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How to Treat Sulfur Water and Get Rid of Rotten Egg Odor

February 28, 2024
Maureen Beard
Read Time
3 minutes

Is your water starting to smell like rotten eggs? While no one enjoys the rotten egg smell in water, it can be a common problem for homeowners, especially those with well water. Good clean water should be free of tastes and foul odors. You shouldn’t have to drink foul-tasting water or bathe in water that smells. If your water has an unpleasant taste or rotten egg smell, we can help. Below we’ll explore what causes sulfur water, the risks associated with sulfur water, and let you know how to treat sulfur water so you can enjoy clean, safe water.

What Causes Sulfur Water?

When someone mentions “sulfur water,” they’re most likely referring to water that smells like rotten eggs. Hydrogen sulfide causes this rotten egg smell in water. While hydrogen sulfide is a poisonous gas, the levels in water are generally more of a nuisance than a health risk.

Hydrogen sulfide is a naturally occurring element found in different forms and compounds. It can get in your water in two ways. Firstly, it is naturally produced when organic substances break down, such as decaying plants and bacteria, which can be dissolved in drinking water. Secondly, it’s also common in wells, especially those drilled in high shale or sandstone concentration and water heaters containing magnesium rods. Thus, the odor is more noticeable when using hot water, as heated water releases the gas more quickly than cold water.

Health Risks of Drinking Sulfur Water

Can sulfur water make you sick? The answer depends on the levels of hydrogen sulfide present in the water. For most homes, the levels are not high enough to cause any significant health concerns. However, if the concentration gets too high, it can cause stomach aches and nausea and become problematic for infants.

The biggest problem is taste and smell. But, too much sulfur in your water can lead to the following issues:

  • Diarrhea and Dehydration: Drinking water with high levels of sulfate can cause diarrhea which leads to dehydration.
  • Bitter Taste: Scale deposits in pipes cause a bitter taste.
  • Clogged Pipes: Encourages the growth of slimy, thick iron bacteria that clings to pipes and slows water flow.

Moderate levels of hydrogen sulfide also do not cause serious health issues but can cause other problems, including:

  • Foul odor: Causes rotten egg odor, which can make food and beverages unappetizing.
  • Stain fixtures: Hydrogen sulfide may cause yellow or black stains on fixtures in the bathroom and kitchen
  • Corroded Metal: Wears away metals, especially iron and steel, which can shorten the lifespan of your plumbing.
  • Stain Laundry: Hydrogen sulfide can leave black stains on laundry.

How to Remove Sulfur From Water

The first step, have a professional test your water. While there are at-home water testing kits available, you’ll need a professional to identify the cause of the issue. For instance, is it associated with hydrogen sulfide gas in your groundwater, plumbing, or your water heater? You also want to ensure there are no other contaminants present in your water due to sewage pollution.

According to the EPA, even if you aren’t worried about sulfur levels, those with private wells will want to check their water levels every year.

Once you know the cause and level of your water’s hydrogen sulfide odor, you can take the proper steps to remove the contaminants.

Chlorine Bleach

Chlorine bleach can remove medium to high levels of hydrogen sulfide. A chlorinator adds chlorine to the water system. Then a filter system removes the sulfur, iron, and magnesium sediments that have formed. Regular maintenance and replacement of filters are recommended.

Iron Removal Filter

An iron removal filter can remove low to moderate levels of hydrogen sulfide in addition to iron and magnesium. The filter oxidizes the hydrogen sulfide, separating the sulfide and forming a solid, which the filtering process removes.

These are highly specialized systems with a complex potassium permanganate recharging process. The filter’s installation and operation must be exactly followed as directed, and filters must be replaced regularly.

Aeration Removal Method

Aeration (adding air to the water) removal methods may remove the levels of hydrogen sulfide in your water. This method requires an aerator installed between the well and a non-pressurized water storage tank. The storage tank and aeration system must be secure to prevent contamination of the water supply.

Activated Carbon Filters

Activated carbon filtration is suitable for the removal of low levels of hydrogen sulfide. Carbon filters are commonly installed under sinks to treat drinking and cooking water. Since this method removes low concentrations of sulfur, there may continue to be a lingering odor present. Filters must be removed and replaced often.

If the rotten egg smell in water is from a rod in the water heater, you may be able to replace the magnesium rod with one made of aluminum or zinc.

Schedule Your Free Water Test Today

If you smell rotten eggs in your water, have a professional test your water. Learn the cause of the odor and the presence of any potentially harmful contaminants. Leaf Home Water Solutions’ professionals will guide you toward the best water treatment method for your situation.

Drink clean, safe water at home. Schedule your water test today!