Dealing With Water Odor
Posted Jun 22nd 2014 | By:
When the water in your home becomes plagued by foul odor, it can be very distracting and extremely unpleasant. Drinking from the tap could become intolerable, if it is even safe to do so, and showering may become difficult due to the overwhelming smell. Since bad odors often become more pronounced when heat is applied and water vaporizes, it is during periods of hot water use that smells may become more noticeable, such as when you shower or bathe.
Being on a well can be a possible reason for odorous water. Wells are fed by groundwater, which can pick up odors as it travels and comes into contact with natural chemicals. When water, especially water with anaerobic bacteria in it, comes into contact with elements, minerals, or chemicals that are known to release strong odors (such as sulfur), it is possible for the water to be tainted with the smell of those elements, minerals, and chemicals. Once those smells infiltrate your water, it is only a matter of time before they begin to infiltrate your home. In a situation such as this, not a lot can be done aside from digging a deeper well, but even that offers no guarantees and is a rather costly endeavor.
Water also may be picking up smells from the plumbing in your home itself. Much like cars have a new car smell, new plumping can have a unique smell, and not necessarily a good one. New pipes are made with chemicals, such as PVC, and adhesives are used to bond these pipes together. Both the pipe and the adhesive will release odor, especially in the case of hot water passing through. Over time these odors will subside and water passing through them is said to be safe for drinking, although the smell of it may drive you away from tap water for a while.
In the event that you have ruled out plumbing issues and groundwater elements as smell possibilities, it could be that the water itself bears an odor, and testing may be in order to find out more. To determine the safety of your water through testing, contact your local municipality and/or water supplier. You may find that they already perform regular testing and can give you results immediately or you may have to request that testing be performed and results provided to you, possibly at your own expense. It is also necessary to keep in mind that additives placed in water for treatment purposes can also create a smell, such as in the case of chlorine, which should become recognizable over time.
Photo: Digital Burg
Possible fixes include venting your hot water heater and adding hydrogen peroxide (which should be done at your own risk) or replacing your standard magnesium or aluminum anode rod with aluminum/zinc anode alloy. Adding zinc will help with the smell except in the case of softened water, which can actually smell worse as anode production increases and results in more hydrogen sulfide gas and thus odor. In cases such as this, powered anode rods can be used but these are a pricey acquisition. However, they are permanent, so they can prove worth the added expense.
It may also be possible to reduce water smells through the process of filtration. To do this, you can add a whole house filter or smaller systems that affix to taps. There is no guarantee that this will completely eradicate smells, but it is possible that it may reduce them. Before adding filters to taps, be sure that your water is safe for drinking so as to not waste your money, and consider starting with a small filtration system to see if filters will help you before you dig deep into your wallet. In the end, your water odor may prove easy or impossible to eradicate, but saving as much money as possible while you find out will help in any case.
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