What to Do If Your Tap Water Has an Odd Smell

A house should smell like many things – homemade cookies in the oven, fresh laundry, a relaxing candle. Your water shouldn’t be one of them.

What to Do If Your Tap Water Has an Odd Smell

When everything is working correctly, your tap water is clear and odorless. However, certain water supply or plumbing issues can cause water to smell like rotten eggs, salt, mold, or even metal. It’s important to identify the source of the odor so it can be addressed quickly and effectively. In some cases, water with a peculiar smell can be dangerous to your health, while other times, it can be a temporary nuisance. 

What does your water smell like?

Rotten eggs

The smell of rotten eggs in water usually comes from hydrogen sulfide, which naturally occurs in water supplies due to decaying organic material. This sounds pretty serious, but thankfully hydrogen sulfide isn’t generally harmful to our health – but it can cause corrosion in pipes and taint the color of tap water. Hydrogen sulfide can also build up inside tank water heaters. 

You can check by comparing the smell of your hot and cold water. If only the hot water smells like rotten eggs, it’s time to drain and flush the water heater. Lastly, you should check your water softener to ensure it is working properly and not creating a rotten egg smell. 


A salty smell in your water can be caused by the presence of many minerals. But more often than not, the culprit is chloride, which can seep into the water from the ground, sewage, or other sources. There is a serious health risk associated with chloride if it is caused by an industrial accident or contamination of water nearby. There is a less drastic explanation: your water softener is adding too much salt. To ensure your water is safe to drink, we recommend getting it tested.


Metallic odors are often from high levels of iron, zinc, or manganese. There are a few ways these minerals could find their way into your pipes and water. First, they could be coming off old, corroding metal pipes. Second, they could be collecting in your water heater, which could be resolved by draining and flushing the tank. Finally, the most dangerous scenario is if you have very old pipes with lead. To be safe, you should have your water tested for lead and potentially replace the old pipes.

Moldy or mustiness

While often described as a “moldy” or “earthy” odor, the most likely explanation is there is algae in your water. Algae should be removed from municipal water before it is distributed to your home, but small amounts may slip through or the water could still smell like algae even though the organisms aren’t present. If you call your water provider, they can provide you with an update on the water’s quality. It is also possible for bacteria to grow in plumbing fixtures, so if you only smell the smell from one faucet or showerhead, clean it with vinegar.

When to call a plumber

It’s never a good sign when your tap water has a funky smell. Instead of figuring out the issue on your own, bring in the experts at Reichelt Plumbing. We’ll diagnose the source of the stench so you can go back to enjoying normal, odorless water as quickly as possible. Call us today at (219) 322-4906.


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