With certain personal items, it’s quite obvious when it’s appropriate to swap them out and wash them. Socks? Every day, of course! Bed sheets? Weekly, you spend like 60 hours total in them, for Pete’s sake. Bath towel? Well, considering you’re squeaky clean (in theory) when you dry yourself off post-shower, you’re… probably good for a while, right?
Wrong, says NYU School of Medicine microbiologist Philip Tierno. As clean as you think your shower gets you, your bath towel is covered in bodily secretions, fungal spores, bits of dead skin — plus any other free floating oogies that are present in your bathroom. (Six-foot toilet plume, anyone?) Also, your towel is damp and warm: perfect conditions for trouble.
“Your cellular debris and other deposits from the air serve as food for the microbes, and the moisture supplies water at a neutral pH. […]
[If] you share your towel with others, you could potentially come into contact with organisms that your body isn’t used to dealing with – such as Staphylococcus aureus, Tierno said, ‘which may give rise to a boil, or a pimple, or an infection.’”
According to expert Tierno, the maximum number of times you should use your bath towel before washing it is three — and that’s only if you manage to completely dry it out between uses… Yeugh.
This fascinating tale makes me glad we live in a time when we can know what’s crawling around on us and on our bath towels, for the sake of both interest and cleanliness! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to throw everything I own into the washing machine. See you next week!