Can you get rid of the stink in your pipes?
February 4, 2008 4:02 PM   Subscribe

Mystery Sulphuric Pong

When we moved into our home, we noticed that particularly in our bathroom, if you take a shower, you come out wrapped in the fine aroma of boiled egg. It's very enticing.

We went to our water board, and asked if there was any issue with the water supply, and we were told that it was treated, and the problem was with our water heater.

We flushed our old water-heater, and then since it was old and a power-gobbler, we went and got a spanking new water heater, and the aroma persists. It's not constant, but it's pretty frequent. It's not hideously strong, but noticeable (and embarrassing when we have people over). It's only in the shower. Not in the kitchen, not in the bathroom sink.

Is it our drain? Our pipes? Can it be fixed without tearing out the shower enclosure? Can anyone tell me the cause?


posted by HerOdyssey to Grab Bag (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Would any of the advice in this thread help?
posted by iconomy at 4:12 PM on February 4, 2008

Response by poster: I'm not sure it's the same situation; the water heaters being changed had no effect, it has continued. I'm concerned it's the pipes...
posted by HerOdyssey at 4:22 PM on February 4, 2008

1. i wouldn't believe the water board!

Talk to neighbors, see if they have a similar problem - it could certainly be the water

Get the water tested for sulfer content?

When it comes out of the tap, does it smell like sulpher? Like, in the kitchen, or outside at a tap?
posted by Salvatorparadise at 4:36 PM on February 4, 2008

Does the hot water really not smell anywhere else? That makes it a pretty limited set of things to check. It's unlikely that the hot water line between your bathroom tap and your shower is somehow contaminated (it's probably not much pipe). How about the shower head itself? Have you tried drano in the shower drain?
posted by 5MeoCMP at 4:42 PM on February 4, 2008

Are you sure your water doesn't come from a well?
posted by Sys Rq at 4:54 PM on February 4, 2008

Have you checked to make sure your shower drain has a p trap ?
posted by iamabot at 6:25 PM on February 4, 2008

What those guys said, except that if you just remove the anode, you'll be trading less smelly water for severely reduced water tank life.

I know there was an episode of "Ask This Old House" that dealt with this exact problem, but I don't remember the solution. Might have been a water softener to exchange the sulphur ions for salt ions.

Although your situation might be fixed by removing the shower head and faucet and flushing everything out. I'd start there.
posted by gjc at 6:32 PM on February 4, 2008

If it does turn out to be a reaction between sulphur compounds in the water and the sacrificial anode in your tank, you may have to replace your spanking new water heater with an even spankinger one that has a stainless steel tank instead of a glass-lined mild steel one. Stainless steel tanks don't need sacrificial anodes to stop them rusting out.
posted by flabdablet at 10:27 PM on February 4, 2008

Where are you living?

My mother lives on the California/Nevada/Arizona border. Around there, the water straight out of the tap stinks of sulphur -- to the point where you shouldn't drink it.

A lot of people have installed water conditioners and filters and the water company is treating it a bit more, but there's still the whiff of sulphur. Especially in the shower -- probably because there's hot water cascading on your head.

I'd check with your neighbours. And check out your showerhead/taps.
posted by Katemonkey at 3:41 AM on February 5, 2008

Where do you live? In the US/Canada water is under high pressure because that's how Americans/Canadians like it. A leak in the system can cause untreated groundwater or soil to get sucked into the pipes because of the high pressure. To compensate we enjoy heavily chemically treated water, yea! In Europe, they get more pure water but the pressure sucks for showers, boo.

In summary, you could have a leak in the system.
posted by Pollomacho at 10:55 AM on February 5, 2008

We just recently resolved our own issue similar to this one. We have lived in our home for over a year, and although our water quality is adequate, our bathroom (no matter how clean it was), still stank of sewage from time to time. This weekend, my husband was cleaning out the pipes underneath our sinks, when we discovered that the kinky tube (I have no idea what it is called) underneath his sink was coated with a nasty smelling slime. I cleaned it out with bleach and hot water, and since then - no problem!
posted by msali at 2:27 PM on February 6, 2008

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