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Why Does My Water Smell Bad?

Have you even turned on your water to notice a funky smell? Not only are water smells unpleasant and embarrassing, but they can also signify an underlying issue in your home. The plumbing professionals at Bonney are here to help you understand why your water is smelling bad and what you can do to address foul water smells. 

Dirty Drains and Pipes

Sometimes, foul-smelling water has nothing to do with your water at all. One of the most common sources of water smells is dirty pipes and drains. Your pipes and drains accumulate a variety of contaminants that can live dormant beneath the surface. When you turn your water on, it stirs up bacteria, debris, and decay—along with their odors. In these cases, a routine drain cleaning service can often resolve your bad water smells. 

Unfortunately, when a home is left unused, empty, or for sale for an extended period of time, smelly drains and pipes may require a replacement. For example, if the pipes under the kitchen sink have been left holding expired food, the smell can actually begin to permeate the pipe. 

Additionally, the airgap drain (or dishwasher drain) is a common target of food build-up and odor. To prevent this issue, scrape as much food off your dishes and into the garbage as possible. Although many dishwashers advertise that their product works without pre-cleaning, this practice can help protect your plumbing and drains.

One final cause of smelly drains and pipes is under the garbage disposal rubber gasket. The underside and down into the disposal can become caked with slimy rotten food particles. To eliminate this problem, use a rag or sponge with a good cleaning solution. Make sure to unplug the unit first to avoid injury.

How to Test For Drain and Pipe Smells

How can you tell if water smells are coming from your drains? To test for this problem, fill a glass up with your problem water, and bring it to another room. If it no longer carries a smell, the issue likely is with your drains and pipes. In this case, you might also notice that water only smells in certain plumbing fixtures.

Smelly Water and Water Heater Troubles

Without proper care, water heaters can host hydrogen sulfide gas. This substance is notorious for carrying a rotten egg smell. Let’s take a look at why your water heater may create an unpleasant odor: 

Stagnant water

Do you take frequent, long vacations? Was your home sitting idle on the market for a while before you bought it? Stagnant water can foster bacteria in the dark, warm, wet environment of your water heater. In these cases, you will need a professional water heater flush to eliminate the smell. 

How can you prevent this issue? Setting your water heater at too low of a temperature will invite bacterial growth. When you head out of town, we recommend leaving the temperature up.

Sacrificial anode rod

How does the metal water heater tank stay protected from water corrosion? The key is a sacrificial anode rod. This rod runs through the length of your water heater with a metal less noble than your tank. Corrosion will attack this metal while leaving your tank untouched. 

However, certain anode rods can react with water’s natural bacteria and sediments to create hydrogen sulfide gas. This will be released each time you use your water heater. Incompatible sacrificial anode rods are the most common cause of smells in residential water. 

In these cases, you may need a new sacrificial anode rod made up of different metals. It may take a couple of tries before you find the right combination for your water heater. As you have a new anode rod installed, you will need a water heater flush to remove the old sediments and bacteria. 

Water softening systems

Hard water can create chaos for your home and your appliances. Many homeowners respond with a water softening system. However, water softening systems can negatively react with magnesium anode rods—putting your water heater at risk and creating sulfide gas in your unit. 

When a professional plumber installs your water softening system, they will check to ensure your water heater does not have a magnesium rod. However, this is a common error among homeowners with DIY water softening systems. 

Is Smelly Water Bad For Your Health? 

There is no question that hydrogen sulfide water smells bad—but is it also bad for your health? The concentration in drinking water is often so low that it will not cause any health effects—according to Purdue University. Additionally, hydrogen sulfide is a gas at room temperature, which means you are not likely to ingest this substance. Instead, it will evaporate away. However, at high concentrations or prolonged exposure, Hydrogen sulfide can cause severe health risks and side effects, outlined here by the CDC

Even without health risks, hydrogen sulfide can create or contribute to a variety of problems for your home. It is known to discolor silverware, lessen the cleaning power of your laundry detergent, corrode the exposed metal parts in your dishwasher and washing machine—among other inconveniences. 

How to Test For Water Heater Smells

Is your water smell coming from your hot water heater? Here is a simple way to check. Turn on your cold water tap only. Does it produce the same smell as your hot or warm water? If not, the smell is probably originating from your water heater. 

Source Water Smells

Areas like Sacramento are lucky enough to have highly filtered water supplies. Other communities might rely on well water or poor water filtration plants. If you cannot trace your water smells to your water heater or pipes, it might be a problem with your supply. These issues are easy to address with home water systems. Whole-house filters can remove the sediments and bacteria leading to poor water quality and smells. 

Bonney Plumbing, Sewer, and Drain Service in Sacramento

The plumbers at Bonney have the water solutions you need in your Sacramento-area home or business. We install, repair, and maintain water systems to reduce hard water and eliminate water smells. If you find that this is an issue with your pipes and drains, our professional drain cleaning service is perfect for you. We offer a 97-day clog-free guarantee to keep your pipes clear and protected. Our experts proudly serve the greater Sacramento area, including Vacaville, Rancho Cordova, Folsom, Auburn, Placerville, Stockton, Walnut Grove, Roseville, Woodland, Lincoln, and beyond. You can make your appointment here online or give us a call to get started today!