My Water Smells Like Eggs — Is It Dangerous?

When you go to the tap to get a glass of water, the last thing you want to experience is water that smells like eggs when you take a sip. To be more specific, what you may find is a rotten egg odor. If this happens, aside from the unpleasant sensation, the first thing you will probably want to know is whether this is dangerous for you and your family. And of course you’ll be wondering about what causes this condition and how you can remedy it. Sometimes the rotten egg odor may be more noticeable when you first turn on the tap, or it could happen only when you use the hot water.

So let’s address all of these questions that you have when you find that your water smells like eggs.

What Causes Water to Smell Like Eggs?

Rotten eggs smell like sulfur, and that’s the root cause of this condition — hydrogen sulfide gas. Sulfate-reducing bacteria convert sulfate and other compounds into hydrogen sulfide gas.

Water heaters are one cause of this unpleasant odor. The warm environment is conducive to the growth of the sulfate-reducing bacteria that cause this odor. A reaction is caused by the magnesium anode and this creates the smell that you’re experiencing.

If it isn’t the water heater, it could be the water supply itself. It can come from decaying organic matter or other conditions within the soil and rock.

Is it Safe to Drink Water That Smells Like Eggs?

If you don’t find the odor too objectionable and you can still drink it, this is a good indication that the sulfur levels are low enough that there is no danger posed. If the sulfur levels were dangerous, the sulfur/rotten egg odor would be so overpowering that you would not find the water to be drinkable. It would be much too unpleasant to even attempt to drink.

One issue even with lower levels is metal corrosion, however. Iron, steel, copper, and brass can become corroded, silver can tarnish, and copper and brass utensils can become discolored due to water that contains sulfur.

What Can You Do About Water That Smells Like Eggs?

There are some remedies for this condition.

You can use carbon filters if the sulfur levels are relatively low. The filter simply absorbs the problematic particles, and from time to time you’ll need to change the filter when it becomes too full of hydrogen sulfide and cannot absorb any more. Higher hydrogen sulfide content in your water means that you’ll have to change the carbon filter more often. Here’s an example of the type of filter that can improve your water’s odor and taste.

You can also use an aeration system. In an aeration system, oxygen combines with the hydrogen sulfide and this dissolves the sulfur into sulfate, which has no odor and should not be noticeable. The increased oxygen saturation will give your water a cleaner taste. When looking for a water aeration system, make sure you select one that is designed specifically to treat sulfur.

Finally, you can use chlorination to remedy the situation. Chlorine reacts with the hydrogen sulfide and creates odorless and tasteless water. Adding household bleach in small amounts can remove the sulfur smell from your water supply, although you’ll find that there is a yellow film that comes from the particles that remain. This film can show up on your clothing and fixtures unless you use a sand filter or an aggregate filter to treat this issue.

Final Thoughts

Finding a rotten egg smell in your water is not pleasant, but in most cases this isn’t a safety issue. There are treatment options available that can be very effective in improving your water’s taste and odor.

Photo by fbroschart