By Lauren Katz, NP
Department of Family Practice
There’s no cleaner feeling than taking a warm, refreshing shower and reaching over for a fluffy bath towel. But wait – is the towel you’re using actually a germ magnet? If you’re waiting for your designated weekly laundry day to wash your towels, chances are that it probably is.
Bath towels are used against your already clean body, so they can’t get be that dirty, right? Think again. It is very common for a towel to have yeast, mold and E. coli growing on it. Since towels tend to be damp and moist after each use, they’re an ideal breeding ground for bacteria and germs. If your towel doesn’t pass the whiff test and has a musty odor to it, that’s a tell-tale sign of bacteria growing on your towel.
So, how often should we be washing our towels? The American Cleaning Institute suggests that bath towels should be washed after 3 to 5 uses and hung to dry between each use. However, it’s recommended to wash them more often if you use your towels after exercise or a physically demanding job and after each use if you’re sick or if your towel has bodily fluids on it (e.g., sweat and blood). In between washes, let your towel air dry fully, to minimize bacteria growth, by hanging it flat on a towel rod.
Not regularly washing your towels can lead to outbreaks of skin conditions and irritation, such as acne and eczema. Make sure you’re cleaning your towels often to avoid drying yourself with a bacteria-laced towel each time you get out of the shower.
Here are some tips on how to properly launder your towels to get them as clean as possible:
- Wash your bath towel after every three to five uses.
- To effectively kill bacteria growing on your towels, wash them in water that is at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit and dry your towels for 45 minutes to ensure that moisture is gone.
- Avoid using fabric softener – this makes them less absorbent and more likely to retain moisture, encouraging bacteria growth.
About Lauren Katz, NP -Administrative AP Chief in Primary Care
A graduate of the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Lauren enjoys educating patients and teaching them about disease prevention and processes. Lauren decided to become an advanced practitioner after working as a nurse for three years. “As an advanced practitioner I can have more responsibility with patients and continue to learn,” she explains. Lauren works with patients who are being treated at Saint Vincent...View profile View posts by this doctor
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That is great information… I have been looking for something like this for quite some time as to my husband has been dealing with a few of the same issues. I agree, it is usually us women that do the most research on health related issues. I am a stylist and find that I see quite a lot of men with the loss of hair issue that you speak of.
I use an outside clothes line for drying towels. Safe or not? Never had problems with towels dried in this manner.
I wash our towels after one use and add white vinegar to the wash as well.