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Well and Hot Water Smells

toilet tank water problems

Can't you smell that smell?

While well water users are more prone to experiencing odors and bacteria in their water, city water users should not feel immune to water contamination by bacteria and odor.

There are many ways for such contamination to occur and more than a few available treatment methods.  But which is right for you?  Today's post is for our city-water-using readers; if you have experienced odorous water, or are wondering how to recognize and treat it, read on…

Aside from chlorine odors, most odors on municipally treated water (city water), are a result of decaying organic material and algae in the source water.  Other sources of odors in city water are from decaying or contaminated distribution pipes, or from household water heaters.

Thus, your first step is to find the source of your water's odor: is it coming from your water source, or being created in your piping or water heater?

If you can, run cold water from a hose bib outside your house – if it smells, the odor is probably coming from your water source, and you can likely filter it before it enters your home.  If the smell only comes from cold water inside your house, it may be caused by decaying iron piping, on which sulfur and iron bacteria thrive (the hydrogen sulfide gas they create is responsible for the odor you smell).

Make sure to also run hot water from each tap in your house, to determine if there is an odor in the hot water that is not present in the cold water.  If so, your water heater is the likely culprit behind your water's odor.  Anode rods used in water heaters can encourage iron and sulfur bacteria growth, resulting in hydrogen sulfide gas in your hot water.

If your water heater is the cause of your odor, simply add a hydrogen peroxide pre-filter before your water heater and let your water heater sit for several hours.  If the smell comes back after a few days/weeks, you'll have to change your anode rod to an aluminum rod.  Note that even if your water heater is not the cause of the problem, you should still drain it at least once a year to flush out any accumulated sediment.

Later this week we will talk more about killing water heater odors with a hydrogen peroxide pre-filter.  For now, you can get more information about waterborne odors and home water treatment systems in our Water Problems and Resources pages. Thanks for reading, and be sure to check back soon!

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