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Here's How Often You Should Be Washing Your Dish Towels

Taste of Home logo Taste of Home 7/18/2019 Isabel Roy
a close up of a piece of paper: shutterstock_1111491500 © gowithstock/Shutterstock shutterstock_1111491500

Unlike all the things that you're cleaning too often, most people are probably not throwing their dish towels in the washing machine quite often enough. It's easy to forget them, and after they've air-dried, they look ready for another use. But too often, we keep using them long after they've gotten dirty, and all we're really doing is spreading bacteria and germs on everything they touch.

Here are just a few things you should be cleaning every day.

"Believe it or not, dish towels can be one of the dirtiest items in your home. From cleaning up spills to wiping off counter tops, they often get used more than they're cleaned," said Bailey Carson, head of cleaning at Handy. A study by the American Society of Microbiology showed that half of kitchen towels tested contained some sort of bacterial growth, such as E. coli or staph. Because dish towels are so absorbent, they are the perfect home for bacteria, mildew and even mold. Your damp, warm towel is also the ideal breeding ground for that bacteria. That smell you associate with your dish towels and washcloths? Yup. That's mold and mildew. If your towels or cloths smell, it's time for a wash in very hot water. If they come out of the dryer still smelling less than pleasant? It's time to get a new set.

This is the fastest way to clean your home when guests are on their way.

But exactly how often DO you need to wash your dish towels to avoid spreading germs? That answer is: It depends. It depends on what exactly you're using your dish towels for. Are they just for drying your hands after washing them, with maybe a quick use to mop up some spilled water or a food stain on the front of your cupboards? In that case, Julie Finch-Scally, founder of The Duster Dollies, says that it's all right to reuse that type of towel for three to four days. If you're using your dish towels to wipe up anything other than your wet hands, they're getting more use than a towel you use after you shower, and you'll have to wash them more often.  

If you're using your dish towels to wipe down cutting boards, wash down stovetops, clean up after spills or even for drying your dishes, you may have to replace them a bit more often. In this case, Liz O'Hanlon, director of Metro Cleaning (UK) Ltd, says, "Ideally you should wash your dishcloths once a day. Unless you use the towel to wipe up spillages which include raw meat or fish; then the towel should be washed immediately after use." Of course, this doesn't mean you have to run a load of a few towels every single day. Laura Smith, owner of All Star Cleaning Services, recommends collecting dirty towels in a small wastebasket under your sink and washing them when you've got a full load. That way, once you've figured out how often you need to wash your bedsheets, you can throw them all in together.  

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