The smell of your water isn’t something you probably give a lot of thought to on a regular basis because most of the time, your water doesn’t have any odor to it. When it does, it’s sure to immediately set off alarm bells in any homeowner’s head. What could be causing your water to smell so bad? Is it unsafe to drink? Is it fixable? While this is a problem that needs to be addressed, there’s no need to panic. Here’s a step by step process that can help you troubleshoot where the smell is actually coming from, and a rundown of some of the causes of different water smells you might experience in your home.

Does the water itself actually smell bad?

Believe it or not, the problem might not actually be your water, and figuring out this first question is pretty easy. Pour a glass of water from the tap and carry it away from the sink into a different room before you give the glass a swirl and smell the water again. Is there still a bad odor? If not, it’s likely that the problem is actually not your water but your drain. Disinfect and flush the drain, and you should be able to eliminate the issue.

Does the water smell bad from all sinks?

If the water still smells bad when you take it away from the sink, the next thing to do is to determine if the water smells bad from all faucets in the house or just one. If the problem occurs in just one faucet, it is specific to that fixture or the pipes supplying it. Try cleaning out your faucet aerator to see if that helps. If not, the source is probably deeper into the system where it’s harder to reach.

Does the smell go away after running the water for a few minutes?

Whether the issue is local to one faucet or the whole house, the next step is to run the water for a few minutes and then check the smell again. Is it gone? If so, this indicates the source of the smell is somewhere in your plumbing system, either in one pipe that supplies the affected faucet or in a more central location. If the smell is still there after running the water, this indicates that the issue is in the water supply itself.

Does the cold water smell just as bad as the hot water?

Run both temperatures separately and see what you get. If only the hot water smells bad, you’ve now narrowed down the source of the odor to the hot water tank– commonly the rod in the tank. If both the hot and cold water smell bad, the source of the problem is either in your well system or in the water supply line if you’re on a public water system.

After this process of elimination, you should be able to identify where the bad smell in your water is coming from. A problem like a smelly drain or faucet aerator should be easy for you to clean and solve on your own, but once you get into issues with the pipes, hot water tank, or water supply, it’ll be best to call in a professional plumber like The Plumbing Works. In the meantime, you might be wondering what’s causing the smell, and if your water is still safe to use and drink. Here are some common water smells you might experience and what they mean.

Gasoline or Turpentine Smell

Water that smells like gas, turpentine, or any other solvent or chemical odor is something you should definitely be concerned about. The water may be contaminated by an underground storage tank, and you should stop drinking it right away.

Bleach or Chlorine Smell

A chlorine smell in your water, especially a faint one, is usually not a cause for concern. Small amounts of chlorine are used to treat tap water and the smell is probably left over from the process, especially if you’re on public water and live closer to the treatment center than most. If you’re concerned or if the smell is really strong, however, it’s best to contact a plumber.

Rotten Egg or Sewage Smell

A sulfur smell to your water comes from bacteria somewhere in your system– the water tank is a likely culprit. While it’s generally not considered harmful to drink water with this smell, it’s best to contact an expert plumber to be safe.

Musty or Moldy Smell

Any sort of earthy, musty, moldy, or fishy odor in your water comes from decaying organic matter somewhere in your system or residual algae that was missed in the water treatment process. Much like water with a rotten egg smell, this kind of water is not necessarily unsafe to drink, but it’s also unpleasant and definitely not ideal for your health. Get in touch with a plumber to address the issue. 

Having smelly water in your house is not a pleasant experience for any homeowner, but with a few simple tests and the help of an experienced plumber, you should be able to quickly narrow down the source of the problem and get it fixed. If you’re having issues with bad-smelling water in your home, contact The Plumbing Works today for expert plumbing services in Berks County and beyond!

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