Well water smells bad: How to Fix rotten eggs, sulfur or sewage smell

Water that comes out of the tap can sometimes have a faintly unpleasant smell to it. This is especially true of water from wells that are not properly treated. While this smell is usually not something that causes problems for people who use their well water, it can make using it feel a bit unnerving at times. In this blog post, we’ll explore the causes of a smell in well water and what you can do to eliminate it.


What causes bad smells in well water?

Wells can pick up a lot of organic material, rotting leaves, grass clippings and other things that end up in the groundwater, which is then pumped up to the surface and then into your house.

This organic material can sometimes result in a bad smell in your well water. Changing the water conditions in your well can have a big impact on how it smells.

There are a few reasons why your well water might smell (this list is not exhaustive, there might be other reasons as well).

  • Bacteria in the water
  • Iron in the water
  • Hydrogen sulfide in the water
  • Mud or leaves that dissolve in the water
  • Old pipes that need to be replaced
  • Sewage leaks
  • Problems with natural gas

You should get your well water tested with a lab test to make sure that it doesn’t contain harmful elements. These tests can take some time but can provide a great overview of what is going on. Without it, it can be hard to know the root of the problem. 

Often the issue is hydrogen sulfide. While it is not dangerous, it can be unnerving. It is quite easy to fix though as a filter can be added to the well. In your water heater, you often have a sacrificial rod. This makes sure that your tank doesn’t break down over time. You can use an aluminum rod and this should help with the smell as well. Both of these steps are often needed to get it fixed.

Tips for eliminating bad smells in your well water

Once you have the results from the lab test, you can determine what needs to happen. This can include adding water filters so that the dirty elements are removed from the water. Some filters focus on one element, such as iron. Others focus on more elements. These can be quite big and are therefore generally installed in the garage. Water filters have to be cleaned or replaced often so it is important that they are accessible.

Once the system is in place, it is important that you use a lab test often to check if the water is clean. While the smells might be gone, there might still be too much of a certain element. Another filter might have to be installed to further clean the water.

There are a lot of water filters and your plumber can recommend the best solution for your situation. This depends on the type of soil you have and the needs of your specific house. Well pumps also have a filter that can remove some dirt and sand from the water. These filters should be cleaned regularly as well.

It is also important to note that water in pipes can go bad. For this reason, it is important that you use the faucet or toilets that the well water is connected to are used regularly. 

Well water smells like sewage, rotten eggs or sulfur

If your well water smells like rotten eggs, there can be a number of problems, let’s look into them.

It is possible that your sewage water is leaking into your well. This is a dangerous situation and a plumber should come out to fix this as soon as possible. Plumbers have cameras that they can run in drains to check what is going on.

It is possible that a drain is leaking or breaking. Often tree roots can grow in drains and break them. Another issue might be a leak at the fitting (where the drains connect). It is also possible that rodents chewed on your drain and broke it. A small leak can have big consequences already.

From that point onwards, sewage can keep leaking in your well. If you don’t fix it, the well might become unusable. Fixing this problem can involve digging to get access to the drains. It can be a lot of work but needs to get done if you want to keep using the well.

The water in your well might need to get purified if sewage has leaked into it. Specialized companies will have to fix this for you. 

Another reason is that there is an issue with your natural gas pipe. A specific smell has been added to make it easier to detect leaks. Your plumber can help you to find leaks by using a special meter. Gas leaks can be dangerous as they can lead to explosions. For this reason, it is important that you close the gas if you know that there is a leak. Contact your gas company or a plumber to get this done.

If your well water smells like rotten eggs, it’s probably because of iron buildup. Iron can sometimes build up in your water from things like dirt in the well, or from rust on old pipes.

If you suspect that this is the cause, you can change the water regularly, or run the water for a few minutes to flush out the water before it reaches your house. Some areas have a lot of iron in the water and this can lead to some nasty smells. The most likely cause is hydrogen sulfide though (as we have discussed before).

A lab test can provide more input to indicate what is going on. For each element in the water you can get an overview of the quantities. A plumber can use this to find the root cause of the problem and fix it. 


There are a few reasons why your well water might smell bad. By keeping the water in your well clean, you can prevent bacteria from growing, as well as prevent your well water from tasting or smelling bad. If you suspect that a specific smell in your well water is causing problems, you can order a lab test to see what is going on.

You might need to add a filter to remove the smell. It can also indicate bigger problems such as a leaking drain. A lab test can help you to find the problem. Based on this, a plumber can fix it.