Q&A OF THE WEEK: “What’s the Best Way to Stop Hot Water From Smelling Like Rotten Eggs?”

Q: What’s the best way to stop the hot water in my house from smelling like rotten eggs? Shortly after I installed new bathroom faucets, my wife noticed the dreaded rotten eggs smell from the faucets – but only from those specific faucets. My water heater is 12 years old, gas-fired, 50 gallons.  Is it worth changing the  anode rod? Should I get a new tank?

Ordinary drug store hydrogen peroxide (3% by volume) does wonders to eliminate the smell of rotten eggs coming from infected drains.

A: No, I don’t think you need a new hot water tank. There are a couple of things I can suggest . . .

Are you sure the smell is coming from the hot water tap and not the bathroom sink drain? Many times drains pick up microbial infections and they smell like rotten eggs as a result. This is especially true with bathroom sinks. The fact that no other “faucets” in your house have the bad smell suggests that the problem is not your hot water heater at all. It could be, but let’s start by eliminating the simple things first.

Pour a bottle of ordinary hydrogen peroxide (3% concentration) down the drain at bedtime and leave it until morning. After this the drain should be temporarily plugged with a rag, then more hydrogen peroxide poured down the overflow passage of the sink (if it has one) to disinfect this passage, too.  Give this a try. If it’s going to work the smell will be gone in a few hours and it will say away for at least several weeks or months – often longer.

If hydrogen peroxide doesn’t do the job, check your water heater temperature setting.  If it’s lower than 120ºF, sulphur-consuming bacteria can live in the tank and cause odours. Try cranking up the temperature on the heater for a few days to 140ºF sterilize it, then dial it back down to see how that affects the odour.

Are you on a well? Sometimes microbes can infect a well so the water smells like rotten eggs. If this smell is mild, it might only be noticeable on the hot water side. The best way to sterilize a well is by pouring concentrated hydrogen peroxide down the well, then running fixtures to distribute the cleansing water everywhere. Chances are this won’t be necessary, but it is possible and effective.

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