Water Smell Like Sewage ( Why & Possible Fixes)

Water from the tap smelling like sewage is a pretty common occurrence in most homes. Sometimes the sinks simply stink, or the water itself tastes soiled. However, it is very unlikely there is actual sewage in your water supply. The smell usually comes from the build-up of bacteria somewhere in your water system. 

It is very common for the smell in your water to be coming from dirty drains with decaying matter inside them. The best method is to clean out the drains with vinegar and baking soda to kill off the smelly bacteria. Deep cleaning out your water heater and the water tank is another common solution for smelly water.

There are several common reasons for your water to smell like sewage, and most of them are very easy to fix on your own. Knowing how to find the source of the smell can help you identify if the problem can be fixed with a good cleaning session, or needs the help of a professional. Follow along to learn about the causes of smelly water and how you can fix it before calling in a plumber.

Why Does Your Water Smell Like Sewage? 

Unfortunately, there are a lot of reasons for pipes to smell like sewage. Whether it is simply dirty drains or hydrogen sulfide in your system, you will need to mend the issue as soon as possible. If you can identify the different smells you may be able to figure out the exact problem. Follow along to learn the different reasons your water smells like sewage.

Dirty Drains

One of the most common reasons for smelly water is dirty drains. It is very possible for that sewage smell to not be in your water, but in your drains instead. They could be backed up with waste material or just have years of build-up grime.

More commonly still, there is simply bacteria growing in your sink’s drain. Specifically, if you smell the stinky scent in only one sink or water source. Usually, it only takes a bit of deep cleaning to clear the bacteria away and dissipate that sewage smell. 

To see if this is the source of the smell, put some of the water from that drain into a cup and take it into another room. Swirl the water around the cup with a spoon for a few seconds, then smell the water. If it does not smell bad, then it is likely coming from your drains filled with icky bacteria.

Decaying Matter in Your Pipes 

Another very common source of sewage smell comes from organic matter decaying in your pipes. This is most common with a kitchen sink, but it can happen with bathroom sinks as well. Again, the smell is coming from the bacteria feeding on this decaying matter.

To test this theory out, you can also do the glass water trick. Pour some water from the sticky sink into a glass and walk away from it. Stir the water a few times, then smell it. If the water smells fine, the stink is coming from your drains!

A good cleaning of the sink with some disinfectant should help eliminate the smell. The organic matter may be severely built up and preventing your sink from draining well. So you may need to use a drain snake to pull it out before cleaning. In most cases, this will solve the issue!

Reservoir Has Mold or Algae 

One of the more severe sources of stinky water is mold or algae growing in your water tank. If this is the case, then the water itself would truly smell bad on its own. This situation means the water is not safe to drink and should be fixed immediately. 

If there is a crack in your water reservoir and it is exposed to sunlight, then mold and algae can happily grow in there. The best way to prevent this is yearly cleaning of the water tank. This will ensure you catch any new cracks and prevent organic matter from making a home there.

Water tanks that are above ground and in warm climates are very prone to mold and algae. So if you live in this sort of environment, and the glass of water smells, mold, and algae may be to blame. Luckily a good cleaning will fix this problem, and you can do it by yourself and on a budget.

Backup of Hydrogen Sulfide 

This is one of the most dangerous sources of bad-smelling water. Hydrogen sulfide is created by sulfur-reducing bacteria, and it will make your water smell and taste like rotten eggs. It makes a very unpleasant taste in the water and is not very easy to solve.

Luckily, this is not a common source of smelly water. If the gross smell is indicative of sulfur, hydrogen sulfide is the problem. It is a common problem for wells drilled into acidic bedrock underground, such as shale or sandstone. 

If the rotten egg smell comes only from the hot water in your home, then the magnesium rod in your water heater could be to blame. No matter the case, you should call a professional to find and fix the source of this compound. It is not hazardous to your health, but can not be easily cleaned out on your own.

Bacteria in Your Water Heater 

Finally, another explanation for stinky water is bacteria in your water heater. This is most easily identified by pulling hot water from a faucet and noticing the bad smell. But you will not smell the same aroma from cold water pulled from the same tap. 

It is not very common to have bacteria in your water heater. However, it can happen if the heater has been turned off for a significant period of time. Or if the temperature set on the heater is too low, so the bacteria is not killed off in the high heat. So if either of these situations apply to your home then bacteria in the heater is more than likely the cause.

To be sure this is the problem, check that the hot water smells bad while the cool water does not. Then you will want to go to your water heater and find the magnesium rod and check for the smell again. A professional plumber will easily be able to find a replacement for this part and fix it, which should solve the bad smell.

How To Get Rid of the Sewage Smell in Your Water? 

There are several steps you can take as a home owner to get rid of the sewage smell on your own! This largely depends on where the source of the smell is coming from, but it mostly involves a bit of deep cleaning. Here are several methods to try and remove the smell from your home before calling a professional.

Flush Your Drains 

One of the easiest ways to clean your drains is by flushing them with some common household items. If you have found the issue is likely bacteria-filled drains or organic build-up under your sink, a simple flush will break down these materials and easily clean them away. It only takes some white vinegar and baking soda!

First, you will need to grab about a half cup of baking soda and a half cup of white vinegar. Then you will pour the baking soda into the drain. Try and get it as far into your drain as possible, so it can clean quickly. Then you will pour the white vinegar into the drain and watch the chemical reaction fizz!

You should let this sit for about 30 minutes until all the fizzling has stopped. Then you will wash down the remaining materials till your drain is clean! You can do this a few more times if you feel it has not cleaned out everything. But if the issue is decaying matter, you might need to use a drain snake to pull it out. Then just repeat the process again.

In most cases, this flush will clear out all the smelly bacteria and build-up in your drain. You can repeat this every month if the smell keeps returning after a while. However, if this does not help the smell at all, then the problem lies somewhere else.

Clean Your Reservoir Tank 

As we mentioned before, the smelly water may be coming from your water tank which has provided a nice home for mold and algae. This issue is clear to see when you open up the tank and see green everywhere. Cleaning this tank out and sealing it so no sunlight can get in should fix the problem from occurring again.

You will need to drain the tank so you can clean it thoroughly. If there is a lot of algae you can use a hose to spray it off of the surface. Then you will need to disinfect the tank so no more of the mold and algae can grow back. Spray it off one more time and you should be good!

Clean Your Water Heater 

If the source of the smell is the water heater, you will need to call a professional to help you clean it out. Since water heaters can be dangerous if not managed properly you should keep yourself and the heater safe by utilizing professional plumber knowledge. It should not take them much time to clean the heater, so it will not cost too much money

If you are comfortable with water heaters, you could technically do this on your own. However, if you are nervous about your skills and do not want to risk damaging the unit, calling someone is best. Additionally, the source of smelly water usually comes from the magnesium rod within the heater. Often it just needs a simple replacement, but practiced hands are best!

Check For Any Cracks in Your Sewer Line 

Unfortunately, it is possible for cracks in your sewer line to be the cause of the nasty smelling water. It is uncommon and not the most likely explanation, but it can happen. If you suspect this could be the case, you can walk around your home looking for signs of the crack.

Signs to look are in your home are bumpy floors, slow drain lines, and curved or deformed walls. If you are looking at your sewer line, look for cracks, foul smells, and the presence of mold along this pipe. These are just a few examples but can help you indicate that this is the issue.

If you see these signs, that means there is a very severe crack in the sewage line and you need to call someone as soon as possible. There may be a small crack in the line but you will not notice these signs. However, if you have tried every other method and nothing has worked, this could be the issue.

How Much Does it Cost To Get Rid of the Smell? 

Most commonly, the sewage smell in your water is from dirty drains or water containers. So most of the time, it may only cost a few dollars to get good cleaning supplies and scrub out the grime on your own. To clean out these areas by yourself, you will not spend more than $30 on supplies.

However, if the issue is more complicated than a simple deep clean you will need to hire a professional. If the plumber only needs to replace the magnesium pipe and install it, you will liley ay about $150 depending on your area. But if the damage is a cracked pipe, leaking sewage line, or crack water reservoir, the price will go up hundreds of dollars. 


Sewage smelling water is not a pleasant occurrence in your home, but most of the time is can be easily fixed. With some good cleaning you can clean up the bacteria in your drains or water containers and solve the issue. Only if you have some cracked pipes or a dirty magnesium rod in your water heater will you need to call a professional!

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