What Causes Pink Bathroom Slime, and How Do I Remove It?
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If you notice pink slimy stuff on your bathroom surfaces, you might be scratching your head in confusion. What is this mysterious, nasty-looking slime? No matter how often I scrub, scour, and sanitize my bathroom, it keeps returning. What do I do? Who do I call?
While the slimy pink monster might seem like a job for the Ghostbusters, it is far less spooky. In fact, it is a common issue that most homeowners mistakenly attribute to mold or poor water quality. But as you’ll soon discover, it is often not a mold problem or an issue with your water quality but rather evidence of something in the air.
In this article, we’ll unravel the mystery behind these pesky pink stains, provide tips on eliminating them, and, most importantly, reveal how to prevent them from returning.
What’s Causing this Strange Pink Slime in My Bathroom?
Serratia marcescens, an airborne bacterium found naturally in the environment, often causes pink residue in your bathroom. This bacterium produces a pinkish film on moist surfaces, such as toilet bowls, sink and tub drains, shower curtains, and pet water dishes.
Serratia thrives in dusty or moist conditions and requires little to survive. This explains why the problem is more common in the summer when temperatures and humidity are higher, and homeowners open their windows to let the heat out.
Since the Serratia bacterium is airborne, it can quickly colonize damp areas, making your bathroom a prime location. That means once it settles in, the bacterium has everything it needs to thrive—standing water, open air, and a steady supply of phosphates and fats from soaps, shampoos, gels, and human waste products that pass through your bathroom every day.
Unfortunately, eliminating Serratia can be challenging because it’s airborne. Although cleaning can help, managing the issue is the key. Ultimately, the pink slime may reappear in your bathroom within weeks of thoroughly cleaning it.
Furthermore, Serratia will not survive in chlorinated drinking water. However, the pink color may develop in areas where water stands long enough for the residual chlorine disinfectant to dissipate, such as a toilet in a guest bathroom or a shower curtain. Customers who remove chlorine from their water using activated carbon filters may also be more likely to experience this problem.
How Does Serratia Marcescens Produce Pink Slime, and What Does the Residue Look Like?
Interestingly, pink shower slime is not always pink, despite its name. The pink hue is often the result of a red pigment that is produced at room temperature. The color can vary from salmon to orange or even deep-blood red, depending on the environment.
The appearance and texture of the slime can also differ. It may appear dry and fuzzy on one occasion and slimy and damp on another. Therefore, if you ever spot any unusual growth in your bathroom, don’t assume it’s not pink shower slime simply because it lacks a pink color.
Is Serratia marcescens dangerous?
Understandably, many homeowners are concerned about pink bathroom residue, fearing it may indicate something toxic in their water supply they may ultimately ingest. The good news is that while the Serratia marcescens bacteria may sound threatening, it mainly causes cosmetic issues.
It is considered harmless to most folks but has been linked to certain symptoms and infections, such as:
- Allergic reactions (coughing, sneezing, itchy eyes and ears, and sinus troubles)
- Pneumonia and bronchitis
- Respiratory issues (coughing, wheezing, and respiratory tract infections)
- Bladder and urinary tract infections
- Gastrointestinal problems (nausea, vomiting, upset stomach, and diarrhea)
- Poisoning from eating tainted food
More serious issues, including death, can occur in young children, immunocompromised individuals, the elderly, or those in a hospital setting. In these cases, the bacteria enter parts of the body that should be sterile, such as the lungs, blood, or brain, and devastates vital organs or the immune system.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hospital-acquired infections were responsible for 75,000 deaths in the U.S. in 2011. Nonetheless, infection rates have decreased over time, likely due to caregiver guidelines that include more frequent handwashing and sanitation of equipment.
But for the average healthy person, there’s nothing to worry about. Serratia marcescens is generally just an unpleasant nuisance. It’s more of an eyesore and unpleasant to the touch than a significant health risk.
Where Else Can I Find Pink Slime in My Home?
Like your bathroom, pink slime can also appear in other areas of your home.
Here are some other places where you may encounter it:
In the kitchen
Food left out uncovered or areas around the sink and dishwashers are ideal places for pink slime to appear because of the warm, damp environments. Food particles will get caught around the sink, and dishwasher seals and mold will gather in these areas to feed on the leftover food.
To keep mold from growing in these areas, clean around the sink and the dishwasher regularly, and it will prevent the mold from colonizing. Mold growing on food is a regular occurrence. Food provides ample nutrients to grow mold. If left out of the refrigerator, it will be the correct temperature for proper growth.
In the basement
The growth of pink slime is typical in the basement areas of your home as they are naturally damp because of the exposed concrete and lower temperatures. And since basements aren’t cleaned as often or thoroughly as the living spaces in your home, pink slime will grow there. They are usually just cleaned when they become very soiled. If your home has a sump system, ensure your pump is working correctly and pumping water outside your home. Also, keep the areas around the sump clean from residue and dust.
Humidifiers can also harbor pink slime if not cleaned regularly. The spores released by the pink residue can cause respiratory problems if you breathe them in. It can also leave a pungent smell in the room even after you clean the affected area. Drying out or replacing the humidifier is necessary if it shows signs of mold growth.
On clothes and laundry
Laundry rooms and closets are also prime spots for pink slime to grow. The damp washer area, heat from the dryer, detergent, and dirt from soiled clothing provide everything it needs to thrive. Therefore, try to keep your laundry room and the washer and dryer clean at all times. Doing so helps prevent mold from growing in the laundry room and on the clothes you are getting ready to clean or have just finished cleaning.
How Do I Get Rid of the Slimy Pink Residue?
If you’re already dealing with pink slime, here’s how you can tackle it:
- Make a one-part vinegar and one-part water solution.
- Spray the mixture onto the pink slime and let it sit for 10 minutes. (Wear gloves and protective gear to minimize exposure to bacteria.)
- Scrub away the bacteria using a soft bristle brush. (Store-bought bathroom cleaners or a mixture of baking soda and dish soap will work.)
- Rinse the area with water.
- Spray on a mixture of bleach and water, let it sit for at least 10 minutes, then rinse.
- Sanitize shower curtains in the washing machine (if they’re machine washable). Ensure they are thoroughly dried before hanging them back up in the shower.
However, be aware that the pink slime will likely re-grow. It may reappear in just a matter of weeks. Also, Serratia bacteria don’t survive well in chlorinated drinking water. Still, the pink slime may develop if water stands long enough for residual chlorine to dissipate (i.e., in a toilet or on a shower curtain).
Is Your Water Causing Slimy Pink Residue in Your Home?
What if the pink mold in your shower has something to do with your water quality, or you see other types of dangerous mold forming in your home or bathroom, such as black mold? Then, we recommend enlisting a certified laboratory in your area to test your water.
Laboratory testing thoroughly evaluates your water supply to detect unwanted elements and determine their concentrations. Generally, after you purchase the water test kit, the laboratory ships you everything you need to collect your sample. Afterward, you return your sample to the lab for rigorous, independent testing. And finally, after the lab analyzes your water sample, they’ll send you a full report on what’s in your water and recommendations for the next steps.
Eliminating Bathroom Slime That Appears Due to Water Contamination
In certain areas, tap water can contain high levels of dissolved chemicals, such as chlorine, chloramine, PFAS, VOCs, herbicides, and pesticides. It may also be laden with heavy metals like lead, arsenic, iron, chromium-6, etc. Luckily, a whole-house water filter system can eliminate trace contaminants that can cause aesthetic issues in your bathroom and devastate your hair and skin when you shower with unfiltered water or wash your hair with it.
Furthermore, sewage-contaminated water may contain all sorts of bacteria that can leave nasty stains and odors in your bathroom and wreak havoc on your health if ingested. This is where the Springwell UV Water Purification System comes in—removing up to 99.99% of bacteria, viruses, and parasites. With this system, you can fill up at the tap and shower without the risk of being exposed to E. coli, cryptosporidium, and giardia lamblia through your water supply.
Tips to Help Prevent the Pink Biofilm from Coming Back
Now that you’ve eliminated the colonies of Serratia bacteria from your bathroom and other areas in your home, you might wonder if they are gone for good. The reality is that, once established, managing the bacteria is more realistic than trying to eliminate it. Therefore, it’s best to keep some cleaning products handy and know you’re not alone in this battle.
Here are a few things you can do to reduce the chances of pink slime returning:
- Encourage handwashing, particularly after using the bathroom, to prevent transferring Serratia marcescens bacteria to other surfaces.
- Keep surfaces dry. Since pink mold thrives and spreads in moist environments, drying shower walls after each use can make a huge difference. A quick squeegee or towel can do the trick.
- Close and straighten shower curtains so they can dry more quickly. Washing the curtains and liners at least once a month is also essential.
- Clean away soap scum. Soap scum contains body oil that serves as food for mold and bacterial growth, so it’s best to clean it away at least once a week.
- After each use, wipe away spills and drops of liquid soap, shampoo, and conditioner from the walls and floor of the shower or tub. Doing this will prevent the accumulation of moisture, which could otherwise lead to mold growth.
- Reduce the humidity level in your home by turning on exhaust fans, using dehumidifiers, and repairing leaky plumbing.
- Keep the windows in your bathroom closed when you’re showering, as the bacteria is airborne and more likely to enter an open window.
You can effectively manage the pink slime problem by taking these simple steps. But please remember that no matter how diligently you follow them, the problem can still crop up again.
Pink bathroom slime can be an annoying issue in many households. Despite popular belief, it’s usually not caused by mold or poor water quality but by an airborne bacterium called Serratia marcescens, which thrives in moist and dusty conditions. Eliminating this bacterium can be challenging, so managing it is crucial.
While Serratia is generally harmless, it can cause various symptoms and infections, especially in vulnerable individuals. To prevent the growth of pink slime, we recommend cleaning damp surfaces and maintaining a dry environment regularly.
Don’t hesitate to contact us if you need help choosing the best whole-house water filter for your home. Our friendly experts are always ready to address your concerns and answer any questions you may have.