General Question

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

What would cause a sulphur/rotten egg smell outside of my house?

Asked by ANef_is_Enuf (23293 points ) October 11th, 2010

Off and on for the last several days I notice that I catch a quick whiff of what smells like rotten egg when I am outside of my house. It is very faint for the most part, but once or twice it has been relatively strong. I swear (though it may be my imagination) that I can just barely smell it in my bathwater, as well.
What could it be?

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18 Answers

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Is it sulphur or sulfur?

iamthemob's avatar

Satan. Also, there may be a septic back up?

MissAusten's avatar

Do you have well water or city water?

We had a well once, and the water had a sulfur smell to it, especially when hot. We called a water quality company and they told us the sulfur wasn’t harmful, just yucky. They were able to set up a water filter system that got rid of the smell.

For a simple fix, you can try this and see if it works. If the sulfur smell is caused by bacteria in your pipes, that may get rid of it. Ours was caused by minerals in the well water.

I would either call a water quality company to test your water and find the source of the smell or, if you are on city water, call the water company. I guess the smell can also be caused by a certain part on a hot water heater (which wouldn’t explain why you smell it outside) or even by a sewage problem.

Because I am paranoid, I’d use bottled water for drinking, cooking, and brushing teeth until the problem was solved.

edited to add: If you have a septic tank, check to see when it was last emptied. If you have a neighbor with a septic tank, that could be the source of the smell but it shouldn’t affect your water unless you have a well that is too close to the septic tank.

Brian1946's avatar

@TheOnlyNeffie

According to http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sulfur , either spelling is acceptable.

In LA, the Dept. of Sanitation handles sewer issues, and the Dept. of Water & Power deals with water quality issues.

Perhaps you have similar agencies in your area.

JilltheTooth's avatar

Gas companies will often add an odor like that to alert users of a leak. If you have natural gas, run, don’t walk to your phone and call them ASAP!

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@MissAusten we have city water and no septic tank… however we do have a well with a pump that is never used. Now that you mention it, that is the area that I found it to smell the strongest, near the old fashioned pump. That sounds like something worth looking into. Thanks.

@JilltheTooth I have heard that, also… but could it have been leaking for nearly a week now with no ill consequences? I’m not doubting you answer, because that was one of my concerns.. I’m just poorly educated about situations like this.

JilltheTooth's avatar

If it’s a minor leak in the outside line, it’s obviously not the same danger as an inside leak, because it would dissipate in the air, but I would still get it checked out. Can’t hurt, right?

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Yep, will do. Thanks. :)

Cruiser's avatar

I agree with @JilltheTooth what you are describing is a marker scent they put in natural gas….call the gas Co. stat!

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

If none of the ideas above solve the problem, you might want to look around and see if anyone has spread mulch recently. They do this at work in the spring and fall, and it smells like rotten eggs.

skfinkel's avatar

I understand the gas company puts that smell in gas, otherwise odorless, to alert people to a possible leak. So, I would agree with the suggestions above and call the gas company and insist that they come and check it out.

JLeslie's avatar

The smell of sulfur is different than what is added to gas. But, I guess if someone is unfamiliar with the smell added to gas, they might not know what they are smelling.

@TheOnlyNeffie do you live in FL by any chance? The smell of sulfur is everywhere, especially the water. I agree that the well might be a likely source of the problem.

JLeslie's avatar

Still, I would have the gas company check it out as others have suggested if you are unsure.

lillycoyote's avatar

The gas company here uses mercaptan as an odorant for natural gas and the smell is very distinctive, at least to me. If I have a gas leak or have left one of the burners on I know that’s what it is. But something similar happened to me last week. I was doing a load of laundry and it smelled kind of like an egg salad sandwich. Not a harsh sulphur smell but a sulfur smell just the same. I never did figure out what was but we had just had a tremendous amount of rain the day or so before and I thought it might have been related to that. Who knows.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@JLeslie I was actually thinking that “natural gas” doesn’t smell this way to me. I always hear that it is comparable, but I have never thought they smelled the same. I just assumed that I was wrong. I live in Ohio.

JLeslie's avatar

@TheOnlyNeffie I have no idea if Ohio has a lot of sulfur in the groundwater and soil. Although, my girlfriend’s parent’s house is on well water in southern MI and I hate taking a shower in their house because the water smells so much like sulfur.

JLeslie's avatar

Is your stove gas? Just turn on the gas for 10 seconds without igniting the flame, and see if it smells the same. Just don’t light any matches at the same time, and don’t put on your stove without giving it a minute to air out. I would think anyone with a gas stove knows that smell anyway.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@JLeslie I have an electric stove, but I grew up with a gas stove most of my life. This does not smell the same. This smells like rotten eggs. Gas stove smells like… gas. For lack of better terminology. :)
I am definitely suspicious of the well. We have city water in our home, but we also have a private well on our property. Every time I have noticed the odor it has been in the general area of the pump to the well. I wouldn’t have connected them, because it is outside of my back door and on the way to the driveway, so it is my usual route to the car/let the dogs out/etc. I wasn’t even certain that I smelled it in my bathwater, which makes me think that I may not have. I think the odor is just stuck in my nose!

Thanks everyone!

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