Explaining the Different Causes Behind Sulfur Smell In Well Water

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When well water starts reeking of rotting eggs, it’s reasonably concerning. You might wonder if your water is still safe to drink or shower in and if it’s doing damage to your plumbing systems. ONIT Home can help you understand how the sulfur smell in well water can impact your home and how you can resolve the problem.

What Causes Sulfur Smell in Well Water?

The rotten egg smell in well water comes from hydrogen sulfide gas. The presence of this naturally occurring gas can cause both a foul odor and an unpleasant taste.

How does Sulfur Get in Well Water?

Hydrogen sulfide gas can come from a variety of sources. The gas is naturally produced, abundant, and found almost everywhere. Causes of hydrogen sulfide gas in wells can come from:

  • Natural processes of decay and subsequent chemical reactions in nearby soil and rocks.
  • Certain types of bacteria in the well, groundwater, or plumbing.
  • Certain types of bacteria or chemical reactions within water heaters.
  • Rarely, from pollution.

Is Sulfur Water Dangerous?

If your water tastes or smells like sulfur, it’s worth getting it tested. At low levels, sulfur in your water is not harmful. Higher levels can cause issues. Common concerns include:

Is it Safe to Drink Well Water That Smells Like Sulfur?

At low levels, sulfur in your water will not cause any health issues, though drinking may be unpleasant. If you can taste sulfur in the water, the concentration is likely high enough to cause health impacts that can include symptoms like:

  • stomach cramping
  • diarrhea
  • dehydration
  • headache
  • fatigue

It’s important to know that medically vulnerable people, infants, small children, and the elderly are at more significant health risk. If you can clearly smell or taste sulfur in the water, you or your family may already suffer from its presence.

two people leaning over a well to get fresh water

Common Questions About Sulfur Water Safety

If you can smell or taste sulfur in your well water, it’s natural to be concerned about how that water might affect your home, health, and plumbing systems.

Is it Safe to Shower in Water That Smells Like Sulfur?

Showering or bathing in sulfur water will not harm you, but you may find that the stench lingers.

How Does Sulfur Water Affect Hair and Skin?

In small quantities, sulfur is beneficial to hair and skin. Bathing or showering in sulfur water will not enhance these effects, nor will hair and skin be damaged. However, the rotten egg smell may cling to hair and skin after you finish bathing.

Does Sulfur Water Stain?

Sulfur water does stain. If you wash your clothes in water with sulfur, it will often come out with dingy pale yellow, brown, or red stains. It will also leave your freshly laundered clothes feeling stiff. Likewise, sulfur in water causes stains in your sinks, toilets, kitchenware, and water-using appliances.

Does Sulfur Water Harm Plumbing or Appliances?

Metals like copper and brass exposed to hydrogen sulfide will corrode over time. So plumbing systems and appliances exposed to sulfur water can be damaged without correcting the issue.

How Do You Test For Sulfur in Well Water?

A straightforward way to test for sulfur in your home is to use a sniff test.

  1. Can you smell sulfur when you enter your home? You likely have a high concentration of sulfur in your water.
  2. Run cold water from any tap for three minutes. Is a sulfur smell detectable? You likely have a moderate concentration of sulfur in your water.
  3. After running the water without a casually detectable smell in the air, lean into the sink and sniff. If you can detect sulfur in the area, you might have a low concentration of sulfur in your water.

You can also detect the source of your sulfur water by investigating which faucets are the source of the rotten egg smell. The Minnesota Department of Health offers this handy guideline:

Is the Smell Coming From the Cold Water Faucet?

If not, the issue likely comes from the water heater. If yes, ask:

Is There a Smell From Faucets NOT Connected to the Water Softener?

If not, the problem is likely sulfur bacteria in the water softener. If yes, ask:

Is the Smell LESS Noticeable After Water Runs For a Few Minutes?

If not, the problem likely is in your groundwater. If yes, the issue is likely the well or plumbing system.

These methods are not foolproof. The best way to determine if you have sulfur, or other contaminants, in your water is to have your water tested.

an image of an ONIT Home water test technician

When Should You Have Well Water Tested?

If you suspect sulfur or other contaminants in your water, it’s a good idea to have a well water test completed. Other times you should have well water testing done include:

  • Annually, for well water.
  • Twice a year if you have a shallow well of less than 100 feet.
  • If you’ve experienced frequent or extended power outages
  • After a natural disaster
  • After disturbances near your well, like drilling or excavation

ONIT Home offers a straightforward water testing process. Our testing covers not just sulfate but a full range of possible containments that can impact the quality and safety of your well water. Contaminants we test for include:

  • Coliform bacteria – can cause illness, including vomiting, fever, and diarrhea.
  • Nitrate – in high levels causes weakness, fatigue, dizziness, and more.
  • pH levels – high pH can cause bitter tastes and irritated dry skin; low pH is corrosive and can be polluted and unsafe.
  • Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) – In high levels, can cause bitter or brackish tasting water
  • Flouride – Excessive levels can lead to bone damage, fatigue, joint issues, and other problems.
  • And a number of other issues, including potability, ions, and more.

You can begin to address issues with a comprehensive understanding of your water quality.

How Do You Remove Sulfur Smell in Well Water?

Once you’ve determined you have sulfides in your well water, the next step is understanding how to eliminate them so you can enjoy palatable, stench-free water. Since sulfides are often a naturally-resulting issue from your water’s source, the solution is filtration in your home. The best solution is a well water filtration system.

a hand holding a small glass of water against a bare wall

What is a Well Water Filtration System?

ONIT Home offers a comprehensive well water filtration system that uses a three-step process to provide you with palatable and safe water. The three steps begin at the source, filtering out problematic chemicals, bacteria, viruses, gases, and particulates before they enter your home’s plumbing systems, appliances, and taps.

  1. First: Water from your well enters a filtration chamber that uses our Iron Boss system to oxidize water. Iron, hydrogen sulfide, and manganese in your water are easier to filter out in the next step.
  2. Next: Elemental sulfur and iron oxide are filtered using a Diamonite filtration media, naturally eliminating these impurities from your well water.
  3. Finally: Depending on your household needs, water will flow into your household system or into a secondary filtration system for further purification.

What are the Benefits of a Whole Home Water Filtration System?

A well water filtration system does more than reduce the sulfur smell in well water impacting your home. You’ll enjoy clean and tasty water right from the tap. Your appliances will last longer and work more efficiently. Soap and cleaners are more effective, so you use less. Your hair and skin will be healthier and cleaner. Coffee, tea, and food made with your household water will taste better. And, if your water contains certain contaminants, you’ll feel better too.

Trust ONIT Home to Take Care of Your Well Water

ONIT Home provides excellent service end to end. We customize your well water filtration system to meet your home’s unique water needs. Our technicians will ensure a proper installation, so you know your system will work right, right away.

Plus, our well water system doesn’t require chlorine, chemicals, toxins, or a salt system to filter out contaminants. You do not have to wait hours for the water to filter to access clean, fresh water. We design your well water filtration system to meet your home’s unique challenges.

Further, our system is self-cleaning, so you need not worry about costly or time-consuming maintenance. Adding a Water Plus Extended Warranty offers you year-round coverage that covers parts, labor, and coverage for wear-and-tear for up to two service calls per year.

ONIT Home filtration system an onit home water filtration system used to filter out contaminants in our water systems

Clean Sulfur From Your Home’s Water Today with ONIT Home Filtration Solutions

When you are ready to address the sulfur smell in well water permeating your home, contact ONIT Home. Our friendly and knowledgeable team is ready to answer your questions and walk you through our well water filtration installation process step-by-step. We offer simple financing, routine maintenance, and warranties to secure your peace of mind in a job done well. Call us today 1-833-433-0331 to enjoy cleaner, healthier, safer water.