Has it been a while since you’ve cleaned your sinks and showers? You could be putting yourself at risk of biofilm. Biofilm is the sticky goo that turns up on your plumbing fixtures and other moist places in your home. The slimy ring around the end of your faucet? Biofilm. The ooze that comes up when you clear a hairball from your shower drain? Biofilm.

Hazardous to Your Health

But what is biofilm? It’s a collection of one or more species of bacteria and their waste. Not only is it unsightly, smelly and disgusting to the touch, but it can also be hazardous to your health as well. While it’s uncommon for a person to contract a serious illness from the plumbing, it’s not impossible —, especially in the kitchen. Among the ailments that biofilms have been associated with are ear infections, Listeria, Salmonella, E. coli, MRSA and Legionnaire’s disease.

You’re at greater risk in the kitchen than the bathroom because you’re handling disease vectors like raw chicken, which can disperse bacteria that grow and prosper in your fixtures. As explained by the University of Arizona College of Public Health microbiologist Kelly Reynolds to Prevention.com regarding biofilm buildup in the metal aeration screen on your kitchen sink: "Eventually, that biofilm may even be big enough to break off and get onto your food or dishes."

Biofilms aren’t limited to your plumbing, either. They can pop up on counters, cutting boards, dish towels and any other places that get wet and aren’t dried and disinfected properly. That’s why it’s important to practice good hygiene in your bathroom, kitchen, laundry room and anywhere else you regularly interact with water.

How Do I Prevent Biofilm?

The best way to avoid biofilms is to clean them manually. Use a damp cloth and your favorite cleaning solution to wipe off any mildew or stains as soon as they appear. An old toothbrush is handy for edges and difficult to reach spots. Make sure you research your specific faucet type so you don’t accidently use a cleaner that damages the finish.

Other tips:

  • Baking soda is useful for scrubbing off mineral deposits from your fixtures.
  • Run dental floss between the cracks and under faucet handles to scrape away the goo.
  • It’s helpful to remove the sink aeration screen and soak it in bleach periodically.
  • Clean your kitchen thoroughly after cooking, especially if you’ve been handling raw meat or eggs
  • Clogged drains are a notorious problem because they can belch up water and bacteria that have been harbored deep in your pipes, inaccessible to your cleaning efforts. Make sure to disinfect any surfaces that come in contact with water after a plumbing backup.

Contact your local Benjamin Franklin® at (800) 259-7705 for help with any plumbing issue or question.