We head to the shower to keep ourselves clean. But did you ever think that perhaps our showers themselves aren’t so clean after all? Recently, scientists have discovered that there are bacteria in shower heads that could possibly make you and your loved ones quite sick.
Scientists find lots of bacteria in shower heads
Most of us make it a point to clean our bathrooms often. But one area that is often neglected is the shower head. Left uncleaned, bacteria in shower heads can grow and create slimy scum, also called biofilms. The growth of this is triggered by the warmth and moistness in the shower area, which makes a perfect little environment for bacteria to thrive.
Scientists were curious as to which microorganisms grew the most in this scum. Hence, researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder took biofilm specimens from 656 households in America and Europe.
They results of the new study showed that there were a lot of bacteria in shower heads. Although most of them were harmless, researchers did stumble upon slight amounts of nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) in American showerheads.
According to the study authors, NTM is especially common in certain parts of America, which also have an above-average number of cases of NTM lung disease. Scientists now think that shower heads can spread the disease.
The water you use for showering is packed with bacteria in shower heads. | Image Source: Stock Photo
Nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM): A short guide
The American Lung Association says that there a variety of symptoms on NTM lung infection, including:
- coughing blood out,
- difficulty breathing,
- coughs that don’t stop for a long time
- and fever.
Oddly though, not all people become ill with the disease after getting NTM. Medical professionals also aren’t certain why certain people actually fall ill.
However, we do know people already having lung issues, senior citizens and people whose immune systems aren’t strong can risk getting the disease. Usually, doctors will prescribe antibiotics for treatment, says WebMD.
Interestingly, scientists note that NTM are usually found in metal showerheads and American houses using municipal water, like in Singapore.
That makes sense, since Mycobacteria are resistant to chlorination, which is used to treat municipal water. Once the chlorine sterilizes water of other bacteria, the Mycobacteria have more space to thrive.
Noah Fierer, the study’s co-author, stated that scientists need to do additional research to find out if treating water could put us at risk.
“There is a fascinating microbial world thriving in your showerhead and you can be exposed every time you shower,” says Fierer. “Most of those microbes are harmless, but a few are not, and this kind of research is helping us understand how our own actions-from the kinds of water treatment systems we use to the materials in our plumbing-can change the makeup of those microbial communities.”
Tips to get rid of bacteria in shower heads
Of course, that doesn’t mean you should completely avoid showering at all. Instead, consider cleaning your showerhead regularly.
Here are three simple, affordable and easy methods you can use to clear the bacteria in showerheads:
1. Use Vinegar, which is effective against most mycobacteria
Clean the bacteria in shower heads with some vinegar, mums! | Image Source: Stock Photo
- Take a plastic bag – a freezer or storage bag works.
- Pour vinegar into the plastic bag so that it’s half full (vinegar will overflow if you pour it to the brim).
- Wrap the bag all around the shower head. Secure it tightly using a rubber band.
- Leave the shower head for 60 minutes, then take off the bag.
- Turn on the water and cleanse out the vinegar and grime inside the shower head. Once done, you can also polish it to make the showerhead squeaky clean!
2. Clean it with Coke
- Take off the shower head from its arm or wall.
- Fill up a bowl with some Coke, then place the shower head into it.
- Next, rub the shower head with a scrub – you should see the dirt and grime flaking off the shower head or its nozzles.
- If nothing came out, repeat the dipping and scrubbing process until you are pleased with how clean it is.
- Rub off the showerhead, then turn the water on and rinse the showerhead. That way, you can ensure that it works how you like it, while also removing any traces of coke, too.
- Lastly, dry the shower and polish. Return it to the shower arm or wall and it’s ready for your next shower!
3. Clean it with baking powder
- Add water to a bowl of baking soda, ensuring that it becomes a smooth paste. If there’s too much water, put in more baking soda. A powdery mixture means more water is needed.
- Take the baking soda paste and massage the shower head thoroughly with it – particularly the nozzles.
- Leave your showerhead for 30 minutes. Then, turn on the water and rinse it through.
- Don’t forget to fasten it back onto the shower arm or wall and see if it actually works as normal!
These tips should leave you with unclogged and bacteria-free showerheads.
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