That orange stuff in your shower? It’s not rust.

Have you ever looked around in your shower and noticed pink or orange stains?  These occur usually in the grout or, if you have a shower door, around the edges.  Sometimes they may show up where the shower wall meets the tub.  You may also see it around drains in sinks, the waterline in your toilet or even in your pet food and water bowls.  Did you think it was rust or just wonder what the heck it was?  I have an answer for you.

What you are seeing is a bacteria.  Specifically, it is Serratia marcescens ( sə′rāshēə mär′sesəns ).  Serratia are common inhabitants in the environment; they can be found in human and animal feces, dust, soil and surface waters.  They grow in almost any moist location where there is a food source.  Specifically these bacterium like to feed on fatty, oily substances such as soap residue in showers, feces residue in toilets and soap and food residue in pet bowls.   Although generally harmless to humans, in some cases it can cause urinary tract infections, wound infections and pneumonia in hospital patients.

Ok, here’s the bad news.  Once established, Serratia is almost impossible to get rid of completely.  It has been proven to be resistant to most types of medicines and antibacterials. 

You can, however, control it.  One way to do this is to clean your shower and toilets regularly.  In the shower area, use a squeegee to dry your shower doors, walls and floor as much as you can.  Serratia loves standing water and will grow well in it.  Using a squeegee on your shower walls and doors also wipes away soap residue which the bacteria feeds on.  You can remove the bacteria each time you clean; it wipes right off.   The other thing you can do is to use a cleanser containing chlorine bleach.  Bleach will temporarily kill the bacteria, but, as we mentioned before, it will be back.

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