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Apr 30, 2020

Bathroom Butler: Home Hygiene – Are Our Towels Making Us Sick?

The good news is we are all introduced to the rudimentary principles of hygiene at a very early age. Parents make sure their children are sufficiently aware of the dangers that lurk on the surfaces in their home. And as we grow into responsible, health-conscious adults, we know which living areas and items in our household demand the most attention. Or do we?

Contrary to popular belief, the kitchen is a more bacteria-prone place than the bathroom, but to make up for it, the latter has an extremely germy permanent resident hiding in plain sight. No, it’s not the toilet seat. It’s the towel.

Towels are five-star hotels for bacteria

“A towel,” as the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy author, Douglas Adams, puts it: “is the most massively useful thing.” He’s right. We use this seemingly harmless item every day, unaware of the risk it poses to our health. Due to their absorbent properties, towels provide a perfect breeding ground for bacteria and other harmful microorganisms. Because there’s nothing germs like more than a damp, dark enclosed space, like the bathroom.

Dr Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona and one of America’s leading experts on the subject, found that 90% of bathroom towels are contaminated with coliform bacteria, the type present in faeces. A rather repulsive notion. An even more alarming fact is that 14% of them carry E. coli and some can even possess traces of salmonella. In short, your towel is a proper germ magnet.

Moreover, a staggering 164,000 bacteria reside on a single square milimeter of an average towel. That sounds like a lot because it is. A particularly nasty culprit is the hand towel. By reusing it every time we wash our hands, we’re not giving it a chance to dry, thus transferring an army of germs in the process. But before you rush off to burn every towel you own, don’t throw in the towel in just yet!

How to ensure your towels are as hygienic as possible?

According to Dr Philip Tierno, clinical professor of pathology and microbiology at NYU School of Medicine, to prevent the build-up of moist and mold spores which harbor bacteria, bath towels should be laundered every two to three days. Some experts even suggest washing your towels after each use. To set your mind at ease, the frequency of washes isn’t the key deterrent in preventing bacteria and potential infections, it’s how you dry your towels between uses that counts.

Traditional towel rails and hooks won’t suffice. They trap moisture allowing odorous bacteria to flourish in your towels’ fibres. Hanging them over a towel bar and letting them air-dry won’t do the trick either, as it takes ages for a towel to dry, during which time germs tend to linger and multiply.

This is where heated towel rails come in. Besides keeping your towels nice and warm, their main function is to keep them dry. The quicker a towel dries and stays dry, the less exposed it is to bacteria. Bathroom Butler commissioned an independent study to identify microbial bacterial load on damp towels before and after drying. The results proved that heated towel rails reduce the number of bacteria from 1000 to 1cfu/g (colony forming unit per sample). Using heated towel racks during a 12-day testing period lowered the microbial load by 75%. This means less washes which in turn translates to lower water and electricity consumption.

With the growing threat of a global pandemic, hygiene is more important now than ever, so minimizing risks must be our top priority.

Remember, wash your hands regularly and don’t share your towels.

For more visit Bathroom Butler.


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