What Causes Odor in Your Well Water

Water Sulfur Odor

You may be experiencing an odor from your well water when you pour yourself a glass of water, brush your teeth, wash your face, or just simply run the water. 

Different smells mean different things. Some may be simple seasonal changes in your water, and will eventually disappear on their own. Others can signify ongoing issues that need special treatment. 

Most Common Odor Problems in CT

  • Metallic – usually caused by iron and/or iron bacteria in your well water
  • Rotten Egg – usually caused by hydrogen sulfide gas or sulfate reducing bacteria
  • Chlorine – usually from municipal disinfectants

Well Water Odors & How to Treat Them

Learn more about odor in well water and how to treat them below.

“Irony” or “Metallic” Smell:

  • Most common complaint H2O Equipment receives from customers!
  • Water has actual iron in it
  • Often accompanied by orange staining in fixtures and toilets

How Do I Fix It?

  • Water Softener
  • Birm Filter
  • Cartridge Filter

Sulfur or Rotten Egg Smell: 

  • Water has Hydrogen Sulfide gas in it
  • Produced by Sulfate Reducing Bacteria
  • Can also be produced by Iron Bacteria 
  • Anode Rod in hot water heater is breaking down (hot water only)

How do I fix it?

  • Chlorinate your well for Sulfate Reducing/Iron Bacteria
  • Cartridge Filter with Carbon Insert
  • Sulfur System with Air Injection

Briny or Salty Smell:

  • High levels of sodium in water
  • Water Softener discharging too close to well
  • Close proximity to road salt runoff during winter 
  • Clogged water softener discharge line

How do I fix it?
Could indicate water usage during a Water Softener regeneration

  • Reverse Osmosis Unit
  • Service water softener

Swampy or Earthy Smell: 

  • Surface Water has Entered the Well 
  • Seasonal changes have introduced organics into the water (decayed leaves, twigs, etc)

How do I fix it?

  • Extend well casing above ground 
  • Replace well cap with water tight, bug-proof cap
  • Activated Carbon System to polish water
  • Reverse Osmosis Unit
  • Cartridge Filter with Carbon or Dual Gradient Insert

Septic or Sewer Smell:

  • Clogged Water Treatment Discharge Line to Septic System
  • Issue with Septic System leeching into well

How do I fix it? 

  • Contact your Septic System Company ASAP!

And as always, you can always call H2O Equipment Company to ask any questions regarding odors from your water!

Additional Information

One difficulty with odor is its fleeting nature. Sometimes the odor may be from a gas or an organism that is not present all the time, so if a water professional to come to your house to test for the problem, it could be undetectable. Also, testing apparatus, especially for hydrogen sulfide, is not as strong as your nose. In fact, your nose is 100 TIMES more sensitive than testing instruments. And if you try to bottle the odor, it will often dissipate into the air.

Start by keeping notes on when you notice the odor problem. Be sure to give the water professional all of your notes.

  • How long does it last?
  • Is it in the hot AND cold water?
  • Does it come and go?
  • Is it in one faucet or all faucets?

Is Your Odor Only in ONE Faucet?

Sulfur Odor in CTIf so, that is most likely NOT a well problem. And it’s usually a rotten egg/sulfur odor. You don’t need a system to treat this. You can fix the problem right from the source! First, check if your aerator on the faucet is clogged and clean it out. Then, check to see if you have flexible hosing under your sink. It could have sulfate reducing bacteria in it which is causing the odor. You can replace the hose or remove it and soak it for 20 minutes in a weak solution of unscented bleach and water. Just add enough chlorine until you can smell it. This usually kills the bacteria. You may need to periodically do this if the odor returns.

Sometimes a simple well chlorination can also help reduce some of the odor if the cause is from organisms like iron and sulfate reducing bacteria.