Causes of Smelly Water and How to Fix the Problem

Causes of Smelly Water and How to Fix the Problem

Have you ever smelled something off when you turn on your faucet? If your answer is yes, take note that this is not just an unpleasant problem but a serious one that could expose you and your family to health risks. After all, the funky, sewage-like smell is almost always caused by bacteria in your drain pipe or water heater. 

Simply put, the foul-smelling water is not really about the water per se, but your drains and pipes where contaminants, bacteria, decay, and debris have accumulated. For this reason, regular drain cleaning is important to avoid this problem and the health risks that come with it. 

The funky smell is more common in vacant houses (for example, the homeowners are on vacation or these are up for sale for an extended period); this is especially true under the kitchen sink and the dishwasher drain where the decaying food emits gas from the pipes, and the dishwasher drain. 

It is not uncommon for homeowners to ignore their dishwasher drain since many manufacturers claim that their products are “self-cleaning” even though maintaining good hygiene is a surefire way to prevent funky odor permeating from the plumbing system and drains. 

The garbage disposal rubber gasket is also prone to foul odor if you skip on regular cleaning. To remove the decaying food particles that usually accumulate on its underside, unplug the unit and then use a rag with a strong cleaning solution to eliminate the grime. 


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The rotten smell in the water heater 

Without regular draining, water heaters can emit this rotten egg smell, which is caused by sulfate bacteria that can develop within the tank. If you want to eliminate this problem for good, a better approach is to call a pro than resort to some DIY tasks. 

A professional plumber can get rid of the rotten egg smell by flushing and disinfecting your tank, eliminating the bacteria responsible for the funky odor. At the same time, he may also replace your magnesium or aluminum anode rod to prevent the issue from coming back. 

An anode rod attracts corrosive minerals so they won’t damage the tank’s inner lining. Most water heater manufacturers recommend inspecting this piece of metal every 1-3 years and replacing it as soon as it has been consumed more than 50%; this is especially true if you’re using a water softener or have hard water. 

Addressing foul water smells 

As a homeowner, you can do your part to prevent smelly water. A good rule of thumb is to set your water heater between 135 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. The idea is to prevent bacteria growth, which emits foul-smelling gases. 

Another way to prevent smelly water and the health risks that come with it is to schedule at least a yearly professional tune-up and cleaning. This proactive approach is also an excellent way to extend the life of your water heater and maintain its energy efficiency (dirty water heaters use more energy, which spikes up your electricity bill). 

Does foul-smelling water pose health risks? 

In low concentrations, sulfate bacteria are not harmful to humans. But in high concentrations and prolonged exposure, it could have some laxative effects, which could lead to dehydration. 

Another issue with sulfate bacteria is that even in low concentrations, they can discolor silverware, stain your clothes (and force you to use more amounts of laundry detergent), and corrode the exposed metal parts in your washing machine and dishwasher.


You may also like: Water Heater Maintenance Tips for Fall and Winter Season 


Woman in bath towel smelling foul water

















If you have smelly water (or any plumbing issue) or need water heater repair, contact Patrick’s Hot Water.

We have been one of the most trusted Rocklin water heaters experts for years because of our customer-focused business approach.

Visit our website if you want to leave a message or contact us at (916)824-5131.


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