Just like every other morning your alarm goes off and you shuffle into the shower, the warm spray wakes you up enough to focus your eyes and you see it. Pinkish slime around the grout and drain in your shower, gross!
Spray the pink slime with a bleach based cleaner and follow label instructions to disinfect (usually wait 10-15 minutes after spraying). Then scrub the area with a bristle brush and rinse clean. Keep the area clean and dry to prevent pink mildew from coming back.
When the pink slime is deep in grout lines or other textured surfaces a good scrubbing to physically remove the slime works best before disinfecting with bleach. Use a 4:1 mixture of baking soda and liquid dish soap to create a runny paste and scrub with a small brush.
Keep reading to find out what causes pink ‘mold’, if pink slime is hazardous, and how to clean your shower, toilet and sink to get rid of pink slime for good.
What Causes Pink Mold?
Although many people call it pink mold (or pink mildew), the colorful slime is not actually mold – it is a biofilm of bacteria called Serratia marcescens. Usually pink but sometimes with orangish hues, this bacteria is in the environment around us so there is no real way to prevent it completely, but you can stop if from taking hold in your bathroom.
Serratia marcescens loves damp conditions where it can feed on materials that contain phosphorus or fatty substances. This is why you see it growing on tile grout, shower corners, toilet bowls, and drains where it feeds on soap and shampoo residue.
S. marcescens is one of the most common bathroom challenges that you have probably seen in your own home and possibly in hotels or public spaces. Because the bacteria is anaerobic, it doesn’t need oxygen to survive, and can thrive anywhere with moisture and minerals or fatty substances to feed on.
Is Pink Shower Slime Dangerous?
For most people the S. marcescens bacteria is relatively harmless because it is frequently present in the environment around us. The S. marcescens bacteria is one of the strains used to test contact lens disinfecting solutions due in part to the prevalence of the bacteria in our homes. Still, you don’t want to share your living space with a growing slime colony.
People with compromised immune systems have higher risk, but even so S. marcescens is described as medical journals as a rare nosocomial infection (a hospital acquired infection). According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), S. marcescens is usually spread through potable water, contaminated antiseptics, or contaminated disinfectants.
Serratia Marcescens– A Rare Opportunistic Nosocomial Pathogen and Measures to Limit its Spread in Hospitalized Patients
Serratia marcescens accounts for only 1-2% of the nosocomial infections which are mostly confined to the respiratory tract, the urinary tract, surgical wounds and soft tissues.Journal of Clinical & Diagnostic Research
So you don’t need to fear the pink slime but do take precautions so that it doesn’t get in your eyes, you don’t inhale it, and it doesn’t get into open sores or wounds.
How Do You Get Rid of Pink Slime in the Shower?
The good news is that pink mold is easy to clean with a simple three step approach:
- Remove the biofilm slime using physical cleaning methods. Simply scrubbing it away works fine for minor cases, but when the pink slime is deep in textured surfaces like grout a mixture of baking soda and liquid dish soap works best. Scrub thoroughly with a bristle brush and rinse.
- Disinfect the area thoroughly. Bleach is the most effective for pink slime, but other cleaners registered with the EPA as disinfectants are also acceptable. Rinse the area clean and let it dry.
- Keep the area clean and dry. This is the most important, but also the most difficult step. Showers and bathrooms see moisture regularly. After showers squeegee the surfaces of your shower to remove excess water. Clean soap scum and residue regularly, every two weeks is best. Leave the exhaust fan running for 20 minutes after your shower to remove humidity and fix any leaks or slow drips.
Clean Pink Slime From Grout Lines, Shower Pans, and Drains
Just like grout lines, the seams and caulk lines in shower pans and around drains have a tendency to stay damp longer and trap residue – they make perfect breeding grounds for pink mildew. The same solution works as well. Use the baking soda and liquid dish soap mixture to scrub the slime away and then disinfect the surface thoroughly.
For small areas use 1/4-cup baking soda with 1-tbsp dish soap, for larger cleaning projects use 1-cup baking soda with 1/4-cup dish soap.
Clean Pink Slime From Shower Curtains and Liners
Shower curtain liners can be one of the most problematic areas to get rid of pink slime in your bathroom. They stay damp after a shower and have soap and shampoo residue that doesn’t get rinsed away. Fabric shower curtain liners are great, but you will need to wash them frequently to prevent pink mildew from growing. Wash your shower curtain liner, and shower curtain if necessary, in your washing machine on a gentle cycle with warm water.
If you are like us, taking down a shower curtain liner to wash it (separately of course) and then hanging it again becomes a hassle very quickly. Instead, we switched to a mildew resistant shower curtain liner – here is our favorite antimicrobial shower curtain liner (buy on Amazon) for a great price.
How Do You Get Rid of Pink Slime in Toilets?
The solutions for showers and drains are not practical for toilets, nobody is going to clean and dry their toilet after every use, but fortunately toilets have the easiest solution.
Toilet cleaning tablets that go into the toilet tank work great to keep the bowl clean. But over time the harsh chemicals cause the flapper and sealing surface to crack and degrade that result in leaks and a toilet that runs constantly. Don’t use toilet tablets that go in the tank.
That’s why we were excited to see a toilet cleaning system that injects cleaner into the overflow tube with every flush. The bowl gets disinfected but the chemicals don’t degrade the seal. Start with a clean bowl and the pink slime and mildew never have a chance to get started.
Here is our favorite toilet cleaning system on Amazon for a great price. We use the official refills, but some people try to save money using spa tablets instead. If you go this route make sure you get bromide tablets and not chlorine tablets that will attack your hardware and leave a strong chemical smell.
Are There Safer Alternatives to Kill Serratia Marcescens
Many people know that using bleach on black mold and mildew is not very effective, so they don’t use bleach cleaners in the bathroom. Bleach is not very effective to kill mold because it only treats the exposed surfaces.
However, we know that pink slime is a bacteria and not a mold so we need to reconsider our approach. The best way to get rid of pink slime is with a disinfectant and bleach is among the best – capable of completely killing S. marcescens (source). Just be sure to use it carefully and take the proper precautions.
Does Vinegar Kill Pink Shower Slime?
Vinegar is a great household cleaner that we strongly recommend for many purposes, but it is not the best choice for killing pink slime. Vinegar was able to reduce the amount of Serratia marcescens bacteria present was far less effective than bleach-based cleaners (source).
Vinegar was still the best of the alternative cleaners, outperforming lemon juice, ammonia, baking soda, and borax, so use it if you don’t have any bleach. Vinegar has some antimicrobial properties, but not enough to be classified as a disinfectant by the EPA. Although commonly referenced, the criteria of 99.999% effectiveness within 5-10 minutes is not an official definition in EPA documents.
Does Hydrogen Peroxide Kill Pink Mildew?
Hydrogen peroxide is not effective to kill Serratia marcescens, requiring exposure times of 30-60 minutes (source).
To learn more about common disinfectants and safer alternatives, we highly recommend this article from the San Francisco Department of the Environment.