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Old 06-01-2011, 08:18 AM   #1
Join Date: May 2009
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Hot Water Bad smell

Does anyone know what would cause water left in the water heater to take on a bad (sulfer) smell? I have let water sit in the water heater many times in the past with no problem, but just this last time the sulfer smell in the hot water was pretty bad and I had to fill and drain the hot water heater twice to flush the bad smell away.

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Old 06-01-2011, 09:18 AM   #2
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Have you tried cleaning the inside?---vinegar will do it----there are some threads that will tell you the amount--let it set for a night and rinse until no more vinegar smell. Perhaps the calcium build up is creating the smell?
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Old 06-01-2011, 09:22 AM   #3
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Don't know the brand of your water heater but check to see if has an anode rod. If it does that probably needs to be changed. Depending on your water sources and it's hardness will determine how often the rod needs to be changed. Hope this helps.
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Old 06-01-2011, 09:34 AM   #4
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The smell probably has to do with the minerals in the water you last, or most used. Chlorine should remove the odor until you can get the tank de-mineralized.
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Old 06-01-2011, 10:32 AM   #5
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The following is from the Atwood service manual:

1. Turn off your main water supply. Drain your water
heater tank. Reinstall drain plug. Remove the
pressure-temperature relief valve. With a funnel
use 4 parts white vinegar to two parts water. (In a
6 gallon tank that would be 4 gallons vinegar to 2
gallons water).
2. Cycle the water heater, letting it run under normal
operation 4-5 times. At no time do you remove the
vinegar from the tank Once this has been
completed, remove the drain plug and drain the
water heater.
3. After thoroughly draining the tank, to remove the
sediment, flush the water heater.
If you elect to use air pressure, it may be applied
either through the inlet or outlet on the rear of the
tank or applied through the pressure-temperature
relief valve. Remove the pressure-temperature
relief valve and insert your air pressure through
the pressure-temperature relief valve coupling. In
either case, with the drain valve open, the air
pressure will force the remaining water out of the
If air pressure is unavailable, your unit can be
flushed with fresh water. Fresh water should be
pumped into the tank either with the onboard
pump or external water pressure. External
pressure may be hosed into the unit either
through the inlet or outlet found on the rear of the
tank or the pressure-temperature relief valve
coupling located on the front of the unit.
Continue this flushing process for approximately
five minutes allowing ample time for the fresh
water to agitate the stagnant water on the
bottom of the tank and forcing the deposits
through the drain opening.
4. Upon completion of the steps above, replace the
drain plug and the pressure-temperature relief
5. Refill tank with fresh water that contains no
The Atwood water heater is designed for use in a
Recreation Vehicle. If you use your vehicle frequently
or for long periods of time, flushing the water heater
several times a year will prolong the life of the storage
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Old 06-01-2011, 11:57 AM   #6
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I have a 4 year old 6 gal Suburnban water heater that was neglected by previous owner. It has no odor but has a built up of Calcium and mineral deposits that alows very little hot water. The anode rod that I managed to break loose is about 1' long. Any suggestion to save the water heater will be gratefuly appreciated. Great Forum. Keep up the good fight.
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Old 06-01-2011, 12:31 PM   #7
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Correction on previous post. Anode Rod is anly 1" long. Thanks
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Old 06-01-2011, 07:56 PM   #8
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The most common anode rods are made from either magnesium or zinc. Most water heaters come equipped with a magnesium (or aluminum) rod as standard. If you have stinky water, a zinc anode rod will generally cure the problem. Just remember the phrase "zinc for stink." There is even a website about stinky hot water. It's something similar to stinkywater or I'm sure a search would find it.

If you have an Atwood water heater, it CAN be fitted with an anode rod, and in my opinion should be. There are aftermarket companies that make special short ones just for the Atwood heaters. It will extend the life of your tank.

Jim Price
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Old 06-02-2011, 11:22 PM   #9
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If you left soft water in the heater and it has an aluminum anode rod that will make the rotten egg smell.
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Old 06-03-2011, 04:22 AM   #10
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Did you put well water into your fresh water tank?
Did you use well water at your last outing?

If so, flush it with chlorine and avoid drinking the water until the chlorine is gone. Then try using city water only. Well water will grow critters if left in the system for an extended period of time.
Max H,
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Old 06-03-2011, 07:24 AM   #11
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If you have a whole house filter, change the element. We had the same issue in Florida this past winter. Even if you think your filter is relatively fresh, change it again. You'd be surprised.
Cold water does not usually smell as much as hot. Only when you start cooking the critters do they start to smell.
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