I have noticed a biological red growth in my home. It occurs in the
showerhead, vegetable sprayer head, and the coffee maker interior. I
am attempting to identify it, but need some suggestions. I have not
collected any samples yet, but plan to view the specimens under
magnification using my microscope. I already spoke to the city water
engineer who knows about existing pathogens that live in our water
supply and is aware of the red biological growth but could not
identify it. He believes it is a bacteria, I would not rule out a
fungus. The red growth disappears when cleaned with household bleach,
but returns in 2-3 weeks. Any ideas?
no "ideas", but rather, familiarity :-) i used to get this (or what sounds
like this, anyway) in the bathroom at our old house. here (different city,
different water supply) i still see it build up to some degree, but far
less - which really only tells me it is present here in the water supply (or
somewhere) but in a lesser degree. i used to get it most around the taps,
where water was inclined to splash & then sit there, & in the corners of the
shower/bath arrangement (again where water would tend to sit). it would wipe
off easily without bleach, however, if it was still wet. if the water dried
out it would still be sitting there, looking more red, though (i used to
scrub it off with a scourer, that worked). i must say i suspected it was
more fungal than anything, but then, i suppose i never really thought about
it all that much! i've never noticed it in anyone else's house, but that
probably doesn't mean much (because i didn't go looking, either).
i'd be concerned about it lurking in the coffee maker!! (albeit not
concerned about taps & heads etc). might it be something associated with
older pipes & plumbing, perhaps, if this is the case at your house? my old
house was 100 years old (& some of the plumbing was, too, gah). this one is
only about 10 years, perhaps. here, it never looks any worse than pink. in
fact i'd probably not notice it at all except that i've seen it before much
worse iyswim. the worst it gets here is within the plughole, on those bits
in the plughole to block solids, where water tends to sit.
so there you are - no doubt this post is completely useless to you but for
the fact it's apparently a world-wide phenomenon!! water supplies are always
full of dodgy pathogens to some degree, just in numbers well short of
creating problems as a general rule. have you given any thought to the idea
it might be lurking in greatest quantities inside your plumbing? is your
house old? if you find out what it is, i'd be interested to know!!
It's the famous bacterium Serratia marcescens. It requires almost
nothing to live. Because of the red color, it's an old favorite for
experiments. It was thought to be harmless until Operation Sea Spray,
when the Army burst balloons of it over San Francisco. That caused
epidemics of pneumonia and urinary tract infections.
[Was Operation Ocean Spray the one where they burst balloons of
cranberries to clear up those urinary tract infections?]
These bacteria usually arrive by air. Remodeling or opening windows can
get things started. They tend to resist antibiotics because of
R-factors on plasmids.
They won't grow in chlorinated water but may appear after a homeowner
installs a charcoal filter to get rid of chlorine. A dilute mixture of
bleach in water, such as 1 tablespoon per gallon, will kill it.
If a surface has been scratched from scrubbing, that will encourage
growth and make it hard to clean.
Lloyd said 1 tablespoon per gallon. Here's a link that says that
amounts to 200 ppm, the maximum concentration allowed under federal law
for sanitizing food-processing equipment.
When contractors use bleach to remove the biofilm from inside pipes,
they use special pumps to make the concentration even more dilute.
Swimming pools are typically 3 ppm. Drinking water may be less than 1
1:10 bleach:water ( About 5,000 ppm) is sometimes recommended when
there's a lot of organic matter, but without a buffer the bleaching
action may be very slow.
Lloyd should have recommended cleaning with borax and water. Borax is
bacteriostatic. If a trace is left behind, that will inhibit microbes.
I had the same problem in my shower. I call the color orange, but I guess
it could be red. After reading some posts here, I mixed-up a solution that
I spray the shower with every day. I put two cups of bleach in a one gallon
jug, add two tablespoons of borax laundry powder (Twenty Mule Team), and a
tablespoon of liquid dishwasher rinse aid and top the jug off with tap
water. The mixture goes into a a misting bottle. I cleaned the shower very
well and disinfected it with a 1:10 bleach solution to get rid of the
bacteria that seems to form a biofilm. Afterwords, I used the solution each
day. The problem has not returned.
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