The relationship between solar volatiles and those now in the Earth's atmosphere and mantle reservoirs provides insight into the processes controlling the acquisition of volatiles during planetary accretion and their subsequent evolution. Whereas the light noble gases (helium and neon) in the Earth's mantle preserve a solar-like isotopic composition, heavy noble gases (argon, krypton and xenon) have an isotopic composition very similar to that of the modern atmosphere, with radiogenic and (in the case of xenon) solar contributions. Mantle noble gases in a magmatic CO2 natural gas field have been previously corrected for shallow atmosphere/groundwater and crustal additions. Here we analyse new data from this field and show that the elemental composition of non-radiogenic heavy noble gases in the mantle is remarkably similar to that of sea water. We challenge the popular concept of a noble gas 'subduction barrier'—the convecting mantle noble gas isotopic and elemental composition is explained by subduction of sediment and seawater-dominated pore fluids. This accounts for 100% of the non-radiogenic argon and krypton and 80% of the xenon. Approximately 50% of the convecting mantle water concentration can then be explained by this mechanism. Enhanced recycling of subducted material to the mantle plume source region then accounts for the lower ratio of radiogenic to non-radiogenic heavy noble gas isotopes and higher water content of plume-derived basalts.