Getting Rid of Water Heater Odors

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The smell of rotting eggs or another unpleasant scent coming from your faucets can be startling. The good news is it’s a common problem that can typically be easily fixed. Odors are caused by the buildup of bacteria somewhere in the water lines. If left unattended, however, the bacteria causing the smell can start to affect your health. Start troubleshooting your system as soon as you smell something that doesn’t seem quite right.

In city areas with chlorinated water, you may not notice odors as often because the chemicals do a good job of getting rid of odor-causing bacteria. Some home water systems have a water treatment system that takes most of the chlorine out of the water before distributing it through household piping. Other homes may live farther away from the water distribution center, and may not have as high a chlorine concentration. When chlorine dissipates or is removed from the water, the risk of developing mold and bacteria increases.

Troubleshooting a Stinky Hot Water Heater
The first thing to do after you notice a scent is to isolate the problem. Bad smells could be coming from the hot or cold water lines. Turn on the hot water in one faucet for a few minutes to see if you notice the smell. Then, do the same thing with the cold water from another tap (so the smell doesn’t carry over from the first run). If you notice a smell in the cold water, contact your water company to report the issue. For hot water smells, the problem will generally be in your water heater.

Getting Rid of Water Heater Odors
If you’re familiar with the way your water heater operates, sanitize the system by adding hydrogen peroxide to it. If you haven’t worked on your water heater before, contact us to address the problem. Failing to appropriately address your system could lead to electrical problems, damage your heating system, or cause a gas-related explosion in gas water heaters.

Do not remove or replace the anodes that typically cause odors on your own. Doing so on your own may void a warranty. Your local plumber can replace the anode rod to permanently remove the odor from your system.

For a short term fix, try turning off the cold water supply to your heater with a hot water faucet running to relieve the pressure. Drain some of the tank water and add a few containers of drugstore hydrogen peroxide (3% solution). Once the peroxide is in the system, close it, turn on the cold water supply, and start running all the hot water taps in your home. Let it run for several minutes, to allow the hydrogen peroxide to completely flush. The simple remedy should clear out bacteria and leave your water heater clean for a while.

This cleaning technique will work on traditional water heaters, but it is never a bad idea to contact the manufacturer or a certified plumber before trying the treatment yourself. Those who own a tankless water heater may need a professional plumber’s assistance locating and eliminating the smell.

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