Sulfur Water 101: Rotten Eggs and Hydrogen Sulfide

Sulfur Water 101

The smell of rotten eggs isn’t welcome anywhere, especially in your water. We’ve got answers to all of your hydrogen sulfide questions.
Rotten Eggs

Why does my water smell like rotten eggs? How do I get rid of it?

The cause of rotten egg smell in a private well is usually hydrogen sulfide, a smelly, colorless gas. Removing the smell from your water depends on the root cause of the problem. Which symptom applies to you?

My hot water smells like rotten eggs:

This can make hot showers particularly unpleasant, not to mention using hot water for morning coffee.

Look at your water heater. Its magnesium anode rod can combine with naturally occurring sulfate in your water to create the rotten egg smell.

Rotten EggsMore expensive aluminum or zinc rods may be able to prevent the odor, but if they don’t, Culligan can add FDA-approved corrosion inhibitors to your water.  This allows you to safely remove the anode rod without losing corrosion protection, thereby shortening the lifespan of your water heater tank.

Finally, if none of the above works, Culligan can remove the sulfate from your water altogether with an affordable dealkalizer system.

My cold water smells like rotten eggs:

The cause is probably sulfate-reducing bacteria, which typically survive off naturally occurring sulfur in your water and slowly corrode steel parts while generating hydrogen. Sulfate-reducing bacteria are capable of surviving in harsh conditions, like poorly aerated plumbing.

SRBs produce a rotten egg smell that eventually dissipates after the water has run for a few moments, and you’re more likely to smell it if your water hasn’t been used for a few hours.

In this case, we recommend shock-chlorination, with the addition of a Culligan chlorine feed system.

My hot and cold water smell like rotten eggs:

If your water consistently smells like rotten eggs then you have hydrogen sulfide in your water.

The good news is that Culligan offers multiple treatment methods, like a Softener Cleer Plus or Sulfur Cleer depending on whatRotten Eggs other contaminants are in your water.

Chemical feed and carbon filtration systems can also have a positive impact on your water quality, but choosing the right treatment will require a visit from your local Culligan Man. He’s trained and equipped to test your water for the level of hydrogen sulfide and other contaminants to determine the perfect treatment depending on your water usage.

Are there other causes for water that smells like rotten eggs?

Iron bacteria can cause the smell of rotten eggs in your well water, as well as a red, slimy substance in your sinks, toilets, and shower. Iron bacteria are harmless, other than the undesirable stains, tastes, and odors.

Because iron can combine with other contaminants to mimic these effects, it’s best to get an iron bacteria test from Culligan.

If iron bacteria is the culprit, Culligan can install multiple solutions, including a chemical feed system.

Is sulfur water bad for you?

Sulfur is commonly found in the foods you eat, so other than the smell of hydrogen sulfide, there are few, if any, effects on human health. But, some people may experience a laxative effect, leading to increased rates of diarrhea and dehydration, especially in infants.

What other effects can sulfur have?

High levels of sulfur can have effects on your household as well, leaving stains on your plumbing fixtures, toilets and sinks, while tarnishing silver and copper housewares.

Sulfur bacteria can also create an environment where other bacteria can grow and cause further problems, like staining and corrosion.

Sulfur is relatively harmless, unlike other well contaminants.

Rotten EggsIt’s important to get your well water tested annually, if not more often, as advocated by the EPA. That’s why your local Culligan Man is trained and equipped to collect a water sample and return it to our EPA-certified lab for analysis.

Common well contaminants can include lead, radium, arsenic and nitrates. All of which are more harmful than sulfur, and impossible to detect with human senses, but can be reduced with a Culligan reverse osmosis system.

Private wells are also at much higher risk for coliform, a bacteria which can be an indicator of e.coli.

Better water is one call away. Get started with a water test from your local Culligan Man.