Sulfur water is not a pleasant experience in your home. If you notice that the water in your house has started to take on a rather horrible smell of rotten eggs, this could be a sign that the sulfur levels in your water supply are rising.
But what exactly is sulfur water, is it safe, and how can you treat it in your home? We answer these questions and more in our handy guide on sulfur water, so let’s get started.
What Is Sulfur Water?
Sulfur water relates to a condition wherein water is exposed to a certain kind of gas: hydrogen sulfide. This gas gives sulfur water that unpleasant, rotten egg-like smell.
You might notice that sulfur is more prominent in hot water, as warmer water can release the gas trapped within it much faster than colder water.
Sulfur water occurs when the hydrogen sulfide begins to dissolve in the water, which releases various sulfates (naturally occurring minerals found in soils and rocks). Some of these sulfates can include gypsum, baryte, and epsomite.
Sulfates will dissolve over time and make their way into groundwater, which is the source of well water. The hydrogen sulfide gas causes a foul odor, though, as sulfates are odorless due to their lack of gas production.
When it comes to hydrogen sulfide gas, it occurs naturally from various sources that originate under the ground, such as bacteria or rotting plant material.
These aren’t the only possible sources of hydrogen sulfide, though, as they can also come from places such as water heaters with magnesium rods or wells in shale.
In terms of bacteria, the source of the hydrogen sulfide gas in sulfur water is even more unappealing. Bacteria will feast on sulfur and then produce hydrogen sulfide gas as a form of waste.
In that case, the sulfur water you are experiencing in your home might be the byproduct of bacteria waste. Perhaps unappealing was not a strong enough word!
Is Sulfur Water Safe?
Now that we have dived into how sulfur water is formed, let’s now look at the big question when discussing the topic of sulfur water: is it safe? The answer to this question is a little more complex than you might think, so let’s take a closer look.
When it comes to sulfur water possibly making you sick, it all comes down to the amount of sulfur in your water. Of course, any amount of sulfur isn’t pleasant to consume due to that nasty smell and taste.
Technically, low amounts of sulfur are not particularly dangerous for consumption if you accidentally drink some. Thankfully, most households will only have to deal with low levels of sulfur if it does get into the water supply.
While a dangerously high level of sulfur water is unlikely, a somewhat high level is sometimes possible. There can be issues that occur if you do ingest water with a high level of sulfur, including the following:
- Stomach Pain
The issues surrounding dehydration and diarrhea stem from the fact that a high sulfate content can have a laxative-like effect. It can then lead to diarrhea and, in turn, dehydration.
These issues can be even more problematic for children and infants, so you are advised to resolve the issue immediately if you find that you have a sulfur water problem in your home.
The bitter taste and foul smell should help you avoid it, but accidents can still happen!
The Negative Effects Of Sulfur Water
As well as these health issues that can occur upon the ingestion of sulfur water, it also has a wide range of effects in other areas. Let’s take a better look at some problems it can cause:
- Unpleasant Smell: As mentioned, the smell is usually the first thing people will notice when it comes to sulfur water. It is so potent that even a very tiny concentration of sulfur within a water supply- as small as 0.5 parts per million (or ppm)- can be detected by most people. If the concentration is any higher than that – between 0.5 and 1ppm – the smell will become even stronger, resulting in that well-known rotten egg smell.
- Slime: Sulfates in water can create a thick slime, which is bad news for your plumbing! This slime can clog up your pipes and even stain your clothing if it makes its way into the water used for the washing machine.
- Bitter Taste: We also mentioned the unpleasant taste that sulfur water can produce, which comes from the scale deposits it can cause in your plumbing.
- Reduces The Effectiveness of Bleach: Bleach is a cleaning product that can be very useful when it comes to the toughest of stains, but an increase in sulfates can make bleach less effective.
- Corroding Metal: The hydrogen sulfide element of sulfur water can wear away various metals such as copper, iron, and steel. It can lead to corrosion that damages your plumbing.
- Ruined Utensils and Fixtures: Not only can hydrogen sulfide cause corrosion, but it can also lead to black or yellow stains on fixtures where water flows prominently- such as the kitchen or the bathroom- and also leave stains on brass or copper utensils. It can also tarnish silverware.
Treating Sulfur Water
Let’s now look at how to treat sulfur water, should experience it in your home.
First, get your water tested by a professional. Water testing can pinpoint exactly where the contamination is coming from.
It may not be where you think it is, as other contaminants can cause issues with your water supply, such as sewage pollution.
Once you are sure that it is sulfur water you are dealing with, you can decide which treatment options are best for you. Here are some of the treatment options available:
- Chlorine Bleach: This is an option for removing hydrogen sulfide, as chlorine bleach reacts with the gas and will destroy the odor. The chlorine bleach method involves using an automatic chlorinator. It will feed chlorine into the water while the filtering system removes any sulfur or sediment.
- Aeration: This method involves adding air to the water, which leads to less hydrogen sulfide. You’ll need an aeration system for this.
- Iron Removal Filter: This is another method that can remove hydrogen sulfide from the water. It works via a chemical reaction between the gas and the iron filter, transforming it into insoluble sulfur. The sulfur is then easily removed by the filter.
- Neutra Sul: Neutra Sul – a form of hydrogen peroxide – neutralizes pollutants and destroys that nasty sulfur smell via oxidation. Neutral Sul has an excellent reputation for preventing corrosion and scaling- as well as unnatural tastes and colors – that can occur with water pollution in the home.
There you have it! A handy guide to sulfur water and some methods you can use to remove sulfur water from your home!
If you suspect that you could have sulfur water, make sure you get your water tested immediately and, in the meantime, do not drink any water with an odd smell or taste!
Hopefully, our guide will help you to fix the problem of sulfur water in the home sooner rather than later.