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Will a Carbon Filter Remove Sulfur Smell From Water?

will a carbon filter remove sulfur smell


When met with a pungent, unpleasant odor—reminiscent of rotten eggs from a faucet instead of crystal-clear, crisp water. Why is this? The main culprit is hydrogen sulfide gas, which is released by sulfur bacteria in your water. 

People in the U.S. mostly use carbon or a charcoal water filter to remove various impurities. While you may think, will your carbon filter remove the sulfur smell? A granulated carbon filter can remove hydrogen sulfide or sulfur smell up to 1ppm. 

In this article, we’ll be guiding how a carbon filter is effective in removing sulfur smell and what are the alternate methods to fix the issue. Let’s remove the rotten smell!

Is Sulfur Water Safe to Drink?

Is Sulfur Water Safe to Drink

Water can become sulfurous if your well has commonly found hydrogen sulfide. Hydrogen sulfide can occur naturally in groundwater, which sulfur-reducing bacteria can produce. These bacteria can be found in deep underground aquifers or wells where oxygen levels are low.  These bacteria convert sulfate compounds in the water into hydrogen sulfide.

“Sulfur Bacteria,” nature’s microscopic alchemists, turn sulfur into a symphony of life! They use sulfur as an energy source and produce large amounts of hydrogen sulfide in drinking water in a nonpathogenic (disease-causing) way.

While low concentrations of hydrogen sulfide are generally safe to drink at 20 parts per million (ppm). However, higher levels than the recommended SMCL can cause extreme smells like rotten eggs, unpleasant taste, and adverse health effects. 

The health effects associated with high levels of sulfur are associated with the following disorders such as 

  • Dehydration 
  • Diarrhea.
  • Harmful to the liver, kidneys, and brain.
  • Irritation or skin burning
  • It may irritate the airways or cause coughing.

Does Carbon or Charcoal Filter Remove Sulfur Smell?

Activated carbon filters are specialized water treatment systems that use a granulated pure form of charcoal or carbon. It can absorb various unwanted impurities, such as chlorine, heavy metals like lead, arsenic, and fluoride,  and low levels of sulfur compounds, such as hydrogen sulfide, and improves the taste of drinking water.

It can be effective at removing foul taste and low to moderate levels of hydrogen sulfide gas, which is responsible for producing a rotten egg-like smell.  If your water has a hydrogen sulfide of less than 1 ppm, a granular activated carbon (GAC) filter can be used to remove it. 

Activated carbon filters work by a process called adsorption. Generally, this filter uses a media bed, which might consist of granular forms of wood, coconut shells, coal, or peat. These media have high surface area and porous structure, providing many sites for the removal of impurities. When water is allowed to pass through the surface of a solid material media bed, chlorine, heavy metals, and even low levels of hydrogen sulfide are absorbed. 

If your concern is the sulfur smell, the effectiveness of a carbon filter depends on several factors, such as

  • The concentration of sulfur in the water.
  • Contact time between the water and the carbon filter.
  • Type and the quality of the carbon filter used. 

Keep in mind that carbon filters are effective in removing heavy metals, chlorine, and adsorbing sulfur compounds but are not specifically designed to remove the sulfur smell. For multiple impurity concerns, you may need additional treatment with a carbon filter as a whole home filter to address other concerns.

A specialized whole-house filter would be a better option to remove hydrogen sulfide, iron, and other associated impurities that can be present together. However, oxidation or the addition of chlorine to the drinking water can also assist you in improving the water quality.

How to Remove Sulfur Smell from Water: Alternative Methods

Whatever the reason for the sulfur smell, I would suggest the best methods other than carbon or a charcoal filter to fix the issue. 

1. Chlorination

Chlorination is one of the cheap and effective methods that can oxidize sulfur bacteria. Chlorine, in the form of sodium hypochlorite (household bleach) or calcium hypochlorite, is introduced into the water using an automatic chemical feed pump. 

When the added chlorine reacts with the hydrogen sulfide, it undergoes an oxidation reaction. This reaction separates the sulfur compounds into solid sulfur particles, which can be removed easily.

Using an automatic chemical feed pump can ensure a continuous and consistent supply of chlorine to the water. It allows a controlled chemical reaction, ensuring that all the hydrogen sulfide is effectively treated.

After adding chlorine, the water is allowed to come into contact with the gas to oxidize properly. The maximum contact time will help to remove the complete sulfur smell from the drinking water. Later, the water can be filtered out by using a typical filter. 

2. Whole-House Iron Filter

Rotten egg odors and orange stains on appliances are the most common problems in every home in the US. You can quickly get rid of these contaminants in your water by installing an iron removal filter at the point of entry. 

The whole-house iron water filter effectively removes iron, manganese, sulfur, and its smell without adding chemicals. It is an excellent choice if your water has iron, manganese, iron bacteria, sulfur, its smell, and sulfur bacteria. 

An iron filter can remove low to moderate amounts of hydrogen sulfide up to 10ppm, as well as iron and manganese. The filter oxidizes the hydrogen sulfide, turning it into insoluble sulfur, which is removed by the filtering process.

We recommend using a whole-house iron filter such as Springwell WS1, which can remove up to 8 ppm of Hydrogen Sulfide, up to 7 ppm iron, and manganese up to 1 ppm. It is also available with multiple cartridges such as RO membrane, Salt-based water softener, and UV purification, which costs additionally but offers a complete solution to multiple impurities. 

3. Oxidizing Filtration Systems

The oxidizing filtration system is the second alternative way to handle hydrogen sulfide concentrations up to 8 ppm. The most common media used for this purpose include manganese greensand, birm, or other catalytic filter media.

In this method, the oxygen is introduced into the water using an air injection system. The filter converts hydrogen sulfide gas to solid particles that can be easily filtered out. If you are looking for a system with an air injection component, ensure it properly introduces oxygen into the water. It would be good if you use an air compressor or a venturi system. 

Additionally, A chemical tank with an oxidizing agent like chlorine or 3% hydrogen peroxide can also be used to enhance the oxidation as an optional process.

You can install the oxidizing filter system by connecting it to your water supply line. Still, you need to set the system for regular backwashing cycles and flushing using potassium permagnet. It will help to clean and regenerate the filter media, preventing clogs and maintaining the system’s effectiveness.

If you’re purchasing a chemical injection system, then we recommend using Springwell CS1, which can effectively remove iron, manganese, iron bacteria, sulfur bacteria, chlorine, and sulfur smell from your water.


In the end, your activated carbon whole-house filtration can remove various heavy metals, chlorine other sulfur. However, it is important to know that the carbon treatment system is not especially organized to remove sulfur. If your water has a high sulfur impurity concern, then other options might be a good option to go. 

In summary, activated carbon filters are effective but have a limited lifespan, and their effectiveness decreases over time. You’ll need to replace it, depending on usage and water quality. Periodically check the water for any remaining sulfur odor. If the odor returns, it may be time to replace the activated carbon.

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