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Think you're washing your towels often enough? Think again.

Think you're washing your towels often enough? Think again.
Towels drying in the sun / Kypros / Moment / Getty Images

Depending on the number of people in your household, it might sometimes be tough keeping track of how often you're washing your towels. And let’s be honest — most of us probably don’t wash our household linens quite as often as the experts recommend.

The common excuse I hear is that since you’ve just taken a shower, bath towels should still be clean after just a couples of uses. After all, isn’t the entire point of taking a shower to clean yourself?

What many people don’t realize however, is your bath towel is hiding a dirty little secret. You see, when you dry yourself, you’re transferring dead skin cells, and this can become a breeding ground for bacteria.

Don’t believe me, just ask any expert.

Dr Lisa Ackerley, aka The Hygiene Doctor, says the frequency of washing depends on the person using the bath towel. “I’m afraid there isn’t a hard and fast rule,” she says. “If someone is very good at cleaning themselves and leaves the towel looking clean, they could probably get away with several uses. But if they are not very good and the towel looks dirty afterwards, they might want to wash it after every use.”

People should never share bath towels, Dr Ackerley told the Huffington Post, especially if they have a gastrointestinal infection as this can spread the illness. Likewise, people who are sick should wash their towels more frequently – possibly even daily.

The bottom line is, that when you dry your hands with a kitchen towel or rub yourself down after a shower, the towel is no longer dry. And yes, the towel will dry over time but in the meantime, it will remain damp and a damp environment is the perfect breeding ground for microbes to grow and reproduce. And a few of the different types of microbes you might find in a common bath towel include yeast, mold, and E. coli. These tiny colonies are invisible to the naked eye, but they’re there all the same.

Here are a few general rules you might want to consider:

  • How often you wash towels also depends on how they're dried after usage. If towels land on the floor, the lack of air circulation will cause bacteria to grow quickly.
  • To prolong the life of your towel, be sure to place damp towels on a towel rack.
  • It’s also recommended that you open a window or turn on the fan to reduce moisture in the room.
  • Towels kept in a bathroom that’s usually damp and don’t dry fully should be washed after one use.
  • If you have eczema or sensitive skin, wash all your towels after one use to prevent further irritation.
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