Dirty Towels Exposed as Breeding Grounds for Health Hazards

Towels are a daily necessity used for hand drying, bathing, and generally drawing moisture from our bodies. Based on the latter sentence alone, you may already know how towels can quickly become a breeding environment for icky germs and other harmful microorganisms.


How Dirty Is Your Towel?

An ongoing study featured in TIME Magazine revealed that 90% of bath towels contain traces of coliform bacteria, while 14% of them carry E coli. In most cases, exposure to these organisms can lead to an upset stomach, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Let’s dive deeper into how dirty towels can affect your health.


Dangers of Dirty Towels

Because towels absorb water and remain damp for hours, they become susceptible to the following:

  • Bacterial growth: Moisture, warmth, and organic matter provide an ideal sanctuary for bacteria to thrive.
  • Fungal infections: The longer a towel remains unwashed, the more prone it is to harbor fungi. According to CNN Health, damp and dirty towels can become breeding grounds for the candida species responsible for yeast infections, urinary tract infections, and oral thrush. Making matters worse, these fungal species can live on fabric for up to a month.
  • Exacerbated skin problems: Using dirty towels can aggravate skin conditions like face and body acne and eczema, as well as cause rashes to form, due to the transfer of bacteria and irritants onto the skin.
  • Respiratory issues: A poorly dried towel can become a propagation hub for mold and mildew, triggering allergies and respiratory problems like asthma when inhaled.
  • Cross-contamination: Sharing towels without thorough washing can lead to the transfer of pathogens between individuals, increasing the risk of infection. For example, you can get warts if you use the same towel as someone with an active HPV infection.
  • Body odor: Using clean, fresh towels are crucial for maintaining good personal hygiene and preventing unpleasant odors.


Best Practices for Towel Care

Here’s how to wash, dry, and maintain towels to prevent harmful microorganisms from spreading:

  • Regular washing: Establish a routine of washing towels at least once every three to four uses. Use hot water and a disinfectant detergent to eliminate bacteria effectively. If you’re using a washing machine, avoid overcrowding it to ensure thorough cleaning.
  • Proper drying: Allow your towels to dry completely between uses to prevent bacterial or fungal growth. Hang them in a well-ventilated area or use a dryer if necessary.
  • Have separate towels: Use different towels for individual purposes, such as for the face, hand, hair, or body.
  • Avoid sharing towels: Whether it’s with your spouse or pet, never share towels to avoid the risk of spreading microscopic germs and parasites. Dogs and cats, in particular, can have mites or fleas. Even if you wash their towels regularly, ensure to have separate drying cloths for you and your four-legged friends.
  • Towel replacement: Replace worn-down towels, especially those that show fraying or have an unpleasant odor. These fabrics are likely to carry more bacteria even after washing.


As we focus our attention on proper nutrition and regular exercise, many of us may be guilty of overlooking the seemingly harmless towels in our bathrooms. By learning about the potential health risks of dirty towels and following proper towel care practices, we can maintain good overall hygiene and safeguard our family members’ well-being.