We all have our favorites. Depending on the season, towels can be thick and fluffy, or a bit thin and scraggly. You could be the person that needs a whole range of lush, fluffy matching towels of different sizes: one each for the face, hands, hair, and body. You could also be happy with drying whatever part of you off with whatever is hanging on the rail.
Whatever the case may be, health experts say going for long periods of time without giving your towels a thorough wash and dry session could be inviting a host of skin problems to present themselves. Alok Vij, a dermatologist with the Cleveland Clinic, says that the longer towels stay damp, “the longer the yeasts, bacteria, molds and viruses remain alive and stay active. They can cause an outbreak of toenail fungus, athlete’s foot, jock itch and warts, or cause these skin conditions to spread.”
It’s even more important for people who suffer from acne or other sensitive skin conditions to keep their towels clean. In an interview with Metro, specialist skin aesthetician Candice Brown said, “When you dry your face (on a towel), you leave tiny amounts of oil, dirt and make-up detritus on it. The towel becomes laced with bacteria. And then, later that day, you smear it all back on your face the next time you dry it, transferring bacteria to your pores, encouraging pimples and causing irritation.”
So how do you wash those towels?
Have we grossed you out enough? Great.
While there is broad consensus over the need to wash towels frequently, there is some disparity over what “frequently” means. Cleaning expert Ralitsa Prodanova tells Metro to wash them after every three or four uses, and it’s recommended the towels be washed at high temperatures to kill off whatever organisms might have decided to take up residence. It is also recommended to use a dryer to make sure towels are genuinely clean and user-ready.
The Cleveland Clinic is less strict. As a general rule, they calls for washing bath towels at least once a week, more frequently if you are sick, or if you live in areas with very high humidity. Vij also says towels should be hung on bars instead of hooks so they can dry properly between uses. Because, let’s face it — towels may be great at drying us off, but they’re hopeless at drying themselves.
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