Does your bathroom smell like rotten eggs? If there’s a foul smell coming from your bathroom, don’t ignore it. This smell is likely caused by the production of sewer gases. Sewer gases break down human waste and are a combination of hydrogen sulfide gas (sulfur) and ammonia. The horrible smell is a result of bacteria in sewage, the ground, or contaminated water in pipes and drains.
What Does Smelling Sulfur Mean in the Bathroom?
The smell of rotten eggs in your bathroom is caused by sewer gases, but why are they there? Here are a couple of common reasons why there’s sulfur in your toilet, pipes, or drains.
The rotten egg smell is often a sign of a plumbing issue. Sewer system drains all have a “dry trap” which is in the shape of a “P”. This part of the piping holds water and is sealed to stop the sewer gas odors from infiltrating your home. However, if the water in this part of the piping evaporates or the seal becomes damaged, this could be the cause of the foul odor you are smelling.
A foul smell coming from the toilet is particularly common when it isn’t being used regularly. The water inside the pipe dries up causing sewer gases to rise up through the pipe, into the toilet bowl, and into your bathroom.
Natural Sulfur Content
Some parts of the world have high natural hydrogen sulfur quantities in the ground. If you get your water from a well, you’re most likely to have issues with sulfur in your water, causing the classic rotten egg smell.
The unpleasant odor in your bathroom could be due to a blockage. Clogged drains, toilets, or septic tanks result in sewage not being able to flow through the septic tank properly, causing sewer gases to make their way back up the pipes and into drains and toilets.
A broken vent pipe or drain line is quite a serious plumbing issue that can cause your whole house to smell like rotten eggs. If you have a persistent sulfur smell in your bathroom, you may need to contact a plumber to check for clogged drains or blockages.
How to Fix the Sulfur Smell in Your Bathroom
Follow these steps to locate and fix the sulfur smell in your bathroom.
#1 Find the Source of the Smell
The first step in getting rid of an egg smell in your bathroom is to find the source. More specifically, is it coming from the water or the drain? Follow these steps to find the source of the stench:
- Fill a glass with cold water from the drain or the area you think the odor is coming from
- Take the glass outside and smell it
- Fill another glass from a different faucet and take it outside to smell too
- If both of the glasses of water have a foul odor, this could mean there are bacteria in your water
- If just one of the glasses of water smells, it’s likely caused by a contaminated drain
If you think the smell may be coming from the hot water heater, try this:
- Fill a glass with cold water and take it outside to smell
- Repeat this process with a glass of hot water
- If both glasses of water smell, the contamination is coming from the water supply
- If only the glass with the hot water has an odor, then the issue may be the hot water heater
- If neither glasses of water have an odor, then the source is probably the drain
#2 Check if the Smell is Isolated or in Multiple Fixtures
Once you find the source of the smell, make sure that it is isolated to one place or if it is in multiple spots around your home.
If the source of the smell is the water, be sure to test the water in the rest of the house. If the smell of contaminated water is only coming from one faucet, the issue is probably localized (bacteria could be growing inside a single pipe). On the other hand, if you can smell the odor in multiple water fixtures, your water supply could be contaminated.
#3 Fix the Smell
Once you have identified the source (or sources) of the odor, you can work on getting rid of that foul smell once and for all. Here’s how:
Issue: Contaminated Water Heater
Water heaters can become contaminated if the magnesium in the anode rod reacts with the bacteria in contaminated water. In this case, you will need to replace the rod with an aluminum one and use hydrogen peroxide to disinfect the water tank, killing the bacteria.
Issue: Contaminated Drain
If the rotten odor is coming from a drain, you’ll need to disinfect the pipes to kill the bacteria and get rid of the smell. To do so, pour a ½ cup of bleach down the affected drain or ½ a cup of baking soda and 1 cup of vinegar. This should stop the smell. To really make sure the bacteria are eliminated, try disassembling the P-trap and giving it a thorough cleaning with bleach or a mixture of baking soda and vinegar.
Issue: Contaminated Pressure Tank
If your home has a well, the pressure tank could be affected by water contamination. To solve the issue, disinfect the tank by adding one gallon of household bleach for every 1,000 gallons of water needed. If the problem persists, you should also disinfect the well. Water softening filters can often be the source of foul smells, so change the filter regularly if you have one.
Issue: Blockages and Drainage Problems
If a vent blockage is causing the issue, you may notice gurgling noises coming from the sink and slow draining. An obstruction in the waste line could be causing the blockage, so start by plunging the toilet. You can also check the vent stack opening on the roof for obstructions from debris. This issue is more common in winter when ice can block the pipes. Use a hairdryer to melt the ice and remove obstructions.
Issue: Contaminated Water
Unfortunately, if your water itself contains sulfur, the only solution is long-term: installing a water filter. Air injection water filters can remove 5-7 PPM (parts per million) of sulfur from water, and will eliminate the smell, too.
More often than not, foul odors in your bathroom or kitchen sink can be solved by pouring some bleach or baking soda and vinegar down the sink to disinfect and deodorize the area. However, if the problem persists, you may need to seek the help of a plumber.
Foul-smelling odors could be due to a bigger issue, such as mold from a hidden leak, a contaminated water supply, or other more serious plumbing issues. Getting to the bottom of where the bad smell is coming from is the first step in removing it from your home.