Tech Wiki

Water Smell

Water System Smell, or Sulfer Smell from Hot Water Tank

By Capt Al Watson, Kindred Spirit #44


If you have a Sulfur (rotten egg) smell from the hot water side of your water system, or a stinky smell from your water tanks, then it is time to bleach the system.

  1. Start by emptying one of the boat water tanks. With the second tank closed and the open tank empty, no more water will flow from the faucets. At this point it must be noted that the hot water tank still is full with approx. five gallons of smelly water.
  2. Add about two or three gallons of water to the empty water tank. You need to put in enough to get the system pumping again. Now add a gallon of straight off the shelf BLEACH to the water tank.
  3. Next we must fill the system with this bleach water. Turn on the hot water faucet in the galley and let at least a gallon of water run out. This adds a gallon of bleach water to the water heater. If a strong smell of bleach is not coming out of the faucet yet then let it run longer.
  4. Now turn on the galley cold water till you smell the bleach in the water. (This should not take long). Do the same for the hot and cold at the head sink. This will clean the pipes while you are doing the hot water heater.
  5. Let this mixture sit in the system overnight. Drain the system of the bleach water and refill with five gallons of water and drain again.

Fill water tank and your odor should be gone. If you add a cup of this bleach at reach fill-up of the water tank, you should not have any smell in the system other than the faint bleach smell that you would normally get in a city water system. If this did not solve your egg smell that it is time to pull the 110v-heating rod on the water heater and replace it. That is a last resort.

If you plug into shore power while away from the boat, it is not a good practice to leave the hot water switch turned on. This will add to the smell problem as well as safety hazards. Try turning on the 110v heater switch just as you arrive at the boat and let it heat the water while you are preparing the boat for your sail. Turn the heater off and disconnect the shore power the last thing before you sail. This will let you start out with some preheated water and the engine will do the rest.