How to get rid of pink stains in your toilet

| by Howard Esbin
How to get rid of pink stains in your toilet

Customers have asked us why there is a pink ring in their toilet bowl or evidence of the pink discoloration elsewhere and what can they do to get rid of it. Often they are concerned that something must be in the water which is not the case and nothing to fear. However, the pink ring that develops at the water line in the toilet, around drains, in the tub/shower area, in bathroom drinking cups, and even dog bowls is actually caused by airborne bacteria known as Serratia marcescens. The airborne bacteria thrive in moist environments, which is why it is commonly found in bathrooms.

Serratia marcescens survives when any water sits for a period of time in the open air. This is why this issue is very common.

There are several things you can do to prevent the pink stains from developing. Drying wet surfaces after use will prevent the bacteria from growing.

For toilets, we have found over the years from manufacturers, our own personal experience and feedback from many customers that there is a way that takes less than a minute to make this “job” easy. Simply get a good toilet bowl cleaner and squirt around the bowl from the rim of the toilet and leave it. Upon your return, using a soft brush, apply light pressure against the bowl surface, swish the water around the bowl and flush. Do this before the reappearance of the discoloration and stay ahead of any reappearance. Serratia Marcescens cannot be completely killed and removed, but routine maintenance can keep the bacteria from reappearing, increasing or becoming a more stubborn issue. Remember to flush any guest or infrequently used toilets on a daily basis to avoid setting a stain.

For harder to remove stains you can use regular household bleach and a soft bristle cleaning brush to gently scrub the affected area.  An old toothbrush or nail brush works great.

Avoid being too aggressive with cleaning solutions or abrasive methods – please exercise caution. Others who recommend the use of stainless steel or wool pads or even pumice stones have given you information contrary to manufacturer warranties. These items will scratch and remove the protective coating, sealant or finish on the toilet which ironically makes them more susceptible to staining, mold or mildew, bacteria growth and mineral deposit rings. Chlorine tablets or any toilet tank cleaners are not recommended. Check with the toilet bowl manufacturer for more information and warranty.

Shower curtains and liners – wash them in hot water with a little bleach.  For patterned shower curtains, use color-safe bleach.

Bathtubs, sinks, drains, faucets, showerheads and other surfaces – if you can keep them wiped down and dry, the formation of pink residue may be avoided. Use similar cleaning methods as you would to clean the toilet. Do not be aggressive and if you have any special finishes consult with the manufacturer.

Natural surfaces (granite, marble, travertine, etc.), tile and grout can be porous and require a proper sealant and yet aggressive or incorrect cleaning will remove sealant over time. A good and properly applied sealant on marble, travertine, granite and other surfaces, tile and grout will prevent or inhibit any issues. Water should bead up or wipe up easy and not soak in. Resealing should be done as needed or on a schedule based on the material or surface to be sealed depending on manufacturer recommendations and your local conditions and usage.

Again, as with other items, if you can keep surfaces wiped down and dry, the formation of pink residue may be avoided. Use similar cleaning methods as you would to clean the toilet. Do not be aggressive and if you have any special finishes consult with the manufacturer.

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Topics: Sinks & Toilets, Water Filtration & Water Quality, Water Quality

Companies: Environmental Water Systems


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