What's this pink stuff
This is a common problem both in the UK and abroad. It most often occurs in bathrooms. The pink residue is from naturally occurring airborne bacteria which produces a pinkish or dark grey film on surfaces that are regularly moist including toilet bowls, showerheads, sink drains and tiles.
The exact species of bacteria is not known, most experts have concluded that this pink staining is most likely from the bacteria Serratia marcescens. These bacteria thrive on moisture, dust and phosphates and are widely distributed having been found naturally in soil, food and also in animals. The conditions for the survival of Serratia marcescens are minimal and the bacteria may even feed upon itself in the absence of other nutrients. On the Isle of Man we have noticed an increase in this type of complaint since we started orthophosphate dosing to combat plumbosolvency (the dissolving of lead from lead communication water pipes into the water supply). It could be possible the orthophosphate is being used as a food source for these particular bacteria.
Often the pinkish film appears during and after new construction or activities such as the replacement of bathroom fittings. The dirt and dust stirred up from the work probably contains Serratia bacteria. Once airborne the bacteria seek moist environments to proliferate.
Some people have even noticed the pink residue in their pet’s water bowl, which causes no apparent harm and be easily cleaned away. Others have indicated that the bacteria is more apparent during a time of the year when the windows are open for the majority of the day. These airborne bacteria can come from any number of naturally occurring sources and the condition may be further aggravated if customers remove the chlorine from their water by way of an activated carbon filter.
What to Do
The best solution to keep the surfaces free from the bacterial film is continual cleaning. A chlorinous compound is best, but use care with abrasives to avoid scratching the fittings which would then make them even more susceptible to bacteria. Chlorine bleach can be periodically stirred into the toilet cistern and flushed into the bowl itself. A proprietary toilet block placed in the cistern that contains a disinfectant can also be used. The porous walls of a toilet cistern can harbour many opportunistic organisms. Cleaning and flushing with chlorine will not necessarily eliminate the problem but will help to control the pink bacteria. Keep bathtubs and sinks wiped down and dry to avoid this problem.
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