If your water smells like rotten eggs, don’t blame it on the city. You probably have a buildup of bacteria in your water heater that is reacting with the anodes in that heater, producing hydrogen sulfide gas, the source of the rotten egg smell.
This occurs most frequently in areas that are served by well water, due to the particular qualities of that water.
Here is a quick list of do’s and don’ts to solve this problem.
Tips for Dealing with Smelly Water
- DON’T remove the anodes from your water heater, as some plumbers have advised homeowners. This will solve the problem, but it will also cause your heater to rust out far more quickly. Your warranty will become invalid if you remove these anodes.
- DON’T replace your magnesium anodes with aluminum ones. There is a high probability that this will not remove the odor because the aluminum will interact with the bacteria as well.
- DO figure out if the problem is coming from just one sink or from all sources of hot water. If the problem is localized, the solution is different.
DO add hydrogen peroxide to your tank to kill the bacteria. Some people add bleach, but hydrogen peroxide is far safer. You can find detailed instructions on how to do this online. If the problem is occurring at only one sink, you just need to dump some hydrogen peroxide into the overflow basin, not the hot water heater. In most cases, this adding of hydrogen peroxide is only a temporary solution that you might need to do more than once.
- DO consider replacing completely your anodes, whatever their composition. This can solve the problem in some cases, too. There are all sorts of anode models that people are putting into their heaters to solve this problem, including a special type of power anode that can eliminate this problem. Consult your plumber for details.
- DO realize that you might have the perfect storm for stinky water—you draw on well water and leave your hot water heater unused for long periods of time. This gives the bacteria time to grow and re-cause the problem all over again. There is no great long-term solution to this situation, which is typical of vacation homes or cabins in the woods.
- DO consider purchasing a different water heater. Some of the most current models feature interiors that have no anodes, thus eliminating the catalyst for this problem. These models are much more expensive than standard ones, however.