How to Get Rid of Rotten Egg Smell and Rusty Color in Water

Nobody wants to come home to water that smells like rotten eggs. You can’t drink it, you can’t bathe with it, and you simply can’t stand it. If the rotten egg smell from water has hit you before, it’s a scene you wouldn’t want to relive. The impact is so strong that with it comes an almost irresistible urge to puke. That stinker does stink!

In a similar vein, water is agreeable only when it appears colorless. That said, water with a reddish-brown, orange, or rusty black color is repealing. Indeed, you can’t gulp down such water even when your throat is as dry as a bone. 

So, where does the rotten egg smell in water come from? And how can previously clean water suddenly appear rusty? We will explain the primary causes of these problems and show you how to remove and prevent that weird smell and rusty color. 

Why Does Your Water Smell Like Rotten Eggs?

So, why does your water smell like rotten eggs?

Rotten egg smell in water is a common problem in many U.S. homes. The horrible smell arises from the accumulation of dissolved hydrogen sulfide gas in water. 

Hydrogen sulfide gas occurs mainly in groundwater and well-water. And often, you’ll notice this smell in water from water heaters that have not been in use for quite some time. The rotten egg smell depends on four necessary factors, which are:

  • High sulfate concentration in the raw water
  • Sulfate-reducing bacteria that reduce sulfate to sulfide (these bacteria is non-toxic to humans
  • Low amounts/absence of dissolved oxygen in the water (these bacteria are strict anaerobes)
  • Hydrogen (a component of water)

When these factors are present, hydrogen combines with sulfur to produce the hydrogen sulfide gas that gives off the rotten egg odor.

Sulfate-reducing bacteria are the primary culprit of this smell in cold water. While in hot water, the usual culprit is a corroded aluminum or magnesium “anode rod.”

1. Sulfate-Reducing Bacteria

Sulfate-reducing Bacteria, or SRBs for short, is a significant source of hydrogen sulfide in cold water. The good thing is that these SRBs are not known to cause any disease. However, they utilize sulfate ions for respiration, energy, and growth and release hydrogen sulfide.

This process is similar to what happens when you inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. When water has not flowed for a long time, the “waste products'' of these bacteria accumulate, giving off the rotten egg smell. The odor usually subsides if you let the water flow for a while. 

2. Corroded “Anode Rod” in the Water Heater

Water heaters usually come with aluminum or magnesium anode rods that protect your water heater from rust. Usually, sulfate ions in water can react with these anode rods to produce hydrogen sulfide gas.

The hydrogen sulfide gas is slightly soluble in water, and hence, when you turn on hot water, the heat lets some of the gas escape into the air. Again this is worse if you’ve not used your water heater for a while. So, when you perceive this smell in hot water, this is most likely the cause.

Why Does Your Water Have a Rusty Color?

Now that you’re clear about where the rotten egg smell in water comes from let’s explore how that rusty color comes to be.

The rusty color is an effect of sulfide in water. When hydrogen sulfide dissolves in water, the sulfide can cause corrosion in metals such as iron, steel, copper, and brass. The corrosion of iron and steel leads to ferrous sulfide formation (which makes the water black). The “black water” then causes the blackening of silverware and discoloration of utensils made from copper and brass. 

In the same vein, sulfur in water makes laundry difficult. Why? Because sulfur can corrode the exposed parts of your washing machine and turn the water black and greasy. If you don’t treat this water, it can stain your laundry, washing machine, and other utensils.

Also, if you use chlorine bleach, it will react with iron and manganese (usually abundant in the presence of hydrogen sulfide) and give off brownish/dark rusty stains on your clothes. 

Furthermore, sulfate-reducing bacteria produce slime, making other bacteria (such as iron bacteria) thrive. Iron bacteria produces reddish-brown slime that can coat your plumbing lines and lead to clogs and corrosion. 

How to Eliminate Rotten Egg Smell and Treat Sulfur Water

Now it’s time to discuss the removal of that nasty smell from your water.

If you remove sulfur from water, hydrogen sulfide cannot form. Therefore, there can be no formation of hydrogen sulfide gas. Also, there will be no sulfide to react with iron, steel, copper, etc. 

There are several methods to remove sulfur from water. How effective each method is, depends on several factors such as:

  • How much sulfur is in your water
  • The amount of iron and manganese in your water
  • Whether or not you treat bacterial contamination. 

As we go further to touch on the different treatment methods available, have the following questions at the back of your mind.

  • How simple is the approach?
  • What is the total cost for installation? 
  • How easy is it to maintain? 
  • How much do you have to spend on chemicals?

Without further ado, let’s zoom in on the various treatment methods! 

1.Use of Iron Filters

The iron removal filter method is one of the most effective ways of removing sulfur from water. Iron filters work by eliminating hydrogen sulfide, iron, and manganese from your water. It does this by oxidizing the hydrogen sulfide, thereby converting it to insoluble sulfur. The filtration process then removes the insoluble sulfur. 

2. Addition of Hydrogen Peroxide

With a 3% hydrogen peroxide flush, you can get rid of anaerobic bacteria (remember that the sulfate-reducing bacteria is an anaerobe).

Here’s how to go about the hydrogen peroxide treatment method. 

  1. Shut off the cold-water inlet valve on your water heater
  2. Drain off some water from your water heater
  3. Disconnect the cold-water connecting metal hose
  4. Now use the classic 3% hydrogen peroxide solution (this is readily available in most drug stores) 
  5. Use a cup (8 oz) of hydrogen peroxide for every 10 gallons of water (depending on your water heater’s capacity. For instance, if you have a 40-gallon tank, you’ll need 4 cups (32 oz) of hydrogen peroxide.
  6. Reconnect the hose. 
  7. Turn on the cold-water valve and refill the tank
  8. Allow the water to sit for a few hours

The peroxide destroys anaerobic bacteria, thereby removing the smell that they give off. Another alternative is to use chlorine bleach. However, the peroxide is more environmentally-friendly and much safer.

3. Use of Proper Whole House Water Filters

If you perceive the rotten egg smell at only certain sinks in your home, then the source could be somewhere in the drains, pipes, or fixtures. This implies that your water is likely not the culprit. If this is the case, a simple flush with disinfectants will do the trick. 

However, if you detect this foul odor from every faucet in your home, then the culprit is your water source. To handle this, you’ll need a whole house water filter system

But note that regardless of the foul odor source, it is ideal for you to install a proper whole house water filter that removes both hydrogen sulfide and bacteria. Why? Because not only will foul odors become a thing of the past but also your home will be free from a host of chemicals and microbial contaminants.

Why Aquasure Whole House Water Filters?

Aquasure has several activated carbon whole house water filters that can remove as low as 1 ppm of hydrogen sulfide from your water. These water filters are ideal if your home is also on city water with some chlorine in its water. With these filter systems, gasses are trapped and absorbed in the pores of the carbon. This removes these gasses from the water.

The Aquasure Whole House Water Filters prevent rusty pipes and fixtures. So, your home will be free from stains, rust, and slime from these sources—no more stains or scale on your laundry, dishes, sinks, tubs, and toilet tanks.

These quality whole house water filters are the real deal because they help you eliminate bad taste and smell while controlling bacteria growth.

Wrapping It All Up

Most homes in the U.S. have sulfur and iron in their water. These elements are two common problems for many households. But as you have read, it’s quite easy to fix them. Follow the guides here, and these problems will become history. If you need any help, our experts are always ready to help you!

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