Why Does My Water Softener Smell Bad?

water softener smells badWhat about that fishy smell? What’s the reason–and what can be done?

Here at WaterTech, we’ve been manufacturing water softeners and conditioners for more than 27 years. We have thousands upon thousands of customers who are big fans (and repeat customers) of WaterTech’s Reionator water conditioning system.

Despite all of the wonderful compliments and loyalty (thank you for your many nice letters by the way), we occasionally receive a complaint.

Some years ago, one complaint posted to an online forum claimed that our Reionator created water with a “fishy smell”. We’ve decided to tackle this question head on—and put this claim to rest.

Proprietary Multi-Resin Blend Improvements

The Reionator is a whole-house water conditioner that goes way beyond water softening. The Reionator’s multi-resin process is designed soften water and reduce chlorine taste and odor in water while also reducing that slippery feel often associated with softened water.


When we heard about this odor claim, WaterTech worked with resin manufacturers to understand why this claim was made and, if true, what we would do to ensure it wouldn’t happen again.  In the process, we identified certain rare circumstances, based on water chemistry, that might create a “fishy smell” in water.  Given the information and data we collected, we were able to create slight changes to the system components to ensure this issue would not come up again. And since making the change, our customers and authorized dealers are loving the product as much as ever – with not one complaint of this nature since.

If you own a WaterTech Reionator water conditioning system and have experienced a “fishy smell”, please contact your local authorized dealer for service and warranty information. Rest assured, that the Reionator carries one of the strongest warranties in the industry.

But My Water Softener Tank Stinks!

Any water softener tank, regardless of the manufacturer, can begin to smell bad if it becomes infested with sulfur bacteria. Sulfur bacteria is attracted to the sodium in water softener tanks. As the bacteria grows, hydrogen sulfide gas is released as a waste product, hence the rotten egg odor.

This issue is best resolved by a regular, thorough cleaning. We recommend a water treatment professional service and clean your softener and brine tank at least once a year. A professional can take the necessary steps to kill the hydrogen sulfide and rid your tank of the terrible odor.

What if it’s the Water That Smells Bad?

Even after your water has been treated by a water softener, your water might still have an unpleasant odor. In many cases, we find that the water coming into the home is high in sulfur, iron or hydrogen sulfide (not sulfur bacteria aforementioned) and additional filtration is needed. A pre-filter can be installed in front of the Reionator water conditioner (or other water softener) to properly treat what’s in the water. High levels of sulfur, iron and hydrogen sulfide are fairly common in rural areas.

It is scenarios such as this that make us want to reiterate the importance of having your water properly tested prior to installing a water softener/conditioner. While it may be less costly (up front) to purchase and install a softener from a big box store, you may end up with a headache on your hands because some of the constituents in your water were not properly addressed from the beginning. A water treatment professional can test your water and make recommendations for proper treatment.

Your local authorized WaterTech dealer can perform a FREE water test for you and provide recommendations to properly treat your water.

Free In-Home Water Test


7 Responses

  1. No doubt that your company has taken the complaint very seriously so sort the problem out and resolve it. But, if you mention that what slight changes you’ve made in the components that result in the removal of “fishy smell’ from your water conditioning system, it could be much trustworthy. May be the reader or your customer have little understanding of the technical terms, but it ultimately make them more confident in what you’re saying in the article.

  2. A pre-filter can be installed in front of the Reionator water conditioner to prevent this as you already stated.

  3. A pre-filter is a must as without it there is practically no point in using a water softener in areas where water is contaminated.

  4. Besides filtering, water softeners also need to be checked to ensure they don’t contain bacteria as you wouldn’t want to fall sick using water infested with bacteria. Unfortunately, many people don’t pay attention to cleaning their water softeners periodically and hence don’t get the desired results from them.

  5. You have brought out very good point of checking the condition of water before installing a water softener at some one’s home, thereby one can avoid any unwanted problem after installation. The sulfur or hydrogen sulfide not only give bad odor to water but also they are bad for health. So, we must take adequate measures to get our water free from these substances. Thanks for sharing this good thing through this article.

  6. It is highly important to check the condition of the water before installing a water softener in order to fully ascertain what would happen if the water softener along with a pre-filter were to be installed.

  7. Having your water softener professionally cleaned can be pricey so having a pre filter and reducing how often the system would need cleaning would pay for itself quickly.