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Get Informed | Slime Bacteria

What are Slime Bacteria?

Slime bacteria are a group of bacteria that produces slime, but unlike iron-reducing bacteria they do not need to use iron or manganese in the process. The slime produced by slime-forming bacteria is typically gray, clear, and thicker than that of iron-reducing bacteria, but the slime can appear yellow or beige if other metals have accumulated in the polysaccharide-polymer slime layer. When the organism is stressed, it can create a thicker slime layer; it also tends to be thicker under aerobic conditions.

How Do Slime Bacteria Become a problem?

Slime-forming bacteria tend to be associated with creating nuisance issues, interfering with the performance of a disinfection system, and, in some cases, they are associated with microbiologically-induced corrosion and poor performance of water appliances and exchange systems. Slime bacteria can also mask a problem associated with coliform bacteria or a waterborne pathogen.

What are the Health Risks for Slime Bacteria?

At this time, we are not aware of any specific health risks from slime-forming bacteria, but if these bacteria are abundant it is more likely the water may have an aesthetic problem. Slime-forming bacteria can result in the premature failure or poor performance of water treatment devices and other appliances. In more extreme cases, the bacteria may cause microbiologically-induced corrosion and result in elevated levels of copper, lead, zinc, and other metals found within the piping and components of the water distribution system.

What are the Standards for Slime Bacteria?

There are no specific standards for slime-forming bacteria, but there are standards for other groups of bacteria. There is a standard for total coliform bacteria (absent or none) and a standard known as the "standard plate" count which is a test for heterotrophic bacteria, (< 500 colonies per ml). Since slime-forming bacteria are heterotrophic bacteria, it can be inferred that slime-forming bacteria are indirectly regulated by the heterotrophic bacteria standard but that standard does include other, non-slime heterotrophic bacteria which do not create a nuisance or result in elevated levels of corrosion by-products. You could have a high result for the standard-plate-count without having any slime bacteria.

Get Tested | Slime Bacteria

There are warning signs of a potential problem with slime bacteria. These warning signs may include a water that has an odor, water with an off-taste, surfaces that are commonly exposed to the water with a slimy feel, and, in extreme cases, you can see slime dripping from the faucet or slimes attached to surfaces moving in the water.

Level 1 | Observational Self-Testing

Level 1 Testing is done with simple observations that an individual can make with their own senses such as sight, smell, and taste. These observations can be readily apparent or can be observed as they change over time. In addition, accessible related information about the home can also be used to narrow down the cause of your water issues.

Observations for Slime Bacteria

The following are some warning signs or symptoms of a problem associated with slime bacteria:

  • The surface exposed to the water has a slimy coating/feel on the inside of appliance filters, piping, toilet tanks, or water tanks
  • The biofilms may appear clear, white, gray, yellow, beige, or slightly discolored.
  • The water may have an off-taste, a slight odor, and, in extreme cases, the water will pour more like a gel than water.
  • You are experiencing problems associated with corrosion, such as blue-green or green water and pinhole leaks or leaks in piping and the piping is partially clogged with slimy debris.
  • If the water is being disinfected, the water has an increasing chlorine or oxidizer demand.
Level 1 | Self-Test Web App
To do a quick and easy self diagnosis of your water, click the button below.
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Level 2 | Do-It-Yourself 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 Slime Bacteria

Low-cost screening tests for slime-forming bacteria are not readily available, but the primary warning signs would be discolored water, slime coatings, an off-taste, decreased well yield, and increased levels of corrosion by-products and even elevated levels of aluminum. One way you can check if you have slime bacteria is to take a "pickle container," rinse it, and fill it with your water. Let this set in the dark for about 1 to 2 weeks, and take a look at the water. If you see slimy growths, you probably have a slime bacteria problem. (Source - Thanks Grandma - from when she would can pickles).

There are some BART testing kits that are excellent for testing for slime-forming bacteria, sulfur, iron bacteria, nitrate, and even heterotrophic bacteria. They are easy to use, but it is critical that they are used and disposed of properly

You may want to consider the Test Assured In-Home Legionella/Coliform Screen Test and the Test Assured In-Home Complete Water Screening Test.

If the testing is positive for your private water source, you may want to consider shock-disinfecting your system before conducting any additional testing. We recommend using the Well Safe product (Learn more about Treatments Below).

Contact a KnowYourH2O Recommended Professional

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

Level 3 | Informational 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 Slime Bacteria

Low-cost informational testing is available for slime-forming bacteria. The primary warning signs would include discolored water, clear or lightly colored slimy coatings, musty odors, and problems associated with premature failure of heat exchange systems. Informational testing for slime-forming bacteria should include other bacteria and water quality related problems or issues related to trace metals and corrosion by-products. If you suspect slime bacteria and are concerned about other bacterial sources, we recommend the Tap Score Total Microbiological Test, plus a Slime-Forming Bacteria test.  If you also see evidence of mold, we recommend the Tap Score Mold and Fungus Test.   If you are experiencing multiple problems , such as: dirty / discolored water, evidence of corrosion or other problems,  we would you submit a request for assistance.

Contact a KnowYourH2O Recommended Professional

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

Level 4 | Certified 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.

Level 4 | Certified Baseline Testing

Certified water testing is available for slime-forming bacteria, but this evaluation should most likely include a wider range of microbiological agents. If you need assistance with finding a certified laboratory, please contact our team.

Contact a KnowYourH2O Recommended Professional

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

Get Treatment | Slime Bacteria

To determine the best way to treat or manage an issue or problem related to slime-forming bacteria, it is critical to understand the source of the contamination and the associated water quality. It is important to note that the problem may be natural.

Short-Term Treatment

For well water users, our primary recommendation is to inspect your wellhead and shock-disinfect the well and distribution system. The shock disinfection should be done twice and the water lines should be flushed with all water treatment systems by-passed and in-line filters and aeration devices removed. 

Standard Water Heater Pasteurization

If you have a standard water heater, we recommend that the unit and the distribution lines in your home be pasteurized. 

Steps for Standard Water Heater Pasteurization

CAUTION: During pasteurization DO NOT TOUCH, BATHE OR RUN WATER RAPIDLY BECAUSE IT WILL SCALD YOU. If you are not comfortable with the process, contact a professional. 

  • Connect a hose to the base of the water heater and flush the water until it’s clear. 
  • Power down the unit and open up the cover of the control panel.  
  • Increase the temperature setting to over 140°F. 
  • Close the panel and power up the unit.
  • Allow the water to reach the new maximum temperature (assume two hours).  
  • Allow the tank to remain at that temperature for at least four hours.
  •  Flush the tank through the hose at the base of the tank until water is clear. 
  • Go to the farthest hot water faucet, remove aeration device, and slowly flush until the 140°F water reaches and discharges from the faucet and turn it off. DO NOT TOUCH, BATHE, OR RUN WATER RAPIDLY BECAUSE IT WILL SCALD YOU. If you are not comfortable with the process, contact a professional. 
  • Repeat this same process for all the faucets in the home, working your way back to the hot water faucet closest to the hot water heater. 
  • Allow the water to set in the lines for one hour. 
  • After one hour, power down the water heater and return to your preferred operational temperature. 
  • Go to the farthest hot water faucet and flush the line until the water discharge returns to your preferred operational temperature, and reinstall aeration devices.
  • Repeat this same process for all the faucets in the home, working your way back to the hot water faucet closest to the hot water heater. 

On-demand Water Heater Pasteurization

If you have an on-demand heated water system, we recommend that you temporarily increase your water temperature to over 140°F in order to pasteurize the hot water lines.  

Steps for On-demand Water Heater Pasteurization

CAUTION: During pasteurization DO NOT TOUCH, BATHE, OR RUN WATER RAPIDLY BECAUSE IT WILL SCALD YOU. If you are not comfortable with the process, contact a professional.

Steps may vary depending on make and model of unit. You may want to have a plumbing professional provide this service. 

  • If necessary, power down the unit. 
  • Increase the temperature setting to over 140°F. 
  • If necessary, close the panel and power up the unit. 
  • Allow the water to reach the new maximum temperature (assume fifteen minutes).  
  • Go to the farthest hot water faucet, remove aeration device, and slowly flush until the 140°F water reaches and discharges from the faucet and then turn it off. DO NOT TOUCH, BATHE, OR RUN WATER RAPIDLY BECAUSE IT WILL SCALD YOU. If you are not comfortable with the process, contact a professional. 
  • Repeat this same process for all the faucets in the home, working your way back to the hot water faucet closest to the on-demand hot water heater. 
  • Allow the water to set in the lines for one hour. 
  • After one hour, if necessary, power down the water heater and return to your preferred operational temperature.
  • Go to the farthest hot water faucet and flush the line until the water discharge returns to your preferred operational temperature, and reinstall aeration devices.
  • Repeat this same process for all the faucets in the home, working your way back to the hot water faucet closest to the on-demand hot water heater. 


City Water Source

If this is a city water source, it may be necessary to flush the water main and in some cases shock disinfect and pasteurize the water heating system. This is why we recommend that homeowners on a city water system install a clear-water filter immediately after the "city water" enters your home.

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Long-Term Treatment

For city water customers, the long-term treatment is typically the responsibility of the water provider. This may need to include increasing disinfection residuals in the water, changing piping, and flushing water lines. For city water customers with intermittent water quality problems, we suggest the installation of a barrier water treatment system that would include a whole-house backwashable particle filter (we do not recommend a carbon filter), UV disinfection system, and then a point-of-use submicron particle filter to polish the water.

For private systems, the treatment process will depend on the water source and the extent or presence of other contaminants. For these systems, the first step is typically a combination of chemical oxidation/disinfection, a reaction tank, backwashable particle filtration (in some cases a carbon filtration system is advisable), and then any additional water treatment systems to address other water quality issues. In many cases, it is necessary to use a professional to install, manage, and maintain these systems. After the system is installed, it would be advisable to benchmark the system to ensure it is operating properly and then the system should be inspected and maintained regularly.

If you are using a water well or spring box, you may need to hire a contractor to chemically treat the well to address the combination of bioslimes, biological organisms, and associated chemical scale; the solution to the problem may be regular cleaning and maintenance and not installing a treatment system. The well may need some rehabilitation or modification.

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