6 Common Causes Of Smelly Water


Most homeowners hardly pay much attention to their water quality until they finally notice something unusual from the water’s taste and smell. While it’s easier to dismiss and ignore this situation, you need to remember that smelly water is an obvious sign of a problem with your water supply. These strange odors will never disappear on their own, and when left unchecked, the smell might get worse and pose a serious threat to your health. Thus, the moment you smell something unordinary from your water, don’t take any chances and have it inspected by a professional right away.

But before immediately calling for help, it’s essential to understand why your water is emitting a foul odor in the first place. There are numerous reasons your water smells that way.

To know more, here are six common causes of smelly water that need attention.

1. High Levels Of Chlorine

You are probably familiar with the smell of chlorine. This kind of smell is from the bleach used by public water utilities to combat bacterial growth and disinfect the water from parasites, viruses, and bacteria. However, high levels of chlorine can eventually lead to an unpleasant smell.

While it’s safe to use water with chlorine for drinking, cooking, or bathing, using heavily chlorinated water for showering can lead to dehydrated skin and hair. Thus, if you’ve been smelling chlorine from your water for days, it’s recommended that you invest in a whole home water softener to minimize the chlorine odor while still providing clean and filtered water for the household.

2. Production Of Hydrogen Sulfide Gas

If your water smells like sulfur or a more distinctive odor, like rotten eggs, it’s often caused by the hydrogen sulfide gas found in the water. The water naturally consists of anaerobic bacteria that feed on organic matter from your water pipes and drains, such as leftover food, soap, or hair.

After feeding, these bacteria tend to react from the process by producing hydrogen sulfide gas and eventually causing your water to smell rotten. While this sulfury, rotten-egg water smells awful, they don’t pose any threat to your health unless someone is allergic to it.

However, as time goes by, these bacteria may build up into your pipes, leading to damage and deterioration. Using household cleaners may not be enough to eliminate these bacteria, but using a reverse osmosis water softener and other water treatment products may help remove the bacteria and save your water pipes from future damage.

3. Bacteria Build-up From Pipes Or Sewage System

When the water from your house suddenly smells like sewage or even a decaying fish, the culprit is most likely the bacteria building up inside your pipes. Keep in mind that many nasty things can get stuck and grow from the deepest parts of your plumbing such as fungi, algae, and other types of bacteria that can cause a foul water smell.

While you may quickly assume it’s just hydrogen sulfide gas, it’s best not to take a risk and have your water tested and disinfected with chlorine right away.

4. Metal Deposits

Over time, metal deposits such as iron, manganese, or zinc can leak into your water sources, causing your water to smell like metal. Thankfully, the metal smell is not a major concern as it naturally occurs in every house’s water system now and then.

Sometimes, the metal smell may also come from your water heater, in which metal particulates can build up over time. So, in case your water starts to taste or smell like metal, you can have your water heater cleaned or replaced with a new one.

On the other hand, your water’s metallic odor can also be a telltale sign that lead has contaminated your water supply. In this case, you need to report this to your water supply company immediately before it can cause health problems in your household.

5. Presence Of Other Water Compounds

When your water smells like fish, you can attribute it to the presence of other compounds in the water, such as barium, chloramine, or cadmium. Barium is often found from mineral ores in the soil, while cadmium is usually sourced from fertilizer contamination or other industrial wastes. When these compounds react with the chlorine found in your water, the reaction might emit a fishy smell.

6. Gasoline Or Other Fuel Leaks

Water smelling like gasoline may be the rarest situation out of the items listed on this list, but it can still happen. There are three reasons your water suddenly smells like gasoline.

  • An underground fuel tank has leaked into your water supply.
  • Fuel discharge from a nearby landfill or factory has mixed with your water supply.
  • Agricultural runoff or water from farm fields has leaked into your water supply.

Any of these reasons can cause serious health issues for you and your family. So, whenever you notice any gasoline-like odor from your home or other water sources, make sure to notify the water company and the health department immediately.


While the list shows that not all causes of smelly water are dangerous to your health, it’s still best to be safe, cautious, and have your water tested and diagnosed by a professional plumber. They’ll know what to do and perform the necessary repairs and action immediately.


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