Mother and Child Washing Hands

Biofilm is The Black Slime Found in Your Drains: Safeguard Your Family

Every homeowner will tell you they have had their fair share of clogged drains over the years, especially those in older homes. Those with small children have had everything from too much toilet paper to small toys that have made their way into our plumbing system. But another culprit finds its way into drains, and that’s biofilm. Most of us don’t know what it is; we just know it causes our drains to move slowly, most notably our bathroom drains. Bathrooms with heavy traffic are the most at risk. For example, bathrooms, often referred to as Jack and Jill bathrooms, experience biofilm in their drains more than most, particularly those families with teenagers and young adults.

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What is Biofilm and How Can it Affect My Plumbing System

Biofilm is the black slime commonly found in our bathroom drains. It is essentially an aggregation of one or more bacterial species and their byproducts. Despite its often unpleasant appearance and odor, biofilm serves as an intriguing ecological phenomenon. Moreover, it’s crucial to recognize that biofilm formation in our plumbing systems requires a proactive approach to removal. While various types of biofilms exist, those obstructing drains are particularly noteworthy. We can 

alleviate unpleasant odors and maintain our plumbing systems by addressing biofilm quickly. Furthermore, proactive management of drain biofilms helps safeguard against potential health concerns associated with waterborne pathogens, promoting a healthier environment for all.

Biofilm occurs when various microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, yeasts, viruses, algae, and protists, come together, adhere to surfaces, and thrive. These surfaces vary widely, from water distribution systems and rocks to unbrushed teeth. What’s truly remarkable is that biofilms defend themselves with a protective, sticky coating called extracellular polymeric substances, showcasing nature’s incredible adaptability and resilience.

How Do Biofilms Grow in Our Plumbing System

Drain lines and plumbing systems offer an ideal setting for biofilm development. The damp conditions within our pipes create a nutrient-rich environment, promoting biofilm growth. This phenomenon isn’t limited to household plumbing; all water distribution channels, including pipes, are susceptible to biofilm formation. In residential settings, substances such as raw meat, juices, vegetable remnants, and fats can exacerbate biofilm accumulation in our kitchens.

In recent years, there has been a notable increase in the transmission of nosocomial pathogens facilitated by biofilms in water distribution systems. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 15% of hospital patients contract infections attributed to these pathogens. Various factors, such as water splashing from sinks, contribute to the distribution of these infections, highlighting the importance of addressing biofilm-related issues in your home.

Black Slime Causes Sluggish Drains/ Biofilm

Biofilms Will Grow in Our Drains, Causing Them to Drain Slowly

In our bathrooms, biofilms take on a whole new meaning. They grow quickly from bathroom products we use daily, such as toothpaste, hair gels, shaving cream, and soap. These products mix with human products like phlegm, skin cells, and hair. Hair is the main factor binding these products, and it eventually causes our slow-moving drains. The bathroom and human products stick to the walls of our drain pipes in both our bathroom sinks and showers. The hair will gather, wreaking havoc in the drain, eventually creating a hairball filled with the bacteria biofilm. 

Drain Maintenance

The Bacteria is Not Limited to Bathrooms

Biofilm formation in our plumbing systems is not limited to our bathrooms. You can find it in your kitchens, laundry rooms, and other areas of our plumbing system. To ensure water quality, we need a take-charge approach to its removal, particularly in plumbing. While various types of biofilms exist, those obstructing drains are particularly noteworthy. We can mitigate unpleasant odors and maintain our plumbing systems by addressing biofilm effectively. Furthermore, proactive management of drain biofilms helps safeguard against potential health concerns associated with waterborne pathogens, promoting a healthier environment for all.

Prioritize Treatment, Regularly Disinfecting Sinks and Surfaces Promptly

Researchers have made significant strides in understanding biofilm as an important factor in water quality. While biofilm has been associated with health concerns such as Salmonella, Shigella, E. Coli, Campylobacter, and Yersinia, it’s essential to recognize the positive steps we can take to address these issues.

Drains, particularly within water systems, have been identified as hotspots for bacterial growth. However, this knowledge empowers us to proactively safeguard our health. By prioritizing water treatment, regularly disinfecting sink surfaces, and promptly addressing any plumbing issues that arise, homeowners can effectively mitigate potential risks and ensure the safety of their water supply.

Some Positive Steps We Can Take to Address This Issue. 

Tackling the challenge of biofilm in water systems, particularly within drains and pipes, presents an opportunity for innovation and improvement. While traditional cleaning methods involving hot water and detergents may seem insufficient, there are positive steps we can take to address this issue. 

Many homeowners may believe they are effectively cleaning their drains with hot water and detergents, but the reality is that biofilm’s resilient protective layer can withstand these efforts. However, recognizing this resilience empowers us to explore alternative solutions and implement strategies that effectively target and eliminate biofilm, ensuring cleaner and healthier water systems for all.

How to Get Rid of Biofilm in Our Bathroom

Now that we’ve shed some light on the black slime in our drains. Let’s tell you how to get rid of the nasty stuff. There are two drains in your bathroom that require attention: your shower/bathtub drain and your sink drain. First, let’s look at the worst scenario and address a slow-moving or clogged bathroom drain. To start, you’ll need to remove the stopper from your sink. For those who do not know how to remove a sink stopper, click this link for an amazing tutorial by Home Depot on how to remove a sink stopper. 

Sink and Shower Brush to remove Biofilm

There are Cleaners Designed Specifically for Cleaning Biofilm

Once you remove the sink stopper, you’ll notice the biofilm covering it. Clean it and let it sit in bleach while addressing the drain pipe. Next, put a metal coat hanger with a hook at the end or a plastic drain snake down the drain. In most cases, you’ll hook a hairball full of biofilm. You’ll find that the clog is closer to the top of the drain than you thought. Now it’s time to clean the drainpipe itself. For many who want to use baking soda and vinegar, please don’t! There are cleaners designed specifically for cleaning biofilm from drains. Additionally, many of those products will work as maintenance. 

  1. Bioda Professional Strength, Enzyme Drain Cleaner: A Powerful Solution for Unclogging Drains and Removing Buildup and Biofilm
  2. Green Gobbler Enzyme Drain Cleaner | Controls Foul Odors & Breaks Down Grease, Paper, Biofilm Fat & Oil in Sewer Lines
  3. Biokleen Bac-Out Enzymatic Drain Cleaner – 32 Ounce (2 Pack) – Enzyme Prevents Clogs, Eco-Friendly, Live Enzyme-Producing Cultures and Plant Extracts

These are just a few products that will do your drain justice. However, there are many more that have fantastic reviews. You may even have a product right under your sink. Another recommendation is to purchase a drain brush; they cost less than ten dollars and work wonders on your drains. 

Green Gobbler

Shower Drains Will Have a Large Hairball Toward The Top of The Drain

Shower drains work similarly; you must remove the shower drain cover first. In most instances, you’ll find a large ball of hair toward the top of the drain; fish it out. If the problem is further down your drain, you may need a plumber snake to clear the clog. In the worst-case scenario, you’ll need to call a plumbing professional. To clean your drains, remember to purchase a drain pipe cleaning brush with a brush for 1 1/2″ pipe for the sink and 2″ brush for the shower. 

Say Goodbye to Biofilm For Good!

One often overlooked component in many homes is the standpipe that drains the washing machine, often remembered only when the unpleasant smell of sewage emerges. But fear not! Your standpipe deserves some attention, too. By showing it a little tender loving care, you can prevent the buildup of dirty wastewater and soap scum, avoiding any potential stinky situations. The solution is simple: implement a regular cleaning routine using a trusted branded cleaner, followed by a couple of kettles of hot water. By keeping your standpipe clean, you’ll bid farewell to any lingering sewage odors and welcome a fresh scent into your laundry room. Say goodbye to biofilm for good!

Brandon and Family, Licensed plumbing contractor

Family Owned & Operated

My name is Brandon Mageno. I'm the founder, President, and CEO of Big B's Plumbing Company. As the founder, I never thought about being average or good. My passion for being the best plumbing company in Southern California has always been the same. Providing plumbing services to this great county is simply in my DNA. Nothing makes me happier than to see a satisfied customer. Learn More About Us

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