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Get Informed | Pink Bacteria

What is Pink Bacteria?

We get this question a lot where a private well owner or city water user finds what they call pink mold in their bathroom or even their basement. It is not mold, it is actually a pink bacterial colony that can range in color from light pink to red. These pink bacteria are part of an opportunistic motile, facultative anaerobic organism, gram-negative bacteria that is part of the Serratia species and the family Enterobacteriaceae.

Most individuals then find out that the bacteria goes by the name Serratia marcescens and then they search the internet and find out that Serratia marcescens is associated with urinary and respiratory infections, endocarditis, septicemia, wound infections, eye infections, and meningitis and  "CAN BE" an opportunistic pathogen and therefore the average homeowner believes there is a health crisis and the cause is their water and they panic.

These bacteria are widespread in soil and water and not associated with sewage, but these bacteria have an airborne route and not a waterborne route.

How Does Pink Bacteria Become a problem?

Pink bacteria in most homes and basements are not an immediate health crisis, but more of a nuisance. The real problem is not the bacteria - but moisture.

What are the Health Risks for Pink Bacteria?

There are no drinking water standards for pink bacteria. Why not? Because it is an airborne bacterium, not a waterborne bacterium. This airborne bacterium grows in moist environments and feeds on the mineral deposits in showers, bathroom tiles, toilet bowls, on shower curtains, and pet water bowls. The bacteria "feed" on the fatty material in soap and soap scum, and shampoo residues. It can also be found on counter tops, shower doors, or curtain liners in moist environments. The real problem is not the bacteria - but moisture.

What are the Standards for Pink Bacteria?

Serratia is not considered harmful to healthy individuals, but can be an opportunistic pathogen in immunocompromised individuals. When pathogenic, "Serratia marcescens has been associated with urinary tract infections, wound infections, sepsis, and pneumonia and they have been associated with hospital acquired infections." (Source)

Get Tested | Pink Bacteria

Level 1 | Observational Self-Testing

Observations for Pink Bacteria

Pink bacterial problems may be identified in areas that are frequently damp to wet or normally damp and dark spaces. The following are the primary observations that suggest you may have problems with pink bacteria.

  • There are coatings in and around the bathtub, tile grout, showers, or wash basins that have a pink or reddish color.
  • There is a pink film in pet water dishes and bowls or in your toilet bowl.
  • There is a pink film on basement walls or walls in damp environments.

Please note: The bacteria normally look pink, but it can also be pinkish-orange or orange.

Try Our Level 1 Drinking Water Self-Diagnostic Tool
Have water issues? Answer our self-diagnosis questionnaire from your observations to get an initial diagnosis. Then follow our recommended steps to remediate your issue.
Self-Diagnostic Tool

Level 2 | Do-It-Yourself Water Testing

Level 2 Testing is Do-It-Yourself testing that can be done in your own home using a Testing Kit. After you’ve done Level 1 Testing, Level 2 Testing can confirm if your observations are correct. If your test results reveal the presence of a contaminant that is cause for concern, you can either proceed to determine the best treatment (see below) or continue to Level 3 Testing.

Notes on Level 2 Testing for Pink Bacteria

We are not aware of a specific test for pink bacteria, but it may be wise to check the level of bacteria and mold in the air and have a bacterial test conducted on your drinking water.

Level 3 | Informational Water Testing

Level 3 Testing is done through an accredited Water Testing Laboratory. With Level 3 Testing, you can order a testing kit that is used to prepare your sample and submit it to the lab. By utilizing a lab, you have the assurance that a certified water expert had analyzed your water sample. If your test results reveal the presence of a contaminant that is cause for concern, you can either proceed to determine the best treatment options (see below) or continue to Level 4 Testing - Certified Testing.

Notes on Level 3 Testing for Pink Bacteria

Pink Bacteria are not associated with a waterborne route, but an airborne route to where the bacteria can grow on "partially cleaned surfaces" in moist environments. Because the mold population may correlate with an airborne bacterial population, we suggest testing your water with an in-home screening test for bacteria, testing the air for mold and bacteria using a mail-in testing kit, and testing/monitoring indoor air quality.

Level 4 | Certified Water Testing

A Level 4 Certified Test Test uses chain-of-custody with a water professional coming to your home to prepare the water sample and then works with an accredited laboratory in order to certify your test results. This type of testing not only gives you the highest level of assurance in the accuracy of your test results, but can also be used as a document in legal cases. For Baseline Testing, we recommend that you use Certified Testing.

Notes on Level 4 Testing for Pink Bacteria

Testing indoor air quality is typically a service provided by an industrial hygienist; there are some larger national laboratories that provide testing-related services. If you need assistance in finding a testing service, please contact our team.

Get Treatment | Pink Bacteria

In most cases getting treatment means taking some action to control the moisture content of the space and to better clean surfaces in these moist environments.

Short-Term Treatment

In the short term, it would be wise to decrease the humidity of the space and then to clean the shower curtains, tiles, tubes, and other surfaces, but we recommend wearing protective clothing, a mask, and perhaps eye protection. Before cleaning any surface it is important to determine how the manufacturer recommends cleaning these surfaces. The typical recommendation is to first use a soft-bristle scrub brush to loosen the biofilm using a paste-like mixture of baking soda and liquid soap, wipe the surface with a damp towel, disinfect the surface with a diluted bleach, and then rinse the surface. It is also necessary to sanitize your shower curtain.

Contact a KnowYourH2O Recommended Professional

Want professional advice? Request a consultation from the KnowYourH20 Team. Contact Us

Long-Term Treatment

If you have a bacterial problem with your drinking water, this situation must be addressed. The long-term solution will likely include a rigorous cleaning of the surfaces, but also changing behaviors so as not to facilitate the growth of these nuisance bacteria. These changes could include:

  • After showering or bathing, wipe down the area with a towel and leave the "vent" running for at least 20 minutes to reduce the humidity of the space.
  • Monitor and control the humidity and fix leaky faucets.
  • Regularly wash shower curtains, at least monthly.
  • Ventilate the bathroom with mechanical ventilation and not by leaving the window open; this bacterium can be found in soil and is air-borne; it can blow in from the window. We have provided some links below to quality cleaning products.

If your laundry has an odor, you may need to clean your washing machine.

Contact a KnowYourH2O Recommended Professional

Want advice from a local professional? Request a consultation from the KnowYourH20 Team. Contact Us

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