Sulfur smell in one hot water heater, but not the other hot water heater

The rotten egg (sulfur) smell in your well water is technically called hydrogen sulfide gas (H2S).

Hydrogen sulfide gas can result from a number of different sources.

It can occur naturally in groundwater.
It can be produced by "sulfur bacteria" in the groundwater, in the well, or in the water distribution system.
It can be produced also by sulfur bacteria or chemical reactions inside water heaters.
In rare instances, it can result from pollution.
The source of the gas is important when considering treatment options.

Are sulfur bacteria or hydrogen sulfide harmful?
In most cases, the rotten egg smell does not relate to the sanitary quality of the water. However, in rare instances the gas may result from sewage or other pollution. It is a good idea to have the well tested for the standard sanitary tests of coliform bacteria and nitrate.

Sulfur bacteria are not harmful, but hydrogen sulfide gas in the air can be hazardous at...

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What you'll find on this page: We'll tell you what causes rotten-egg odor. There are several situations, and we'll help you figure out which one you're suffering from. Then we'll give you the solutions and you can decide which one is right for you.

What Causes Hot Water to Smell Like Rotten Eggs

The most common cause of smelly water is anaerobic bacteria that exist in some water and react with sulfur and the magnesium and aluminum sacrificial anodes that come with most water heaters to produce hydrogen sulfide gas, making the classic rotten egg odor. The problem is most common in well systems, either private or municipal.

Softening can make smelly water much worse. By the way, don't blame the water heater manufacturers. It's not their fault and it's not their responsibility. It's just a condition that exists in some parts of the country and each person has to deal with it.

Solid hex-head
aluminum/zinc anode rod
SKU11 Price: $51

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Like any other appliance in your home, your water heater can cause problems ranging from a lack of hot water to noise, odors and leaks. One of the major issues you might run into is not having enough water. Here are some factors to keep in mind when repairing this issue.

Not Enough Hot Water

There are several reasons for not having enough hot water; it could be due to equipment problems with the water heater itself, or it could be some sort of change in the environment.

Let's start with the simple possibilities first.

If you have recently upgraded your tub to a larger one, or if it is a spa type tub, a larger demand on the water heater will cause the water temperature to drop.If you have recently changed your showerheads to a higher flow model, that would also cause you to run out of hot water faster.If your faucet is a long distance from the water heater, the water traveling a long way to the faucet head you may experience a drop in the volume of hot...
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No matter where it's coming from, the rotten-egg smell usually associated with sulfur is an unpleasant one, and it usually means something is wrong. The smell may actually be caused by a sulfur compound, such as hydrogen sulfide -- which originates in fetid swamps and sewer pipes -- or sulfur dioxide -- a byproduct of fossil fuel combustion. Some odors emitted by microorganisms in your drains or appliances, though, may remind you of rotten eggs but aren't sulfur-related. Moreover, natural gas and propane are purposely modified to smell like rotten eggs. The nature of the odor and its remedy depend on the point of origination; to find that, start by following your...

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One of the possible issues with the water heaters is an unpleasant rotten eggs smell. This is caused by the sulfur found in water supplies. Sulfur in tap water can be in two forms: sulfate and hydrogen sulfide. Both do not pose any health risk at the concentrations usually found in tap water but they are nuisances because of the unpleasant smell. So, if your hot water smells like rotten eggs, there is no need to panic. You will be most certainly able to fix this issue on your own. Here’s what you need to know and what you have to do in order to get rid of it.

Sources of hydrogen sulfide and sulfate in water

Sulfates are a combination of oxygen and sulfur that are naturally occurring minerals in some rock and formations containing groundwater. The mineral is released into groundwater as it dissolves over time. Sulfur-reducing bacteria are using sulfur as their energy source. These bacteria produce large quantities of hydrogen sulfide by chemically changing the natural...

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Open the drain cock to allow the water to exit the heater.

Consider opening the pressure-relief valve, usually on the top of the unit, to allow water to flow freely. But DO NOT open the pressure-relief valve without first placing a bucket under the discharge pipe. Opening it can allow water to drain onto the floor unless something is placed under the discharge pipe to catch the water.

The pressure relief valve is usually a lever that you flip into an "up" position to open it. Make sure water flows at a rate that wherever you are draining to can be managed. Caution: If you did not allow the water to cool, it will be extremely hot as it leaves the tank. Also, realize that if the drain cock is made of plastic and the heater is several years old, it may be difficult to open and may break if...
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A hot water heater is a specialized device used for regulating hot or cold water within your home. It is either a tank-type, a tankless or a solar device.

Different problems may be associated with different types of heaters. However, there are some common issues that you may experience, regardless of the type of tank you have.

No Hot Water

So you’ve finally installed a brand new hot water heater system and you are excited to use it. You turn on the device, turn on the water in your faucet…. and, to your dismay, the water is still cold!

How much new water heater installation costs?

New Gas Water Heater Cost:$800 - $1100

See costs in your area Start Here - Enter Your Zip Code

Lets take a closer look at these problems:

Before you grab your phone for a refund, you should know that this is actually a common problem and yes, it can be fixed.

If you have an electric device, and its not producing hot water after being turned on...

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A water heater heats water, so occupants can wash in warm or hot water. In some cases the heated water is used to heat the home with water or steam radiators. How water piping can also be wisely placed to provide other benefits, like heating a bathroom's tile floor.



If a hot water heater is not used for several weeks, hydrogen can build up in the tank. This can be dangerous, if an electrical appliance is the first device to use the water heater. To avoid a possible explosion, if you haven't used the hot water heater for two or more weeks, run the hot water from the tap for a few minutes before using an appliance, like a clothes washer or dishwasher.

Energy usage and efficiencyEdit

New, higher efficiency furnaces and water heaters create a higher acidic exhaust, which can corrode older chimneys, especially a brick one without a liner. So, if you are replacing an older system, you may need a new chimney vent or liner...

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This is not a new idea or invention of mine. I had the same type of thing in place on my old tank. When the guys installed the new one I told them they had to put it back on. Well, they threw it out with the old heater so they make a new one. But it had a few problems. They used so much glue that it ran down inside the valve and glued it shut. The top of the "funnel" was so high up I had trouble reaching it and it was in the wrong place. They didn't leave any pipe between the fittings so I couldn't even remove it and do it right. I had to just leave it and make a new one. At least its not expensive to do.-

So once again, this is how this works :

Close the line in to the tank, the arrow points the way to go for the handle.

Drop the drain line to the drain and open the heater drain. The tank depressurizes and then forms a vacuum at the top. Crack the top valve to let air in and make sure its not going to come out instead of in.

Use the bottle and pour the...

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Hi All,

Just moved into a house with well water. There is a terrible smell of sulfur in the hot water.

I did call the local water/well company in and they replaced the anode in the water heater as well as "dropped a few bleach tablets in the tank".

However, two days later, I still smell the sulfur, especially in the upstairs taps. Is this a matter of just needing to give the solution more time?

Also, the water company did not drain and refresh the hot water heater tank, could this be part of the problem?


I am having the same problem in new house, only it is confined to just one bathroom, and we don't have well water. I can't figure out what it might be but haven't had time to address the issue yet. I find it's worse when water is first run.

Would love to hear others' thoughts about this.

Yes, Bass101, same here,...

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In the first installment of our “Help” series, we’ll cover why your hot water heater could be smelling like gas.

It’s okay – don’t panic! First, you’re going to want to be sure of what you’re smelling. Then we can work to diagnosis the source of your problem.

Is it normal for a hot water heater to smell like gas? The short answer is, “No.”

Here’s the long answer: Natural gas is odorless. The chemical mercaptan is added to natural gas to better detect when a leak is occurring. This chemical has a distinct smell and is highly noticeable when a leak does exist. If you smell sulfur or what some may describe as “rotten eggs,” this may be a sign of a gas leak, which indicates there may be a problem with your water heater or other HVAC equipment in your home.

Determine that what you are smelling is in fact, gas. Many smells can arise in a hot water heater, as these machines are commonly exposed to various chemicals and moisture, and they are placed in areas...

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Hydrogen sulfide gas (H2S) can occur in wells anywhere in Minnesota, and gives the water a characteristic "rotten egg" taste or odor. This page provides basic information about hydrogen sulfide gas and sulfur bacteria and discusses actions that you can take to minimize their effects.

On this page:
What are the sources of hydrogen sulfide in well water and the water distribution system?
Are sulfur bacteria or hydrogen sulfide harmful?
Are there other problems associated with sulfur bacteria or hydrogen sulfide?
What causes hydrogen sulfide gas to form in groundwater?
How is hydrogen sulfide gas produced in a water heater?
How can I find the source of a hydrogen sulfide problem, and what can I do to eliminate it?
What can I do about a problem water heater?
What if sulfur bacteria are present in the well, the water distribution system, or the water softener?
What if hydrogen sulfide gas is in the groundwater?
Other related...

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Write / Read Reviews

How to troubleshoot rotten egg smell in water heaters? What causes the problem with the rotten egg odor in hot water, how to check and how to avoid it? Is it harmful?

What is the cause for rotten egg smell?

Hydrogen sulfide gas (H2S) is the reason for rotten egg odor in water heaters. It can be easily checked by smelling the water coming out of the cold and hot water tap. If the smell is coming from the hot water tap only, the problem is in the water heater.

A bacteria known as "Divibrio Sulfurcans" inside the heater's tank converts the sulfate into the hydrogen sulfide and makes the water smelly. The bacteria is non-toxic (except in extremely high concentration) but it can affect the taste and odor of the water.

Rotten egg odor caused by the sulfur bacteria can be found in any tank-type water heater or manufacturer; AO Smith, Kenmore, GE, Rheem, Bradford White and other. It is also found in the groundwater, distribution...

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Sulfur Gas, Hydrogen Sulfide, Rotten Egg Odors - Clean Drinking Water Systems


Pipe Corrosion, Mineral Scale, Microbiological Regrowth, and Taste and Odor Problems

Shock Well and System Disinfection - Short Term and Potential Long-Term Solution

Sources of Sulfate and Hydrogen Sulfide in Drinking Water

Sulfates and Hydrogen Sulfide

Sulfates are a combination of sulfur and oxygen and are a part of naturally occurring minerals in some soil and rock formations that contain groundwater. The mineral dissolves over time and is released into groundwater. In addition, this problem may be related to a community hazard, such as a: landfill, leaky fuel tank, pipeline, old septic system, chemical lab, and many other community hazards. It may be wise to run a Community Hazard Report and Identify the Historic / Active Hazards within Your Neighborhood.

Sulfur-reducing bacteria, which use sulfur as an...

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Why does my hot water heater smell like sulfur or rotten egg?

Use hot water heater troubleshooting guide to see why, what is the cause of stinky water and how to fix the problem.

Rotten egg odor can occur to any tank-type water heater, either gas or electric, as long as they are equipped with the metal tank and anode rod.

Rotten egg smell cause

Possible cause of the sulfur or rotten egg smell coming from water heater is the bacteria developed in the tank sediment, a breeding ground for the bacteria that is fed from hydrogen sulfide or H2S gas, created from decay of anode rod.

Three components are required to generate hydrogen sulfide gas that make water heaters smell like rotten egg: sulfur, hydrogen, and bacteria. And right there is the solution; if any of the above elements is removed there should be no stinky water smell.

Public (municipality) water supplies, when properly chlorinated, will kill the bacteria and the odds are you won't...

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Do you notice a particularly nasty smell when you start to run your tap water? Could the water be described as smelling like rotten eggs or sulfur? If this has happened to you, don’t worry, we’re here to help. Surprisingly, this is a very common problem in many households and isn’t as devastating as you might think. Contrary to what you might be thinking now, this may not cost a lot of money in plumbing repairs as you might actually be able to fix the problem yourself. Let’s take a deeper look as to why your water smells like rotten eggs.

The Cause Of The Rotten Egg Smell

The reason your water probably smells like rotten eggs is because it contains some traces of hydrogen sulfide. Even extremely small amounts of hydrogen sulfide can cause your water to have quite the odorous smell! In most cases this smell occurs due to a build-up of hydrogen sulfide in your hot water heater. If you haven’t used your hot water heater in quite some time, this could be the cause of...

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FAQs for Home Water Filtration Systems:

Below you will find answers to common questions we hear on a regular basis about water softeners and water filtration systems. Keep in mind we custom make everything we sell with only the finest American Made components. It is made for exactly the kind of water you have.

The most common three questions we hear are as follows:

I have a private well that has some problems. How do I fix it?

ANSWER: In order to help you properly, please read items 7, 16 and 17 on this page. Don't worry, most problem wells are easy and inexpensive to fix.

I am on a city water system and have really hard water. How do I fix it?

ANSWER: You can find information on how to size a water softener and how much they cost on this page: Water Softener prices and sizing

I just want to purify my drinking water ONLY. What do I do?

ANSWER: If all you want to do is have pure drinking water in your kitchen to remove bad...

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