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Yikes—You're Probably Not Washing Your Towels Often Enough, According to a Microbiologist

Jun 25, 2023

Laundry day is not most people's favorite part of the week. The washing, drying, folding and putting things back in place is a whole ordeal, and some individuals try to put it off as long as possible. Unfortunately, this means that some dirtier-than-you-realize items—like towels—are not being washed and replaced often enough.

"Regarding towels, they can harbor a surprising amount of bacteria," says Shaun Veran, microbiologist and co-founder of OURA. "Most people are definitely not washing their towels as frequently as they should be." Fortunately, he shares exactly how often you should wash your towels and why they need to be replaced more often than you'd think.

Bath towels, hand towels, kitchen towels—you'll likely want to swap them all out after reading this.

Scenes from the AVP Gold Series Atlanta Open on Aug. 4, 2023. (Photos: Jordan Godfree) Click for more.PHOTOS: AVP Gold Series Atlanta Open

Related: You're Probably Not Washing Your Pillows the Right Way, According to a Microbiologist

"Most bath towels, 90 percent, have fecal bacteria [contamination]," Veran explains. "It is recommended to wash your towel after just two to three uses."


Even if you're adamant about closing the lid to your toilet before flushing, or maybe even have a separate area of your bathroom for your toilet, your bath towels still need to be replaced after every two to three uses. After all, "Towels are stored in dark, humid bathrooms which makes them the perfect environment for bacteria to grow," Veran says.

Another tip?

"They should be dried thoroughly after each use," Veran explains. "A lot of people make the mistake of not drying their towels properly, which can lead to the growth of mold and bacteria."

"Have you ever picked up a clean bath towel that smelled musty once you started to use it?" Veran asks. "That’s all the bacterial build-up on the towel you are smelling. If towels have a musty smell, this is a sign of bacterial or fungal overgrowth."

Related: This Is How Often You Should Really Wash Your Sheets, According to Germ Experts

"Kitchen towels are frequently used for multiple purposes such as drying hands, wiping utensils and surfaces, which makes them susceptible to bacterial contamination and cross-contamination within the kitchen," says Veran. "Nearly half of the multiuse kitchen towels harbor bacteria that cause food poisoning and other foodborne illnesses after one month of use without washing."

So, how often should towels be swapped out in the kitchen?

Veran explains: "It's best to use kitchen towels for single purposes and replace them every week. If they are coming into contact with any kind of meat product (wiping up meat juices off the counter, for example), they should be replaced after each use."

Related: While Cleaning, Don’t Forget This Surprising Trouble-Spot (It’s Actually the Germiest Thing in Your Kitchen!)

"Hand towels are typically used multiple times a day, often by multiple household members, which can lead to a build-up of bacteria," Veran says. "These should be replaced every one to two days, or more often if someone in the house is ill."

Worried that the bacteria won't be fully removed? "Washing hand towels in warm or hot water with a good laundry detergent is usually enough to keep them clean," Veran explains.

Next: 25 Absolutely Essential Cleaning Gadgets on Amazon

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