In the United States, tap water typically flows from our drinking water taps. It is important to know that clean drinking water free of contaminants and impurities is odorless. In this article, you'll learn what causes your tap water to smell bad and how to fix it.

There are several reasons why tap water stinks.

1. Water Supply

In principle, it is of course possible to detect the problem from the very beginning, i.e. at the source. It's nearly impossible for a municipal water supplier to provide you with foul-smelling water, as drinking water in the United States is strictly controlled by the supplier.

However, the United States allows chlorine to be used as a disinfectant in water treatment - although it is used much less in the United States than in other countries and is also heavily regulated. So if your tap water smells like chlorine, the cause may be your local utility company. You don't have to have any health problems, but if in doubt, you can certainly call your provider and describe the problem.

For example, the situation is different if you draw water from a well. Since no controls and testing were carried out in this case, contamination may have occurred at the source. As a result, rotting plants or animals in the water source can contaminate the entire water supply.

2. Lines & Pipes

Old or damaged water pipes, especially water pipes, can be the cause of stinky tap water. This affects wiring in a house or apartment and public supply lines below the street. In fact, damage or debris in the plumbing system is often the cause of foul water, not the source of the water supply.

For example, if the zinc coating of an aged iron pipe dissolves over time, not only zinc but also iron compounds such as iron oxide are released into drinking water. While they can sometimes even be identified as particles with the naked eye (such as in a glass of water), this is not always the case. While humans can smell some metals, there may be many metals in your drinking water that are completely odorless.

Therefore, it is necessary to choose a high-quality brass faucet. Because copper is not easy to corrode and has a good antibacterial effect, it can kill 99% of the bacteria in tap water.

3. Hot Water Tank

A defective or dirty hot water tank (also called a boiler) can also be the cause of odor problems.

If only hot water stinks and not cold water, the problem can be narrowed down to the hot water tank relatively quickly.

For example, bacterial biofilms can form in hot water tanks, which are responsible for the odor.

4. Fittings & Connections

The age and most importantly the quality of the accessories used are also important, if the filter element is dirty it can lead to damage to the water quality. Poor-quality seals that may contain plasticizers or hydrocarbons can also leach odorous chemicals into the water. Therefore, make sure you only use fittings and connecting hoses that are certified to the U.S. drinking water standards.

5. Water Filter Dirty

If you use a water filter on the faucet or even on a water filter or softener throughout an apartment or house, it can also cause odors from impurities. In this case, replace the filter element or softener particles and clean the filter thoroughly.

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Why does the water from the shower head stink?

One special case is when only your shower water stinks and the tap water from other faucets doesn't. Of course, in this case the wiring directly powering the shower could be affected - but that's unlikely.

Most likely, the shower head or shower hose is the culprit. Either these are old, calcified and dirty, meaning the bacteria that cause the odor have settled out over time. Or they are inferior products that stink from the material itself.

In both cases, replacing the shower head and, if necessary, the hose will solve the problem.

How to solve the problem of smelly water?

To get rid of smelly tap water, you must first identify the problem. Because, as you can see above, there are many different reasons that require different solutions. So, first perform the following steps to find or at least narrow down the cause of your foul-smelling tap water:

1. Odor Analysis

Wipe the water with clean hands, paying attention to the smell of tap water. It is widely believed that one can smell the metal itself - metal is odorless. However, what we can smell are certain chemical compounds that some metals form when they come into contact with skin – iron, copper and steel, for example.

Does tap water have a metallic smell? It then indicates a problem with the wiring or plumbing system.

Does the water smell bad or musty? Then decaying organic matter (plant or animal) may be questioned, although this is unlikely.

Also, a problem or defect in the waste water installation can lead to the entry of the fresh water cycle - it must be fixed ASAP!

Another common cause of smelly drinking water is sulfur compounds, which remind us of rotten eggs.

2. Narrow Down Location

Does the water stink at only one outlet point? Or does the problem occur at all taps, showers, etc.?

For example, if foul-smelling water comes out of only one faucet and odorless water comes out of every other faucet, you can pretty much rule out a problem with your drinking water source or your entire plumbing system. Instead, the affected fittings are likely to be the immediate cause, or the "last few meters" of the water supply line.

3. Time Limit

When the water smells bad, it can also give an important indication of why. Does the water stink as soon as the faucet is turned on, or does it stink after a long time of running?

In the first case, the problem can be ruled out at the source, and the cause is more likely to be found in the domestic pipeline system. In particular, if the tap water in the pipe has an odor after being left for a long time, but no longer smells after a period of operation, it indicates that the pipe is old or dirty. If it only smells for a few seconds, the faucet's connecting hose might even be of poor quality. Therefore, make sure to use only certified fittings and hoses.

Does the water always smell bad, or only on certain days or at certain times? For example, your water supplier may only use chlorine gas for disinfection occasionally, so you only smell it occasionally.

4. Hot and Cold Water Affected?

First let the cold water run for a while to test if only hot or cold water is affected by the smell. Then turn off the cold water supply completely, then turn on the hot water completely.

If only the hot water smells bad, you can rule out the supplier's fresh water supply and the internal pipe network. Instead, the problem is most likely with your central hot water supply - or if you heat water distributed - using a boiler or instant water heater.

5. Use Drinking Water Filters

High-quality drinking water filters are capable of removing almost all organic compounds and heavy metals from drinking water. Therefore, if there is no serious problem with the water unit or abnormal impurities are the cause of the stinky tap water, a drinking water filter can be used to solve the problem.

6. Carry Out Drinking Water Analysis

To be on the safe side, you should perform a water analysis when in doubt. Drinking water analysis provides information on what organic and inorganic components are present in the water and which contribute to odors.

Of course, you can ask your water supplier for the results of the tests the supplier regularly conducts on-site. Often, however, the problem isn't with the supplier at all, but somewhere along the water's long journey to your faucet. Therefore, it is often necessary to analyze the water directly at the point of withdrawal:

On the one hand, you can order test kits online and test at home. Special lab tests are more detailed and, if in doubt, safer. They will send you a water sample and analyze it for you.

You should test the water quality, especially if your water is not from the public water network, but from, for example, a well.

7. Contact Specialist

If you haven't found the cause of the problem, you should always hire an expert. As a tenant, you should definitely involve your landlord and let them handle it, as he is responsible for it (and usually has to cover the cost). Ideally, when you spot a problem, let him know in the first place. But whether you're a tenant or an owner, taking steps ahead of time to isolate the problem will also help a professional.

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Is smelly tap water unhealthy?

Whether bad-smelling tap water is safe to drink or harmful to your health largely depends on what's causing the odor. However, it is not unreasonable for the human body to have a disgust response. Ultimately, it protects us from drinking smelly and potentially harmful water.

In particular, if bacteria, sulfides, or even pollutants in sewage are responsible for the unpleasant odor in the water, the health hazards of drinking this water cannot be ruled out. Boiling can eliminate some of these dangers—especially bacterial contamination. However, inorganic pollutants such as heavy metals or sulfur compounds cannot "boil".

Conversely, this does not mean that odorous water is always harmful to health - for example, water disinfected with chlorine has an odor, but does not pose a risk if legal limits are adhered to.

In this regard, you have to be safe, never drink tap water with peculiar smell, but first find the cause and analyze the drinking water.

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