WATER QUALITYHow to Avoid the Most Common Odors in Tap Water

March 10, 2022

If your water smells like anything off or wrong, it’s a problem. It may be bleach, rotten eggs or gas. Your first thought is about the safety of your family. The smell might or might not mean the water is unsafe or contaminated. We’ll go over some of the common odors in tap water and steps you or a professional can take to avoid or solve this problem.

Bleach or Chemical Smell

A bleach or chlorine smell in your home’s tap water is not pleasant at all. It’s likely safe to drink and use, but no one wants the water in their home to smell and taste like a pool or chemicals. This is typically caused by elevated levels or chlorine. Why is this the case sometimes?

  1. Public water uses chlorine to stop microbial growth. Municipal or public water facilities use a small, safe amount of chlorine to water for decontamination.

You can get and use chlorine tests to test your water. If a test shows more than 2.0 parts per million (ppm) of chlorine, you should call your water company, health department or municipality. If the test shows lower than 2.0 ppm, it’s certainly safe. If there’s an odor, one idea is to put a pitcher or jug of water in the refrigerator for a couple hours and the odor should go away.

  1. There can be higher chlorination by a water company after a storm or flood. After a possible contamination of a water supply, a facility may need to use more chlorine. There will be a stronger odor for a short time. You can help the smell go away by turning on multiple faucets and letting the water run.
  2. Chlorine combined with bacteria can lead to more odor. Chlorine is doing what it’s meant to do in the water, by decontaminating it from microbes and bacteria, but it means there’s a stronger smell for a while. Chlorine meeting bacteria, fungus or algae creates chloramines. The more material in water, the more likely chlorine is having to work hard.

You can try to run faucets in your home for a few minutes to see if the bad-smelling water lasts only a few minutes. If the issue persists, call your water suppliers. If you have well water, and the issue is remaining or reoccurring often, you might need to call an expert to flush the system or look into a larger problem.

Rotten Eggs or Sewage

Egg or sewer smells in water is usually from sulfur in the water supply. How does this happen? Then what can you try to get rid of the stench?

1. Bacteria in the drain – Bacteria in a drain is the most likely reason for a rotten egg odor. Waste can gather and stay on and inside a drain. Stuff grows on it. The bacteria and smell gets worse. More stuff grows. And so on. It can get to the point of producing sulfur.

Here are solutions to try. Take a glass of water from the sink with the smell. Move away from the sink. Stir or swirl the water in the glass. Let it rest for a minute. Smell it. If it no longer has the bad smell, you know the water itself isn’t the issue. You can attack the bacteria and smell by flushing and disinfecting the drain. Pour baking soda, then vinegar, down the drain. Wait 15 minutes. Flush it with a lot of hot water.

  1. Bacteria in the water heater – Some microorganisms and bacteria like warm, wet places. If hot water in a tank or components goes unused, this can result. If a heater is off bacteria can grow. If the heater is set to too low a temperature, this can also lead to growths.

To see if this is the issue, then fix it, first make sure it’s only the hot water. If hot water smells but cold water doesn’t, it is likely the water heater. You’re most likely turning to a plumber or technician at this point. It could need a replacement for the heater’s magnesium rod.

  1. Bacteria in the water source – If it’s not the drain and not the water heater, it could be a problem from the overall water source. If this could be the case, do not use the water. It might contain dangerous bacteria or matter. Contact the water supplier, health department or proper municipality department.

Fishy or Polluted Smell

Although earthy or fishy odors are harmless, many are sensitive to this smell, even a small degree of the smell. These odors may be because of material in the drain, well or tank or nature.

If the issue is in a drain or water tank, you can take basically the same steps as with the sulfur, rotten egg or sewage smell in the same places or fixtures.
If the water seems polluted from the source, contact the water company or proper department. If you have well water, you might need to shock chlorinate the water and flush the well. You might also think about putting in an activated carbon filter and/or automatic chlorinator.

Gas or Fuel Smell

Anything that smells like gas is a serious situation. If you are on a public water supply, contact your water supplier and municipal health department right away. A fuel or gas smell might be because of, one, a leaking or failed gas tank or underground gas tank near your well. Two, it may be pollution from a landfill, factory, agriculture or another facility running into the water supply. If this might be the situation, stop drinking the water immediately. Gas in water can cause anemia, increased danger of cancer, and liver and kidney problems.


South End Water Filtration specializes in HALO Water Filter products including the HALO H2 Zero Whole Home Water Filter. We’re just a click away to help and answer any questions. South End Plumbing and South End Water Filtration will give you a free estimate. Call us at 704-486-1988 or contact us online to schedule a visit.