University noted that, at a hydrogen sulfide concentration of just 0.1 milligrams of hydrogen sulfide per liter, most individuals will notice the smell.
At the most basic level, its important to understand how hydrogen sulfide gets into your water, since thats where the sulfur taste and smell comes from.
Usually, this emerges because of a combination in your water of both sulfate, which is a naturally occurring element found throughout the environment, and the presence of sulfate-reducing bacteria. These microorganisms produce hydrogen sulfide as a byproduct when the bacterium feeds off of the sulfate, reducing the sulfate to sulfide.
An electric water heater may also inadvertently produce hydrogen sulfide. Typically, these water heaters include a magnesium anode rod to help prevent corrosion of the water heater. If this anode rod corrodes, this can result in the production of free electrons in the water, which stimulate the reaction between sulfate-reducing bacteria and sulfate that produces hydrogen sulfide . This is more likely to occur when water is left in the water heater for a period of time, and can go away once the water in the heater is used. In more severe cases, this could happen overnight and may require a water treatment system to eliminate the root cause .
Potential Problems With Hydrogen Sulfide
If you have hydrogen sulfide in your water supply, the main reason your hot water can smell like rotten eggs, it can damage pipes as it corrodes many different types of metals and can also cause black stains on silverware and plumbing fixtures. In most cases drinking water that has a strong rotten egg odor, although particularly unpleasant, is perfectly safe to drink. However in some rare occasions the odor may be caused by sewage or other contaminates in a buildings water supply, which could cause health problems.
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