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everephebe's avatar

Plumbing question: sulfur smell in all sinks and showers of house?

Asked by everephebe (11537 points ) December 6th, 2010

Moving to a new house soon, and all faucets have water that smells strongly of rotten eggs or sulfur. What could be the source of the problem and how do I fix it?

I am going to get a plumber to help with this shortly, but I thought add ask for some fluther expert opinions first.

Note: The house has not been in use for about 6 months, I am guessing that this is partially, if not completely, to blame.

Thank you.

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20 Answers

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

My plumber wants to know if you’re on well water and says to try running lots of water because it sounds like there is water sitting stagnant in the pipes.

Blondesjon's avatar

Is the house run into the city sewer or a septic tank?

everephebe's avatar

@Blondesjon It’s a septic tank.

@WillWorkForChocolate I don’t think it’s well water, it ties into a local water main.

Note: Also I forgot to mention, there is no hot water at this time.

snowberry's avatar

@WillWorkForChocolate Yes, and run water in every drain as well.

woodcutter's avatar

probably all the water that is in the P-traps has gone stagnant or possibly evaporated. It’s that water in the p-traps that keep the smell from coming back inside the house.

everephebe's avatar

So, @woodcutter how do I fix the p-traps?

woodcutter's avatar

@everephebe If the p-traps are still in good repair then all you do is run water down the drain and they will fill back up to their proper level. After the water is shut off there will remain the same amount in that “loop” of drainpipe you see there under every sink. The toilet has a p-trap moulded right into its shape. That’s why there is always some water in it after flushing. Probably a good idea to have the drain vents checked out to be sure there are no obstructions like bird nests or wasps or anything that will cause slow draining. Sort of the same principle if you put a drinking straw in a glass of water, then put your finger over the top of the straw “vent”, and pull the straw out…the water stays inside the straw until you take your finger off it and the water falls out. The vents are up on the roof usually, a 3” or 4” pipe in the area of the bathrooms and kitchen sink. If air can’t get down those pipes then the water won’t drain from the house well, which I suppose may cause some odor.

Blondesjon's avatar

If you’re on septic the smell may be minor backup in the pipes. If you can, find out when the septic was last cleaned out. I’m willing to bet that it is overdue.

everephebe's avatar

@Blondesjon I think the septic was cleaned recently.

I am going to try running the water for a while, and see if it clears up, I’ll update you guys with the results. Thanks @woodcutter, @snowberry, @WillWorkForChocolate, and @Blondesjon!

majorrich's avatar

I seem to remember when I was a kid, our well water getting that smell when the iron filter needed recharged. Are there by chance iron or steel pipes in the house?

everephebe's avatar

@majorrich I really don’t think so but I’ll double check.

woodcutter's avatar

it wouldn’t hurt anything to pour a little bleach down the drains and let set overnight. I know, bleach stinks too but it’s better than than old poopy smell. If that doesn’t kill the odor I’m not sure what will.

augustlan's avatar

This seems unlikely, but it’s dangerous so I thought I’d mention it just in case. We had some new plumbing that was put in incorrectly. They ran it so it was draining into an old cistern (no longer in use) rather than our sewer line. This caused a build up of methane gas (which smelled like sulfur). Thankfully the plumber that we called found the issue pretty quickly, but said it could have caused an explosion if left uncorrected.

snowberry's avatar

Now this sounds really strange, but a cap-full or so of ammonia in standing water (such as an unused toilet) will act as a dandy deodorizer.

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wilma's avatar

I’m no plumber, but it seems I remember hearing something about “anodes” in the hot water heater and “magnesium and aluminum” that react in some way to produce hydrogen sulfide gas.
(My son had this problem at his house.)
I’m not sure how he corrected the problem or if he was able to correct it.

alamo's avatar

The smell is probably from the water heater. Flush the water heater at the drain on the tank. Its a garden hose connection. If it’s still not heating the water, any old garden hose will do. If it’s heating, cheap thin hoses may burst.
Hook up the hose to the drain. Leave the cold water supply on. Turn on the drain, some of them the entire fitting turns.Some of them look just like a garden hose valve handle. Flush for a long time.½ hour plus.The first flow of water will be rusty muddy and foul looking and will stain anything except dirt.
Then go inside and run the hot side of every faucet.
As a safety, before you start go to the hardware store and get a garden hose valve. They’re plastic, brass or other metal and used inline of a garden hose to shut it off. If the water heater valve won’t fully close after its flushed, use the garden hose valve to shut off the flow. If there’s not a cold water valve at the water tank, find a shut off before you start this project too.
The next step is anode replacement, then water heater replacement.
PS if the water heater is inside, take my opinion at your own risk. Just sayin.

everephebe's avatar

My dad has told me that doing what @woodcutter (about the p-traps) has suggested has worked, I’m confirming that tomorrow. Thanks all for your help! :)

woodcutter's avatar

@everephebe glad to be of help. Sometimes fixes are too easy but not nearly enough for me. I love an easy fix ;)

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