Why Does My Water Smell Like Sulfur?


The smell of sulfur is produced when sulfur bacteria break down organic matter and release hydrogen sulfide gas, often leaving an aroma of rotten eggs. Sulfur bacteria are naturally present in groundwater. Therefore, the smell is most likely due to reactions occurring in your hot water and are not a threat to your health.

It isn’t uncommon to experience an odd smell coming from your water, especially if your water source is a well or other still water supply. Water that smells strongly of sulfur, or like rotten eggs, is likely attributed to the presence of “sulfur bacteria” or hydrogen sulfide. While it is not necessarily dangerous for your water to smell like sulfur, it may signify high levels of pollution or chemicals. Over 316 contaminants have been detected in water reservoirs across the U.S. and it is important to identify the source of the stench to ensure safe, clean drinking water.

What Causes the Smell?

If your water smells strongly of sulfur, or rotten eggs, it is likely attributed to the presence of “sulfur bacteria” or hydrogen sulfide. Sulfur bacteria dwell in oxygen deficient environments such as deep wells or plumbing systems and feed on decaying organic matter, creating hydrogen sulfide gas that gets trapped in water sources.

If you smell sulfur only when you use the hot tap, your water heater may be the culprit. Reactions caused by the magnesium rod and aluminum in your water heater produce hydrogen sulfide gas, yielding a stronger sulfur scent when you use the hot water.

What Should You Do?

It is important to have water sources tested for the correct levels of chemicals and bacteria in order to enjoy safe consumption. After locating the source of the hydrogen sulfide or sulfur bacteria in your water source, it is a good idea to check for proper ventilation so that the gas has a means of escape. For matters related to your hot water heater, it is best to contact a water system professional who can replace the magnesium anode or flush the heater with a chlorine bleach solution. Additionally, outfitting your home with a water filtration system, especially if your water comes from a still water source, can eliminate impurities such as sulfur bacteria.

Improving Your Drinking Water

Fortunately, water that smells like sulfur isn’t the end of refreshing drinking water. One of the better alternatives to drinking straight from the tap is using a water filter that eradicates harmful contaminants. At Quench, our mission is to deliver fresh, clean water to all businesses across North America. Our quenchWATER+ filtration water coolers eliminate harmful levels of bacteria found in tap water sources.

Get matched with the best filtered water cooler for your business or request your quote for a water cooler.