Weird faucet odor, vinegar edition
September 9, 2014 5:33 AM   Subscribe

Our house's faucets occasionally smell like vinegar. What's causing that?

My husband and I recently bought a house. After moving in, we noticed that sometimes the water faucets emit a vinegar smell. It's not constant, and at first I thought it was happening only after we showered in the evening, but then when I used one of our outdoor faucets over the weekend, I noticed the same smell there.

Other things we've noticed:

- The smell doesn't last. It doesn't necessarily go away immediately if we run water through the faucet, but it eventually does dissipate.
- It's a strong smell. I can usually smell it in the hall outside the bathroom.
- It's unpredictable and happens regardless of what we're doing with water, as far as I can tell.

Other than running a cupful through the dishwasher, I haven't yet done any cleaning with vinegar at this house. We're on city water. We also have some preexisting plumbing issues (a leak in the wall, coming from the upstairs shower) that hopefully will be getting fixed today. Could this be related, and should we tell the plumber about it? Or is it something harmless, like cleaning stuff in the pipes/water leftover from when the old residents moved out?
posted by pepper bird to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Have you done any work on the system that may have involved Silicone sealant? Some silicone formulations emit ascetic acid (vinegar) when curing.
posted by The Violet Cypher at 5:43 AM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

I would mention it to the plumber, yes. Seems the easiest starting point.

PS: Are you sure it's vinegar and not sulphur you're smelling?
posted by DarlingBri at 6:21 AM on September 9, 2014

Response by poster: The Violet Cypher: we haven't done any work like that, no. But we've only been living here for a month. It might be that the previous owners did something like that.

DarlingBri: Pretty sure--it doesn't smell rotten, or like that odorant added to natural gas, which is what I normally associate with sulphurous smells.
posted by pepper bird at 6:56 AM on September 9, 2014

Are you on well water or city (treated) water? Wells can give off all kinds of odors.

Also, is the smell from the faucet or the drain? If it's the drain, you may want to make sure your traps are working. The bend in the p trap should hold water and (theoretically) keep out smells from the sewer.
posted by jraz at 7:41 AM on September 9, 2014

If it's when you run the hot water you might want to check the anode in your hot water system. Our water was smelling super funky & turned out bacteria & our anode were reacting strangely a quick flush of the hotwater heater and a new type of anode & now no smell. Though it was more a sewerage/sulfur type smell.
posted by wwax at 9:24 AM on September 9, 2014

Response by poster: Update: the plumber had no idea what could be causing the smell. His only recommendation was if we smell it again, to run the faucet for a couple minutes and see if the smell remains.

To clarify, I'm pretty sure the smell has been coming from the faucet, since it also came from an outdoor one that had no drain present. No hot water on the outdoor faucet, either, so I don't think it's the heater.
posted by pepper bird at 6:08 PM on September 9, 2014

Response by poster: Final update! I think the Violet Cypher's suggestion is probably closest--we found out that silicon sealant was used in fixing the dryer vent, near the outdoor faucet. I'm going to assume that something similar was used in/around/leading to the bathroom faucet pipes. Thanks for all the possible solutions. On to the next plumbing issue...
posted by pepper bird at 7:53 AM on September 14, 2014

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