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Sulfur smell from cold water faucet

MNScott's picture

I remodeled our master bath about a year ago. New whirlpool tub, new vanity and fixtures and limestone tile for shower surround and floor. Copper pipes to the faucet were not modified. I replaced the flex lines from the faucet shutoff to the faucet. For about 4 months we have had a horrible sulfur odor coming from the cold water supply. No other faucet in the house has this odor. Originally someone told me it was likely a manufacturing problem with the faucet and it was likely "delaminating". Their explanation sounded good enough to me and I replaced the faucet. 3 days later the smell was back. So over the weekend I replaced the flex line with a poly flex line. Now the smell is even worse.

There is nothing like the smell of sulfur when you're trying to brush your teeth at 5am!

The faucet is a PricePfister if that matters. Has anyone ever smelled this before? Any idea what could be causing the problem?


(post #71404, reply #1 of 24)

Dirty sink? Especially the overflow.

(post #71404, reply #2 of 24)

You said the odor is only noticable at this one lavatory.  Is there any chance the odor you smell is actually sewer gas making it past the trap?

Does the lav have an S trap?  (if so, replace it with a P trap and elbow -- I know, doesn't make complete sense it would make a big difference but a guy I used to work for had an actual bona fide in the field drain issue where the S trap would get sucked dry, but the P trap with elbow did not -- it's not just folklore; only thing I can figure is the P trap with elbow flows just slightly slower enough that even with questionable venting it won't get sucked dry).


"Let's get crack-a-lackin"  --- Adam Carolla


"Let's get crack-a-lackin"  --- Adam Carolla

(post #71404, reply #3 of 24)

Had sim prob a year ago. I have well water. I was told that the smell is from Micro organisms living in the well....had to shock it.

Do you have a whole house filter? If so....put a small chlorine tab in the filter canister to shock the system, and let sit for an hour or so then run water to all faucets for a while. Remove CH tab, and let water run at all faucets until CH smell gone.

If no filter....

Try removing the "aireater" and screen from the problem faucet. smell water.

If smell goes away.....soak aireator/screen  in some water w/ chlorine.

If have to "flush" the line to that faucet w/ chlorine somehow.

(post #71404, reply #4 of 24)

If you have city h2o then micro-organisms is unlikely. Trap sound like the bad-boy here. The old time plumber I used to work for filled the suspected trap with cooking oil. It is heavy enough to not be syphoned out during other waste discharge and has a sweet smell so you can tell of the trap need to be P and not S.


(post #71404, reply #5 of 24)

Try separatoring out the water supply from drainage/venting problems.

Bring in a quart or two of water from another place and run down the sink. Do you smell it them?

Likewise get a contain and only allow the water from the faucet to go into that and not the sink.

Do yu smell it them?

. William the Geezer, the sequel to Billy the Kid - Shoe

(post #71404, reply #6 of 24)

We do have city water so I doubt that this is a micro organism problem.

I had thought of the trap, but when we only run the hot water (I brush my teeth with hot water now) we don't have any odor. The odor isn't consistent, some days it is very strong some days you don't smell it at all. The trap is a P-trap.

(post #71404, reply #7 of 24)

You definitely have a remarkable problem.  Seems it can't be the trap and it can't be the water.  Given the symptoms you report and the checks you have done, as you said in your first post, has something to do with the cold water pipe, fittings and fixture at that one lav.

You got me.  Never seen one like this before.

Any chemists out there -- what will produce sulfur or sulfur compounds when in contact with water or chemicals commonly found in water?

Maybe we can zero in on it with help from some of the scientists on this board.



"Let's get crack-a-lackin"  --- Adam Carolla


"Let's get crack-a-lackin"  --- Adam Carolla

(post #71404, reply #19 of 24)

"The trap is a P-trap."

Sounded like an S trap to me but if it isnt ,  

Its not the water

Its not the fixtures.

Its gotta be the trap.

Take it out for inspection and Ill bet your nose will find it . Been there at least a hundred times before. Putrid ordor.





(post #71404, reply #8 of 24)

have you tried filling a jar and taking it outside or to another room and smelling it ?

seems like you could tell if its water that way

( I see it was already suggested oh well )

Edited 4/11/2006 11:56 am ET by skip555

(post #71404, reply #9 of 24)

I know what it is.  It is the anode rod in the hot water heater.  It is designed to sacrifice itself for the glass liner. 

Do some googling and surfing and check hot water heater websites for your answer.

They are replaceable, btw.



Grunge on.



(post #71404, reply #10 of 24)

Eureka!  Smart thinking.

But, he said it was the cold water.  Maybe the way his place is piped, the byproducts are making their way from the w/h up into the cold water side of that faucet?

Any idea if they're lighter than water (I think it's a gas so that would make a lot of sense).


"Let's get crack-a-lackin"  --- Adam Carolla


"Let's get crack-a-lackin"  --- Adam Carolla

(post #71404, reply #11 of 24)

Cold, eh?

That's what I get for not reading with my brain switched ON!!


Grunge on.



(post #71404, reply #12 of 24)

I still think you might have the right answer.

If action on the anode produces sulphurous gas, and if the dip tube is focacta, maybe the gas can float up the cold water line to that one faucet but not the hot?

A lot of if and maybes, but nothing else makes any real sense.


"Let's get crack-a-lackin"  --- Adam Carolla


"Let's get crack-a-lackin"  --- Adam Carolla

(post #71404, reply #13 of 24)

I've seen it too many times, it really does stink, too.

Can't imagine what else it might be.......

......old, old piping?

BTW, I am home for lunch and on my way back out, right now..



Grunge on.


Edited 4/12/2006 4:39 pm ET by RRooster



(post #71404, reply #14 of 24)

I can rule out old pipes. The house is only 3 years old, although I wouldn't rule out the builder using recycled materials...

I went looking for the anode rod last night and couldn't find it!!!!!

The water heater is one of the new high efficiency power ventilator types. I'm going to pull the fan assembly today and see if the anode rod is under there. Otherwise I will be really confused.

Thanks to everyone for the suggestions and help. I'll let you know when I find the results.


(post #71404, reply #15 of 24)

The anode rod is located on the top and drops down into the tank, top down and is screwed in.  All you will see is a fitting to get your socket on.  You can also see/inspect it by pulling out an element (after draining the talk, duh) and shining a flashlight inside.

Check this out



Grunge on.




(post #71404, reply #18 of 24)

In my Bradford White hot water heater the anode is held in by the fitting that lets cold water into the tank, so you have to pull that fitting to get to the anode. The problem was a sulphur smell in the hot water, not the cold. At their(B-W's) recommendtion, I replaced the standard magnesium rod with an aluminum one. That helped the problem for a few days. Shocking the water system with bleach has helped, but has not cured the problem.

(post #71404, reply #20 of 24)

Do you have a seldom used branch a little upstream?  The bad micro-organism refered to earlier is coliform bacteria, it could be living in an unused branch and slowly sucked into your line???

Think an unused hose bib or an extra branch to an unfinished basement bath?

Just an idea


(post #71404, reply #16 of 24)

This reminds me of a funny story.  When I was in college, I lived in a dumpy old house with 6 friends.  The house had bad water, sulfur smelling like rotten eggs.  The owner who was pretty cheap installed a filter which made the water ok for showering, but even we wouldn't drink it.  The water filter was in the basement in the utility room along with the forced air heater.  Well, at some point that fall the filter started leaking slowly in the infeed side of the filter, so the utility room smelled really bad.  Of course, we didn't know this since we never went in there.  We finally figured out that something was up when we noticed that periodically when we were all sitting around watching TV, the house would suddenly smell really bad and none of us would own up to the deed.  What was happening was that the furnace would kick on and suck in rotten egg smelling air from the utility room, heat it, and distribute it throughout the house.  Try blaming that one on the dog! 

(post #71404, reply #17 of 24)

That's a good one!!

I recall another scenario in which sulfur smelling water can be present.  In parts of Florida, where there is a lot of iron in the water, they use an outdoor aerator tank to eliminate the odor.  The water from the well is sprayed over on open, vented tank which releases the gas and captures the water for use in the home.  Very simple fix.


Grunge on.




Same problem, Moen and Price Pfister faucets (post #71404, reply #21 of 24)

 I'd love to know if you figured this out. Moen is playing dumb. They replaced the connectors once, the smell came right back. Trouble is, I have the same trouble, although not as bad, on a new Price Pfister faucet.

We find if we run the hot water a bit and then turn on the cold, the water is potable.


It's got to be something in the connectors. No other faucet in my house is affected and that includes the new tub and shower installed at the same time.

I would guess that turbulence (post #71404, reply #23 of 24)

I would guess that turbulence in the faucet or the fittings leading to is is causing the gasses in the water to un-dissolve.  This could be something as simple as not having the stop valve all the way open.

Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville

Smelly cold water only one faucet (post #71404, reply #24 of 24)

I'm wondering if you ever got this straightened out.  I have a sulfury kind of smell coming from the cold water in the kitchen.  It's only present for a brief period (seconds) when I first turn it on and then it's gone.  I think I have definitely located the problem. It's not my well water.  It's definitely not the drain.  It's not the water heater because it only happens with cold water.  It's not the water softener because the water to the spigot in the kitchen isn't softened.  It just started with a new Pfister faucet about 3-4 months after it was installed.  Only the connections from the copper line to the spigot are new. I also have two new showers and two new sink faucets, all Pfister.  No smell in either, hot or cold, except that  I can smell a faint smell in the bathroom sink cold water.  The laundry room faucets weren't changed and don't stink.  Also the washer connection is old and no smell. Nobody (including plumbers) seem to have any idea what the problem could be.  Any information?  Thanks!

check w/ your H20 supplier to find the culprit (post #71404, reply #22 of 24)

Since you have municiple supplied water, have you asked your water deptarment to check your water supply for the presence of Hydrogen sulfide and/or sulfer bacteria ? These are the two usual culprits of  the "rotten egg" smell of sulfer gas. Seems they would also be the ones in the best position to deal with it since you cannot shock your water supply (both cold and hot) as you can with a well.