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Why Does My Plumbing Smell Like Rotten Eggs?

Finding the Source of Unpleasant Smells in Your Home

In general, plumbing systems are simple to maintain and will be quite reliable with proper maintenance. However, they are still prone to their fair share of issues. Some of the most common plumbing issues include leaky faucets, running toilets, poor water pressure, and leaky water heater. One problem that is slightly stranger, but still common, is the smell of rotten eggs radiating from the plumbing.

If you are smelling rotten eggs in your sink or drain, you might have a problem with hydrogen sulfide. Hydrogen sulfide gas is unwanted bacteria that produces a sulfur smell. Hydrogen sulfide is a colorless, flammable, and hazardous smell. It occurs naturally in crude petroleum, natural gas, and hot springs, but it also tends to collect in low-lying and enclosed, poorly ventilated areas like manholes, basements, and sewer vaults.

If you are noticing the smell of rotten eggs, it is possible that your water or sink drain is contaminated. It could also be that the drain is clogged or partially drained. When sinks are clogged, they drain slowly, which can cause bacteria to build up in the p-trap and create the hydrogen sulfide gas. This could also happen if the sink has not been used recently because the water in the p-trap dries up, while gas from the sewer line rises out of the drain.

How to Get Rid of Sulfur Smell in the Drain

If you notice the smell of sulfur building up in your plumbing system, a good first step will be to make sure the garbage disposal is clean. Running your disposal regularly and using a cleaner will make a big difference. Another method is to use chlorine bleach, which can be an effective way to remove medium to high levels of hydrogen sulfide. The chlorine in the bleach reacts chemically with the hydrogen sulfide, which eliminates the “rotten egg” odor. Furthermore, chlorine reacts with iron or manganese and disinfects water supplies. If you are finding the go-to methods to be unsuccessful, the most important step will be to identify the source of hydrogen sulfide. In order to do this, look out for the following signs:

  • Odor on hot side only

If the sulfur smell seems to be coming from the side with hot water, it might be a reaction between an anode rod in the water heater and natural sulfate ions in the water. An anode rod is made from magnesium and aluminum, and it is designed to protect the steel water heater tank from corrosion. Magnesium rods are more likely to cause odor, so the first step would be to replace the magnesium with an aluminum rod. If this still does not solve the issue, the next best solution would be to use the water heater without an anode rod or remove the sulfate ions. Removing the anode rod would also take away any corrosion protection, which potentially shortens the life of the water heater tank.

  • Odor in the cold water that goes away after water flows

If you are noticing the odor radiating from cold water and it seems to disappear after the water flows away, the source of the hydrogen sulfide is probably Sulfate-Reducing Bacteria (SRB’s). These bacteria are not pathogenic, but they do leave a strong odor in cold water. In this situation, we can perform a simple test to see if the water heater tank contains SRB’s by raising the temperature and killing the bacteria.

  • Odor in the hot and cold water that does not decrease as water flows

This situation would be telling of the fact that hydrogen sulfide is coming from the source aquifer. There are a few treatment methods available for this, like a sulfur softener, a chlorine or hydrogen peroxide chemical feed, and carbon filtration. The right option for this situation depends on the levels of hydrogen sulfide and other contaminants in the water, the peak flow rate, and the peak daily water usage.

How Do I Keep My Plumbing Pipes Clean?

When it comes to keeping your plumbing pipes clean, one of the best ways is to be careful of what you put down them. Substances like hair, coffee grounds, cooking grease, and soap scum are your biggest enemies. To keep your drain free of these substances, try running hot water down the drain after every use. It also helps to add tablespoons of baking soda to the water. This is a great deodorizer and can take away debris like hair and toothpaste that would otherwise stick to the drain pipe and lead to problems like odors. Some other ways to keep the plumbing pipes clean include:

  • Wash your pets outside if the weather allows it, which will prevent pet hair and dander from getting down the drain
  • Use mesh traps on open drains, which will prevent soap and hair from making its way into the drains
  • Brush hair before bathing in order to keep it from making its way down the drain
  • Invest in a quality plunger that will clear out any blockages

Other Drainage Line Tips

Drainage lines run to the sewer system of a house, and every drain joins the sewer lines running out of it. You will likely know if your sewer needs cleaning because you will begin to notice unpleasant noises and smells, but there are some other ways you can prevent this, such as:

  • Cleaning your lines often

One great way to do this is by purchasing an enzyme cleaner. Enzyme cleaners come in a wide variety of types. They can be used to remove pet stains, and are also useful for cleaning out drainage lines.

  • Getting a snake

Snakes are a simple and cost-effective way to remove clogs inside a house with minimal amounts of effort. A snake will go a long way in keeping your drains clean.

  • Using baking soda and vinegar

Baking soda mixed with vinegar is another great way to clean a drain. The chemical reaction that is created when these two ingredients mix can lead to clogs.

  • Flushing your lines

If you already have a clog, this is not a great idea, but if you would like to prevent a clog, this is a great way to do it. A toilet is an ideal place to flush your lines. When you clean your sewer lines, you must make sure to avoid clogs.

  • Using drain cleaners

A drain cleaner is a chemical product that unblocks sewer pipes or clogged wastewater drains. Chemical drain cleaners can unclog drains by causing the organic material to lose electrons and become oxidized. Professional help is always a great way to keep up with drain maintenance if you are unsure.

If you would like more tips on how to maintain your plumbing and prevent unpleasant odors, call Meyer’s Companies, Inc. at (219) 240-0610 or contact us online.

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