why does my agua stinka
August 8, 2005 9:15 AM   Subscribe

The water that comes out of my kitchen sink tap STINKS.

Not just the hot water, so I know it's not a chlorine / water heater problem - i.e., I've inspected the water heater & it's fine, and the symptom is more noticeable in cold water anyway. Outside taps don't seem nearly as bad/noticeable, bathroom taps seem OK; the stink disappears if I let the water run full-throttle for about 2 minutes or so. The odor is a very strong, nausea-inducing rotten eggs - I'm guessing it's hydrogen sulfide, but why just this tap? What's the cause? How do I fix it? How much will it cost?
posted by luriete to Home & Garden (10 answers total)
This is a 1925 Mission Revival bungalow, and the majority of the plumbing is relatively new (i.e., not more than 15 years old). The bath plumbing - where there's no odor at all - is only a year old.

I am confused why this comes out of one tap and not the others, especially when it takes so long to clear - certainly it's bringing all new water from the street if I run the tap for 2 minutes, with the kind of high water pressure I have, so you'd think water coming out of the other inside/outside taps would be heading from the same pipes on my property. But they don't stink.
posted by luriete at 9:23 AM on August 8, 2005

I've read something about WHY this happens, but I don't have time to dig around right now and find where I read it. But the solution was to pour a bottle of hydrogen peroxide down the overflow. Now, this was my bathroom sink where I had this problem - I don't know if your kitchen sink has an overflow (the hole at the top of the basin that prevents your sink from overflowing)? If so, try that. If not, maybe try pouring it down the drain?

This worked for me for about 3 weeks, but I think it's cheap enough that you could do this as often as you needed. We eventually replaced that sink, faucet, and plumbing to the wall when we remodeled the bathroom, and now have no more smell.
posted by peep at 9:31 AM on August 8, 2005

From this link:

i have a very strong sulfur smell in one room.It is there even when I don't run water. It does not seem to get stronger with hot water. I see solutions for well owners, but what should i do? Any help appreciated. thank you

Hi Jo: Thanks for All experts. A few things clue me that your problem is not caused by your water supply. #1 If it were a water supply problem it would be in all your taps not just one room. #2 You use city water which is typically well chlorinated and the chlorine would eliminate any sulfer. #3 There is odor without water running.

If it is an older home there is a possibility of a build up over the years in that one location's plumbing. However that is remote. The Chlorine in the city water should have rinsed that out over time.

Occasionally a mixed-plumbing, eg. copper and galvanized, can give off an odor similar to sulfur. Usually this is evidenced by staining of either blue-green or red to black.The condition is called electrolosis. So if this room's water is delivered through mixed plumbing that maight be the culprit

I am a little unsure about this explanation but I can't think of any other reasoning for it to be in one section and not any other.
posted by phearlez at 9:31 AM on August 8, 2005

Visit the plumbing forum at That Home Site. A few plumbers post to that site regularly and they were helpful to me when I was diagnosing weird bathroom smells. This discussion may be the answer you're looking for.
posted by Sully6 at 9:35 AM on August 8, 2005

I had that problem in a bathroom sink. Changed out the faucet and the supply lines, and it went away immediately. Pretty easy job, even for a non-plumber.
posted by spilon at 9:41 AM on August 8, 2005

I have this problem, and it appears to be the drain, not the water supply. I do not have a solution. It did get better for a while when I replaced the fauct and cleaned the first drain section, but it came back.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 10:02 AM on August 8, 2005

Galvanic action caused by a newer copper line connected to an older iron line (which, besides lead would have been what a 1925 house was built with) can cause all sorts of fun, most fun of all would be corrosion.

This seems to go along with what phearlez wrote.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:26 AM on August 8, 2005

Here's a site that suggests hydrogen peroxide (among several other chemicals) to neutralize the odor, though not necessarily in the context of plumbing. Also shows the reactions taking place.
posted by keatsandyeats at 1:41 PM on August 8, 2005

Are you on a well? It could be sulfer (the rotten egg smell). I've been in several country apartments with stinky sulfer water. It's a gas, so it builds up in the pipes when you're not using the faucet. After running the water, it becomes more dilute. It could be worse in one faucet because of the layout of the pipes. Perhaps it builds up in the kitchen because that's the first faucet in the series.

Not much you can do about sulfer. It comes from the bedrock I think.

Dumping hydrogen peroxide down the drain will do nothing but kill the bacteria in your septic system. If you are having problems with your sinks trap then that can work.
posted by recurve at 7:13 PM on August 8, 2005

It's a gas, so it builds up in the pipes when you're not using the faucet.

Sulfur is not a gas at room temperature.
posted by angry modem at 7:29 PM on August 8, 2005

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