If you've been seeing pink in your bathroom, it may be pink mold. This unsightly growth often occurs in showers and tubs. Surprisingly, despite the common name, pink mold is actually not mold at all, but rather, is an overgrowth of a common bacteria called Serratia marcescens. This airborne bacteria thrives in warm, damp places. Its colonies secrete a protein called prodigiosin, which gives the bacteria its distinctive pink hue, although the color can sometimes be more of an orange-pink or red.
You might wonder if pink mold can make you sick the way black mold can, but luckily, pink mold is generally not dangerous. However, it potentially can present a risk to people with compromised immune systems or recovering from major surgery. For most people, though, pink mold is a household cleaning issue, not a health risk.1
What is Pink Mold in the Bathroom?
You'll usually spot pink mold in your bathroom, as it grows best in warm, humid spots. Typically, you'll see it inside the toilet bowl, along the bottom of the tub or shower, or on the walls surrounding your tub. Along with the warmth and humidity, this bacteria requires a diet of fats and minerals, which it finds in soap residue from your bath soap and shampoo, mineral deposits from hard water, and most unappetizing of all, in traces of bodily waste that can remain in the shower or toilet.
When to Call a Professional
It's almost always a fairly simple task to remove pink mold on your own, although it can require some persistence and elbow grease. However, should your bathroom also have signs of black mold (Stachybotrys chartarum) growing along the walls, near the floors, or underneath the sink, then it's time to call a professional mold-remediation company. These professionals have the knowledge and equipment to safely deal with more serious mold growth.
Read on for methods to kill and prevent pink mold in your shower, tub, or toilet.
What You'll Need
Equipment / Tools
Nylon-bristle scrub brush
Mask (preferably N-95)
Dishwashing liquid or all-purpose cleaner
How to Remove Pink Mold
Mix a Cleaning Solution
In a small bowl, mix 1/2 cup of baking soda with 1 tablespoon of dishwashing liquid or an all-purpose cleaner. The paste will be runny. Depending on how much area you need to clean, you might need to make a double batch.
Put on Protective Gear
It is important to wear rubber gloves, protective eyewear, and a mask to protect yourself from exposure to the bacteria. If you have open sores, they should be covered as well.
Remove the Shower Curtain and Liner
Since the bacteria can grow on plastic and fabric surfaces, it is a good idea to clean the shower curtain and liner, even if you can't see any pink growth on the surfaces. Toss washable curtains and liners in the washing machine, and wash in warm to hot water with your regular laundry detergent.
Fabric curtains can be dried following the care label instructions, but plastic liners should never be placed in an automatic dryer. Hang the liner from an outdoor clothesline or drying rack instead.
Consider replacing plastic shower curtains and liners for bad pink mold problems.
Scrub Away the Bacteria
Dip a nylon-bristle scrub brush in the baking soda solution, and start scrubbing. Start at the highest point of the growth, and work your way down the surfaces. The baking soda provides a gentle abrasive to help loosen the bacteria from the surfaces.
Rinse the Area
Rinse away the baking soda and bacteria with a hand-held shower spray or by dipping a towel in water to wipe down the walls and hard surfaces.
Prepare the Disinfectant Solution
Since bacteria can be difficult to kill, the area will need to be treated with a disinfectant solution to be sure the bacteria is dead. In a spray bottle, mix a 50:50 solution of warm water and chlorine bleach.
Disinfect the Infested Area, Wait, and Scrub Again
Spray the freshly cleaned area liberally with the bleach and water solution. Allow the solution to work for 10 to 15 minutes. This length of exposure should kill any lingering bacteria and remove any stains that remain on the surfaces. Use a clean scrub brush to go over the surfaces one more time.
Rinse and Dry the Surfaces
Rinse the surfaces well to remove the bleach solution. Dry with a squeegee or towels to remove moisture and prevent streaks.
Hang the Shower Curtain
Hang the freshly washed and dried shower curtain and liner.
Tips to Prevent the Growth of Pink Mold
Encourage hand-washing, especially after using the bathroom, to prevent the transfer of Serratia marcescens bacteria to other surfaces.
Keep surfaces dry. Since pink mold needs moisture to thrive and spread, take the time to dry the shower walls after each use. A squeegee can do the job in just seconds, or you can use a towel.
Close and straighten shower curtains so they will dry more quickly. Wash the curtains and liners at least monthly.
Clean away soap scum at least weekly. Soap scum contains body oil that serves as food for mold and bacterial growth.
Wipe away spills and drops of liquid soap, shampoo, and conditioner from the walls and floor of the shower or tub after each use.
Reduce the humidity level in your home by turning on exhaust fans, using dehumidifiers, and repairing leaky plumbing.