You’re Doing It Wrong: How Often Should You Wash Your Towels?
With a major drought in California, and people scrambling to conserve water, a lot of us take shortcuts when it comes to laundry day. How many times per week do you wash your towels? The answer is: probably not enough. Even in a properly ventilated bathroom, towels often don’t get the chance to dry completely. Imagine all of the skin cells that are festering on your towel as you hang it up, day after day. Once you wipe your body down after getting out of the shower, experts recommend washing your towels at least once a week to remove the bacteria that feasts on your dead skin cells.
According to expert Elizabeth Scott, Ph.D, the codirector of the Simmons College Center for Hygiene and Health, if you have a wound on your body, you are quite likely infecting that wound with the bacteria on the towel. She suggests washing your bath towel even more often if you are sharing it with another person. That towel should hit the laundry sack every day, and fresh towels should be used. A washcloth is a damp haven for bacteria, and those should also get washed after one use.
Guests in your home should always have fresh towels. It is an act of being hospitable to your friends and family, to offer them a clean towel. Megan Murphy of Good Housekeeping also posits that hand towels should be changed once a day, or every two days, as they aren’t left to dry completely and are used by hands that aren’t always clean. This rule should also be extended to the guests in your home. The best way to keep your towels sparking clean and free from contaminants is to toss them into warm water in your washing machine with detergent. Low heat is sufficient to dry your towels and keep them fluffy, thrown in with a nice fabric softener to keep them plush.
Kitchen towels are another breeding ground that you should be aware of. A 2014 University of Arizona study found that 89 percent of kitchen rags contained Colioform bacteria and a staggering 25 percent were found to be positive when tested for E. coli. Kelly Reynolds of the University of Arizona suggests that filing your sink with two teaspoons of bleach and hot water will do the trick on your nasty kitchen towels, and they then can hit the wash cycle in your machine. The next time you hang your used towel up on the rack, remember to launder it often to avoid potential health issues, and keep your family safe and clean!