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Why Water Smells Like Sulfur In One Faucet

Scott Winfield
Written by Scott Winfield
Last Updated on

Imagine you’re getting ready to brush your teeth, and suddenly, you’re hit with the stench of rotten eggs. This foul odor usually comes from hydrogen sulfide in the water supply.

So, what can you do to remove the sulfur smell?

First, you need to determine whether the smell comes from your hot water, cold water, or both. This will help you pinpoint the source of the problem.

Why Water Smells Like Sulfur In One Faucet

Below, we’ll guide you through several easy steps to identify the issue and solutions to get rid of that nasty smell.

Finding the Source of the Sulfur Smell

To figure out why your water smells like sulfur, you first need to determine where the odor is coming from.

Here’s how you can do it:

  • Run the taps separately: Start by running your cold and hot water taps separately for a few minutes to identify if the smell is coming from just one or both.
  • Test each faucet: Try running water from each faucet, one at a time. This will help you pinpoint which faucet is causing the issue.

Hot Water Smell

If the sulfur smell only occurs when you run hot water, the problem could be inside the water heater.

There are a couple of common culprits:

  • Chemical reactions: Sometimes, a chemical reaction happens inside the water heater, especially if you have a degrading anode rod (a metal rod that runs along the center of your water heater). If the rod is made of magnesium, it’s more likely to cause this problem.
  • Sulfate bacteria: These bacteria can form if water stays stagnant in your heater for too long. They thrive in hot, low-oxygen environments, like the inside of a water heater.

Cold Water Smell

If the smell is coming from your cold water, there might be high levels of hydrogen sulfide gas or sulfur bacteria in your water. It could also be a sign that you have hard water, which isn’t harmful by itself but can cause that unpleasant smell. A water softener can usually handle this issue.

Both Hot and Cold Water

If the sulfur smell is present in both hot and cold water, the problem is probably in your water source. In this case, you should get your water supply inspected by a professional. If you use a well, have it tested to make sure it meets the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) regulations.

Why Water Smells Like Sulfur In One Faucet?

Water Smells Like Sulfur

If the smell comes from just one faucet, there’s a good chance the source is located in the drainage. Sometimes, all the waste that goes through the sink might build up somewhere in the drainage and lead to bacterial formation.

To confirm whether there is an issue with the drainage, open the tap and fill a glass. Then, step away from the faucet, swirl the glass a couple of times, and sniff it.

If the water doesn’t have any smell, then the drain is the culprit. Check for twisted pipes by visually inspecting them.

How to Fix Smelly Tap Water from One Faucet

If the smell only comes from one faucet, the problem is likely the drain.

Here’s how you can check and fix it:

  • Test the water: Fill a glass with water from the smelly faucet. Step away from the sink, swirl the water in the glass, and give it a sniff. If the water doesn’t smell, the issue is in the drain.
  • Inspect the drain: Sometimes, waste buildup in the drain can lead to bacteria formation, causing the nasty smell. Check for any twisted or clogged pipes.

To clean the drain, you’ll need hot water and vinegar. Here’s how to do it:

  • Mix equal parts of hot water and vinegar.
  • Pour the mixture into the smelly drain.
  • Leave it unused for several hours. The vinegar will help break down any buildup causing the smell.
  • For best results, repeat this process 3-4 times to make sure all the buildup is cleared.

How to Fix Smelly Tap Water from All Faucets

Install activated carbon filters

If the sulfur smell comes from all your faucets, the problem lies in your water sources.

Here’s how to tackle it:

Fixing the Sulfur Smell of Well Water

If you get your water from a well, follow these steps:

  • Use a chlorine solution to flush your well. Chlorine kills bacteria and breaks down hydrogen sulfide, reducing the strength of the smell.
  • After flushing, test your water to ensure the smell is gone. If not, you may need to repeat the process.

Fixing the Sulfur Smell of Municipal Water

If your water comes from a municipality source, you have a few options:

  • Install activated carbon filters. These filters can absorb hydrogen sulfide, heavy metals, and other contaminants before the water reaches your faucets. They’re a great way to improve water quality and eliminate odors.
  • Use a water softener. This can help if your water has high levels of minerals that cause the smell.

Additional Solutions

Regardless of your water source, you can also try the following solutions:

  • Flush the water heater using hot water to remove any bacteria or buildup causing the smell.
  • Replace the degrading anode rod with a new one made from a different material, such as aluminum.
  • Install a whole-house filtration system as a long-term solution for filtering out contaminants throughout your home.

If you’re unsure what the problem might be and how to fix it, consulting a water treatment specialist can save you time and ensure your water is safe and pleasant to use

Is it Safe to Use Smelly Water to Clean Dishes?

Water that smells like sulfur isn’t harmful, but it’s definitely unpleasant. You can still use it for tasks like washing dishes or even showering. However, it’s best to fix the problem as soon as possible to avoid any discomfort.

Can Sulfur Smell Go Away on Its Own?

Unfortunately, the smell of sulfur in your water won’t disappear on its own. You’ll need to use one or more of the solutions we’ve outlined in this article to get rid of it.

If the tank is the source of the odor, it’s time to drain all the water in it and clean the system. To prevent further occurrences, we recommend using a water softener or a whole-house filtration system.

Wrapping Up With the Best Course of Action.

There are three main reasons your water might smell like sulfur in one faucet:

  • Bacteria in the water heater: Regularly drain and clean your water heater, and consider replacing the anode rod with an aluminum one.
  • Bacteria in the water supply: If you have a well, flush it with a chlorine solution to kill bacteria. To remove contaminants, use activated carbon filters or a whole-house filtration system.
  • Bacteria in the drainage: Pour a mixture of hot water and vinegar down the drain to clear out any buildup.

While addressing the problem, consider using bottled water for drinking and cooking to avoid any unpleasant taste or odor. It’s always better to be safe and comfortable in your home.

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Scott Winfield
Scott Winfield
My name is Scott Winfield and researching and writing about water filters and other strategies to purify water has become my full time passion in recent years. I'm glad that you found our site and you can look forward to authoritative and well researched content here to help you get the best in water.
  1. When you say that the smell may be coming from the drain, do you mean when the water from the tap hits a certain place in the drain that it emits an odour or do you mean that the smell from the drain is somehow getting into the tapwater. We have an odour in our cold water in the kitchen tap That we smell after the water has been running for only a few seconds thank you .

    1. Hi Shelley, it’s the first scenario that you mentioned. If it’s with cold tap water from only your kitchen faucet that you smell only after running your water for a few seconds, it seems likely that you have something in the drainage that is responsible for the smell. If no other faucets in your house have this problem and it’s also not just hot water that does this, it sounds like the scenario we described in the article you read.

      1. The cold water taps in all three of our bathrooms have a strong sulphur odor when you turn on the tap . This doesn’t happen in the showers or kitchen taps. The odor dissipates if the taps run for about 30 seconds. We have had our well tested and it is fine. A few months ago we had the water treated (shocked) using bleach at the well head. This worked for a short time, but it took nearly two days to bleach and clear the lines. We’re not exactly sure what to do next to permanently get rid of the odor. Shocking the well every few months doesn’t seem like a good solution. The cause is clearly not our water heater. Any suggestions?

  2. I found the link you shared very informative. It’s great to know how to deal with the unpleasant sulfur smell that can sometimes come from our faucets. The step-by-step process the article provides to identify and fix the issue is very helpful. I also appreciate the suggestion to get professional help if needed. Water quality is crucial to our health, and it’s important to take it seriously. Thank you for sharing this resource!

  3. I have been struggling with a sulpher smell in the cold water in one bathroom for several years. After running the water for a short time, the smell goes away. I don’t believe it is in the drain because I can smell it in a glass of water. I have been changing the under-the-sink supply line which corrects the problem for 3-4 months but the smell always returns. If the bacteria were growing in the main supply line, why does the smell go away when I change the under-the-sink supply line?

  4. My rotten egg smell is confined to one faucet in the bathroom. I cleaned it before by sucking in a solution of bleach and water. And that fixes it. I have a new Fossett and unbelievably, the smell came back. There is no smell in any other faucet or the drain. What is the concentration of bleach to use to kill the bacteria in the faucet? That is what mixture of hypo chloride, bleach, and water should I use?

    1. Hi Jeffrey, the best method for diluting to prepare a bleach mixture is to read the bottle’s label as there can be differences in bleach products. If there aren’t any instructions, then there are recommendations of around 1:9-20 ratios to use. That is 1 part bleach for 9-20 parts of water, depending on the situation and how conservative to be.

    2. Well thank you Scott! Wife has complained of mysterious sulfur smell in bathroom (only) for many years, through multiple faucets and an entire bathroom remodeling. She was about to have me call the DEP.

      I did your “just take a glass of water down the hall and smell it, dummy” test, and sure enough it wasn’t something magically wrong with the inlet to the bathroom – it was the gunk in the drain stinking up the joint.

      I’m trying the hot vinegar soak right now, and will escalate to caustic cleaners if needed. You have really helped us out! Thank you.

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