You pop open your toilet lid and find a circular pink stain inside. What is it? If it is truly pink and not red, most likely it is a bacteria that creates a pink dye as it grows. This is most common in bowls that are not cleaned regularly or not used regularly, so the water is stagnant for a period of time. Red is normally rust. But, if you have a pink stain, read on to learn what to do.

The Bacteria Serratia Marcescens

Serratia marcescens is a bacteria that is normally found in the air and may choose to make a home in your toilet, where it quickly multiplies and creates a pink dye. You might also find it in the tank or growing on the edges of a usually-wet shower curtain. The bacteria feed on soap residue (although soap is still helpful to remove it) and other things found in trace amounts in your water.

Serratia marcescens is not usually harmful, but it is also not something you want to let get out of control. It does sometimes cause urinary tract infections, pneumonia and other infections, although you would need to be exposed to enough of the bacteria to get any of these conditions.

How to Avoid the Pink Ring

The good news is that the pink ring has nothing to do with the quality of your water. All you need to do to get rid of it is use bowl cleaner and a gentle scrub brush. It can help to flush several times and circulate the water. To prevent re-growth, clean and flush the bowl more often.

Don’t make the mistake of going nuclear on your toilet bowl and using a scrub brush that is too intense and strips down the ceramic. This only creates grooves for this and other bacteria strains to live in. You should always use a gentle option for your toilet bowl.

If you have this bacteria growing on other surfaces, like the edge of your shower curtain or your bathroom counters, one good remedy is to clean the surface like normal but then dry it off and make sure that it stays dry.

Is it Food Dye, Vomit, or Something Else?

While most of the time, when you’re looking at a pink ring in the toilet, it is bacteria, there are other possibilities. If you ate something pink, disposed of something with pink food dye in the toilet (please don’t, you might be causing a clog) or poured something else pink into the toilet, that’s likely your cause. If you’re drawing a blank, ask the kids or your pet!

What About Blood?

We’re no doctors, but if your toilet looks like it was splashed with a pink liquid, there is a possibility it’s from your urine. Blood is usually red, but it can be pink. Or, eating other foods might have dyed your urine pink. That includes beets, rhubarb and blueberries. If you’re concerned, you should see a doctor.