Smelly Water Causes and Solutions

Smelly water causes and solutions covers the most common questions about smelly well water. We often hear complaints of smelly water from potential water filtration customers. And it’s usually described as a “rotten egg smell” or “sulfur smell”. And while this is usually the case, there are times when the culprit is not actually sulfur itself. Because water with high manganese levels can smell very similar to sulfur.

Smelly Water in private wells usually comes from sulfur or manganese if it smells like rotten eggs.
Smelly Water is no fun. Terminox® may be the solution.

One of the easiest ways to differentiate between the two is to determine whether the hot water, cold water, or all water has a sulfur smell. Manganese typically presents a smell similar to a sulfur smell only on the hot water side, whereas sulfur typically affects the cold water. The presence of significant amounts of manganese can also cause discoloration ranging from grayish water to black slime in the water.

How do I get rid of smelly water?

While certain levels of sulfur in your water can be treated with chlorine injection. The presence of manganese or sulfur and manganese is best treated with a water filter such as the Terminox®. Because a Termiox® well water filter can treat water for iron, sulfur and manganese in addition to removing dirt and turbidity. Terminox® iron filters are self-backwashing units that require little to no maintenance to provide clean water free of odor or discoloration for years. Feel free to read more about our Terminox™ iron filter in our blog post Terminox® on August, 1.

Other common smells are metallic smells. And this usually comes from iron in your well water. Or it can be the copper smell if you have copper pipes. But copper smell is more likely if you have pH issues. Musky smells can come from dirt or organics in the water. If you call us a friendly specialist can easily help you determine what is causing the smells in your water.

-Water Filtration Wizard

CALL TOLL FREE:  800-684-0979


Smelly water causes and solutions

23 Comments on “Smelly Water Causes and Solutions

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  2. It’s hard to find educated people about this topic, however, you sound like you know what you’re talking about!


    • If you truly have sulfur, and you are on a private well, you need to remove it before it hits the softener. The sulfur will kill the softener over time. Sometimes it is just a contaminated water line. Just give a friendly tech a call and he will explain how to tell if it is a contaminated water line or not. If it is a contaminated water line that is stinking, it is simple to correct normally and does not require you to buy any filters.
      However, if you are on city water and it did not smell before and them begins at some point to smell, disinfecting the softener, and possible the water lines a swell, might correct the problem without a need to buy any filters at all. Call 800-684-0979 for a discussion with a friendly tech.

    • You can put clorox in the brine/salt tank. Only use and ounce or so. However, you should only do this once a year normally.

      If you’re looking to get a tank, check out our website for prices. If you have any more questions, don’t hesitate to call us at 1-800-684-0979. Thank you!

  3. I have well water and a Culligan water softener system attached. Bad smells from iron, sulfur or manganese may be the issue. Need assistance with a solution. Lived in house for over 30 years. Farm behind property was mined many years ago and looks like that water runoff is in my water system. Thanks. Dane

    • Hi Dave,
      Sounds like a terminox would solve your problem. However, we first need some information about your water before we can make a recommendation. If you go to and look at items 7, 16, and 17, that’ll be all the info we need on your water to recommend the proper equipment. Should you have any questions, give us a call at 1-800-684-0979. Thank you and have a wonderful day.

    • Hopefully the Culligan salesperson explained to you that you should NOT drink the water from that softener. You should also never use a water softener to remove iron. The iron makes it use more salt and eventually degrades the water softening ability of the minerals inside. Eventually the softener will need expensive servicing. Always use an iron filter to remove iron, sulfur, manganese, dirt etc., and only use a water softener to remove hardness. A properly sized water softener should only require salt about once per year on average. At least that is the case with our water softeners. Once you install a water softener, you must either drink bottled water or use a reverse osmosis filter in the kitchen you remove the large amounts of sodium that ANY salt using appliance leaves behind. If a water softener salesperson says it is ok to drink the water from their softener, simply test it at a lab for sodium content after it runs through the softener. This lab test usually only costs around $25 for the test. It will prove to you what we are saying. The test won’t lie. For further questions on this topic please feel free to call a friendly water tech at 800-684-0979. The call and the advice are free.

    • Hello,

      We can see nothing on their website that would indicate they are saying that particular filter would remove sulfur. It seems you would need something additional. It says iron, manganese and hardness. We do not use the same mineral to remove iron, manganese and hardness. We believe they are two difference processes entirely. We virtually never use salt based products to remove iron, sulfur or manganese. We also don’t recommend drinking the water from most salt based appliances without the addition of Reverse Osmosis filters in the kitchen for all cooking and drinking water. This removes most of the sodium or other regenerates left in the drinking water that softeners produce. Hardness is removed just one way in most cases. With a water softener.
      Sulfur, manganese and iron are removed a different way enitirely. In our opinion the two don’t mix. You may want to contact them in regard to how their products work. If you would like us to help you further we would need you to go to our FAQs page and read items 7, 16 and 17. Once you have the answers to those questions we can tell you exactly what you would need and exactly what it would cost. Even if you never buy anything from us you will know exactly what you should do to correct that water properly in our humble opinion.

      Thank you

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    • We are glad it helped you. That is why we are here. To clarify the truth in what really works and what does not. Even if a person never buys anything from us, we want to help them know what to do, how to do it, and what it should cost. Please feel free to contact us anytime. We will NEVER ask you to buy anything. We will just answer all of your questions and give you friendly advice. You have found a soft place to land here..

      Take care

  5. My savior, cause I discovered exactly what I was looking for.
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  6. I have smelly water but I do not know but I think the city owns the water pipe I do have Clorox drops in my toilet tanks I have a one floor house. I don’t think we have a well.

    • You can always call and speak with a friendly tech for advice on how to know what those smells are. Most smells on city water can be fixed quite simply and very inexpensively. Just call 800-684-0979. The call and the expert advice are free.

  7. I have a private well with no filtration system… not a softener.. The water tastes fine but I do notice greyish tint especially when filling the bathtub.. I get the off smell when I run dishwasher and washing machine at same time.. or after/during heavy rain storm.. We recently flushed our hot water tank which seemed to help and we also get orange stains from water.. Can I just treat well with chlorine?.. I did years ago when we moved in. I am not trying to install a filtration softener system since we will not be in this home much longer.

    • Hello Jennifer,

      When you have orange stains that usually means you have iron. If you have iron it is not a good idea to chlorinate the well as it will make the iron worse over time. The chlorine oxidizes the iron and makes it drop to the bottom of the well where it often begins to build up a thick sludge on the bottom. Not only iron will be in the sludge, but also anything that can oxides and turn into a sediment form, such as manganese. The more often you chlorinate, the worse the sludge gets, though right after you do it you will usually see a brief improvement for a few days or even a few weeks. At some point it is likely that when you are in low water table or drought conditions, which virtually every well goes through at some point, you may pick up all of that stuff and cause it to come into the home ruining everything it touches. If you are doing laundry at the time it could ruin whatever you are washing at the time.

      The gray tint may be a mixture of calcium (Hardness) and manganese. Manganese is often the stuff that makes the hot water smell. The smart thing to do before you try to correct anything is to take a few minutes around the home and gather some simple information. Once you have that information, contact us again and we can tell you the easiest and least expensive way to correct it, as you are moving soon and seem uninterested in long term solutions.

      In order for us to help you properly we would need you to gather the information requested under items 7, 16 and 17 on this page:
      It should only take a few minutes around the house to get us what we need. Once you have that information, please contact us again and we can tell you EXACTLY what you need and EXACTLY what it will cost. And you can be SURE it will work. Most people are pleasantly surprised how low priced our solutions are. Any company that doesn’t insist on this information is not doing it correctly or they are likely selling marginal products. You simply must have this information to do it correctly, and have it work correctly, right from the start.
      Please don’t hesitate to give us a quick call at 800-684-0979 toll free to discuss your issues. Keep in mind our technicians are not allowed to ask you to buy anything or pressure you in ANY way. They just answer your questions and give you great advice. We are the online leader for water treatment worldwide. We set the standard for all others to follow.

      We appreciate your patience.


    • When that happens it is normally because there are bacteria and other things growing in the sump area or hole. The dehumidifier water can collect airborne bacteria and contaminants as well. The best thing to do is periodically disinfect the pump and sump area with a bit of bleach such as Clorox. Just a capful or two should do the trick. I think you will find this solves the issue. Take care.

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