How to Test for Hydrogen Sulfide

Written by john yarbrough
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How to Test for Hydrogen Sulfide
Hydrogen sulphide in well water is common. Testing the water determines whether any concentration is present and if it is a health concern. (wasserpumpe image by Dieter Groth from

Hydrogen sulphide is a chemical compound that usually occurs naturally in decaying plant matter and sulphur-reducing bacteria. Significant concentrations of this compound are usually detected by sense of smell, often characterised as smelling like rotten eggs. Many wells drilled for drinking water contain hydrogen sulphide, which can stain plumbing fixtures and produce a foul stench. Traces in well water are usually deemed safe, though concentrations released during a hot shower can lead to nausea. Even higher amounts can lead to serious illness or death. Through proper testing, any present concentrations of hydrogen sulphide gas can be detected.

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Things you need

  • Water sample
  • Water test kit

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  1. 1

    Read all directions for a hydrogen sulphide test kit. Before beginning the test, ensure you understand how to use the test kit to receive accurate results. Many at-home hydrogen sulphide test kits provide results about as accurate as any laboratory test.

  2. 2

    Obtain the water sample. Use the provided cup or a clean cup that has not been exposed to the well water in question. If there is a minimum amount of water needed for the test, be sure to provide at least that much.

  3. 3

    Introduce the testing medium to the water sample. This may be a litmus paper strip or a chemical that changes colour in the presence of hydrogen sulphide. Give the testing medium ample time to react, as per the directions provided by the test kit.

  4. 4

    Interpret the test results. The at-home hydrogen sulphide test kits provide a colour chart. Compare the colour of the water sample against the corresponding colour for the test kit. This comparison indicates whether the hydrogen sulphide concentration in the water is a concern. If in doubt, consider repeating the test to be certain of the results.

  5. 5

    Consult the services of a professional test laboratory. If the results appear borderline between a safe and unsafe concentration of hydrogen sulphide, consider using professional services to verify these findings and determine appropriate action.

Tips and warnings

  • Perform hydrogen sulphide testing regularly or when the water begins to develop a stronger rotten egg smell.
  • Keep testing supplies away from extreme sunlight.

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