It’s not a pleasant thought, but it turns out that common, everyday kitchen towels may be one of the most likely places in your home for enteric bacteria to hide out.
Enteric bacteria? These are found naturally inside humans and animals. But some of the strains that live in animals can cause reactions or diseases in the humans who may be exposed to them.
In fact, a 2014 study from the University of Arizona published in Food Protection Trends discovered two specific types of enteric bacteria in the kitchen towels they studied:
- Coliform bacteria, which are often responsible for outbreaks of food poisoning, were detected in 89% of the towels tested in the study.
- E. coli, which can be found on raw fruits, raw fish and meats, raw dairy products and untreated water, showed up in 25.6% of the towels studied.
Ewww, right? But the reason bacteria like these and others can thrive on kitchen towels and cloths is simple: They grow best in warm, moist, dark places—exactly the kind of environment created in a damp towel, cloth or even sponge that’s reused before it dries completely.
Here’s How it Happens
- Towels and cloths pick up bacteria from different sources, including foods and juices, as well as hands, faces and bodies they come into contact with.
- Even if you rinse the cloth or towel, bacteria can remain and start to breed in the damp environment.
- Bacteria can then be transferred from these damp cloths and towels to hands or other surfaces they come into contact with.
- Bacteria can enter your body through scratches or skin abrasions—even when you wipe your eyes, nose or mouth with your hand after using the cloth.
While your body can fight off most of the bacteria that make their way inside, that’s not always the case. And with certain strains of e. coli for example, the symptoms could be really bad.
How to Help Keep Bacteria at Bay
Following good hygiene habits will help keep you and your family safe from harmful bacteria. For example, it’s important to wash your hands well before, during and after preparing food. Of course, wash them well after each visit to the restroom too. Other tips for reducing the likelihood of contact with harmful bacteria include:
- Be careful not to wipe your hands on the same kitchen cloth or towel you use to clean up meat juices.
- Air dry all towels after each use, and don’t put damp towels in the clothes hamper.
- Make sure each family member uses their own bathroom towel, especially if someone is sick.
- If a cloth or towel starts to smell, wash it immediately.
- Wash body towels every three to four days or weekly at least.
- Wash kitchen cloths and towels more often, especially if they come into contact with raw meat or their juices.
- Always wash cloths and towels in very warm to hot water, at least 130°F/54°C.
Finally, consider using Norwex Kitchen Cloths and Towels and EnviroSponges, as well as our Bath and Body Towels, all containing BacLock® micro silver antibacterial agent. The self-cleansing properties of BacLock help to inhibit bacterial odor, mold and/or mildew growth within the product. Norwex Microfiber cloths and towels are very lightweight too, so they dry quickly, further inhibiting bacterial growth.
- Your Towels Are Way Dirtier Than You Think | Time
- List of Enteric Bacteria | Healthfully
- Food Protection Trends, Vol 34, No. 5, p.312-317
- (PDF) Evaluation of bacterial contaminants found on unused paper towels and possible postcontamination after handwashing: A pilot study
- 5 Steps and 20 Seconds—The Best Way to Clean Your Hands | Norwex Movement