Updated: Jun 19
In terms of hygiene, as long as towels are being routinely cleaned and maintained appropriately you can increase the longevity of the towel. Learning how to wash towels can reduce the need to replace them too soon. Read more...
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How often should you replace bathroom towels? Why?
The time to replace bathroom towels is usually more dependent on when they start to show signs of wear. Once the textile starts to break down there is a loss of absorbency making it functionally less effective at drying. This tends to be a personal decision. In terms of hygiene, as long as the towels are being routinely cleaned the duration of time you hold onto the towel shouldn’t impact its ability to hold onto bacteria. Actually, there is a study that shows that the more absorbent a towel, the more likely it is that it holds onto Staphylococcus. With this in mind, the absorbency of a towel goes down over the years as the textile wears. This will probably make it less likely to hold onto bacteria.
How often you should wash bathroom towels? Why?
This is a common question and the real answer is it depends.
For most otherwise healthy people, a weekly wash for bath towels and a twice weekly wash for hand towels should be perfectly ok.
Why do towels need to be washed in the first place?
That being said, towels are considered a ‘fomite’. Fomites are objects or surfaces that can harbor bacteria, yeast, viruses, and fungus and transmit them to others. There are very few studies on actually testing towels directly. However, it has been shown that MRSA (a resistant form of staphylococcus) can spread amongst family members, viruses such as Molluscum and Herpes, and fungus and yeast can be found on towels. If towels stay damp and are not allowed to air dry (think of those times you toss the towel on a chair or counter and don’t take the take time to spread it out on a towel rod to let it dry) then these microorganisms can flourish.
Can these microorganisms affect our skin?
If you have a tendency towards eczema or sensitive skin, you may be more susceptible to picking up these bugs. Also, if you are planning to have surgery, it would be important to use a fresh towel to avoid picking up bacteria on your skin before your procedure to lower the risk of post-operative infection.
If you have children and are struggling with molluscum or impetigo in one of your children- it may help to dedicate a towel to your child to avoid sharing towels and spreading these viruses and bacteria.
If you are otherwise healthy and you do not have dry skin or eczema then your skin barrier will be intact and able to handle these insults from the environment. Our skin is a very effective barrier to protect us from the bugs out there. However, if there is a scratch, cut, abrasion, or breakdown in our skin from dryness or eczema it will become far more susceptible to the potential for these infections.
Are there any other tips for towel maintenance to consider?
It’s best to remember to air dry your towels after each use. The more moisture left behind the friendlier the environment to allow these bugs to overgrow and survive!