How to Make Well Water Smell Better

Even if your well water is safe to consume, it may not smell so great!

Naturally occurring metals and minerals found in the bedrock around well shafts can contaminant groundwater, leading to bad tastes, discoloration, and strange odors.

Illustration of water and flowers

On this page, you'll find some of the most common well water smell issues, and how to use a relevant filtration technique to make your water smell better

How to improve well water with rotten egg odor

One of the most common complaints when it comes to well water smells is a rotten egg odor. This unpleasant smell, which also sometimes takes on a gas-like or sewage scent, is usually due to high levels of sulfur in the surrounding soil.

Sulfur is a naturally occurring metal that turns into an odorous gas. When exposed to air, sulfur oxidizes into hydrogen sulfide and can fill a well shaft. This gas then gets pumped into plumbing systems along with water, causing the rotten egg odor to emerge from your faucets.

Use an injection filtration system

In most cases, an effective way to deal with sulfur smells is by using a well water injection filtration system.

These devices artificially oxidize sulfur and other soluble metals, before filtering the resulting gases and oxidized materials from the water supply using a granulated media.

There are two main types of injection filters: chlorine injection and air injection. Both have their pros and cons. Chlorine injection filters tend to offer slightly more powerful filtration, while an air injection filter for well water require less upkeep. We prefer air injection for this reason, being our top pick as the best well water filtration system.

How to fix well water that smells metallic

If you notice your water smells like pennies, the cause is likely metal contamination.

Many different metals can make their way from surrounding rock into your water. Some of the most common include iron and manganese, while small amounts of arsenic, lead, and cadmium.

A well water test will reveal exactly which metals are behind the unpleasant smell. But if you notice discoloration and/or orange staining on your fixtures and fittings, the cause is likely iron.

Use an oxidizing filtration system and/or a sediment filter

To effectively remove this most common of well water metals, it's important to treat iron in both its dissolved and undissolved form.

Undissolved iron is better known as rust and should be screened from well water using a micron filter. These devices contain cotton or paper screens with micropores designed to capture particulate matter.

To remove dissolved or clearwater iron from well water, most people opt for an iron filter for well water. Made from a combination of copper and zinc, these filters convert dissolved iron molecules into an insoluble form before removing them.

How to improve well water with earthy, or fishy smells

When organic matter such as dead leaves and vegetation breaks down, it can produce several classes of organic chemicals. These chemicals, including chloramines and trihalomethanes, often give off a musty smell and taste. Depending on the particular mix of organic chemicals in your well water, the odor may also have a fishy character.

Use an activated carbon filtration system

Activated carbon filtering is the most popular method of home water treatment thanks to its relatively low price and ability to capture a wide range of contaminants. It's also the preferred method for removing organic chemicals from drinking water.

Carbon filters contain a cartridge filled with tightly packed charcoal powder. Activate charcoal readily attracts and absorbs carbon-based contaminants to its surface as the water supply passes over it.

How to fix well water that smells like sewage

Turning on your faucet to find that it smells like sewage is an alarming situation that warrants further investigation. Often the cause of sewage-like or decaying smells is an overgrowth of bacteria somewhere in the plumbing system. This may be inside the well, the water heater, or in cracked piping or fixtures.

Use a disinfectant treatment method

Treating bacterial contamination in well water requires disinfection. This can be achieved via a one-off or continuous solution.

Shock chlorination is used to treat isolated contamination incidents and involves pouring large amounts of chlorine into a well and flushing throughout the plumbing. It is not safe to consume the water supply during shock chlorination.

Methods of continuous well disinfection include chlorine feed pumps and UV purifiers. Feed pumps monitor the amount of chlorine in the water and periodically supply a measured dose.

UV purifiers offer a chemical-free method of purification by shining a high-power ultraviolet ray through the water to deactivate any living pathogens.