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Ask Furr: My Water Smells Strange! What Could It Be?

Question Submitted by Cathy F., Manassas, VA

Cathy, your question is one that many homeowners have fairly regularly. Whether it’s washing the dishes, showering or brushing your teeth, if your water smells rotten, this is a huge issue! There are a few questions you have to ask yourself when you encounter an odor you can’t escape:

What is the source of this odor? Well, it could be a number of things:

  1. Bacteria – sulfate-reducing bacteria can change natural sulfate and its compounds into hydrogen sulfide gas
  2. Your Water Heater – it may be providing a ripe environment for the growth of sulfate-reducing bacteria
  3. Decomposing organic matter/chemical reactions of minerals in soil and rock with that of sulfuric minerals

Not only is this problem nasty, it has the potential to clog your pipes and plumbing fixtures as the sulfide-reducing bacteria generates glop and gunk! The gas that the bacteria produce may also stain plumbing fixtures black and further corrode your pipes!

Here is some helpful information as you “play bloodhound” and determine the origin of that horrific odor:


Water that stinks can put a damper on daily life!

Turn on the water from both the hot and cold taps (you may want to do this at a time when your sense of smell is keener from having been away). Perhaps conduct your experiment when you come home from work in the evening, or upon returning from a trip to the grocery store.

  1. When you smell the odor from the hot water tap, your water heater may be the problem
  2. When you smell the odor from both taps, but it disappears after running a while, chances are you have sulfur-reducing bacteria somewhere in your pipes
  3. When you smell the odor from both taps and you use water softener, the water softener may be the cause due to presence of sulfur-reducing bacteria
  4. When you smell the odor continually from both taps, your groundwater may have hydrogen sulfide gas

To eliminate hydrogen sulfide gas, you may need to have a specific filter that depends on the concentration of the gas. Carbon filters, manganese greensand filters, or an oxidation filtration system may be your solution. In some cases, a chlorine injection system can remedy the issue. 

Contact the professionals to help identify and fix the problem for you, and say “So long!” to smelly, inconsistent water for good!

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