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7 Tips for Stopping Bacterial Growth in Towels


7 Tips for Stopping Bacterial Growth in Towels

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.

Bathroom Towels Too?

Yes, just like in the kitchen, warm, moist conditions in the bathroom can also foster bacterial growth within bath and hand towels as well as wash cloths.

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:

  1. Be careful not to wipe your hands on the same kitchen cloth or towel you use to clean up meat juices.
  2. Air dry all towels after each use, and don’t put damp towels in the clothes hamper.
  3. Make sure each family member uses their own bathroom towel, especially if someone is sick.
  4. If a cloth or towel starts to smell, wash it immediately.
  5. Wash body towels every three to four days or weekly at least.
  6. Wash kitchen cloths and towels more often, especially if they come into contact with raw meat or their juices.
  7. 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.


Even paper towels can harbor bacteria. In 2011, researchers at Laval University in Canada found bacteria in all six of the commercial paper towel brands they tested.

comment_2How do you know when it’s time to wash your cloths and towels? Please share your thoughts with other readers in the comments below.


A stinky towel could be a sign of bacteria

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Kim Metzger
Kim Metzger(@kimetzger)
3 years ago

Every night, after the supper dishes are done I hang my Norwex Kitchen Cloth and Towel to dry IN THE LAUNDRY ROOM, and get out clean ones for the next day. Do you have a place to hang your in the laundry room while they dry? It might be something to consider.

3 years ago

Sooooo, can I just throw my kitchen Norwex towel in the washing machine along with other clothes?! Cold or hot water ?! Will the temperature of the water affect the effectiveness of the kitchen cloth?!

3 years ago
Reply to  Sofia

Sofia, thank you for your inquiry about Norwex products. Norwex Movement is a separate division of Norwex that exists to help people create safer havens in their homes by raising awareness about planetary issues that affect us all. Our policy is to direct all Norwex-specific inquiries to Customer Care.

In the U.S., please contact 1-866-450-7499. In Canada, please contact 1-877-766-7939. In Australia, the number to call for product inquiries/clarification is: 07 3204 9444.

Tedde Johnson
Tedde Johnson
3 years ago
Reply to  Sofia

Sofia, you should not wash your Norwex towels or cleaning cloths with other clothes or towels that are not Norwex. You can wash your Norwex Bacloc towels & enviro cloths, etc, with sheets if they are not linty. I wash my Norwex separately from all other laundry because I want it to keep working well. You should also wash it in the hottest water possible. I have a sanitary cycle on my washer that makes the water extra hot & that’s the cycle I use. I also dry them alone with the Norwex dryer balls.
Hope this helps!

Jessica Hartle
Jessica Hartle(@jhartle)
3 years ago

I use my kitchen towel and cloth for about 2-3 days then throw them in with my other microfibre that need to be washed. I have multiple sets so that I always have clean ones on hand when I need to use them for bigger messes, such as meat juice and deep cleaning. The BacLock is so important as I know I wash my towels less than I used to with regular cotton towels. Great blog.

Vicky Mitchem
Vicky Mitchem(@vickymitchem)
3 years ago

I love that Norwex has such a variety of different cloths and towels to use in the kitchen and bathroom to suit the varied habits of people. In my kitchen, I use the Kitchen Towel for “clean” cleanups like drying clean dishes, drying my clean hands, ect so I only launder about once a week. And then I use the smaller Kitchen Cloth for dirtier jobs like wiping my counters, cleaning up spashes and spills on the floor so I launder them every few days or less. I also LOVE the Counter Cloths for quick cleanups and for my 4 year old daughter to use as napkins throughout the day. If a cloth starts getting stinky it definitely goes to the wash but otherwise it is dependent on what yuckies I’ve been cleaning. Raw meat juice, pet messes and after bathroom cleaning the cloths used will go straight to the wash!

3 years ago
Reply to  Vicky Mitchem

Thanks for sharing, Vicky!

Sandina Short
Sandina Short(@sandinashort)
3 years ago
Reply to  Vicky Mitchem

Vicky, I was under the impression that the BacLoc self-cleaning system is why we don’t need to clean the cloths so often. Wondering why are you so concerned about washing the cloths so quickly if you rinse them with really hot water and hang to dry so the baclock can self-clean the cloth?? Am I mis-understanding how the BacLoc works?

Vicky Mitchem
Vicky Mitchem(@vickymitchem)
3 years ago
Reply to  Sandina Short

BacLock is amazing technology and because of it I’m not washing my towels every day or every other day like I used too but instead going 3-7 days or more depending on use. Typically in my home, after a week of using the Norwex Bath Towels, Hair Turban, Bath Mat and Body Cloths they are ready for a wash and at that time I wash everything in my Norwex pile from that week, even though technically my Kitchen Towels might still be fine. I reuse my cloths repeatedly through the week. The only time I wash my cloths more quickly is if I’ve done a deep clean on my bathroom, cleaned up a big protein mess in the kitchen or used a cloth to clean up a pet potty mess…but that has more to do with my ick-factor (my word, not Norwex’s) than the cloth or BacLock. Hope that helps to clarify. 🙂

Gina Owensby
Gina Owensby(@gowensby57)
2 years ago

I use different cloths for the kitchen, bathroom, and other cleaning projects (dusting, car care, etc). And have come to love and covet the weave used for the kitchen counter cloths because the design appears more absorbent to me. Usually, I do laundry every two weeks. But if needed I will do an in-between load. Using the laundry bags and the lint bag along with the laundry detergent. And as a general rule, I only wash my Norwex together but have been known to drop them in the lint bag when washing with other items. I make sure that after I use them they are hung up to dry using a pant hanger so they are flat and dry faster. If I am working on really dirty jobs then I use the microfiber deep cleaning powder for a deep soak before washing. Then toss in the dryer with the essential oils on the wool balls along with the green dryer balls. I have been using Norwex exclusively for cleaning since March 5th, 2015. I am grateful my daughter introduced me… Read more »

izzati wahab
izzati wahab(@izzatiwahab)
1 year ago

I think the exact time to wash the kitchen cloth is when it get a little bit smelly but don’t wait until it comes to that!