Jump to content

Hot water stinks


Recommended Posts

Hi. ...followed a link from the JLC forum over here.

I recently bought a home that sat vacant for a few months ...I think.

The hot water in the bathroom sink and shower smells like rotten eggs.

Could this smell be hydrogen--sulfide gas (I just read this in the "stinky water" thread reply by Mike)? It doesn't smell in the other bathroom or kitchen, but maybe I just don't smell it over the musty damp crawlspace smell.

How do I get rid of this smell? We've taken a few showers...Uggh! Do I need to drain the hot water heater? Turn on all the faucets or something more drastic?

All help is appreciated. Thanks.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


Well, if you know your way around a wrench, it shouldn't be too hard to correct that. If not, it would be prudent to simply bite the bullet and call a plumber.

It's bacteria in the water reacting with the anode rod that's created the hydrogen-sulfide that you're smelling. You might be able to get rid of it by simply running the water, but the quickest way will be to completely drain and flush the water heater.

Turn off the gas or power and then shut off the water to the water heater, flip up the lever on the temperature and pressure relief valve and then open the sillcock at the bottom and drain it. Once it's drained, open the supply side and let some more water run through it (a few gallons)to flush out the rest of the sediment on the bottom of the tank. Turn off the water and allow it to drain, close the sillcock and release the T & P lever and then turn the water to the unit back on.

Once the tank has filled, NOT before, light your pilot or turn on the power and then wait an hour or two for the water to heat up and then try it. If the odor is still there, you may need to replace the anode rod. They're available at hardware stores and home improvement centers.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

I stole this ages ago and never documented the source:

"Unless you are very familiar with the operation and maintenance of the water heater, you should contact a plumber, to do the work.

* Replace or remove the magnesium anode. Many water heaters have a magnesium anode, which is attached to a plug located on top of the water heater. It can be removed by turning off the water, releasing the pressure from the water heater, and unscrewing the plug. Be sure to plug the hole. Removal of the anode, however, may significantly decrease the life of the water heater. You may wish to consult with a reputable water heater dealer to determine if a replacement anode made of a different material, such as aluminum, can be installed. A replacement anode may provide corrosion protection without contributing to the production of hydrogen sulfide gas.

* Disinfect and flush the water heater with a chlorine bleach solution. Chlorination can kill sulfur bacteria, if done properly. If all bacteria are not destroyed by chlorination, the problem may return within a few weeks.

* Increase the water heater temperature to 160 degrees Fahrenheit for several hours. This will destroy the sulfur bacteria. Flushing to remove the dead bacteria after treatment should control the odor problem.

CAUTION: Increasing the water heater temperature can be dangerous. Before proceeding, consult with the manufacturer regarding an operable pressure relief valve, and for other recommendations. Be sure to lower the thermostat setting and make certain the water temperature is reduced following treatment to prevent injury from scalding hot water."

Link to comment
Share on other sites


You never mentioned whether it was a gas water heater or an electric water heater. Here's a scary electric water heater scenario for you:

1. Owner drains most of the water out of a water heater when closing the cabin down in the fall for the winter.

2. During the late fall, winter and summer months, bacteria in the water react with the anode to create Hydrogen Sulfide gas that fills the space above the lowered water level.

3. In the spring, the owner returns, turns on the water to fill the tank and as the water fills the tank it compresses the hydrogen sulfide gas above the water.

4. He turns on power to the water heater without purging the tank of the gas.

5. As the tank is heating up, he turns on the hot water and lowers the water level inside the tank far enough to expose the heating element to the partially-compressed hydrogen-sulfide gas. The gas, having been compressed, can ignite at a lower flash point and ignites.

6. Cottage go BOOM !!! id="size6">

It's called a BLEVE - Bi-Level Explosive Event, I believe, and it happens a few times a year around the country.

So, which is it?

OT - OF!!!


Link to comment
Share on other sites

The hot water heater is propane gas.

All this information is really putting a damper on the summer cabin concept. First, I vacuumed up mouse droppings totally oblivious of hanta virus and now I may just send our place into orbit. The kids are going to wonder why they can't go inside while Mom cleans or messes with the hot water heater. haha I'm only half laughing. Really the information is helpful...just a bit scary.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 5 years later...

I installed a new electric water tank in our summer place in June and I have received word of a hydrogen sulfide problem from the hot water. We never had that problem with the old Rheem which lasted over 25 years. There is no water softener in use. Should this be happening so quickly to the anode?

The info Bill posted is from Minnesota Dept of Health. http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/w ... probheater

I have read elsewhere that hydrogen peroxide added to the water instead of bleach will work and is safer. Any comments or additional advice is welcome.

Not using the hot water, Les, doesn't seem to be a viable option.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...