Red algae & shower stalls

Written by krista o'connor
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Red algae & shower stalls
Bacteria can thrive on soap residue in the bathroom. (Bathroom image by Nikolay Okhitin from

Red algae, or Rhodophyta is generally associated with the marine environment and not as the slimy red-pink stuff in the shower. A bacterium known as Serratia marcescens is the more likely culprit.

Conditions for Growth

S. marcescens thrives in a moist and humid environment and eats the residue of soap and shampoo. It is an airborne pathogen, so it can initially arrive through open windows during the warmer months and settle on the surfaces of showers, kitchen sinks and even the pet water dish if not washed regularly.


Total eradication of the bacteria is not easily done and if it is built up to any degree, it can take a little work to scrub it off with a cleaning agent containing bleach or chlorine. If it has settled deep into the grout, the grout may have to be replaced.


Consistent weekly cleaning using any household cleanser with bleach is recommended to keep S. marcescens under control. If a milder solution is desired, vinegar will do the job just as well.

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