Last month, we reviewed some of the reasons that your tap water might smell “off.” This month, we are continuing the conversation by discussing one of the most common and prevalent causes—bacteria. Actually, bacteria is the most common cause of odor issues with household water. It’s usually an easy fix, but—first—you need to find where the bacteria are hiding.

If you’ve been noticing a sulfur smell coming from the water in your home, there could be bacteria growing in your water softening system. If you suspect this is the problem, give us a call. We will inspect the system to make sure it is working properly. If the odor persists, the issue could be in your main water supply. If that turns out to be the case, you will need to contact your public water supply authority.

The Glass Test

Fill a glass with water, and move it away from the tap. Wait a few minutes. If the odor disappears from the water in the glass, the bacteria are growing in the drain. If the water still has an odor, the bacteria is in the faucet. Simple!

The problem could also be inside your water heater. Bacteria can grow there, too—if the hot water isn’t used often, if the water heater has been turned off for a long time, or if the thermostat on the heater is set too low. The solution is to flush and drain your water heater. This is something best left to a professional so call Veteran, and we can have one of our experts take care of it for you!

Bacteria can also grow in drains and water fixtures. Waste like hair, soap, and food build-up in your fixtures or drains, providing bacteria an easy food source. Not only do bacteria cause odor, but they can also erode pipes and change the color of your water.

If you notice the odor coming from a specific area of the house and you suspect the drain or water fixture may be the problem, there’s a simple test to determine the origin of the smell (see box at left).

If you determine the bacteria is in one of your drains, you need to flush that drain. Turn on the hot water, and let it run for a minute or two. Then pour one cup of baking soda into the drain followed by two cups of vinegar. Let it sit for one hour, and then flush your drain again with hot water for several minutes.

Protecting Your Disposal

While garbage disposal can get rid of all kinds of food waste, there are certain items that should never go down your disposal:

Coffee Grounds. They damage the blades over time, which will make it harder for your disposal to break down food waste and lead to buildup.

Egg Shells. Shells have a stringy membrane that can wrap around your disposal blades, clog your pipes, and cause food waste buildup.

Grease. Grease and oil coagulate. This can eventually clog your pipes.

Other Foods. Fruit pits and bones are too large and/or hard to be broken down by your disposal and could damage your disposal’s blades.

If the odor is coming from a fixture, clean it thoroughly with vinegar.

Drains and fixtures aren’t the only trouble spots. Make sure to also check your garbage disposal (see box at left). Food waste that hasn’t been properly broken down can build up over time and cause bacterial growth. To prevent odors from occurring in the future, clean your garbage disposal regularly. Flush it with hot water and soap. This will dislodge any food waste still in the disposal. It’s also important to clean and maintain the blades. Dump two cups of ice and one cup of salt down the disposal. Turn it on, and let the hot water run as the machine breaks down the ice and salt. This will clean and sharpen the blades.

Finally, scrub it. DO NOT put your hand in the disposal. Make sure it has been turned off, and then use a handled scrub brush or toothbrush with some dish soap to clean the drain walls of your disposal.

You should also make sure that your P-Traps are clean. They are the perfect place for waste buildup due to their U shape. By now, you should know that waste buildup equals bacterial growth! If flushing the sink does not solve the problem, give us a call. We will make sure to clean the drains and traps and can even install an activated carbon filter or automatic chlorinator.

If you run into any problems at all, call us and we can send one of our plumbing experts out to make sure your disposal is working correctly.