Easily forgotten job
Most people are probably not throwing their dish towels in the washing machine quite often enough. It’s easy to forget them, and after they’ve air-dried, they look ready for another use. But too often, we keep using them long after they’ve gotten dirty, and all we’re really doing is spreading bacteria and germs on everything they touch.
“Believe it or not, dish towels can be one of the dirtiest items in your home. From cleaning up spills to wiping off counter tops, they often get used more than they’re cleaned,” said Bailey Carson, head of cleaning at Handy. A study by the American Society of Microbiology showed that half of kitchen towels tested contained some sort of bacterial growth, such as E. coli or staph.
Bacteria breeding ground
Because dish towels are so absorbent, they are the perfect home for bacteria, mildew and even mould. Your damp, warm towel is also the ideal breeding ground for that bacteria. That smell you associate with your dish towels and washcloths? Yup. That’s mould and mildew. If your towels or cloths smell, it’s time for a wash in very hot water. If they come out of the dryer still smelling less than pleasant? It’s time to get a new set.
Stopping the spread
But exactly how often DO you need to wash your dish towels to avoid spreading germs? That answer is: It depends. It depends on what exactly you’re using your dish towels for. Are they just for drying your hands after washing them, with maybe a quick use to mop up some spilled water or a food stain on the front of your cupboards?
In that case, Julie Finch-Scally, founder of The Duster Dollies, says that it’s all right to reuse that type of towel for three to four days. If you’re using your dish towels to wipe up anything other than your wet hands, they’re getting more use than a towel you use after you shower, and you’ll have to wash them more often than the average amount of time you should wait between washing your bath towels.