Question: What is that pink slime invading my shower, and what can I do about it?
Answer: Ah, yes. Your friendly, neighborhood Serratia marcescens. This ‘pink slime’ is an airborne bacteria that thrives in damp environments, and chows down on your soaps, shampoos, and other fatty substances. The bad news is, because it’s airborne, there’s not much you can do to eliminate the issue. Fortunately, this bacteria is generally harmless to your health, and we can help you minimize growth with these tips.
Because this bacteria thrives on moisture, the key is to dry your environment as thoroughly as possible and keep soap residue at bay. We recommend running your ventilator while you shower and for at least 30 minutes afterwards. Since it feeds on soap scum and residue, keep your shower fresh with an after shower spray and keep up on routine maintenance. Dry the shower after each use as best as you can — if you have glass walls, using a squeegee to dry the glass can be helpful. Make sure you allow all cloth and plastic shower curtains to hang dry outside the shower, as they are common places for the bacteria to thrive in trapped moisture, and clean your shower curtain periodically to refresh.
In showers with grouted tile, an unfortunate cosmetic side effect to the bacteria is grout-staining. Maintenance is key because the ‘pink slime’ can work its way into the grout and leave your shower tinted. Keep the staining under control using a scrub brush and a bleach or hydrogen peroxide cleanser (check to be sure it’s safe to use with your fixtures first) can help lighten any staining. Abrasives, such as Barkeepers Friend and Bon Ami, can help break through any build-up. However, unsealed grout and areas where the bacteria is allowed to hang around for long periods of time can require regrouting and sealing to mitigate.
While harmless to most people, in hospitals, the presence of the bacteria was linked to pneumonia and urinary tract and open wound infections in some. An expert at North Dakota State University suggests chlorine to control the growth. Many water systems are already treated with chlorine, but if you’re using a charcoal filter, you may be removing that from your water.
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Sources & Additional Resources:
Anderson, Jessica Cumberbatch. “The Other Pink Slime Lurking In Your Home.” The Huffington Post, 7 Dec. 2017. www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/03/pink-slime-shower-gunk_n_6793586.html.
Huber, Jeanne. “Why Did My Grout Turn Pink?” The Washington Post, 3 Apr. 2017. www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/home/why-did-my-grout-turn-pink/2017/03/31/0bb5e8c8-0fea-11e7-9b0d-d27c98455440_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.a27bfc413e71.
“Pink Mold in Shower? How It Got There and How to Get Rid of It | Bob Vila.” BobVila.com, 19 Mar. 2018. www.bobvila.com/articles/pink-mold-in-shower/.
“Red Substance in Tub, Toilet Is Bacteria.” NDSU Agricultural Communication, NDSU Extension Service, 2010. www.ag.ndsu.edu/news/newsreleases/2010/aug-9-2010/red-substance-in-tub-toilet-is-bacteria/.