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What’s that Smell? Common Reasons Why Your Water May Stink

Mar 03, 2017 | Water Problems

It doesn’t matter if you have city water or well water, turning on the tap only to be greeted by a strong, foul-smelling odor can be alarming for all homeowners. Your initial reaction may be to think your water supply has been contaminated, but there are a multitude of reasons why your household water may suddenly possess a pungent odor.

Although bacterial activity is often the cause of stinky water, this is not the only reason water may smell and taste off. Chemical reactions, elevated traces of minerals, and decaying organic material can all cause changes in your water. Below we take a look at some of the most common water smells, what causes them, and how to rid your water of unwanted odors for good.

Odor: Rotten Eggs

Cause: If there’s a rotten egg smell coming from your faucet, the most common culprit is sulfur bacteria that have found its way into your water supply. The foul smell usually comes from a lack of oxygen in a well, which produces hydrogen sulfide gas. It can also occur as a result of sulfur-containing chemical reactions in the groundwater.

If you only experience the smell when running hot water from the faucet or in the shower, it may be a chemical reaction occurring inside your water heater, not your water supply.

Solution: Since sulfur is a gas caused by an absence of oxygen in the well, the most effective way to eliminate the smell is to install an aeration system that combines dissolved oxygen and catalytic carbon. Catalytic carbon converts the gas to a solid by precipitating the gas and filtering it out. What doesn’t convert to a solid gets absorbed onto the carbon surface.

In order to successfully get rid of the odor, you must completely kill the sulfur bacteria using an oxidant, such as chlorine or ozone injection. Water filters, like the Impression Plus Series® Air Sulfur Water Filter, WaterCare® Ion Pro® Air Sulfur, and Evolve® EVS use air-injection technology to oxidize sulfur for easy filtration and removal. The system uses air and water to eliminate chemicals and other contaminants found in well water.

Odor: Dirty or Earthy

Cause: If you notice a burst of musty, earthy smelling water when using your hot tap, you may be dealing with iron bacteria in your water supply. Though this type of bacteria is not harmful, it can be a nuisance as it often imparts a bad taste. Iron bacteria are found in well water with high levels of iron. In addition to a pungent odor, you may also notice slime in your toilet’s tank or other plumbing fixtures in your home.

Iron bacteria forms when iron and oxygen mix. The bacteria feed on the iron and create a slime to protect itself. When the bacteria die, it gives off an earthy odor.

Because of its warm temperature, your home’s water heater is often the perfect breeding ground for iron bacteria. Bacteria in a water heater may produce a longer-lasting smell when you turn on your faucet.

Solution: One way you can effectively treat iron bacteria is with a chlorine chemical feed system. Chlorination systems in conjunction with a water-holding tank for proper “bacteria kill time” will effectively reduce the bacteria and help oxidize the iron for proper filtration.  Following up with an automatic iron filter like the Impression Plus Series® Air Iron Filter, WaterCare® Ion Pro® Air Iron, and Evolve® EVFE will provide additional oxidation and precipitation of iron for easy filtration and removal of the iron particle.

Odor: Fishy Drinking Water

Cause: The most likely cause of a fishy smell in your drinking water comes from naturally occurring organic material that has made its way into your water source. This smell is often an indicator that you may be dealing with elevated levels of chloramines, barium, or cadmium.

Chloramines are a compound of chlorine and ammonia and are used to disinfect public water. While necessary to remove harmful contaminants, it can create a strong odor in your water. Barium and cadmium are naturally occurring metals found in natural deposits that can make their way into your water as a result of fertilizer contamination or deteriorating pipes and plumbing. Though the smell is off-putting, it rarely signifies the presence of harmful bacteria or contaminants.

Solution: Removing contaminants from your water supply is most effective with the help of reverse osmosis (R.O.) water filters like the Eclipse® and Impression® R.O. system. These drinking water systems effectively filter common contaminants like barium and cadmium, along with other organic chemicals that may be contributing to a fishy smell in your drinking water. Carbon filters also help to improve the odor and taste, leaving you with clean, refreshing water whenever you want. 

Odor: Bleach, Swimming Pool Smell

Cause: Complaints of water with a bleach smell most commonly come from homeowners with city water, because chlorine is manually added to public water to disinfect it. Homes located close to a distribution plant may have higher levels of chlorine in the water. Chlorine is necessary for municipal water treatment, however, once the chlorine reaches your home’s water supply, it’s essentially doing nothing more than drying out your skin and giving your water a funky smell and taste.

Solution: You can easily remove chlorine from your drinking water with the help of a water filter. The Impression Series Backwashing Carbon Filter, WaterCare® CareClear Pro®, and Evolve® EVBF eliminates the taste and smell of chlorine commonly found in municipal water.

You can also eliminate the smell of chlorine from your water with an R.O. drinking water system. R.O. systems, like Eclipse®, Impression®, Clear Flo®, and UltroWater® run your tap water through a carbon filter to give you that sparkling, crisp, “bottled water” taste straight from your tap. 

Give Your Home Quality Drinking Water with Treatment from Water-Right

It’s important to remember that although odorous water can be a nuisance, it’s typically not a health concern. To be certain of your water’s odor source, contact a Water-Right dealer for a free water analysis.

If you’re ready to eliminate that pesky smell from your water source once and for all, contact our specialists for more information on the best water treatment options for your needs and budget.

Save yourself time and money with the help of a water filtration system. Learn more about our various products below that help to treat your water and remove minerals for good.

Click the links above to visit the websites of our trusted brands. You can use the ‘Find a Dealer’ tool to locate a professional near you. For those who have serious concerns about water quality or potential contamination, you can use our Clean Water Testing service to get the answers you need.